The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years
There is music-writing that comes from the heart of it, from so deep in the action as to seem buried within the moment that sits inside the song or live performance. Then there’s writing from the sidelines, from the rock-critic version of the ivory tower. Greil Marcus does both. He’s not out there getting sweaty, copping abuse from fans or buttering up bands but he arrives at the heart of the music – gets right inside the song – from his vantage point in the wings. An astute collector of moments, Marcus celebrates The Doors with this engaging collection of essays.
As with his recent Van Morrison book Marcus picks off a few key moments that show highlights the casual fan would never have thought about – he gives reason for the near-completists to hunt out that one bootleg recording they passed over or didn’t know about and for any fan reading to head straight back to the music.
Marcus has his critics – as any music-writer should. But fans of his style will love this book. My own love/hate relationship with The Doors was massaged – I found myself eager to go back to the source material. I found myself in love with songs I’d previously dismissed. For all the suggestions that Marcus is too intellectual, too academic, he is a passionate and persuasive writer. And for all the meanderings of Marcus when he’s too indulgent (a whole book about one song, a whole chapter about one snare-drum hit!) here he’s fast-paced, lively; the bite-sized pieces are great page-turners, with whimsy. Music-review prose-poems. And the larger, contextual pieces take in the era and then its re-imagining 20 years on with movies, docos and reissues.
A clever writer at the top of his game writing about a band with a finite set of songs – the microscope gets a good workout. And there’s much to enjoy.