Doors and Velvet darken the hippie dream

While Bob Dylan had, as a pioneer, given a poetic ambition to Anglo-Saxon song – without however imagining that his pen would lead him to the Nobel Prize for Literature – the year 1967 saw the simultaneous affirmation of two groups, the Doors and the Velvet Underground. Their first albums, released on January 4 and March 12 respectively, combine in a revolutionary way “rock chords to the power of the verb”as their mutual fan, singer and writer Patti Smith, would later sum up.

If they share with the author of The Times They Are a-Changin’ a fascination for the adventurers of the Beat Generation, these groups and their respective leaders, Jim Morrison and Lou Reed, explore more than Dylan the venomous recesses of the soul and everyday life. Sex, drugs, fear, death, the taste for transcendence invite themselves into a work that brings rock into adulthood. But blackness and nihilism may well be shared values, but the paths taken by these champions of an electric poetry will nevertheless oppose each other as symmetrically as their cities of origin: Los Angeles and New York.

Morrison’s incandescent charisma

Fruit of a meeting, in 1965, between students from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) on the beach of Venice Beach, the Doors did not have to wait long for their singular version of psychedelia to be noticed. . The carnal and cerebral brilliance of the quartet radiates from its beginnings. The first listener fascinated by the words of Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek stands out as the architect of a unique sound. At a time when the guitar heroes, his Vox Continental organ guides the melodies with a poise that owes as much to his classical training as to his passion for jazz and blues. Lacking a bass player, he also draws the bass lines with his left hand with a Fender Rhodes.

At his side, guitarist Robby Krieger deploys a limpid playing marked by the flexibility of flamenco, while drummer John Densmore adapts his refined touch to the eclecticism of a repertoire drawing on the blues (the cover of Back Door Man), the cabaret (that ofAlabama Song, by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht) or church music (Light My Fire). The quiet mastery of this instrumentation contrasts with Morrison’s incandescent voice, lyrics and charisma.

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Filled with literary references (William Blake, Rimbaud, Antonin Artaud, Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley, whose The Gates of Perception inspired the name of the group), advocating a broadening of consciousness beyond conventions, this Dionysian Adonis also vibrates with a very Californian hedonism and narcissism. Doped with LSD, the dominant drug on the West Coast, his lyricism mixes themes and colors in phase with the “Summer of Love”, even if Thanatos often points behind Eros.

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Doors and Velvet darken the hippie dream

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