You know, I don’t care that most rock critics hate the Doors — I became a fan of their music at the age of seven or eight, and the greatest of their music has continued to sound good to me ever since (in the eighties, just as I was discovering and being persuaded by rock criticism, I adapted a kneejerk reaction towards them for a few years, but I got over it). But I guess I do care enough to make two brief points here, both inspired, of course, by Ray Manzarek’s death (for a few hours, my Facebook feed was aggravating; so many people making a point of explaining that they “didn’t care much” for the Doors; thank God Jim Morrison had the smarts to die before Web 2.0, else I’d have tossed myself out the window along with my monitor).
1. The idea, espoused for years (at least as early back as Dave Marsh saying as much in a Rolling Stone Record Guide), that the group is “overrated” is of course a complete fallacy — the opposite of reality, really — unless the people who call them “overrated” mean that their fans like them too much, in which case every group with any kind of following is “overrated.” Because they’re sure not “overrated” by rock critics, the genre of species we normally rely on to “rate” things — under, over, whatever. Of the many critics whose work I’ve followed over the years, I can count on one hand those who have liked the music of the Doors, by which I don’t include critics who, in that polite, critical way, “admit” that the band “were not devoid of talent” (wow, careful that limb doesn’t break while you say as much). It’s possible that there was more love towards the band in the early days of rock criticism, but I don’t think so; they were pretty much mocked from the get-go, were they not? (Or maybe the disconnect here is that the band was written about much differently in the daily press accounts than in the stuff I have access to, the Creems and Rolling Stones of the world?)
2) On the subject of mockery, sometimes you have to remind people that a critic can mock something, deride it even, and still love it, or at least love parts of it. This is always how I read Meltzer and Bangs on the Doors. In one of his early reviews of them (I forget of which album), Meltzer calls the band (not even Morrison, but the band) “ridiculous” but means it, I’m pretty sure, in a way that is entirely complimentary. Bangs referred to Morrison as a bozo, but also was intensely moved by some of their music; in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, he suggests that “Light My Fire” paved the way for “Gimme Shelter” (an argument I think Greil Marcus picked up in his recent book on the band). One of the trends I find disconcerting in so much music criticism today is that writers seem unwilling to acknowledge the idea that ridiculousness and pretensiousness and buffoonery sometimes don’t prevent great music, and in fact, sometimes lead directly to great music. Pretensiousness can be aesthetically/philosophically worthy in and of itself. This point in some ways is not just related to the Doors — I know people who simply can’t stomach their pretensions enough to hear whatever might be good in it, and that’s fine. No one is required to hear the band the way I do. All I’m saying is…? Pretentiousness CAN be a virtue?
This funny Kids in the Hall clip re: Doors fandom is also notable for its ultra-snide reference to “America’s Only…”