A fan from the moment the Doors’ first album took over KMPX, the revolutionary FM rock & roll station in San Francisco, Greil Marcus saw the band many times at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom in 1967. Five years later it was all over.
Forty years after the singer Jim Morrison was found dead in Paris and the group disbanded, one could drive from here to there, changing from one FM pop station to another, and be all but guaranteed to hear two, three, four Doors songs in an hour—every hour. Whatever the demands in the music, they remained unsatisfied, in the largest sense unfinished, and absolutely alive. There have been many books on the Doors. This is the first to bypass their myth, their mystique, and the death cult of both Jim Morrison and the era he was made to personify, and focus solely on the music. It is a story untold; all these years later, it is a new story.
About Greil Marcus
Greil Marcus is the author of Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus, When that Rough God Goes Riding, The Shape of Things to Come, Mystery Train, Dead Elvis, In the Fascist Bathroom, Double Trouble, Like a Rolling Stone, and The Old Weird America; a twentieth anniversary edition of his book Lipstick Traces was published in 2009. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America, published last year by Harvard University Press. Since 2000 he has taught at Princeton, Berkeley, Minnesota, and the New School in New York; his column “Real Life Rock Top 10” appears regularly in The Believer. He has lectured at U Cal, Berkeley, The Whitney Museum of Art, and Princeton University. He lives in Berkeley.
San Antonio Express-News, August 28, 2011 “With an astounding breadth of knowledge, Marcus unmasks The Doors in his latest missive from the cultural trenches.”
Publishers Weekly, September 5, 2011
“Music critic Marcus offers a relentlessly beautiful and insightful evaluation of the music of the Doors … but also a complete rethinking of the Doors’ work as an entire story that captures the 1960s as ‘a place, even as it is created, people know they can never really inhabit, and never escape’…. He contrasts a fascinating range of official and bootleg live recordings of such hit singles as “Touch Me” to show that by 1970 ‘a war between the band and its audience was underway, a war whose weapon were contempt on both sides.’ This is an impressive tribute.”
With a cover of Joel Brodsky’s Elektra publicity photo of The Doors dressed in unexpectedly warm colors of the sun, Greil Marcus’ “The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years” is an unexpected look at selected songs of The Doors and pop culture.
Marcus’ book is a fans’ book, he says that it started at the Avalon Ballroom with his wife and seeing The Doors and on their way out, took a handbill of the show and after a lifetime they still have them. Marcus, best known for music criticism and pop culture, is a Doors fan, but an objective one, he is well versed in all aspects of music and the artists but also the language of music and focuses his lens on The Doors.
Marcus’ “The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years” is about twenty critical essays on Doors songs, his prose weaves in and out of the songs to where his thoughts take him, either in relation to the lyrics themselves or some aspect of pop culture. The chapter on “Twentieth Century Fox” is a take off point for an extended essay on 50′s-60′s pop culture and how The Doors fit in. In the essay on “L.A. Woman” he makes the case that it could be used as a soundtrack for Thomas Pynchon’s recent novel, “Inherent Vice,” and the song is a pop art map of the city. Marcus isn’t an easy ride through The Doors, you’ll find yourself agreeing with some of his conclusions, such as on “Take it as it Comes” “seemed to start in the middle of some greater song.” Or even disagreeing with his conclusions, such as Morrison’s tribute to Otis Redding, “poor Otis dead and gone/left me here to sing his song”, “…was beyond arrogant, it was beyond obnoxious, it was even beyond racism…” which always seemed a heartfelt tribute to Redding to me.
As you read you’ll find yourself wanting to listen to the songs to see for yourself whether Marcus’ critiques are apt or not.
Jim writes The Doors Examiner. – Jim Cherry, Amazon.Com Customer Review
Listening Again to Rock’s Wild Child and Finding Grandeur and Dread
The New York Times Book Review – November 15, 2011 (Excerpt)
The best piece of advice I’ve heard someone give an aspiring rock critic is this: For God’s sake, don’t try to write like Greil Marcus.
It was meant as a compliment. Mr. Marcus’s style — brainy but fevered, as if the fate of Western society hung on a chord progression — is nearly impossible to mimic without sounding portentous and flatulent. This voice is so hard to pull off that 15 percent of the time even Mr. Marcus can’t do it. He takes a pratfall in the attempt.
But, oh my, that other 85 percent. Reading Mr. Marcus at his best — on Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Sly Stone, the Band, Sleater-Kinney, Dock Boggs or Randy Newman, to name just a few of his obsessions over the years — is like watching a surfer glide shakily down the wall of an 80-foot wave, disappear under a curl for a deathly eternity, then soar out the other end. You practically feel like applauding. He makes you run to your iPod with an ungodly itch in your cranium. You want to hear what he hears. It’s as if he were daring you to get as much out of the music as he does.
Mr. Marcus’s acute and ardent new book, “The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years,” is his 13th and among his best. I say this as someone who has never cared deeply or even shallowly about the Doors, a band that to my ears (I was 6 in 1971, the year Jim Morrison died in Paris) has always been classic-rock sonic wallpaper. “The End” sounded ruinous and sublime in “Apocalypse Now.” But please don’t make me listen to “Hello, I Love You” or “Touch Me”again. I’m pretty sure Jose Feliciano will be singing “Light My Fire” in hell. [Read the full article...]
Book review: ‘The Doors’ by Greil Marcus
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – November 22, 2011 (Excerpt)
At first glance, the Doors seem to be an unusual object of study for Greil Marcus, the music critic and cultural historian who likes to draw connections between punk music and world history (“Lipstick Traces”) or Elvis Presley and the American myth (“Mystery Train”). The Los Angeles band is, after all, an act that these days mainly gets airplay for a few scattered hits such as “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” They wouldn’t seem substantial enough for Marcus’ intense gaze. And besides, didn’t Oliver Stone already spend too much time engaging us in a discussion about the Doors’ legacy?
But as he often does, Marcus dives deep, in this case into rare tracks, seminal performances and offhand interviews. The band of Morrison, Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger — referenced by last name only, like old high school friends (they are of course the late frontman Jim Morrison as well as keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger) — is in fact worthy of the author’s scrutiny. As he makes clear, this is a band “at war with its audience,” and thus merits a paradox-riddled Marcus-ian exploration. [Read the full article...]
Listening to the Doors
The New York Times Book Review – December 2, 2011 (Excerpt)
Within an electrifying few years during the 1960s, rock ’n’ roll was transformed from a brash diversion of antsy teenagers into a serious genre that threatened to rival the traditional fine arts. Instrumental in this swift development was a Los Angeles band, the Doors, whose charismatic but tormented and self-destructive lead singer, Jim Morrison, attained cultlike status after his mysterious death at age 27 in Paris in 1971, only four years after the release of their first album.
Whether rock ever completely fulfilled its early promise is arguable. What seems incontrovertible, however, is that rock’s fabulous commercial success could be ruinous to young bands, which were pushed by record companies into the artificial environment of punishing tours in cavernous arenas designed for sports. The gifted Doors were among the first victims of this still near-universal corporate strategy.
No one seems better positioned to write about the Doors than Greil Marcus. A native and longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, he witnessed the convulsions of the 1960s firsthand. As a music journalist and historian, he has mostly remained outside academe, a rarity among American public intellectuals. His 12 previous books include “Mystery Train” (1975), a pioneering appreciation of the then-derided Elvis Presley; “Lipstick Traces” (1989), a genealogy of punk rock that became canonical for postmodernist academics here and abroad; and several studies of Bob Dylan. Marcus has served as editor or co-editor of five projects, including “A New Literary History of America” (to which I contributed the article on Tennessee Williams). [Read the full article...]
CRIMSON DAWN Book One of the Darklife Saga by Ronnie Massey
Two Women Hunting A Rogue Vampire
Vampire Valeria Trumaine must confront old demons and face new possibilities as she struggles to bring a rogue vampire to justice. Her best friend and powerful Sidhe princess, Irulan, joins the hunt. Valeria will find that Irulan’s motives for keeping her safe are not what she thinks. And soon she is faced with an undeniable attraction that makes her question everything she knew about herself. [Read More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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