Monday, September 13, 2010


Swifty had rented a van from the airport to the fairgrounds, we were driven straight to the backstage area. The backstage was all skeleton scaffolding that our equipment needed to be lifted onto, but the boys and the backstage crew would see to that. As I walked onto the grounds I felt like it was my triumphal return to Summerfest, though it played only in my head. It had been a long year since Deidre and I were here together. There was a row of bikers sitting on their bikes having a couple of beers. I crossed their gauntlet to jeers and catcalls.
"Lookit here, it's Jim Morrison." One sneered.
'Uh-oh,' I said to myself, not a very auspicious beginning for my triumphal return.

As I climbed the stairs to the backstage area my fears were allayed. Summerfest was a big ticket production, there were production assistants and gofers rushing around with walkie-talkies showing the bands where to set up. After talking with the stage manager they had a PA show me where the dressing room was.
“Wait here, one of the production assistants will come and get you five minutes before you go on.“ I finally felt like I was making it to the big time.

I sat in the dressing room in a studio chair in front of a theatrical mirror, listening to all the hustle and bustle happening around me, running footfalls on the metal scaffolding, someone yelling for someone or something. But I was in the calm eye of the storm, I wasn't nervous, I couldn't even remember the last time I was nervous. I reflected on how far I'd come from being part of the milling crowd to setting myself above the crowd, but I was also aware of how far I still had to go. I wondered if Deidre was somewhere out in the crowd. There was a knock at the door.
“Yeah?” I said. A woman peeked her head in the door.
“Make-up?” She asked, “you want a little make-up it’ll make you shimmer and the people in the back will be able to see you.”
“Sure.” I said.
“OK, just sit back in the chair and close your eyes. I did as she said, and I heard her put a few things down on the table and then I felt the make-up caressing my face, and she continued to talk, “I have to kind of sell the idea of make-up to the male bands even in this day and age it’s hard to get men to put on a little base, if only they realized Elvis wore make-up.” This was part of the seduction and I knew it, the woman running her hands over my face, an intimate act, one that you could get used to very easily. There was a knock at the door.
"Ready Jim?" A woman's voice asked, as she opened the door.
"Lets go!" I said jumping out of the studio chair. The PA led me through the maze of the backstage area until we, at last, arrived in the wings of the stage. From where I was, I could see the band's equipment was already on stage. It looked woefully small on a stage out in the open, not enclosed in a club. I wondered if the amps were big enough to pump out a loud enough sound. The boys were nowhere to be seen.
"Is my band here yet?" I asked the PA. She whispered into her walkie-talkie before saying,
"They should be coming up on the other side any second now." And as I looked across the stage to the other wing I saw the boys come up the stairs.
"There a lot of people out there?" I asked, trying to make small talk.
"Uh-huh." She said, distractedly. Then I heard the stage announcer say,
"Ladies and gentleman, The Unknown Soldiers!"
The PA said, "go."
"Thanks." I said. As I walked out onto stage the band came out from the opposite wing and took their places at their instruments. I took my place at the microphone and for the first time I was able to see the whole audience. There was literally a sea of people in front of me. It was then that I truly understood what was meant by the phrases 'a sea of humanity', and 'an ocean of people.' They ceased to be several thousand individuals, they became one thing, a new creature to do with as I pleased. Suddenly, I knew what Morrison knew. You become part of a crowd, faceless, anonymous. The individual becomes lost, you lose your self in a crowd, free to do as you please, free to live your dreams, free to enact your nightmares, all bets are off, there are no limits, no laws. People do things in a group they ordinarily wouldn't do. There are no witnesses, there's truly safety in numbers. I could make them do whatever I wanted, I could make them wave, I could make them dance, I could make them riot or I could throw them away. It was the door to power, the power that despots and rock stars know. There’s always been something of the fascist about Rock 'n' Roll, that’s probably why every rock opera is about exactly that, a charismatic leader with a small band of followers to assist. The Who understood this with Tommy, Bowie and 1984, hell, even Styx understood this.

Arguably, one of the reasons Morrison may have wanted to start a rock band was to prove some of his theories. Morrison thought crowds, like individuals, could be neurotic and like individuals, they could be cured. In college he tried to enlist some friends in an experiment to see if they could make a crowd riot by placing his friends throughout the crowd and shouting slogans at appropriate moments. His friends thought he was crazy and refused to participate, so he couldn't prove his theories until he was in The Doors. Morrison saw music, theatre, poetry, film, and the neuroses of crowds as a crossroads. The crossroads is the place where magic is practiced, the crossroads is the place you can sell your soul to the devil to play the blues, the crossroads is the place where a cure can be effected. Morrison consciously provoked riots. Later rationalizing it, by saying, 'I thought we ought to have a riot. Everyone else did. So I tried to stimulate a few little riots.' But later saying, 'it got to the point where people didn't think it was a successful concert unless everybody jumped up and ran around a bit.' I decided to see if I could do it. Finish the experiment to see if it was something inherent in Morrison, or if it was the neurosis of the crowd. The crowd was the right size and temperament, and they were ready for it, maybe I could cure them, maybe I could cure myself, I discovered power.

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