Into The Bin

My office has become a pit of hell in recent weeks. It always becomes like this when I’m bogged down trying to complete a book. Problem is, I’ve done a lot of books over the nearly three years I’ve had this gaff. Consequently, I spend most of my time working in hell. This may be why the endings of my books are usually so crazed. I just can’t stand where I am or what I’m doing anymore.

So in an attempt to restore some sort of order, something liveable at least, about my workplace, I had the mother of all tidy-ups yesterday. Starting with all those CDs people out there keep sending me. Time was, you could gather up this unwanted crap, all by groups you never heard of, and pass it on to the neighbourhood nerd who would sell it for you. Or you could haul it in a black bin liner up to Cheapo Cheapo Records in Soho, or Steve’s, or Record & Tape Exchange, or any number of secondhand record dealers – or thieves as we used to call them as they handed you your twenty for the 100 CDs you just offloaded on them, including a handful of quite good ones, honest.

Well, those days are over. The shops are mainly gone. Along with the need for CDs. Mainly. So then I started giving them to charity shops. But even they don’t want them anymore, not unless they are by The Carpenters or Cliff Richard. So in the bin they go. Yup, that’s one of the dirty little secrets of music journalism, sooner or later your precious CD that you sent out with all the hopes and dreams of the box-fresh beginner, or hopeless loser/has-been, end up not being cherished by music journos, but in the bin. One way or the other. These days, mainly the other. Just as my own early efforts did, again and again.

Especially these days as we already have all the music, new or old, we’re ever gonna need, thanks to our old-new friends at YouTube. Today, for example, I have been digging Miles Davis’s 1972 album, Jack Johnson. Not the original vinyl, though I could if I’d wanted, nor of course the inferior 1992 CD, though I could if I wanted, but the 2003 CD digital thingy which has the best sound. I liked it so much in fact I then clicked on the 4CD box set and had a go at that too. Followed by a 1971 concert from Berlin featuring Miles with his amazing electro band featuring Herbie Hancock and all those groovy cats.

You think given all that I’ve got time to stick on a CD from a band that still wishes it was 1987 and they could go on tour with Guns N’ Roses, or at a pinch, Faster Pussycat?

And yes, it seems books are going the same way. Though there the opposite is true in my case, as no amount of Googling or Youtube-ing will bring me the thrill of reading my smelly millionth-hand 90p copy of Raging Bull by Jake La Motta that I recently bought at Oxford market, along with two carrier bags full of similarly exciting stuff, or on the other end of the scale, my 1976 first edition facsimilie of The Book Of The Goetia of Solomon The King, originally published by Jimmy Page’s bookshop, Equinox, back in 1976, ‘edited, verified, introduced and commented’ by Aleister Crowley’. This was bought for a couple of hundred pounds back when I was researching my Zeppelin biography, which I mention just to show how far I and others will go – and pay – to get our hands on something meaningful.

It’s just that 99 per cent of ‘new’ artists’ CDs are not meaningful. Even the ones by the artists you have heard of aren’t worth much of a listen, not when laid end to end with the greats. And, pardon for me for over-reiterating, but what is an album anymore anyway? There is no physical object, therefore no need to only contain 40 minutes of music, or, in the CD age, 60 minutes of music, or – now – even 15 seconds of music. Damn it, my new computer (the cheapest of its kind, please note) does not even play CDs anymore.

The message being: LOVE MUSIC. Don’t have time to sit through CDs by people I have absolutely no connection with. Sending me your CDs will not change a thing. Ask the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, or really going back, Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath… none of whom sent me their early records or demos either. None of whom needed me or anyone else from the press to come along to their early dingy gigs. They made it simply because what they did was undeniable.

Is what you do undeniable? My heartiest congrats if it is. But you definitely won’t be needing any help from me if it is. And you definitely won’t get it if it isn’t. Either way, you’re on your own. can you handle that? No? Then quit. Oh, you think you are good enough. Then prove it by not sending me or anyone else your CDs, just letting the fans discover it. The only barometer of taste that really counts.

So in the bin you go, cluttering CD and press release mulch. Ah… I feel so much better now… don’t you?

Welcome Home (Page)

So my old iMac died about 10 days ago, meaning I lost everything in an instant. Including the ability to get onto my own blog page. Hence the air gap between my last post and now. Karma after that dreadful rant about wanting to be left alone? Let’s just say I believe in karma, especially the instant kind.

This happened just as I was completing the final two chapters on my next book, GETCHA ROCKS OFF. This is going to be the follow-up to Paranoid. Not in a chronological sense. It broadly covers the same period, though it stretches out to before that story starts and contains stuff from the years after Paranoid ends.

But there were these two final chapters and all was sweet until… POW!

So I borrowed my wife’s £99 from eBay laptop and finished the book on that. Which just goes to show the desperate mind is mightier than the iMac. Sorta.

This whole past week while I’ve been first trying to fix the broken iMac and eventually giving up and shelling ackers I do not have for a new (cheap as poss) iMac, the only way I’ve been able to read bits of GETCHA have been on my phone. And it has not looked good. Oh, there were moments where I thought, hey, this shit’s not bad! But far more where I’ve been huddled in a ball in the corner of the bathroom squinting at my phone and bleeding from the insides out. Great dark pools of ick everywhere. Not cool.

Anyway, the new iMac is now officially up and running though still struggling to download all 70,000 files from the cloud that all the stuff on the last iMac had going for it. I wrote seven books on that baby in the two and a bit years I had her. Plus added four older books from other ancient files to it. Maybe more. I feel I left a big piece of me in there that didn’t make it to the cloud. Not necessarily all the good pieces, but plenty of everything, up and down, moon and sun, chin and chang.

Meanwhile, my new Doors book Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre is bubbling away. As is my new online Pink Floyd book, The Endless Journey. But here’s the funny part. Paranoid, the Kindle-only version, which came out back in June, is still outselling them both.

And what’s the one I’m actually reading? Well, at the moment it’s a glove soft tussle between Mark Blake’s excellent Who biog, Pretend You’re In A War and Jake La Motta’s brilliant original Raging Bull autobiography.

Oh and I got the blog thing going again. As you see…

Too Busy Not Thinking Bout My Baby

I have just spent all weekend working on my next book. Last weekend I did the same. And the weekend before that and the one before that. In fact, unless I tell you different, I will be spending ALL my weekends working on my new book, whatever it happens to be at the time. Not because I am not working during the week, too, but during the week I do my other work too, book writing, magazine writing, TV production stuff and Other Projects that May or May Not Ever See the Light Of Day. As well as worrying myself to death over the tax, VAT, mortgage, debts, credit cards, my three children, one of whom has a chronic condition that needs day to day attention, and my wife and I who are both loopy-loo half the time anyway.

Perhaps this sounds like I am going on somewhat. I am not. I am if anything underplaying the difficulty of my situation. I make mention of it here in an (entirely doomed, I already know) effort to explain to the various people out there who keep emailing, FB messaging, tweeting and whatnot about their own problems. I’d like to oblige, I really would. But I can’t and never will be able to. I am, I’m afraid, TOO BUSY.

I know we are ALL busy but some of us are MORE BUSY than others. This is obvious to me as I barely have time to shit without my phone buzzing, clanging, brrrng, with some message from someone wanting something. And, well, I’m sorry but right now it’s all too much. Even the nice people wanting to interview me about my books and whatnots. Can we, as they say, revisit this? Perhaps in the new year? Perhaps later still? If I have managed to escape debtors jail and not thrown in the tax towel and gone bankrupt, which the tax seem to love threatening me with. Bless their little pointy ears and no idea of living in the real world, where the big boys who owe them squillions run around waving their knickers in the air taking the piss cos no tax bloke on the phone is ever going to bring them down. Just the likes of me, who is busy. Engaged. Do Not Disturbed. Okay?

All About The Night

What a very strange and wonderful and exhausting week. By the time I got to lay my weary bones down at the Sainted Vanessa’s acupuncture sanctuary on Thursday lunchtime I thought I’d never get up again. Family stuff, money stuff, you don’t want to know. But if you do happen to be reading this Mr Tax and VAT, the greens are on the way, please don’t keep fining me. And a huge thank you to the teachers and helpers that have stepped up to the plate this week for our babies. Nuff said.

Fortunately, Vanessa being a miracle worker, I was feeling hot hot hot (well, a lot better) by the time my beautiful wife and I found ourselves walking to Blackwell’s in Oxford on Thursday night, to read from and talk about my new Doors doorstop, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre. Kind of a big deal for me as I don’t do many readings. But Blackwell’s is probably the best book shop in the world, built right into the gothic entrails of the University, up the road from Tolkein’s favourite pub, and like a Tardis inside. I mean, huge! Yet so quaint and 19th century on the outside.

Kate, the wonderful Orion PR lady was there and being her usual convivial self – this despite about to have her first baby in January! James Orton, Blackwell’s remarkable event manager was there to greet us with a welcoming glass or two of very nice red. And Scott Rowley was there too, ready to officiate. Scott was a little nervous never having done this sort of thing before, yet he was so good on the night. The whole thing would never have worked as well without him. Almost as if he’d read the book…

It also felt great to have Linda my wife seated so close to me, even if I embarrassed her and most of the audience with my confession of us enjoying Abba tribute bands and such like. (Hey, if you fancy a bop there’s nothing finer!) And at the end, I even signed a few Doors books. The crowd was so nice, they could so easily have given me a much harder time but they were great. About 50 people, which I’m told is not bad at all for this sort of thing, even if Johnny Rotten is doing his Blackwell’s book thing to 300 next week. Not that I’m jealous. Obviously.

What was especially nice for me on a personal level was how many dear friends also turned up. St Vanessa, Mel ‘Mrs’ Hawkins and hubby, the legendary Joel ‘Curry’ McIver, David ‘Rocker’ Donley and Michele ‘Duff Please’ Mcdonnell, Shaun, my brother in arms, and his mate Dave, the lovely Holly Thomson. No Harry ‘Red Or Dead’ Paterson though who said he was coming all week long up to and including that afternoon but was unavoidably detained by something or other.

When, later, we all found ourselves toasting our good fortune to be alive at the Opium Den, life looked about as good to me as it is  likely to get. Until I win the Pulitzer obviously…

Then, just to make it feel almost unforgivably festive, as we were leaving the restaurant i read Robert Kirby’s tweets about my  Pink Floyd online book, The Endless Journey, released the day before, going straight to No.1. You may all be sick into buckets now if you want, though don’t feel obliged just for me…

Hidden In Plain Sight: AC/DC POWERAGE

Let’s get real just for one cotton-picking moment, okay pal? This is the AC/DC album you should be buying this Christmas, not that so-called new one.

Powerage was where AC/DC showed just what they could do without any production whatsoever. Not that George and Harry didn’t do a grand job helping choose the songs and setting up the mikes in the studio. But the main thing they did was get out the beers, the weed and the wine and let these fuckers just rip.

Listen to ‘Riff Raff’. I mean, FUCKING LISTEN! If you dare. This is not some formulaic guff they’ve been churning out for 30 near dead years, this is blood and thunder and coke and pussy and some very dangerous man telling it like it is, doesn’t matter if you’re listening or not.

‘Boss man tryin’ to tell me
Beginnin’ of the end
Sayin’ it’ll bend me
Too late my friend…’

Even the track they were forced to make to try and please their record label, Atlantic, and then hated because it sucked too much commercial cock – ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation’ – is the real heavy deal. What a riff! Catchy as a meat hook, rhythm building like paddies on bonus time. You don’t want it, give it to me, baby… Fuck you very much!

Then there’s all the stuff no one but Bon could have come up with. ‘What’s Next To The Moon?’ How about that for a song title? A little more evocative and meaningful than Rock Or Bust, am I right or is that a big hairy man’s cock I see up your arse?

‘Long arm lookin’ for a finger print
Tryin’ to find a mystery clue
Hittin’ me with the third degree
Working on the thumb screw
All right officer I confess
Everything’s coming back
I didn’t mean to hurt that woman of mine
It was a heart attack…’

This ain’t no rock and roll train, choo-choo, please press ‘like’. This is Bon and Malcolm and Angus before they got made soft by money and too much too late. This is rock’n'roll when it still counted for something. Back when a track called ‘Sin City’ put you right in that place they call hell. Or rock’n'roll heaven, which I believe is the same place, no fucking cry babies allowed.

Then my own current favourite, ‘Gone Shootin”. I play this one when I’m feeling down and want to get mean about it. I play this one when I’m so far up I’m looking down on the clouds, and want to feel even meaner about it. I play this to fuck off the neighbours and their pets. I play this when I want to remember just how good AC/DC used to be.

Or ‘Kicked In The Teeth’, which closes the album, though each track is so good any one of the dirty fuckers could be something that opens or closes the album. ‘Kicked In The Teeth’ takes the riff from ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and twists it like a knife in the eye. Real tasty, dig?

‘Two face woman such a cryin’ shame
Double or nothin’ you’re all the same
You run around hope you had your fun
You never know who’s gonna win
Til’ the race been
Run…’

God bless you Bon.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

I’ve been working on my new… well, memoir seems too strong a way of putting it… My new book about the Old Days. Back when girls were chicks and boys were dudes and you could actually measure a band’s worth by how heavy they were.

As such I have found myself going back in my mind to the short days and long nights I spent practically living at the Sunset Marquis hotel in Los Angeles. When Hunter S. Thompson used to stay there in the 1970s he dubbed the joint the Loser’s Hilton. The first time I rented a room in 1980 it still was. No room service, just cards in the rooms giving you the phone number for Barney’s Beanerie who would deliver burgers and beers and a whole lot more if you knew how to ask for it. And could pay for it in cash no cards, thank yew.

By the mid-80s when I became more of a regular there, though, the place had undergone the first of its many transitions. It so desperately wanted to be a Hollywood movie hangout and it almost succeeded. But the truth is those actor cats take their luxury seriously, so they all preferred stuck up shitholes like the Beverley Hilton, soft music, discreet hookers, uniformed dildos there to wipe your arse…

The Sunset, though, was a place where the waiters would still smoke weed with you. The place where each morning having breakfast by the pool you would see Ozzy Osbourne at one table and Mickey Rourke at another, Madonna hiding behind bodyguards as she swept across the patio followed by a gacked out Lars Ulrich and a very bad-tempered Ross Halfin – and me, tagging along cos what the fuck else was there to do in those hard knock days?

So… been trying to capture some of this, er, magic on the page, as they say. But what I keep coming up with looks so unbelievable I start to question whether any of it actually happened. This is partly because of the way I write. I want nothing but THE TRUTH. But the only way I know how to really corner the truth is to have very little regard for the facts, that is, date, time, place, who actually said boo to whose goose and so forth. Because actually none of that crap matters. Not to me. It didn’t then and it never will now.

So what I end up with is very much the truth but arrived at via conflated circumstance, concertinaed events, fogged and fucked by the years and the tears, pieces of the jigsaw rammed into some of the right and some of the wrong holes. Yet the picture that emerges sure feels real to me. Judderingly so in most cases.

Did I just imagine it though? Yes, and as it was actually happening. Real and unreal. Far and out. I hope you’re getting all this down, baby…

Letters from Abroad

Mick:

I’m currently reading your AC DC book and Jesse Fink’s side by side.  I enjoy your book so much more.  I would much rather read about where the lyrics to Jailbreak came from, than the 13th guy who claims he broke AC DC in the U.S.  I also don’t see any reason for him to point out that you put the wrong name on someone in a picture, or spelled someone’s name wrong.  I look forward to reading more of your books.

Thanks, Michael Pataky, Cleveland, OH, U.S.A.

Dear Mr. Wall,

In writing this I am fully aware that you likely get a gazillion letters a day.  That said, having just finished When Giants Walk The Earth, I had to reach out, were there a way, to let you know it’s a masterpiece. and a must own for any rock fan, or in my case, a musician.  In particular it’s those stunning narrations in which you’re the inner dialogue of each members inner sanctum, ie, “It is the summer of 1968 and you are one of the best-known guitarists in London – and one of its least famous.” is what really made this so exhilarating, and a wonderful trip.
 
I’ve long since admired all your rock and roll journeys put to words and I’m glad the net exists, for me to be able to tell you so.
Thank you for so many incredible opportunities by which you give people the ability to be the fly on the wall.
Respect, Amy Douglas, FEINTS
Hello Mick Wall,
Just working my way through your Zeppelin biography and wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I am enjoying it. But that’s a slightly barbed compliment when you consider the book I read prior to yours, was Richard Cole’s quite appallingly narcissistic version of those 12 years, and before that Ginger Bakers even worse Hellraiser, documenting his own “ultra-shaggable” life. Note to rock stars and roadies: don’t try writing books on your own! (You quote Coles book a few times in your own…is it a good book really? I’d love to know a writers opinion, I happen to think it was absolutely terrible, I don’t think I even finished it).
I have been particularly taken with your in-depth research and expose of Aleister Crowley and his beliefs and how they (possibly) influenced Page and his writing. Yours is also the only book I have ever read that uses the second person…my daughter was once asked to write a story in the second person at school, and I remember thinking at the time what a stupid waste of time that was, considering no one does it and no one ever really needs to. But your forays into the thoughts and early actions of our 4 protagonists somehow works – even if Jimmy didn’t particularly like it. I cannot image anybody writing a story of the life and times of Led Zeppelin, that Page would actually approve of, so any complaints from said guitarist simply put you in good company!
Me? I’m just a long term rock music fan (and occasional bass player) slightly younger than you I think. I was an 18 year old reading Sounds back in 1977 – and lamenting the “end of music as we know it” when Johnny Rotten started gobbing on his audience. My own musical journey has taken me (starting in The Who’s West London up to the age of 10, then 20 years in Oxford, then 20 years in East Anglia) through mostly AOR and HM, via a bit of folk and country, and big dollop of Rush – love the Rush boys and don’t care how un-hip that is – long may they reign.
Nowadays, I find myself listening to Jazz and virtuoso musicians like John McLaughlin. I’m also looking back on punk, a period that I detested at the time, with a lot of love and nostalgia. I now live in the United States, where music radio is derisory, absolutely unlistenable, makes BBC Radio One appear bookish! I try to write, but end up just writing to writers. (actually, that’s not true, you are the first writer I have written to in eons). I am working on a couple of Radio plays and a screenplay, but I’ll probably be retired before they come to anything.
Fairly interested in the management side of music, therefore loving all the references in your book to “G”. Now I know you have written a book about Don Arden, that’s my next read, and from that, we simply HAVE to write a screenplay….can you imagine? A movie about one of the most enigmatic and notorious rock managers of all time. Oh no, wait…Sharon’s still alive…do we really want to end up with concrete wellingtons at the bottom of the Thames?! But seriously. I think a movie about the life and times of Don Arden has some legs.
And at 55, I have just got my first ever tattoo – John Paul Jones’s sigil. My personal tribute the man who led me to first pick up a bass guitar back in ’77.
Thanks for all the writing.
Peter Ferber, Hudson, OH, USA

Hi Mick,

I’ve just finished reading Paranoid and I loved it! I used to read Kerrang! in the 80’s and I took your reviews a little too seriously – I wish I had known you flipped a coin to give albums a good or bad review!

I wanted to tell you that your description of Judas Priest on stage in the book had me laughing so much in an airport lounge people were starting to look at me nervously. Seriously, it’s not often that I read something which makes me laugh out loud. In complete contrast I found your description of drug use and withdrawal harrowing, I’m sorry you went through that.

I’m looking forward to reading more of your published work, many thanks for the good read!

Best wishes, Ian

Extract No.4 – LOVE BECOMES A FUNERAL PYRE

This is from Chapter Four, Hands Upon The Wheel. You can buy the book now, in print or kindle, by clicking the buttons on my website pages.

Because Robby Krieger came from money – his family lived in a big house in the swish Pacific Palisades part of West L.A. – John Densmore found him hard to figure at first. Misinterpreting his quiet, surefooted demeanour as arrogance, even snobbery. But Robby was a gentle cat, used to being misread by others. He moved in his own space and time, John would come round like all the others, and he did.

It was John who turned Robby onto acid, but Robby who took it and ran with it and was soon the go-to guy for John and all his other friends that wanted to score. Robby would also bring around Methadrine, and pot. For the quiet guy of the bunch he sure was fearless when it came to getting it on. Robby was a dude. He just didn’t feel the pressing need to make a big deal of it.

In his book, John maintains that Robby did have an edge, though, just that you wouldn’t see it at first. He writes: ‘Sadistic stubbornness was Robby’s Achilles heel.’ It’s an interesting phrase, yet what does it mean? That Robby displayed that classic passive-aggressive quality that a lot of children of the wealthy have when vying for space with the less fortunate of their peers? Too well mannered to talk trash but steely sure of themselves and not about to be pushed into anything they didn’t already want to do? Achilles heel or not, it was this quality, more than any other, in fact, that would so enamour Robby Krieger to Jim Morrison, whose quickly became used to riding roughshod over everyone else’s feelings, yet could never find any real purchase with quiet, cool, hugely unimpressed Robby. Robby was like L.A. after dark, when the heat hasn’t quite worn off but the light no longer blinds your eyes. Dark, sometimes dangerous, but dreamy too, part of the same undulating neon ooze of the Strip as it starts to settle into what it really is, not what Jim Morrison or anyone else no matter how loud they shout or how much they kick against it wants it to be.

If John, with his feet planted firmly on the ground, represented the element of earth in The Doors – of solidity, strength, indomitability – Robby would come to represent the element of air – of expansion, vibration, flexibility. Tellingly, Jim – who would provide the element of fire – of energy, dynamism, volatility – considered Robby his best friend in the band. So did John. ‘Robby was my best friend, most of the way,’ John would tell me. Ray Manzarek, not surprisingly, said he didn’t believe in ‘childish concepts’ like best friends. But that was only because Ray, who would represent the element of water – of cohesion, interconnection, fluidity – got cold-shouldered after Jim finally refused his offer of brotherhood and tutelage, to hang out more with Robby. Because it was Robby, more than the others, more than anybody, who saw Jim for what he really was – another spoiled boy with rich parents searching for a way to pay them back without admitting they were somehow responsible – so never expected anything more from him. Ever.

Third Extract: LOVE BECOMES A FUNERAL PYRE

The following exclusive extract is from Chapter Seventeen, Can You Give Me Sanctuary?

The only interview of real substance Jim Morrison gave in the wake of the Miami debacle [in 1969] was to Jerry Hopkins, then the L.A. correspondent for Rolling Stone and one day destined to co-author the first substantial Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive. Accompanying The Doors to their show in Mexico City – originally to have been held at the city’s largest bullring, the Plaza Monumental, but downgraded at the eleventh hour to the much smaller Olmos Forum club, after government officials became nervous at the prospect of so many young fans attending such a potentially incendiary event (the city had been experiencing its own firebrand of student protests that summer) – Jerry became the first writer to really bond with Jim. A few years older than the singer and just as smart and adventurous, as Hopkins recalls now, Everyone in the band was sure [Jim] was going to end up at the infamous Raiford prison, chopping weeds beside the Florida highways, getting butt-fucked, the lot. As you describe it, I guess Miami was the end. Let’s not forget that 1969 was also when Woodstock was trumped by Altamont. After Miami, he did what he could to erase the familiar image of Morrison the lizard king, grew his beard, got fucking fat, and wore camouflage clothing instead of the hide of unborn horse. This was the Jim I knew. I liked him.’

Hopkins recalls how Jim had asked him to swap rooms at the hotel, which he did, only for Pam to starting ringing his room, ‘which was Jim’s plan all along.’ On the night of the first show, Jim and Jerry travelled together in a white limousine while the other three travelled together in a black limo. As they arrived at the venue and the other three members of The Doors climbed out of their limo, the hundreds of fans gathered outside began cheering and screaming. But Jim’s and Jerry’s exit from their limo was greeted by indifference. The fans simply didn’t recognise Jim, still heavily bearded and looking nothing like the huge ‘young lion’ portrait of him that hung outside the venue’s front doors.

Hopkins spoke to Bill Siddons about the beard and Bill admitted he’d asked Jim to shave it off but Jim had refused. As well as the show, the band planned to stay in Mexico for the week. Hopkins accompanied Jim on trips to the Indian Pyramids and the Anthropological Museum. Jerry recalls Jim as being quiet, friendly, ‘using his high school Spanish to communicate with the local fans.’ Inevitably, Jim found a woman to be with, as Hopkins put it: ‘one of the “presidential groupies”, the band of mainly American women that had attached themselves to the president’s son.’

Hopkins’ subsequent piece for Rolling Stone comprised several interviews Jim gave him over the period in Mexico and the following days and weeks back in L.A. By this stage, says Jerry, ‘Jim Morrison was more than an acquaintance and less than a friend. Ours was a relationship that developed when we found ourselves drinking in the same crummy Los Angeles bars.’ After Mexico, ‘He invited me to film screenings and poetry readings and took me to my first topless bar.’

The portrait that emerged was one of the most revealing of Jim Morrison’s career. Hopkins began by pointing out that, far from seeing his career crumbling in the wake of Miami, as far as Jim was concerned things were looking up. He had recently finished co-writing a screenplay, said Jim, with Michael McClure, and had just signed a deal with a book publisher for his first book of poetry. He even had his own rose-tinted yet strangely revealing take on all the stage busts he and The Doors had endured over the past few months, from New Haven to Miami.

‘You can do anything as long as it’s in tune with the forces of the universe, nature, society, whatever. If it’s in tune, if it’s working, you can do anything. If for some reason you’re on a different track from other people you’re around, it’s going to jangle everybody’s sensibilities. And they’re either going to walk away or put you down for it. So it’s just a case of getting too far out for them, or everybody’s on a different trip that night and nothing comes together. As long as everything’s connecting and coming together, you can get away with murder.’

Second Extract from LOVE BECOMES A FUNERAL PYRE

This is an extract from Chapter Seven, Sexy Motherfucker In Black Pants, from Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre, my new biography of The Doors, published today, and available to buy right now from amazon.co.uk

The night Eve Babitz met Jim Morrison in 1965, he was wearing this suede grey outfit – leather sewn together with white lanyards… I promised I’d get him LSD and I didn’t do it. He told me he’d lost all that weight by taking LSD. Well, I mean, it will keep you from eating.’

His disappointment lasted only as long as it took for him to figure out who Eve actually was. The daughter of Sol Babitz, first violinist for the L.A. Philharmonic and a Fulbright scholar who once got into a brawl over the correct way to play the dotted notes in Bach; her mother Mae a stunningly beautiful artist, in her own right; her godfather was Igor Stravinsky. Growing up, family friends included Charlie Chaplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Great Garbo – and Aldous and Laura Huxley. Jim could not let that one go!

At 19, Eve had been the subject of a notorious Marcel Duchamp photograph in which she is pictured playing chess, completely nude, against the great conceptualist. Since then she had glided effortlessly through art and music circles. Later in life she would arrange for Frank Zappa to meet Salvador Dalí, put Steve Martin in his first white suit, discover Brett Easton Ellis and write a series of shameless and amusing L.A. novels and memoirs of her own, including, famously, one titled L.A. Woman.

A dreadful fire in 1997 – the result of ash from her cigar falling onto her dress – left Eve with the lower half of the ‘body of a mermaid,’ as she drolly puts it. Since then she has lived in Hollywood as largely a recluse. But she is happy to share her memories of Jim Morrison, if less of The Doors, who she describes them , ‘awful, I mean, really.’ She tinkles with laugher.

Eve didn’t even like the name The Doors, she says, and tried to get Jim to change it ‘before it was too late.’ As recalled: ‘I dragged Jim into bed… and tried to dissuade him; it was so corny naming yourself after something Aldous Huxley wrote.’ She later wrote that sleeping with Jim was ‘like being in bed with Michelangelo’s David, only with blue eyes.” But the last time she saw him she at a party  in Coldwater Canyon in 1971, ‘his body was so ravaged by scars, toxins and puffy pudginess, I wanted to kill him.’

When they first met, Eve, a year younger than Jim, found herself acting as his cultural chaperone. ‘I took him over to see my father play in Pasadena,’ she recalls in her teasing-voice. ‘My father was a baroque musician. He was a musicologist. He had this weird little group of like harpsichord and, you know. And they were playing at Cal Tech for the old ladies. I dragged Jim upstairs and he watched my father. Dressed in this outfit.’ She laughs, ‘I don’t know what [the old ladies] thought. But he loved it! The whole thing. He wanted to meet my father but I said, no. You can’t do this. And to his dying day he was pissed off because I didn’t introduce him to my father.’

Other female fans also first began to congregate around Jim. There was Rhonda the go-go girl. Then one of the dancers from the TV show, Shindig. He also had a scene with Pamela Zarubica, then working as a cleaner at the Whisky, who Frank Zappa would later take on tour as one of several young women that performed under the name, Suzy Cheamcheese. ‘It was wonderful,’ Zarubica told Jerry Hopkin. ‘He didn’t know much about what was going on and neither did I.’

Indeed, Jim’s lack of sophistication in the sack got him in trouble with one conquest, Gay Blair, who bawled him out for being ‘the worst’ lover she’d ever had. Jim was so infuriated he smashed a lamp then pinned her down and ripped her clothes off, before spitting in her face. Then made it up by taking her to Barney’s Beanery and being ‘so lovey dovey.’

LOVE BECOMES A FUNERAL PYRE – EXTRACT

This is how Chapter Five, Give This Man A Ride, starts in my Doors biography, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre, published in the UK tomorrow, already out in Australia and New Zealand, and available now from www.amazon.co.uk

In his autobiography, as in later life, Ray talks mindlessly about Jim being ‘a satyr’, being high on the spirit of Dionysus, of being in fact the earthly embodiment of the overripe old goat god, just as all the great ones had been, like Rimbaud, Modigliani, Neal Cassidy…

 Yet when Ray Manzarek first met Jim Morrison at UCLA he found him something of a lost cause. An overweight self-absorbed stoner who rolled such beautiful joints Ray considered them, far more than the incoherent, patchwork student movies he made, Jim’s real ‘works of art’. [Ray Book]

 Garrulous, overeducated, supremely self-confident and already living with the beautiful, intelligent and cultured young woman that would one day become his wife, Ray was the alpha-male at UCLA, not Jim. As Robby Krieger would later put it, Ray was the ‘big man on campus’. Jim was the screwball. ‘We were all heads,’ Ray would later say of his time at UCLA. ‘Everyone was high. Everyone was giggling and laughing just having the grandest time.’ Few though would have as grand a time of it as Ray Manzarek.

 And yet his and Jim’s paths to UCLA were not so very different. Both had arrived on the west coast from distant parts of America – Ray from the Midwest, Jim from the Southeast. Both were accompanied by the loves of their lives: Dorothy with Ray, Mary with Jim. Both had a marked passion and superior knowledge of film, literature and music. And both shared a deep and abiding ambition to somehow get more out of life than the professional careers their respective families still sought for them.

 Where they differed were the ways in which they went about achieving this ill-defined yet ever-present goal. Ray saw his best chance of cutting loose being to take great strides at university, to get his MA in film studies and go on to become a big Hollywood director. No matter that so many of his favourite movies had been made largely outside the Hollywood paradigm, Ray always knew where the main chance lay.

Jim simply couldn’t see that far ahead. Still thought he could cruise by on luck, though the fear of failure never left him. Still thought if he turned in too early he’d wet the bed and incur the wrath of the gods. Jim never wanted to sleep again; never wanted to get out of bed in the morning; never wanted to be in class anyway, yet never felt more abject than when one of his tutors stood him up in front of the rest of the class and accused him of being, ‘Opposed to everything this Department stands for.’

A later incarnation of the future Doors wild man might have laughed it off, taken it as a compliment even. But 20-year-old Jimmy was mortified. It meant him taking the entire course again in order to ensure his BA, the very thing he had promised his parents he would do if they let him go to UCLA. To prove he was really a serious boy, and not the artsy-fartsy disappointment his father was beginning to talk about him as.

But Jim was about to find temporary solace in a new father figure, in the tall, bespectacled, all-knowing figure of UCLA’s favourite son, Ray. Jim would eventually rebel against him too, of course, in an inevitable repeat of his relationship with his real father, getting in the disappointment early before things got too deep and out of his control. In the meanwhile, he had also acquired a mother figure, in the form of Mary Werbelow, who against her parents’ wishes had decided to follow Jim down to Los Angeles when he started at UCLA in 1964.

Speaking to the St. Petersburg Times in 2005, Mary recalled how Jim had asked her to wear ‘something floaty’ when she arrived. ‘He wanted me to look like an angel coming off the plane.’ But Mary being Mary, she decided she would rather not do that and simply drove herself the nearly 3000 miles instead, arriving in L.A. a week early in order to surprise him. By then Jim was living in a small pad on San Vicente Boulevard paid for by his parents. But Mary determined not to be perceived as merely Jim’s concubine, refused to stay there with him for long and found her own apartment nearby. She found a part-time job working as a clerk in a hospital X-ray department, and enrolled for art classes at L.A. City College, where she was adored by the other students, many of who when they met Jim could not believe such a sweet girl was somehow tangled up with a guy like that.

Trip To The Moon

I’m well, thanks for asking. It’s the not drinking and the regular going to the gym. And the going to bed early. But then I am always so tired anyway these days, can just drop off like a cat anywhere. Anytime.

Slept OK last night, which was good as I didn’t sleep at all the night before. Then this morning I went to see the Sainted Vanessa for acupuncture. People ask, “Does that shit actually work?” People ask all kinds of stupid stuff, though, all day every day. Walking around in a bad temper because the prime minister said or didn’t say something. Did or didn’t do something. Tell me, does any of that shit ever work?

Then to my office. Trying to get back into the memoir. I was flying Saturday but had yesterday off, wife and kids time, ain’t no love in the heart of the city without it. But the gap stalled me somehow. Took me until the afternoon to find a way back. Then finished just now wondering if I’m for real. Is this stuff actually any use? I am really not sure. Can’t stop now, though. I’m already halfway to Venezuela.

Going home now for an early dinner. Got a late one tonight. I am appearing live on the Breakfast TV show on Australia’s Channel Nine. 10.15pm for me at the BBC studio in Oxford. 8.15am Tuesday morning for Australia (Sydney). Talking about my new Doors book, Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre, which is out this Thursday folks. The best thing I’ve written, I think, since Led Zeppelin. But I always think that. You will have to tell me.

Oh, and check this out, deep space time trippers…

 

http://youtu.be/b63IZkgN_zc

The Memoir Shakes

I have no idea if this shit is any good or not but my god but I have been bashing out stuff for the memoir. I have been typing so fast my fingers can barely keep up. I am almost too afraid to read any of it back though in case I discover I am actually fucking insane and that no publisher in their right minds would touch this.

Then when I’m making yet another espresso I’m suddenly convinced that this is a very good sign and that what I’m actually writing is probably the greatest thing ever written since Kerouac inserted the rolling paper into his typewriter and decided not to stop until the paper ran out.

Then when I’m stopping just for breath like now I am back to fearing the worst. Not in a coy way but in a very real, very terrifying, what the fuck am I doing sort of a way.

Do I exaggerate in these stories? Yes I fucking do! But then I think back to what really happened and realise you can’t exaggerate this shit. That it’s MY DUTY  TO EXAGGERATE this shit otherwise no one is going to believe it’s true, that it really happened. Even when there are several scenes in it that didn’t happen blow for blow the way I am writing they did, but conflating several people, characters, real and imagined, together to make a greater, more real whole.

Get me?

As a writer it’s an exhilarating experience. Doing magazine features, writing books, you are always having to stop and check whether it was Tuesday or Tesco, always having to root out the right quotes and get your facts straight. With something like this, a memoir, none of that matters. What matters is that the truth is in there somewhere and the only way for me to convey that is to keep going without stopping, without doubting, just running at a hundred miles an hour until either the engine blows or I run out of road.

But as a reader I fear the worst. That no one will believe me. That no one will care. Except you can’t think like that. Can’t think at all. This is not thinking music I am writing, this is dancing music my friends! To be played at maximum volume.

As I hope you will agree.

False Memories (2)

We are driving to Oxford as I read her out the email from my brilliant new editor with the suggested subheading for the  memoir I am currently writing. It starts with the word ‘Sex…’

“Ah… I suppose I’ll have to write a few more sex scenes then,” I say tentatively, half-joking cos obviously this is a somewhat odd thing to discuss with your young wife.

“That’s OK,” she smiles. “Go for it.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely, Better make them good ones though.”

I am impressed by her gumption, her cool, her instant grasp of the nettle.

“Really? You won’t mind?”

“Of course not. As long as they’re about other people – rock stars – having sex and not you.”

“Ah… yes. Well, yes, rock stars having sex for sure.”

A pause.

“I’ll probably need to be in some of them though…”

“I don’t fucking think so!”

“I probably will…”

“You probably fucking won’t!”

“I can’t have a book out that has sex scenes in it and not be somehow part of the scene,” I say.

“Email her back,” she says of my editor. “Tell her she can have all the sex scenes she likes but not with you in it.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Yes you can. Do it.”

“Fuck off! I’ll look like a pussy!”

“You are a pussy!”

We drive along, nearly there now. Over the bridge and right into the Westgate Car Park.

I sneak a look over at her but she is already looking at me, laughing.

“So you had sex did you in the 80s? I thought you told me you were a virgin when you met me…”

We both laugh. When we get back later and I am in my office I write the first sex scene of the book. Still not sure if I should be in it or not. Luckily my young wife never reads any of my stuff anyway.

“Boring! Why would I read that? I have to live with you. That’s bad enough…”

New World Order

I thought I would bring this up as most of you – most of us – are still thinking along old world order lines. Let’s start with albums. Unless you are Pink Floyd, the question is: why? CDs are dead. And were just a rip-off anyway. Vinyl is an expensive joke. And was always cheap, easily scratched shit anyway. Even downloads are over. YouTube has taken them all out of the game, along with all the other streaming services like Spotify and the even better ones about to emerge.

You can still make a musical statement and you can make it as long or short as you like – BUT NOT AS AN ALBUM. No one cares anymore. We love music more than ever, past and present. We just don’t want anymore of your bullshit albums with only two great tracks on them, if that.

As the great American music biz guru Bob Lefsetz recently pointed out, not one single artist in America has had a platinum album in 2014. Not one. Most barely get to gold album status and by most I mean the Stones, U2, Madonna, maybe even the Floyd when that drops next month, though if there is to be an exception that’s likely going to be the one.

Instead, as Bob has been saying for some time, it’s about building up a body of work, one track at a time. That is, one GREAT track at a time. Can you do that? Because most, nearly all, can’t. Look at U2, they’ve given their new album away, keep going on TV to tell everyone it’s the best set of songs they’ve ever written and what happens? We’ve already forgotten about it.

Why? Not one GREAT track. Not one. Least of all that horribly over-produced Joey Ramone single. They will still be great live and their back catalogue is still as good as it ever was. So we don’t need another ‘good’ U2 album. We’ve already got some, thanks.

Same goes for catalogue-only, heritage acts like Led Zeppelin. We already got the best tracks, guys, we don’t need the rejects, no matter how prettily tarted up. As for the box sets and assorted crap, it’s time Jimmy stopped posing with the guitar and started actually playing it again. If he can.

Same goes even for those old monsters intent of clawing it back and staying contemporary like The Who. I love The Who. I reviewed their last album, Endless Wire (terrible title, truly average album) and in my determination to prove my love I gave it a v.good review. Then never played it again. And neither did you, be honest.

This is not like it was in 1976 before punk came along and gave rock a reboot. Rock was not dead then and rock is not dead now. It’s just that the game has changed as all games do. There is no new music coming down the pipeline to show the older artists where they are going wrong. The pipeline has already given us all the answers. They are right here on whatever device you are reading this shit on.

Same as TV. It’s almost otherworldly how Saturday TV, for example, is still Saturday TV. Like anyone knows what day it is anymore when they’re favourite programmes are on. Or that viewer ratings somehow matter. No one watches when they’re supposed to. They already have it Sky-Plussed or similar. They watch when they watch. Game Of Thrones was given a kicking for not attracting enough viewer ‘ratings’ when it was shown first time around. Did it matter? Of course not. Because we had the box-sets, we had the repeats, we had the Netflix to find it on. You put together all the people in the world who are GOT addicts and place them next to whatever the ratings are whenever they show an episode live and the two figures have nothing to do with each other.

It’s not about going platinum and it’s not about being No.1 in the TV ratings. It’s about reach. It’s about being part of the conversation while knowing that the conversation takes place 24-7 or not at all. The 9pm watershed? Gone, gone, gone, baby. Building the whole of your Sunday around watching the match live on the box? Only for the simpletons sitting there in their Liverpool and Chelsea shirts. The rest of us are out flying around, only checking it out when it suits us, if it ever does. On the phone or the tablet or the TV if we want and we’ll decide when thanks. Not you.

The only place left where the old world order still holds sway is Christmas. And that’s another reason why most people hate the whole fucking palaver. The sickly Christmas songs on the sickly radio, the forced bonhomie of a mindless set of old world zombies driven by commercialism and bad habit.

All now blown out of the water – or very soon to be – by self-knowledge and a better day. The only ones who don’t know are the ones who are already dead.

Books too huh? Yeah, them too. Though there we have a somewhat different paradigm, as books have been supposed to die since the moving image on the box in our lounges and heads first took over. And books go back even further than Christmas. Even further than time. Without books we don’t have any choices because we don’t have any words to make sense of anything. So they will survive. They are already portable, online, take them anywhere, to bed or the bog or simply hanging upside down from the ceiling. Books have always been ahead of the curve and out of reach of the future. Books fucking rock and always will do. If you don’t read, start now, you’re embarrassing yourself otherwise.

So welcome to the new world order. It’s not new actually, it’s just that most of us keep forgetting it’s already here and has been all along.

False Memories

So The Doors book is out next week. You can pre-order here if you fancy by clicking on the picture of the Paranoid book and simply searching for The Doors: Love Becomes A Funeral Pyre. I will put up a proper button for it imminently.

To promote it I’ll be doing a personal appearance at Blackwell’s Book Store in Oxford on November 13, where I’ll be reading a bit, doing a Q&A and signing afterwards. There will be beer and a special Doors tribute band, Soul Kitchen. Details as follows from the Blackwell’s site…

Tickets cost £3 and can be obtained by visiting our Customer Service Department at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, Oxford. Alternatively, contact our Customer Service Desk Tel: 01865 333623 email: events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk

Scott Rowley is going to be onstage with me, asking questions and generally giving me a rough ride, cheers mate. I would be honoured if you can join us.

Meanwhile, back at the funny farm, I’m now busy trying to write a new memoir. This will be the (sort of) follow-up to Paranoid, only 15 years in the making. Though only actually begun in the past few weeks. Not so much a follow-up as the brighter side of that particular moon. That’s the idea right now, we’ll see where it takes us.

It is an odd thing to do, writing down your (false) memories. There’s absolutely no chance of me recalling exact details, the old brain just doesn’t work like that anymore. If it ever did. Instead I find myself writing allegories. In what my esteemed gentleman publisher Malcolm Edwards calls my ‘heightened’ writing style. That is, conjuring up the impressions which do still remain startlingly vivid, if not the actualité, as they say in France where they know how to say the unsayable.

So today, for example, I have been recalling scenes from 30 years ago, and the early days, for me anyway, of Kerrang! magazine. Of prancing around the lounge of Krusher Joule’s council flat high up on the 17th floor of Maydew House in Southwark Park, aka Terror Tower, while blasted out of our brains on Old Grand-dad and Other Things. This while playing Iron Maiden records very fucking loud, as was the law back then.

Krusher once took Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica back to this flat and treated them to a very similar scene, as I recall. On that occasion, however, it ended badly when James and Krusher ended up having a fight in the park below, after Krusher had taken offence at an alleged racial slur that came slithering out of James’ gob. Well, strong drink had again been taken so what did you expect? A night of peace, love and willy-fiddling?

I also, in an adjacent chapter, found myself recalling an encounter with Trevor Rabin then of Yes, during which my then girlfriend did everything bar pull down her pants to get his attention. She needn’t have tried so hard. Seems she had him at hello. Well, her tits were hanging out at the time and what few scraps of clothes she was pretending to wear somewhat resplendissante as the French also say, naughty but nice little monsieurs that they are.

This all does strange things to the mind. They say you should never go back but for me it is now too late. I am back, back, back, for another three or four weeks at least, until I finish. Where will it end?