Song of the Day: The Doors – The Crystal Ship

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Jordan Posner Recalls: First of all, thanks for all the Facebook love surrounding my article Re: Jim Morrison being a huge shitbag. I couldn’t have done it without you wonderful people, and each and every comment is a tiny gift from Boy Jesus. Some of you who commented even read some or most of the entire article, and that fact makes me swell with pride. Fuck those NYC firemen. Y’all are the real heroes.

Anyway, as a way of balancing the scales a bit, I thought I’d talk about a Doors song that I actually enjoy. “The Crystal Ship” is a wonderful example of the restrained group. Morrison’s penis is safely ensconced under a layer of filthy black leather, and it’s not in danger of springing free and putting some kid’s eye out or something. For that, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, during this unassuming, pretty song, Jim Morrison almost sounds thoughtful. When the Doors put away the sloganeering and macho bravado, they could actually cultivate a genuine and powerful feeling that ranged from communal euphoria to creeping dread. Ultimately, the Doors’ best work comes down to creating and sustaining this vibe. One of the advantages of the Doors sticking out like a sore thumb in the pantheon of rock music is that, for better or worse, they have a sound all their own. As someone who is iffy on the band as a whole, I will concede that no band sounds like the Doors. The thing that they were trying to do, whatever it was, was unique. Here, Morrison’s lyrics are lean and trim, which only makes his sometimes striking imagery more effective. Ray Manzarek’s piano work on this track, perfectly complementary, is gorgeous.

At this point, it nearly becomes possible to separate the man from the work. I almost start reaching for L.A. Woman.  But then the next song is a seven-minute-long R-4-5 blues progression that’s really just an excuse for epic soloing so Morrison can go backstage and service a groupie. You get snapped back to reality pretty quickly.

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Is the world more interesting with the Doors in it? Absolutely. Are they my favorite band of all time? No, they’re actually my 343rd favorite band of all time (Right between Todd Rundgren and Depeche Mode).

Was Jim Morrison, despite being a loathsome brute, capable of moments of genius?

Sometimes, yes.

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