The 8th of December is a date that links together my two favourite musical artists, two artists that I have been listening to for what seems most of my life.
On the 8th of December, 1943, James Douglas Morrison, son of a Navy Officer, was born. He would go on to become the focal point and frontman of The Doors, known by self-given and tongue in cheek epithets such as the Lizard King, Shaman, and Erotic Politician.
He is one of the few rock or pop stars whose poetry is read seriously, as poetry. As a poet he tends to polarise opinion, but I like his writing, and his song lyrics helped to set the group apart from the usual music crowd. In the days when The Mama’s And The Papa’s were dreaming of California and over the pond The Beatles were telling the world that all you need is love, Morrison was channeling Oedipus, saying he wanted to kill his father and fuck his mother. They were a darker group, harder to pigeonhole, with elements of rock, jazz, blues, and yes, poetry.
Morrison’s was an intellect and creativity that was drowned in excess, a pursuit of a muse that would not be tempered or compromised. The recording life of The Doors, when Morrison was with them, lasted for just four, short, years. But what an outpouring it was.
Also on the 8th of December, in 1980, John Lennon was shot dead in New York. I was a Lennon fan before I even knew who Lennon was. As a kid, almost all of my favourite Beatles songs were his. On his true collaborations with McCartney, for example We Can Work It Out, I always preferred the parts that he sang, the parts that he wrote, without at the time being able to discern who did what.
My favourite Christmas song, right from my childhood, and still, is Happy Xmas (War Is Over), but it was a few years before I discovered that the song was by Lennon. I was a fan of the music before I knew whose music it was.
Today Lennon is regarded almost as a saint, but the truth seems to be that he could be a real shit to the people who were closest to him. He would sing about peace and love yet at times be unable to demonstrate such sentiments. The figure of Lennon is a conundrum. He appeared to be a man of contradictions, which I think has its roots in his troubled childhood. His anger drove him and so made him a Beatle. Always transparent, the lyrics
I heard something ’bout my Ma and my Pa /They didn’t want me so they made me a star
Tomorrow, the 9th of December, is my birthday. I can remember opening my birthday presents on my ninth birthday, back in 1980, and the news was all over the television and the newspapers. All that I was aware of at the time, in my young ignorance, was that some guy who was in a group called The Beatles had died.
Little would I know that, for years, for decades later, I would always be struck by a terrible sense of waste when reflecting on his untimely, senseless death.
Fans are selfish. We barely see beyond our own wants and fixations.
There is a woman who lost a husband, and two boys who lost a father, yet all I think of is the music that we could have had, the wit that the world has lost, and the extra pages that could have been in the biography.
Two men, linked by one date, whose words and music provided a soundtrack to my life. R.I.P Mr Mojo Risin’ and Dr Winston O’ Boogie. Thanks for the inspiration.