Jim Morrison’s Grave 2005.
I thought about it for 3 days. And fortunately enough, I think about music more than most things anyway. I thought about all of the songs in my universe.
The songs that have split my life down the center and rearranged the pieces. That have given meaning to the otherwise mundane things that we all go through: break-ups, new relationships, imagined relationships, going to high school, leaving high school, going to college, leaving college, driving long distances, driving to the store, flying around the world or walking downstairs to take a piss.
The mix-CDs I made for girls. The one time I made a mix-TAPE for a girl I hardly knew in my math class and realized sitting with the finished tape in my backpack that it was an INSANE thing to do so I kept it for myself.
And like those mixes it’s so easy to pick the best parts. The coolest parts. To put it in a fictitious order. To preform. For myself, for others.
I went through the list in my mind, “What’s the right Otis Redding track? Maybe a Smith’s B-side. A Gram Parsons B-Side. An Elliott Smith B-side. Grizzly Bear B-sides. All of the B-sides. The COOL parts of the Kinks discography. What about early Modest Mouse? A BBC version of a Led Zeppelin song? I could do the first time I heard the Arcade Fire. Or when I got my first Neutral Milk Hotel record (thanks Dan.) What about that time I saw Girls live and they played Hellhole Rat Race in a way that made all of the heartbreak-plus-angst in the world make sense, in a way that no one except the people in that room would understand?”
And I had to stop. Because, yes, I love those things. Yes, I believe those things. Yes, I own a stupid amount of records. And yes, my top ten albums of the year will be annoyingly close to what Pitchfork says. Those things are all true.
But that’s not where it started. Not even close. The truth isn’t nearly as cool. And not nearly as relevant. To find that, I had to go back the beginning: to Jim Morrison’s Grave in Paris, France 2005.
I was 15. And in love w/ The Doors. I was in France and Italy for two weeks as a part of a barely-scholastic-mostly-people-partying trip to visit great cultural sites in places like Paris, Avignon, Nice, Rome, etc. And I was in love w/ The Doors.
In 2005 I was an awkward slightly overweight 15 year old boy living off of his dad’s classic rock collection and lugging his CD player around Europe. I had a bowl cut and a bunch of black band t-shirts. I wore aviators. I wrote bad poems. I fell in love every other week (it was incredibly tragic and deep, I promise.) And Jim Morrison was my hero. The first and last in my concept of art and creativity.
Jim Morrison, who was dead and buried in Paris, in Père Lachaise Cemetery, kind of near the Seine river. (Mom, Dad, at this point I feel like I can tell you that I really only wanted to go on this trip to see his grave, we both knew that, right?)
Leading up to the “Geoff standing over the grave of a dead rock star” part, I found a few very, very overpriced Doors bootleg CDs (which of course I bought, and thought I was getting an amazing deal).
One of these CDs was a hard to find (for a kid living in the Sacramento suburbs) record called “An American Prayer”. Mostly, it’s Jim Morrison reading his terrible poetry. But right in the middle of the CD is the most badass live version of Roadhouse Blues the Doors ever recorded. It’s, perfect. Flawless. And when I heard it, the old world charm of France fell away and all I cared about was Jim Morrison’s impossible-to-discern yelling over Robby Krieger’s sick AF guitar solos and Ray Manzarek’s out of place keyboards (I got a keyboard for Christmas that year because I felt like trying to be Jim was shooting too high).
My ears went numb, like when you know you’ll remember a song a certain way forever. That feeling you never want to end. That feeling you try and fail to share with your friends. That feeling of this-is-all-that-matters-right-now-please-leave-me-alone-till-it’s-over.
At that point in my life, it was the pinnacle of music achievement. It made Beethoven sound like glass bottles being smashed in a trash-bag and an old woman farting. I did not care about Beethoven.
It is a strange thing, standing over the grave of your hero. It seemed too small- like it could not contain the legend, the myth, the dream, the god of what Jim Morrison and his music was to me at that time in my life.
And, even though I can hardly get through a Doors song now (cue Puff the Magic Dragon), I owe a lot to The Doors. I owe a lot to Jim.
I wouldn’t have pursued writing without him. The autobiography “No One Here Gets Out Alive” led me to Kerouac, to Rimbaud, to Bukowski, to Fante and then to all the contemporary standards of cool I won’t list here.
Over the course of 2 weeks I saw the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the French Riviera, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum; but none of that mattered to me as much as my pilgrimage to Jim’s burial site.
Listening for the millionth time to Roadhouse Blues, preparing to visit Jim Morrison’s grave on an overcast day in Paris and in retrospect being underwhelmed (his tombstone is actually kind of boring) was still one of the most important moments of my life. How often do we get to see the genesis of the thing we love at the height of our love for that thing?
Listening for the millionth and first time to Roadhouse Blues and watching the sunset over the Mediterranean from the beach on my 16th birthday in Nice, is actually one of my favorite memories. Ever. Yeah, it’s cliche. But it’s real. It’s mine. It’s what happened.
I fell in love with a song at 15. I fell in love with an idea, really. Loving The Doors taught me how to love a band with an obscure history. It taught me the value in searching for impossible-to-find bootlegs, B-sides, out of print albums. They were like secret messages the band left behind for the most loyal and devoted to find. They were the lost letters, the lost revelations, the hidden art, the best stuff, really.
You can check out this specific, awesome, face-melting track here.