Featured Guest is where I interview cool people I have crossed paths with from artists, actors, authors and more. Today we spoke with the very cool author and music journalist, the one and only Jim Cherry.  Haling from Chicago, Jim believed in the 'pursuit of experience as research in the name of art', spending time in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Germany, France and Mexico. These days he hangs back in the western suburbs of Chicago where he runs the writer's workshop at the Oswego,IL Library. Jim was a columnist for and appeared on The Rants, Raves and Rock 'n' Roll Magazine and radio show. He currently writes The Doors Examiner and is the author of the novels The Doors Examined, Becoming Angel, The Last Stage and a book of short stories entitled Stranger Souls. Jim has also had stories published in The Doors Collector Magazine. Jim wrote the foreword to "The Doors FAQ" by Rich Weidman and is a published poet. We talked a good bit about James Douglas Morrison and Doors history. A pleasure connecting with Jim and hearing his thoughts on the Doors, Morrison's life and Jim's news. - G

 

1.Hail Jim and how are you today man? Good catching up with you and thank you for taking time to talk today. Being both lifelong Doors fans, its been a gift to be in touch with you these years and I appreciate the good you always send my way. Tell us a little about how you got into the music and where your journey began?

 

JC: Of The Doors generations I’m from the Apocalypse Now!/No One Here Gets Out Alive generation. I kept hearing these songs and finally one morning I heard the DJ say it was The Doors. Somehow I knew the lead singer was Jim Morrison and I knew a biography of him had just come out, “No One Here Gets Out Alive”. I went to a mall and found the book. It was a spring day so I was laying around on a bench reading the book. I read the first chapter of two and KNEW I had to have an album so I went to the record store and bought the first album. I took it home and put it on my stereo and lit a joint and listened to the first side. By the time it got to the instrumental section of “Light My Fire” it felt like traveling! My mind had gone somewhere else, I’ve been a fan since that moment.

 

 2.When I first heard the Doors, I was definitely pulled into the world they created. They say some bands you can really lose yourself in what they create. The Doors were so unique and original for the time and there will never be another band like that, any band with a similar sound will have learned it there. When I was younger, I was like many Doors fans where the first album was the main one I originally connected with. Then I found a true appreciation for ‘Strange Days’, which I still think is massively underrated and such a masterpiece. But as I got older, I began to find the last two albums as favorites for a long time. I can see why they wanted to just get back to being a blues band and reconnect with that vibe. Now, looking back on having listened to the Doors for so many years I appreciate all of the albums as a whole and songs as pieces, then start over again. In particular of their recordings what do each mean something or strike you at different times? Kind of like Zeppelin, I just feel it all as a whole as the years went by.

 

JC: Oh, yeah, different songs affect me differently depending on my mood. Right now I’m listening to the first album breaking through and then getting to “The End”. Last week I was thinking about relationships and was listening to the song “Waiting for the Sun”. That’s why I like The Doors and Morrison’s lyrics, I can identify with the feelings he’s expressing. I guess our favorite artists are sort of a voice for us, and as an artist you try to give voice to those emotions.

 

 3.I visited Pere LaChaise in the eighties. It meant so much to me to visit Morrison’s grave site. Have you ever been? I feel very fortunate that when I went it was mostly empty except for a few random French hippies and once a guard came by and yelled at us and disappeared. It was really magical walking around the area, seeing so many things, then finally finding Morrison’s grave.

 

JC: I was there in 2011 for the 40th anniversary of his death. It was interesting, a lot of people there from all over. I had the opportunity to do a book signing at a Doors souvenir shop across the street from Pere LaChaise. I was somewhat known as a writer and was filmed there for a documentary that we did walking around the cemetery. It’s so much like a necropolis, a city of the dead, the tombs houses. It very much had that feel. American cemeteries don’t have the same feeling of the necropolis, our cemeteries seem much more a place to rid ourselves of the mortal remains while a necropolis is a tradition of the living interacting with the dead.

 

4.So how did you get into writing? Tell us about the creating of your book “The Last Stage”? I really enjoyed it. I think as a musician, it is a very cool piece from the Doors angle, but also it just applies all over the map to the experience of being in a band. Honestly a few parts of it sounded all too familiar with people I have known in bands and the business itself. You really struck a chord I think for Doors fans but also for rock musicians in general. I think anyone who’s been in a band long enough will really feel some parts of the story. Really enjoyed it man.

 

JC: Thank you Gideon, I’m very glad you enjoyed “The Last Stage”. I grew up wanting to be a writer. I grew up with my mother reading to me Grimm’s Fairy tales, not the children’s versions but the real classic books. She would act out the parts and I could see the pictures in my head. When I was growing up we had my grandmother’s library, she died in 1968 at age 85 and she had first editions of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Melville, Poe. I grew up reading these. Then there’s my grandfather, he was a law professor and wrote books, that was impressed upon my mind very early. I made the conscious decision to be a writer when I was 12. The Last Stage. Starting in my senior year of high school somehow I started falling in with bands. I never played or anything, just hung out. In high school I was a nominal roadie for a band bringing equipment into a party and then staying for the party. I don’t think I ever took equipment out from a party. One of my earliest girlfriends was in a band and I used to go watch them practice and drink their beer. She had a great voice, very Janis Joplinesque. She did a couple Joplin songs and she did a great cover of “A Whole Lot of Rosie”. I was always watching and listening, and a lot of the descriptions of the band in “The Last Stage” come from this period of my life.

 

5.You’re working on a new book now? Fill us in brother.

 

JC: Got a couple things going. An American Indian ghost story called “The Captured Dead” in which an Indian shaman uses the ghost dance to bring the dead back to protect them from the predations of William Tecumseh Sherman. It’s going to come out in October.

 

The second is non-fiction titled “Strictly From Hunger!”. It’s about a band Hunger! that played on the Sunset Strip in the 60’s and just as they were about to become a big band it all imploded. The band lived near the Sunset Strip and played there, knew a lot of people who did make it. They lived next to Jim Morrison for a while and have some stories that may portray Morrison in a somewhat different light than before. John Morton the guitarist also knew Duane Allman, they played a Star Trek cast party. There are a lot of great stories this band has to tell. I’ve written three chapters, I’m about to send out to publishers soon. I’m hoping a spring 2017 release.

 

6.So in your years of writing about the Doors, did you ever meet with or know Manzarek or Krieger, Densmore or people like Danny Sugarman, members of the family, etc? Unfortunately I never met Ray and greatly regret that I never did. I saw The group with Ian Astbury on vocals and honestly it was amazing, it was so great to see Ray and Robbie in person and watch them play. A few times I closed my eyes and listened and realized it was the closest I would get in this day to seeing The Doors since Morrison died in ’71. A beautiful moment was in the long guitar solo in “Light My Fire” when Robbie Krieger slipped into a melody line from the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” and Ray looked at him and they nodded at each other for a second, I’ll never forget having witnessed that. Also being a huge Cult fan, I really enjoyed seeing Ian on vocals with them that show. I had met him years earlier and he’s a brilliant musician from his own history. To me, seeing him up there was like watching two guys from the Doors jam with the singer from The Cult, so I loved every minute of it. Ian did a great job, it was a fantastic night. After they changed singers a few times, I never did see them again. I did see the Cult a few years ago and they covered “Break On Through” at the end of their set and it was a really great surprise. I looked at that show as a jam between many great musicians, I truly enjoyed it and was so happy to see Manzarek and Krieger play, the only chance I ever had.

 

JC: The only person I ever met was Danny Sugerman in 2002, and I wasn’t writing The Doors Examiner yet, so all I really had to say was “hi”. He seemed like a really nice guy. He’d already had his first bout with cancer, but he was fine and healthy. It was sad to hear of his death just three years later. The closest I came to meeting Ray Manzarek was I saw him and Michael McClure at the Lounge Ax in Chicago for their Love Lion tour. It was a small club and they were playing and at one instrumental part of Ray’s, suddenly I was seeing polka dots in front of my eyes. Ray’s and The Doors as a whole, their music really had the ability to break through the normal ways of thinking. It was such an interesting experience I put it in my book “The Last Stage”, with a scene where the main character lingers after the show and talks briefly with Ray. That scene lives in my mind and I don’t remember any more if it really happened or if I just imagined it for the scene. In my life as The Doors Examiner neither John Densmore nor Robby Krieger has expressed an interest in talking with me. Ultimately, I prefer it that way, so I keep a little objective distance between me and them. But if an interview opportunity came along I’m not saying I wouldn’t take it!

 

7.Looking back on the history of the Doors, why do you feel they had such a gigantic impact on the world?

 

JC: Good question. Some of it is Jim Morrison. I, of course, could identify with him as a bookish, shy kid who read and wanted to be a poet. The music truly exists outside of time, it seems to have something to say to new generations. I’m not just talking about the message of the lyrics but also what the music itself says to you and where it can lead you. The Doors are the classical music of the future.

 

8.I know that the band jammed with Iggy Pop a bit after Morrison’s death, but is that true they did some demos recording with him? I never have confirmed that.

 

JC: Danny Sugerman represented Iggy for a bit and I know Ray, when he was starting the band Nite City, (I think) Iggy was going to be the lead singer. They were supposed to play The Whisky but Iggy went off on a bender and Ray having gone through everything with Jim backed out of that fast. I never heard anything about any demos being recorded.

 

9.I used to also argue with Doors fans about Harrison Ford being a one time Doors roadie. I know that he was and once watched him comment on the band on a documentary. People would say ‘no, he never was.’ I know I saw that and am convinced he was briefly a roadie or maybe a camera man, is that true to your knowledge?

 

JC: Harrison Ford was a grip for The Doors during the filming of “Feast of Friends”. There’s a famous outtake on Youtube where Harrison Ford does the clapboard for the scene then you hear Paul Ferrara from behind the camera saying “you’re in the shot Harry.“ You can also see him briefly in the Fred L. Stegmeyer, minister-at-large scene which is also excerpted on Youtube.

 

Ford actually had a lot of connections to The Doors. I believe he got the job on “Feast” because he knew Paul Ferrara from UCLA. Struggling actors had to know film students and film students had to know struggling actors. Ford also worked for Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman fixing the roof on his house or something.

 

10.As so many theories have circulated on Morrison’s death, what is your personal theory if you don’t mind sharing?

 

JC: I think the most plausible is Pam Courson’s story of what happened.  Basically, what the coroner said, he died of natural causes. Your heart stopping is a natural cause. Pam also reported that he was throwing up. Not many people know this but hardened alcoholics, because they’ve thrown up a lot, the lining of their throat is eroded away and the capillaries of the throat don’t have the protection that we do. So alcoholics are prone to rupturing the capillaries in their throats and bleed to death, the blood running into their lungs essentially drowning in their own blood. Pam reported Jim died and the fire brigade found Morrison sitting up in the bathtub a trickle of blood running from either his nose or mouth. Which from some reading I’ve done would fit either of the conditions I mentioned above.

 

There are, of course, the conspiracy theorists the latest of which is Mick Wall who wrote “Love Becomes a Funreal Pyre”. He says Morrison OD’d at the Rock and Roll Circus in a toilet stall, and that bouncers dragged Morrison out to a cab, drove him back to the apartment, put him in the bathtub as a cover story, and then went over the cover story with Courson, whom he describes as an out of control heroin addict. The problems I have with that version is that’s a lot of people dragging around a dead body around Paris and no one talked? The second, is that if Courson was such an out of control addict how could they expect her to recount a story they fabricated? The story Pam told from the start to her last days was pretty consistent. I doubt she or anyone would recall a fabricated story so well. If anyone thinks she was threatened to stick to that story by Parisian drug dealers after she was back in America and a couple of years later she would have felt safe enough to tell the truth. Her story didn’t change. Here’s a truism about a conspiracy, if there is a true conspiracy people would find evidence of it. What you don’t find is multiple conspiracy theories.

 

11.Sometimes when people rumor that he had faked his death and disappeared, I know many, many Doors fans love to ponder it and wonder, listen to stories. I have a friend who talked to Ray once and asked him about it and Manzarek replied, ‘well if anybody could do it, he could have done it’ or something along those lines. I feel like if Jim had faked his death, he would have reappeared eventually. I do not think he would have faked it and left Pamela alone in so much grief over him. I also think the other Doors knew more than was ever made public about it, and of course the family. But I do not think even if he had chosen to step away from music for a while, it would have lasted, he would have missed it eventually and returned, or just returned to the people he loved as years passed. I remember standing there at his grave and wondering about it, but I believe now, he did leave the world physically at that time but the circumstances are shrouded in mystery. After all these years do you ever think of it and any ideas?

 

JC: Ray was very complicit in the story of Jim faking his death or the “if anyone could it, Jim could”, even taking it so far as his novel “The Poet in Exile” (a missed opportunity to convey the experience of being a rock star in the 60’s). You’re absolutely right, in that Morrison’s ego would not have allowed him to stay out of the limelight. He wanted to be a poet, he wanted to make movies, these are all high profile goals in life. Also, if he faked his death he didn’t tell Pam and she died essentially of grief over Morrison’s death. I doubt he would have done that. Look at the pictures of them in Paris right before he died, check out the body language, look at they way they’re looking at each other. They look very much in love.

 

12.If you had a chance to hang out with Jim, what would you want to talk about and how would you envision it? I would choose to sit in France with him and catch up with him right at that era of his life, and just one and one talk about many things.

 

JC: This is a dicey proposition. We’re fans of Morrison, he’s history to us, literally, but would we have liked him or been friends if we had met the human being? Morrison was well known for testing people and a lot of people from the 60’s to this day say they didn’t like him.

 

All that being said, I think the bearded Morrison was more approachable. Maybe more likely to have a beer with and talk literature. This just may be perception.

 

13.With respect to all of the women who were part of Morrison's life it's common most say Pamela was his life love and muse. All these years later, even now I occasionally see a photo I had not seen previously of the two of them or her alone that just shines with the beauty of their bond and the time period. Morrison loved her and it was undeniable, any thoughts?

 

JC: A lot of fans are invested in taking sides of who Morrison loved or what function each woman played in Morrison’s life. Some say Pam was his “cosmic mate”, others she was a groupie. Then there’s the Patricia Keneally camp, and Nico was hung up on Morrison the rest of her life. I think the best thing is to let Morrison’s choice speak to that. As we talked about before he chose Courson. It’s her he lived with, it’s her he lavished his money on, it’s her he went to Paris with and it’s her he died with. If you don’t believe me, just take a close look at the Paris pictures of them. That’s a couple in love.

 

14.After all these years what continues to inspire you to write about and study the Doors and their legacy?

 

JC: I’m a fan of course. It’s mostly the writing of my Doors Examiner articles. I started writing it six years ago and I thought it was going to be a very short lived experience because what can you write about a band that hasn’t existed as a band for forty years? Some history articles. I did get lucky right after I started doing the column, The Doors started releasing a whole bunch of things “Live in New York”, their documentary “When You’re Strange” and a few other things and it took off from there. I’ve done everything from The Doors members personal appearances to more I’ve recently delved into the meanings behind the lyrics of “L.A. Woman” I think I hit some on the head. Critical excursions are very subjective though. I’ve been trying to keep The Doors Examiner fresh. Curiosity is a main driver. I think I have a pretty good perspective on The Doors and I think I write the articles well. Other Doors oriented websites put up facts and pictures (some that I can’t use due to copyright issues), or they post links to sites with Doors information. I can’t do that, I have to have a story to carry those facts or even what’s going on at a website with Doors information, and I think at the present I’m the only doing this.

 

15.What do you feel like Jim would be doing if he were alive today?

 

JC: I actually wrote a Doors Examiner article about that. Morrison already had plans to record his poetry album in Paris (he had a signed contract with Jac Holzman for a poetry album), then I think he would have moved on to movies.

 

16.Some of the less heard and rare songs of the Doors sometimes hit me hardest. “Yes The River Knows”, “Hyacinth House”, “Crystal Ship”, much of the “Strange Days” album. What are your less heard favorites? The main ones you hear on the radio are always great, but what would you pick from songs lesser heard by many?

 

JC: Some of the lesser known Doors songs I like are “I Looked at You”, “Waiting for the Sun”, “We Could Be So Good Together”, “L’America”.

 

17.I am behind on the news, did the Densmore book that was delayed ever get released?

 

JC: Yes, “The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy on Trial” was released a couple of years ago. It was pretty good, makes a good case for not commercializing your art. Even though I agree with him, it gets a little long in the tooth on a chapter about his political ideas.

 

18.Looking back on the Oliver Stone film, how did you feel about it? I think it’s a visual masterpiece and big props to Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan, etc. Even if it was his vision of what he wanted to make versus a true depiction of the group would have wanted, I think it’s a powerful film.

 

JC: I’m probably in the minority, but I like it, even though I think Oliver Stone failed at what he was trying to do. I think a lot of fans negative opinion comes from Ray Manzarek’s berating of the movie. People generally aren’t aware that Ray was cooperating with Stone as a consultant enough that Stone copied a shot from Manzarek’s “L.A. Woman” video he made in the 80’s. Ray and Stone had a falling out because Ray wanted more creative control of the film and Oliver Stone, or any director worth his salt, wouldn’t do that. If he did, the studio probably would have pulled their money from the project. Stone banned Ray from the set and Ray set out on his campaign to deride the film. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its problems, like inserting Doors lyrics into Morrison/Kilmer’s mouth as dialog. I have watched the movie again recently and I was caught by one of the last scenes at the birthday party at Ray’s house and Jim sees himself as a child, the innocent and it grabbed me as being very poignant because it recognizes there’s a child at the core of each of us that doesn’t want to get hurt, that is our true selves.

 

I think maybe Stone, whether consciously or not, was trying to make a 60’s trilogy with “Platoon”, “The Doors” and “JFK”. Each one of those movies represents a different aspect of the 60’s experience.

 

19.Out of your collection of Doors material, what is your most rare item you’d like to talk about?

 

JC: I’m not a collector, I really don’t have collectibles or rare items. Probably the coolest thing is the DVD “The Doors R-Evolution” because the booklet that comes with the deluxe set includes a quote of mine. I was very shocked, surprised, and found it very cool The Doors included it. If there is anything I do collect it is books, but once you’ve read them what do you need to keep them around for?

 

20.What other bands have had a huge impact on your life?

 

JC: The Screaming Trees, Nirvana. It depends on what era of my life you’re talking about. I got into rock and roll when I heard The Beatles “Let it Be” at a display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I just kept going back and listening to the song over and over, it was incredible at the time. A bit later it was The Moody Blues and “Nights in White Satin”, the album “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor” still has a resonance with me.

21.Any recent news you'd like to share?

JC: Yes, The Doors Examiner ended last July and since then I've had an online archive of my articles posted at www.doorsexaminer.com, we've posted just under 200 articles and have the potential of about 1000-1500 articles that will posted over time.

If you're interested in the "Strictly From Hunger!: A Rock and Roll Memoir" there's a Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_(band John Morton (who the book is about) has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/1634579373458316/ I've also posted some excerpts from the book (Bumping into Jimi Hendrix, It Looks Like Paradise to Me, The Doors Open for The Outcasts, as well as others) at https://jymwrites.wordpress.com/ and if you would like to follow Strictly From Hunger! and get updates as the book progresses you follow us at twitter under the handle @strictlyhunger.

22.Any last words for your readers?

JC: Keep rocking the world! May the force be with you! Thank you Gideon.

Jim thanks very much for taking the time today, great talking to you man. Thanks for keeping up with me brother. - G

 

 

 

 

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