Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The Doors and the problem with classic rock

There is nothing classic rock loves more than the chance to mark an anniversary. Classic rock is obviously not in the business of producing anything new – of course, some of the practitioners do have a go, but the results …

Tue, Jul 5, 2011, 09:59


There is nothing classic rock loves more than the chance to mark an anniversary. Classic rock is obviously not in the business of producing anything new – of course, some of the practitioners do have a go, but the results are never as good as what’s already in the canon and is usually only of appeal to the die-hards – hence the reliance on new ways of selling old rope with reissues and anniversaries as the main weapons in the arsenal. It’s why Paul McCartney appears to be on the cover of Mojo magazine most months – there is always an old album to be reissued and another interview to be done with McCartney about what happened back in the day. The fact that these reissues and retrospectives also sell more than the vast majority of new acts ever will should not be overlooked.

Every time I walked by a radio yesterday, I clocked a Doors’ song as the DJs unlocked the classic rock vaults to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the most over-rated frontmen of all time. Jim Morrison was just 27 when he died in a bathtub in Paris in 1971, so chances are he would still be touring and acting the gom onstage had he lived until today. It would probably be a different live show to the one which made all the headlines during their pomp, but you could imagine them doing one of those @ The Park gigs which were getting heavily advertised inbetween all the Doors’ tunes yesterday.

Despite the fact that we live in an era when music tastes are hugely eclectic, everyone still has blind spots when it comes to what they like and don’t. While I can appreciate why people like heavy metal or hard rock, those genres are not for me. I’ve tried to go beyond mere appreciation, but there are too many other fish in the sea.

When it comes to actual bands (and we’ve been here before), a significant bugbear are The Doors, a classic rock band you think you should be able to appreciate because of their place in the musical family tree, but who’ve never made an iota of sense to me. Everything about them – Morrison’s ridiculous sham poetry, the melodramatic pomp of the music, the elaborately over-wrought romance of the songs, the rock’n'roll cliches of their entire career – is a turn-off. They are the band who give classic rock a bad name and, worse, who gave so many terrible bands a handbook to follow.

You could always tell the bands who followed the Morrison star a mile away when they came onstage. Years ago, I used to do a lot of DJ-ing in old-school Dublin venue, the Rock Garden. You’d start playing tunes at 8pm and keep playing between bands until the place would shut at 2 or 2.30am. The vast majority of the acts you’d get on that stage were bad, but the worst offenders by far were the acts who came through those doors of perception and took a wrong turn. They believed that they were the spiritual children of Morrison when nothing could be further from the truth. Just to bang the point home with a large sledgehammer, there would always be a hokey version of a Doors’ tune in the set. Whatever about the originals, the covers were coming from a different planet entirely. All you could do was shake your head with disbelief and cue up something completely different to play once they’d hopped off the stage in an effort to disinfect your ears.

Yet even after all these years, The Doors abide and their appeal shows no signs of abating. With every passing year, the records continue to be played, the royalties are paid and the myths get louder. They’re one of the acts who hit the classic rock jackpot and whose music made it into the canon. Because of how the business has changed, this is something most new acts will never be able to achieve. Indeed, the number of acts who will join classic rock’s ranks in the years to come is going to become less and less. Yet the genre itself will sadly continue to roll.

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