Segarini: Remembering Morrison

A couple of weeks ago I went out with a good friend, David Macmillan, and his wife, Marilyn, (who has also become a good friend), to hear Fraser/Daley and David Celia at a couple of Roncesvalles Avenue hot-spots. David’s love of music is legendary, and he is one of the happiest human beings I know. Why wouldn’t he be? He is over-the-moon in love with Marilyn, (they are the King and Queen of our refrigerator, where their picture lords over the freezer door), and has a dream job any of us would love to have; David is the head honcho of Eagle Rock Entertainment’s Toronto office, (others are located in New York, Paris, Hamburg, and London, England). They are the largest (and best) producers and distributers of music DVDs, Blu Rays, and digital media in the world.

Every now and then David sends me a disc he thinks I might be interested in. Last week he sent me a new Blu Ray release” called “Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman”. This is a Doors documentary about the making of the classic L.A. Woman album, complete with a track by track narrative, some great background info, never before seen pictures and footage of the band and L.A in the ‘60s, and interviews with the surviving Doors, and the people they worked for and with back when they ruled the world.

After viewing the doc, I couldn’t help but think of what an incredible arc The Doors career has experienced. From dizzying success amid controversy and daring behavior to the tragedy of Morrison’s untimely death, the years spent forgotten until the opening scene of Apocalypse Now, the resurgence of their career after that motion picture, and their continuing lives as performers and news worthy artifacts from a different time. a celebrity that continues to this day.

So this gift from David triggered another, more recent memory. About a year ago I was sitting on my regular perch at the end of the bar at Cherry Cola’s enjoying a PBR Tall Boy and sharing chit chat with a couple of other regulars. The room was crowded, DJ Sweet and Sour was cracking some fine rock and roll, and there was a good local band coming on in an hour or so. I felt a tug on my sleeve and turned to see a 20-something hottie trying to get my attention.

“Yes?” I said, wondering if she had singled me out by accident.

“YOU KNEW JIM!” she shouted at me over the rising conversations around us, “HE SAID SO!” she continued, pointing back over her shoulder at no one in particular.

I craned my neck to see if I knew anyone in the general direction she had pointed, “JIM WHO?” I yelled back.

“MORRISON!” she yelped, and smiling, gripped my arm…hard. I had to think for a minute. Yeah, I didn’t really know him, but our paths had crossed a few times….

Morrison and Me

We weren’t best buds or anything, but we did manage to hang out a couple of times and have some great conversations.

I (and everybody else who hung out on Sunset) first became aware of The Doors when they had a residency at a little bar on the Strip a few doors down from the Whisky, although I’m pretty sure I had seen them once or twice at the even more obscure club, The Brave New World. L to R: The London Fog, Galaxy, and Whisky

If you saw Oliver Stone’s film, The Doors, you probably think The London Fog was a big nightclub with a large stage, lots of lights, and a pretty spiffy clientele. Not true. The Fog was a dark and somewhat dingy bar that was located next to the much more popular Galaxy and steps away from The Whisky, the most popular club in Hollywood at the time. The clientele was mostly musicians that got wind of the band, and other denizens of the Sunset Strip, but the kids from San Fernando Valley, just over the San Gabriel mountains that separated Hollywood from Van Nuys and Sepulveda, found the place soon enough.

The London Fog didn’t have a stage per se, but it did have a very high ceiling. That was a good thing, because the “stage” was on top of the washrooms, which were housed in a little wooden building within the club that jutted out from the wall next to the bar itself. The band was about 10 feet above the floor of the room, and you had to climb a little wooden ladder to get up there. The audience always looked like they were watching a flock of ducks flying overhead. “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Doors!” You could cut the cigarette smoke with a knife, but the drinks were cheap and well poured. Hot, twirling hippie chicks were a bonus, and as word of the Doors (and Jim) spread, the dancers from Gazzarri’s down the street, and the peelers from The Classic Cat (a classy strip joint on Sunset) started showing up. Every female in the L.A Basin (and probably some of the guys) wanted a piece of Morrison even then.

The first time I ever saw a guitar player use a bottle to play slide was at the Fog when Robbie drank the last out of a little green glass six ounce Coke on stage in the middle of a song, and ripped into a solo with the now empty bottle. Every guitar player in town soon emulated the move.

You have to remember that no one in the current pantheon of iconic rock stars from the era were famous yet. The Doors were just another local band, and Jim was just another local singer. Within a year they would blow up and out of L.A with a sound that was (and has remained) totally unique. Wait…what, a rock band covering a song written in 1927 by playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill? WTF?

You have probably all read about Jim, usually painted as a drug-addled dilettante, a man who went to film school, fancied himself a poet, and made headlines with what mom and pop would consider borderline psychotic behavior. Others wrote of him with stars in their eyes, calling him an iconoclast, a poet born out of time, and a sexual totem who was lusted after by all who witnessed and heard him, a charismatic man beholding to no one, a cipher in so many ways, and a tragedy waiting to happen. Morrison is remembered as the Uber-masculine antitheses of Michael Jackson both in appearance and spirit. A man who had clearly (if you believed his detractors) embraced the dark side.

I don’t recall him in quite the same way.

Although we had met a few times in passing (Sunset denizens were a pretty high profile bunch on the Strip. Eventually you pretty much knew who everyone was and would nod to each other on the street or in the bars) Morrison and I didn’t exchange pleasantries or have a conversation until the Whisky A Go Go hired The Doors away from the London Fog, making them the house band. Earlier, The Family Tree had held that position off and on, and would, in fact, open for The Doors on occasion when Elmer (Valentine) and Mario wanted three acts on the bill. The Whisky in those days was amazing. The cover was never over 2 or 3 dollars and for that you would see Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Otis Redding, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and, triple bills like The Byrds, The Doors, and Buffalo Springfield.

After Elektra’s head of A&R, Barry Freidman ( who later ran the Elektra Rock Ranch in Keddie, California and eventually changed his name to Frazier Mohawk, became a circus clown, and ran away to Europe) raved to Jac Holzman (the founder and president of Elektra Records) about the band, Jac went down to the Whisky to hear them himself. Still not convinced, he made a few more trips to the club and, being the wise man he still is, listened to Barry and others he trusted and signed The Doors. By now, the band I had put together after The Family Tree, Roxy, had also been signed to the label, and running into Morrison became an almost daily occurrence.

I was walking down the hall one day at Elektra and found it blocked by Ray Manzarek and a Hammond organ. Ray asked me if I had a minute and I did. He was recording a track, either for a Doors album or a demo. I don’t recall the song, but I do know it went on to be one of their many hits.

Ray asked me to sit down and, on his signal, change the settings on the organ with the drawbars at the top of the keyboards. I sat down on the piano bench next to him and he showed me the moves and would nod when he wanted me to make the changes. I asked him why he was in the hallway. If I remember correctly, he said he couldn’t get the organ through the door for one reason or another, but it may have been something else.

When we were through, I made my way past the Hammond and walked into the back area where most of the offices were located, buffered by a fairly large bullpen with a half a dozen desks. Sitting in a chair in front of the little refrigerator was Morrison, drinking a beer and reading a hardcover book. The book, written by 19th century French author, Stendhalis titled The Red and the BlackJim looked up from the book when I walked into the space and put the book face down, open, in his lap. “Want a beer?” he asked. That’s easy, “Sure”, I said, and leaned over to get one out of the fridge. I sat down across from him, took a swig, and deciding to make small talk said, “So how’s the book?”

Jim spoke passionately about what he was reading, his face animated and his intellect firing on all cylinders, explaining the importance of the novel both in its story, and the way in which it was written, and how it was responsible for many firsts in the world of literature. After we discussed the book and literature in general and cracked open another beer, Morrison explained he was waiting to meet up with a current poet and playwright he had become friends with, Michael McClureMcClure, a beat poet who had been embraced by the hippie culture, (he co-wrote Joplin’s Mercedes Benz), still performs spoken word concerts with Ray Manzarek, and with Manzarek and Robbie Kreiger’s band, Riders of the Storm.

After I left Elektra that day, I ran out and bought a copy of the Red and the Black. In many ways, the main protagonist, Julien, reminded me of Morrison, and I don’t think the comparison was lost on Jim.

A couple of times, Morrison and I had a few drinks at The Telephone Booth (or was it just “The Phone Booth”), a strip club just up the street from Elektra on Santa Monica Blvd. I don’t remember much about the conversations, but sitting with Jim Morrison in a strip club in Hollywood was like sitting on a park bench with a bag of bird seed. Only instead of attracting birds, he attracted stunningly beautiful, barely clad women in droves. It’s good to be the (Lizard) King.

There were drunken excursions to the Santa Monica Pier to see the Electric Flag, Jim heckling Hendrix at Thee Experience, a great little bar on Sunset, where he was “escorted” out between two giant bouncers after some remarks that shocked even me.

The Wackers were eventually managed by Bill Siddons (in the red shirt), long time Doors manager who signed us up after Jim passed away. We did the tour that was meant to re-launch the Doors after Jim died, including playing Carnegie Hall with the now Jim-less 7 piece band. Bill thought we were nuts. After being with The Doors for so long, we must have been really crazy for him to think that.

Here’s an excerpt from Rand Bishop’s book, Makin’ Stuff Up.

Rand Bishop: While the rock press slathered praise on The Wackers, Top-40 radio and the general public pretty much turned up their noses, and we were reduced to applying for food stamps while we prepared to record Elektra album number two. Our original manager finally passed the brutal California bar exam, thus segueing into the unenviable role of our attorney. So, our band of ne’er-do-wells was adopted by one Mr. Bill Siddons. Bill, who also handled The Doors, had very little empathy or patience for the befuddling, gender-bending image of The Wackers, or for our frequent rock and roll shenanigans.

Siddons deigned to throw our band a bone by booking us in the opening slot for a Doors tour Manzarek, Densmore, and Krieger misguidedly engaged in after Jim Morrison’s death. While the billing did offer us Wacks some much-appreciated prestige, the two acts on the bill had such divergent appeal that our colorful, highly kinetic sets probably won us as many enemies as they did new fans along the way.

As the Doors tour unwound, my bandmates and I grew more and more frustrated by a distinct dearth of attention coming from our manager. In his defense, Siddons most certainly had his hands full trying to win and sustain the interest of the press and the public for a legendary act left widowed by its infamous lead singer. But, to our constant chagrin, the sum total of Siddons’ Wacker career-shepherding amounted to handing each of us an envelope of per diem cash at the beginning of each week, with the following instructions:

”Don’t have too much fun.” An absurd suggestion, if Ive ever heard one.

Our frustration came to a head on the eve of our scheduled appearance at the shrine of all performance venues, the venerable Carnegie Hall. Holed up at the staid, midtown Wellington Hotel, surrounded on all sides by high fashion, and dispirited by the increasingly disheveled state of our thrift-store, bargain-bin, and/or hand-made wardrobe, we demanded a powwow with the man himself. Siddons relented by scheduling a confab in a conference room just off of the Wellington’s starched main lobby.

There we sat, the most unlikely looking corporate board in New York history. CFO Siddons called the meeting to order. Without waiting to be recognized by the chair, lanky, craggy-faced bass player Kootch Trochim piped up, “Siddons, are we gonna get some money for some cool clothes, or what?”

Siddons’s negative response resounded succinctly in the shape of a single syllable.

“No.”

As our moans and groans of dissent crescendo’d, peach-cheeked roadie Steve Wood poked his head into the room, alerting our manager to an incoming phone call. Doors business, no doubt, I thought to myself, resentfully. During the next 10 minutes, while Siddons tended to this urgent matter, we determined insurgents conspired to impress him with our wardrobe-woes by way of a much more visual form of protest.

Bill re-entered, marching myopically to his place at the head of the table. He then took a deep breath, preparing himself to weather the next gripe from his recalcitrant charges. At that point, Kootch rose from his chair, revealing that he was wearing not a single stitch of clothing aside from the tie around his neck. His genitals bobbling at the edge of the mahogany conference table, he repeated his earlier query, So, Siddons, are we gonna get some money from some cool clothes, or what?”

Yeah!”, we all chimed in, as we stood in unison, expressing our solidarity, while simultaneously revealing our common nudity. Our manager’s face was blooming valentine-crimson, as he rose from his chair. Without uttering a word, he strode out of the room, leaving only the echo of the slamming door behind him.

At the tour’s end, Bill Siddons resigned as our manager, demanding that we repay him the $900 he claimed we owed him. Not being a band of deadbeats, we obliged by asking him to drive to Eureka from L.A and pick up what we owed him in his Volkswagen Bus; Lots of very heavy cardboard boxes we got from the bank containing 90,000 pennies.

I had first met Bill at Pam Courson’s boutique, across the street from Elektra on the ground floor of the building that housed The Doors offices. Pam was Jim’s soul mate, girlfriend, and wife. She made amazing clothes and we all bought stuff from her, made to order or imported, one of a kind rock star duds. Jim, Bill, and others would hang out in the back room of her store sometimes. Pam was a beautiful woman, with extraordinary taste in clothes. I bought a lot of clothes from her including pants that were suede, tie-dyed crushed velvet, and doeskin, and shirts that were hand made out of Irish lace. Occasionally, you would see Pam and Jim out and about, but Jim did a lot of tom catting on the side.

Late one night, when Roxy was recording our album, the door to the control room swung open and Morrison weaved into the room and sat down on a stool in the corner next to the 8 track tape machine. He nodded at me but didn’t say a word. We continued listening to a playback. About a minute later, 2 uniformed policemen walked through the door. They entered the control room and stood in front of Jim. “We understand you were in an altercation this evening”, said the youngest of the two. Morrison shrugged. “Well, we just wanted to make sure you were alright”, continued the officer. “By rights, we should take you in, but seeing how you’re you…” he trailed off. The well-oiled Door, slurring his words, thanked the gentlemen and smiled a lopsided grin like that guy in the Cheers opening credits. We’re all just standing there watching this happen. The cops turned to go and the young one stopped and turned back. “Can we have your autograph?” Our engineer/producer, John Haeney handed Jim a track sheet and a pen. Morrison signed it twice, handed them the paper and with that, they were gone. “Okay, what happened?” I had to know. Jim looked into space and said, “Art Gallery opening, open bar I guess stuff happened.”  and with that, he too was out the control room door.

Later in the week, there was an incident with our mascot, an inflatable doll we kept on top of the plexi-glass sound baffle suspended over the board. We came in one night and she was deflated, a knife sticking out of her pink, plastic ass.

It didn’t take us long to find out it was Morrison.

When he died at 27, it saddened us all, but guaranteed that he would be forever young, a rock star for the ages, and like Elvis, suspected of faking his own death to escape the spotlight. Gaining weight and growing a beard hadn’t helped, nor had his move to Paris to soak up the atmosphere and history he so much wanted to be a part of. He never achieved his dream of being regarded as a poet and an intellect to be reckoned with, but his words still resonate, his voice still engages, and his image still stands with other symbols of sex and stardom, as popular now as he was almost 50 years ago. Otherwise, a 20-something girl at Cherry Cola’s whose eyes opened wide when someone told her I had (barely) known Jim Morrison, would never have pumped me for information about him, even though he was long gone before she was even born. Her interest, shown while we were sitting in a bar Morrison would have loved, inspired this column. Rest in Peace, Jim. They’ll never forget you.

For a look at Eagle Rock Entertainment’s catalogue, go here.

Portions of this column appeared previously at FYIMusic.ca 

=0=

Segarini’s column tastes like chicken

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

5 Responses to “Segarini: Remembering Morrison”

  1. Wow, Bob….this ALMOST makes me want to listen to a Doors record.

  2. Marlene Schuler Says:

    Great read Bob!! I feel inspired to pull up some Doors music.

  3. Jim Chisholm in Campbell River Says:

    Come on come on come on come on now touch me Babe! Not everyone’s fave Doors song (even among band members) but it get’s me every time.

  4. fantastic story on the doors/jim..I spoke with dave mac..this morning
    any recollections on the The Dudes Were No Angels track you wrote with Kim Fowley?
    thx
    john

Leave a Reply to bullseyecanada Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: