[Today: Ghost songs…]
Jim Morrison was a bad poet with some interesting ideas, a big league death wish, and a dump truck full of symbolism. But he was a first-rate rock star, a bluesman at heart, and possessed a genuinely compelling speaking voice. An American Prayer was released in November of 1978, seven full years after his death. Morrison recorded himself reading his poetry in 1969 and 1970, but thankfully this isn’t just a spoken word album, and instead is rounded out with musical punctuation by the surviving members of The Doors. Those musical bits, along with sound effects like car doors slamming and children playing, are laid behind Morrison’s words and give dimension to his imagery.
The most obvious themes of this album are sex and death, with generous helpings of Indians, religion (with its prayers and invocations), murder, ghosts, the desert, freaks and loners, and mongrel dogs. It’s also filled with enough ethnic slurs and “cocks” and “cunts” to keep an auditorium of 6th grade boys entertained for a month. But even if strands of this album make absolutely no sense lyrically, Morrison still describes a number of interesting scenes of conflict and sensuality. He almost achieves something poetic when he speaks of angels and sailors, and what they’re out to get. And he often touches the deep decay behind the bright shiny facade of America.
Morrison explained that “If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.” To that end, I believe that An American Prayer is set on the hottest day of the summer, in the southwest corner of the United States. An eagle flies high up in the sky, taking in scenes of rape and lust and death, floating above the penny arcades and lustful fuck salesmen and war merchants. His eagle eye scans the deserts and cities, trying to make sense of all the humans and their odd human behaviors. Sometimes his words don’t make sense, because, well, sometimes humans don’t make sense, and some of the scenes he sees defy mere words. And as he floats around up there, he mockingly tells us of ourselves, and he sounds a lot like the bluesman, the joker, the drunken rock star gone astray…
Listen: Ghost Song
Listen: Newborn Awakening
Listen: Stoned Immaculate