When The Doors first formed in 1965, they shook up the flower power scene with a visceral sense of revolt. When Life journalist Fred Powledge witnessed them three years into their wavering odyssey, Jim Morrison was in full swing, and he wrote: “Once you see him perform, you realise that he also seems dangerous, which, for a poet, may be a contradiction in terms.” Powledge, by all accounts, was not your typical Doors fan, his role in journalism at the time was covering the civil rights movement in a political sense, however, Morrison seemingly captivated him as a sort of unfathomable rock ‘n’ roll Christ at the precipice of counterculture.
“Morrison is a very good actor and a very good poet, one who speaks in short, beautiful bursts, like the Roman Catullus,” Powledge wrote. “His lyrics often seem obscure, but their obscurity, instead of making you hurry off to play a Pete Seeger record that you can understand, challenges you to try to interpret. You sense that Morrison is writing about weird scenes he’s been privy to, about which he would rather not be too explicit.”
As it happens, that mystic vibe of drama was not merely performative either. Not only did he embody Powledge’s aptly schismatic description, but he also stood as some sort of AI-generated archetype of a true rock star. This came to the fore not only on stage but also seemingly when he was transposing that energy into songs in the studio.
The visceral Door’s anthem ‘Wild Child’ from their 1969 record The Soft Parade, exhibits the perfect unity of Jim Morrison the poet and performer while Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore prove the perfect canvas for his brush. Although the rest of the album had a big band feel, the blues heart of ‘Wild Child’ offered up the same primordial feel that much of their work exhibited and watching them construct that is a thing to behold.
Over Bobby Kreiger’s blues riff, Morrison purrs about the free-spirited saviour of the human race, but as Powledge once said, this is in typically obfuscated fashion as though Morrison had a premonition of some stone-jawed messiah changing the world with flowers in their hair in a riotous splurge. In fact, as he once said himself, all changes ought to be a bit on the wild side: “I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.”
In the relaxed vibe of the studio, The Doors are clearly at the top of their game and coaxing classics with casual alchemy as Morrison pitches his “far out” idea for the song as though he is suggesting where they could go for lunch. Transfixed on the idea of a delta south sounding intro, the band quickly get to work, and the song simply slides into place thereafter. The clip below offers a fascinating insight into the working process of the seminal masters of atmospheric rock.