Led by reckless genius Jim Morrison and shrouded in a haze of sexual mysticism, the Doors embody sixties rebellion like no other act. Ride the Snake pieces together the facts of their short but incandescent career, drawing upon an eclectic array of interviews, articles, newspaper reports, trial documents, FBI reports and more. From college days at UCLA, and the Doors’ first bourbon-fuelled appearances on Sunset Strip, through to Morrison’s untimely death in 1971, it tells their heady history in full. Worshipped by fans and reviled by the establishment, Morrison’s scandalous conduct — both on and off the stage – is the stuff of legend. Ride the Snake censors not a single scandal in the Doors’ sensational history — presenting the finest writing on the band ever to appear in print.
Meticulously selected by Jerry Hopkins — co-author of No One Here Gets Out Alive, the multi-million-copy-selling, definitive biography of Jim Morrison — Ride the Snake is a collection of the finest writing on the Doors by rock journalists, cultural commentators, journalists, scholars, and biographers, alongside contributions from their friends and acquaintances. This book is essential reading for any serious Doors fan, providing a fascinating overview of a band who continue to exert a huge influence on music and popular culture.
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Jerry Hopkins co-authored No One Here Gets Out Alive — the five-million-copy bestseller which was on The New York Times best-seller list for over nine months. He is a highly regarded authority on the life and works of Jim Morrison and the Doors.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
We are primarily a rock’n’roll band, a blues band, just a band, but that’s not all. A Doors concert is a public meeting called by us for a special kind of dramatic discussion and entertainment. When we perform, we’re participating in the creation of a world, and we celebrate that creation with the audience. It becomes the sculpture of bodies in action. That’s politics, but our power is sexual. We make concerts sexual politics. The sex starts with me, then moves out to include the charmed circle of musicians on stage. The music we make goes out to the audience and interacts with them; they go home and interact with the rest of reality, then I get it all back by interacting with that reality, so the whole sex thing works out to be one fine big ball of fire.’ Jim Morrison
Waiting for Morrison
by Joan Didion
Taken from The White Album, 1967
It is six, seven o’clock of an early spring evening, and I am sitting on the cold vinyl-tile floor of a sound studio on Sunset Boulevard, watching a rock group called the Doors record a rhythm track. On the whole my attention is less than entirely engaged by the preoccupations of rock groups (I have already heard about acid as a transitional stage and also about the Maharishi and even about universal love, and after a while it all sounds like marmalade skies to me), but the Doors are different. The Doors interest me. They have nothing in common with the gentle Beatles. They lack the contemporary conviction that love is brotherhood and the Kama Sutra. Their music insists that love is sex and sex is death and therein lies salvation. The Doors are the Norman Mailers of the Top 40, missionaries of apocalyptic sex.
Right now they are gathered together in uneasy symbiosis to make their album, and the studio is cold and the lights are too bright and there are masses of wires and banks of the ominous blinking electronic circuitry with which the new musicians live so casually. There are three of the four Doors. There is a bass player borrowed from a group called Clear Light. There are the producer and the engineer and the road manager and a couple of girls and a Siberian Husky named Nikki with one gray eye and one gold. There are paper bags half-filled with hard-boiled eggs and chicken livers and cheeseburgers and empty bottles of apple juice and California rosé. There is everything and everybody the Doors need to cut the rest of this third album except one thing, the fourth Door, the lead singer, Jim Morrison, a twenty-four-year-old graduate of UCLA who wears black vinyl pants and no underwear and tends to suggest some range of the possible just beyond a suicide pact. It is Morrison who describes the Doors as erotic politicians’. It is Morrison who defines the group’s interests as anything about revolt, disorder, chaos about activity that appears, to have no meaning’. It is Morrison who got arrested in New Haven in December for giving an indecent’ performance. It is Morrison who writes most of the Doors’ lyrics, the peculiar character of which is to reflect either an ambiguous paranoia or a quite unambiguous insistence upon love-death as the ultimate high. And it is Morrison who is missing. It is Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger and John Densmore who make the Doors sound the way they do, and maybe it is Manzarek and Krieger and Densmore who make seventeen out of twenty interviewees on American Bandstand prefer the Doors over all other groups, but it is Morrison who gets up there in his black vinyl pants with no underwear and projects the idea, and it is Morrison they are waiting for now.
Ray Manzarek is hunched over a Gibson keyboard. You think Morrison’s gonna come back?’ he says to no one in particular.
No one answers.
So we can do some vocals?’ Manzarek says.
The producer is working with the tape of the rhythm track they just recorded. I hope so,’ he says without looking up.
Yeah,’ Manzarek says. So do I.’
It is a long while later. Morrison arrives. He has on his black vinyl pants, and he sits down on a leather couch in front of the four big blank speakers and he closes his eyes. The curious aspect of Morrison’s arrival is this: no one acknowledges it by so much as a flicker of an eye. Robbie Krieger continues working out a guitar passage. John Densmore tunes his drums. Manzarek sits at the control console and twirls a corkscrew and lets a girl rub his shoulders. The girl does not look at Morrison, although he is in her direct line of sight. An hour or so passes, and still no one has spoken to Morrison. Then Morrison speaks to Manzarek. He speaks almost in a whisper, as if he were wresting the words from behind some disabling aphasia.
It’s an hour to West Covina,’ he says. I was thinking, maybe we should spend the night out there after we play.’
Manzarek puts down the corkscrew. Why,’ he says.
Instead of coming back.’
Manzarek shrugs. We were planning to come back.’
Well, I was thinking, we could rehearse out there.’
Manzarek says nothing.
We could get in a rehearsal, there’s a Holiday Inn next door.’
We could do that,’ Manzarek says. Or we could rehearse Sunday, in town.’
I guess so.’ Morrison pauses. Will the place be ready to rehearse Sunday?’
Manzarek looks at him for a while. No,’ he says then.
I count the control knobs on the electronic console. There are seventy-six. I am unsure in whose favour the dialogue was resolved or if it was resolved at all. Robbie Krieger picks at his guitar, and says that he needs a fuzz box. The producer suggests that he borrow one from the Buffalo Springfield in the next studio. Krieger shrugs. Morrison sits down on the leather couch again and leans back. He lights a match. He studies the flame awhile and then very slowly, very deliberately, lowers it to the fly of his black vinyl pants. Manzarek watches him. The girl who is rubbing Manzarek’s shoulders does not look at anyone. There is a sense that no one is going to leave the room, ever. It will be some weeks before the Doors finish recording this album. I do not see it through.
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