ATN correspondent (and Toronto Star reporter Peter Howell reports:
People just won't stop digging up Jim Morrison's grave. But don't blame the
surviving members of the Doors, his legendary '60s rock band, even though
they're rattling his bones by issuing yet another Doors greatest hits
The real grave robbers are the authorities at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in
Paris, where the Mojo Man was interred in July, 1971, for what was to have
been his final resting place. He's being evicted as of July, 2001, because
of complaints that his obsessive fans are disturbing the other dead.
"The lease is up!" Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek yells, while in Toronto
recently to promote The Doors' Greatest Hits.
"They're saying to him, `Jim, your lease is up, you're outta here! We're not
renewing your lease, you troublemaker!' The guy is making trouble, lying
there, quietly passing time, 'doing time in the universal mine,' to quote a
Doors song. And they're going to take him out of Paris. It's totally
A mixed laugh of anger, astonishment and huge amusement issues from the
fiftysomething Manzarek, who's on the road with the fortysomething Danny
Sugarman, the band's publicist and biographer (No One Here Gets Out
Alive). They're both attempting to explain why the world needs more old
Doors. They argue it has everything to do with why the families of
Morrison's surrounding tombmates want the rocker rolled out of Pere Lachaise,
when his 30-year grave lease expires in 2001.
Ever since Morrison's alcohol-choked heart stopped beating in a Paris hotel
bathtub (or didn't, if you believe the "Jim's still alive" theories), his
fans have trekked to Paris for a non-stop posthumous party with him. And they
tend to make noise and leave litter and graffiti.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" says the spike-haired Manzarek, who along with
fellow Doors survivors Robby Krieger and John Densmore have had to come to
grips with Morrison's immortal image. "Next year it will be 25 years since
Jim died. The fact that he's still looked upon as a viable entity in the
lives of young people is a testimony to his artistry."
It's been almost a quarter century since the Doors first began putting out
studio and live compilations of their work. There's a boxed set in the works
for next year, including several never-released songs and alternate takes,
and the band has grown used to criticism that it is flogging a dead horse.
It's a profitable dead horse, though, and the band was also an early advocate
of adding new music to tapes left behind by departed members. The Doors
created the 1978 album An American Prayer out of the left-behind
poetry readings of Morrison; it was a big seller that finally saw its CD
release earlier this year. One of the songs from it, "The Ghost Song," is on
the new Greatest Hits album.
The new single-CD collection has been culled from a previous two-CD
Greatest Hits to appeal primarily to teenage Doors fans, who want to
check out the band but don't have the cash yet for a major album investment.
"It seems to happen to every generation," Manzarek says. "Kids always find
something in Jim. You hit 17, maybe ages 14 to 17, and you find in Morrison
a kindred soul, a kindred spirit, some guy who is actually talking to you.
Trying to find out, what's it all about? What's life all about? That's
what Morrison is talking about to the kids. They understand his alienation,
but they also understand his hope for a better future."
One of the reasons why the Doors' mystique continues for succeeding
generations of rock fans is because Morrison is as timeless as his music.
He's still the youthful, sexy rocker with a head full of questions and a
penchant for getting himself in trouble.
Morrison will be making one last road trip to an undisclosed destination, if
the Paris cemetery authorities have their way. Manzarek says the removal
plans can't be changed, because plots in Pere Lachais are leased, not sold.
"He will rise again!" Manzarek says. "It's like Moby Dick or something, for
God's sake. It's like Captain Ahab screaming at the whale, 'She is risen!'
and out comes the great white whale.
"And God knows what is going to come out of that ground, man," he continues.
"Is there a casket in there? Is there a body? Are they going to open the
casket? I mean, it's morbid beyond belief."
But wouldn't Morrison, knowing his love of the weird, find it all just a
little bit amusing? "Of course he would!" Manzarek roars.