Jim Cherry (Writer/The Doors Examiner)

I recently discovered the excellent  Jim Morrison’s Paris site. While subsequently conversing with site owner Susan – about her site and about the Jim Morrison/Doors chapter in Words and Music – she said to me: “You should contact Jim Cherry.” So I did, and got more than I’d bargained for!

Jim Cherry is a published author, with three novels under his belt. He also writes The Doors Examiner. Do you have any vexing, unanswered questions about The Doors? Have you always wondered what the lyrics to ‘Five to One’ mean? Do you want to know what Jim Morrison was really doing the day he “bumped” into Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach and started a band that would light up rock history, roman candle style? If so, Jim Cherry is your man.

Thankfully, for the duration of the interview at least, Jim Cherry is also our man. He writes “under the influence of rock ‘n’ roll”. So fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride!

Jim, you write “under the influence of rock ‘n’ roll” – so what does rock ‘n’ roll mean to you?
Rock ‘n’ roll is a lifestyle, it’s a purposeful rejection of the status quo and the constricting conformity that those with traditional ideas and the power structure of the world would like to impose upon us.

Is rock music the spawn of the devil or a force for good?
Rock music as spawn of the devil or the selling your soul is part of the fear factor that those who don’t understand the music put out there to try and control or belittle the form. Rock music or any art for that matter is beyond good and evil and beyond labels. Those that try to label things as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ are invariably trying to wrest control over it, but art, even if it approaches life from the dark side, seeks to reveal it and shed light or expose the beauty that can be found there. Rock bands that have explored witchcraft and demonology have mostly been dilettantes or have explored ‘the devil’ only as a way to shock the established order.

Rock music – music for all or a tribal affair?
Of course music for all; rock ‘n roll is the ‘vox populi’ of the last 50 years.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
The Moody Blues. The first real rock band I got into was The Beatles. There was an audio-visual presentation of The Beatles at a museum when I was 11 or 12 and it had ‘Let It Be’ along with pictures of The Beatles. I watched it over and over again.

Dylan or Morrison?
Some weird synchronicity going on here. I was just thinking about this the other day and it’s got to be Jim Morrison. Yes, Bob Dylan is known as the poet of his generation, and some of his songs contain some very nice poetic lines, but Jim Morrison’s lyrics are poetry from start to finish, especially the earlier songs. I think if Morrison had published his lyrics from the first two albums along with An American Prayer in a book, he would be recognized today as the foremost poet of his generation and his poetry would be in league with Allen Ginsberg and T.S. Eliot.

Despite the ‘sensual creativity’ of Morrison’s early quest to ‘cleanse’ the doors of perception, Words and Music presents him in his final days as “a philosophical pessimist and practical nihilist”. Do you think that’s a fair assessment of where Morrison ended up?
Yes, it is a fair assessment and I think Morrison might agree, just based on his knowledge of his literary heroes and where they ended up. Jim Morrison lived his life on his own terms, some might construe that as living without regrets, but if you ‘live without regrets’ you just create a new set of regrets. In one of his last interviews he says he might have been better off choosing the route of the artist plodding away in his garden.

Your book, The Last Stage, has a lead character (Michael Gray) who appears spellbound by Jim Morrison to the point of obsession and mimicry. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The Last Stage really was a chance to work out all my rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. I’d been hanging around a lot of bands since my late teens until my mid-30s and I met a lot of interesting people and saw some interesting things, and like all writers I was taking notes in my head. Some of the things in The Last Stage come from my earliest writing and romanticizing of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Last Stage is a look at the celebrity obsessed culture surrounding us. We’ve taken to identifying ourselves, personalities and values via the proxy of a celebrity. We wear t-shirts with their pictures on them, we strive to dress like them, ape their habits for better or worse, and a lot of people seem unfulfilled if they don’t become famous and that can lead to dark places of the soul.

How much of the young Jim Cherry is there in the preoccupations and fantasies of Michael Gray?
Of course there’s a bit of me in Michael, as other writers have bits and pieces of themselves in the characters they create. Writing The Last Stage was a chance to write out all my rock ‘n’ roll dreams and fantasies, not all of which is flattering. Which is which is a decision the reader has to make for themselves.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll has been with us a long time, it used to be called wine, women and song, but it’s the same. It’s perceived as decadence and is associated with some of our more decadent writers, artists and rock stars, but it’s just life.

Is it still possible to ‘break on through’ in the way you think the Doors intended?
‘Breaking through’ may mean different things to different people; we all have different barriers in life that we have to overcome or break through in order to grow. There are also other methods of breaking through. The Doors themselves are a model of that: only Morrison sought the constant disorganization of his senses, the other three retreated from drugs pretty early and in fact the reason Ray Manzarek went to a meditation center in the first place was to attain the sense of an expanded consciousness without drugs. So, there are different ways for different people. Jim Morrison wrote of finding a new answer instead of a way.

What’s the best encounter you’ve had with a rock star?
My sister, brother and I went to a taco stand after a Cheap Trick concert, I was a little high on beer, and as I walked in the store there was a guy standing in line wearing a leather jacket with a picture of John Lennon on the back. So I said “Oh, John Lennon” and the guy wearing the jacket turned around. It was Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick! For some reason he started asking me if I was lawyer, I have no idea why, and then he asked me if I was a photographer – again, I have no reason why he would think that,  but we talked a bit about going to Rockford to take some pictures. It was pretty funny and just because I was goofing on his John Lennon jacket.

How do you view the role of the rock writer?
Writers are trying to get at the same thing, and that is the truth, there are just different methods of getting there. Journalists, and non-fiction writers see that truth literally in facts, figures and history. They encounter the truth and add insight into their chosen subject and it may be a bit dry but they’ve attained the goal they were seeking. That’s why I like to approach things from the fiction side because I believe greater existential truths can be revealed that way, and if it’s done right people assimilate that truth a lot easier than with the didactic enumeration of facts and figures. That’s why even writing my Doors Examiner articles I enjoy the more speculative ones, such as what influenced Jim Morrison or influenced the band as a whole.

Of everything you’ve written, is there one thing of which you are most proud?
Whatever I’ve just finished.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead? (Is the music really over?)
It is a bit surprising that rock music is still with us and hasn’t made an evolutionary jump in the last 10-20 years. The big musical art form prior to rock ‘n’ roll was jazz and that only lasted from the 1920s until the mid 1960s as the dominant musical form. Who knows maybe we’re on the edge of that evolution as we speak and don’t even know it yet.

THANK YOU, JIM!

To find out more about Jim’s books, please go to: http://www.jymsbooks.com/

You can follow Jim’s articles and musings about The Doors on The Doors Examiner website: http://www.examiner.com/the-doors-in-national/jim-cherry

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