David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 135: The Doors (The End)

September 8, 2020

Lincoln is taking a history of rock and roll class right now. I have asked him to send me the syllabus/list of artists they are studying, but he has yet to do so. Damn kids. They leave home and they break your hearts.

I never took a History of Rock And Roll class at WVU in the early 1980's. I assume there was one. Inevitably, it would have been so full of 1960's music, I probably would have hated it. Lincoln tells me he has a chance to write an album review for Blondie's Parallel Lines. Gives me some hope.

I have to assume The Doors' "The End" will be on there, whether it should or shouldn't be. I wonder if it is standard fair on History of R & R classes all across the world, not quite rock's Hamlet (that is probably "Like A Rolling Stone"), but more like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, rooted in its time and impossible to separate from its creator.

Even though I didn't have a History of Rock And Roll class, I did have a Pop Culture class, and "The End" was the centerpiece. The class was offered through the English Department, so it was no surprise I took it. Carolyn Hansen taught the course, she a lipstick-wearing, chain-smoking devotee of the 1960's who spouted that Bob Dylan "is the greatest poet since William Shakespeare." With the exception of that line, and several days listening to and discussing "The End," I don't remember much else.

Of course, one needs several days to listen to "The End," given that it is almost 12 minutes long. I internalized a lot of "meh" during that discussion.  The Doors (or maybe more accurately, Jim Morrison) are dramatically over-rated, with a reliance on Ray Manzarek keyboards that borders on irritating. However, as an English major at the time, I could see how lyrically "The End" was much more interesting than "Hello, I Love You/Let me jump in your game." The song does embody the pretensions of a rock star wanting to be seen as a poet. Furthermore, as I wonder how I will crank out one more 365 artists in 365 songs entry, I feel the power of the opening lines:

"This is the end, beautiful friend/

This is the end, my only friend/

The end of our elaborate plans."

However, while I may be "desperately in need of some stranger's hand in a desperate land," everything after that opening gets really weird, and I must detach, despite some of Ray Manzarek's, John Densmore's, and Robbie Krieger's finest playing. The music brings to life an exotic epic tale, even if what it captures lyrically is a mish-mash, whether the snake, "his skin is cold," or the "blue bus" "calling us."

To murk up the waters even more, insert Greek tragedy, with "the killer awoke before dawn," Krieger's sitar-sounding guitar adding more texture into this drug-induced haze of nonsense than the Rolling Stones ever accomplished (or wished to accomplish) with the equally disturbing "Paint It, Black."

Then the song descends into chaos, Morrison's rant about f*cking and killing in sorrow, the music appropriate cacophony. Trust me, baby, we want this to end.

For Carolyn Hansen, though, "The End" was just the beginning, a link to Apocalypse Now, still not even 5 years old when I took her pop culture class. Oedipus, Heart of Darkness, Vietnam, Jim Morrison, Marlon Brando, Francis Ford Coppola, it all exploded together for her much like that final 3 minutes of "The End."  I wish I had kept track of the lipstick-stained cigarette butts that fell to the floor in the fire-trap Stansbury Hall annex during our conversations about "The End." I have to assume she was in some post-coitus type reverie.

Surprisingly, in "The End," despite all that this blog may imply, I don't dislike the song. If I had to have just one Doors' song to ever hear again, this would be it.  What it has reminded me of, as I think about Lincoln learning about perhaps U2's "New Year's Day" or Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." is that this is what pop music is supposed to do, wrap you up with so much emotion that you're a chain-smoking zealot just hoping to make one convert.

This is the end.  We'll see if I can come back again, my beautiful friend.

"The End." The Doors. The Doors. Elektra. 1967. Link here.

Day 134: The Waterboys "She Tried To Hold Me."