1960s



The 1960’s were a time of major political and social change. These changes were primarily fuelled by the youth of the time. Their parents had come from life in both the great depression of the 1930’s as well as World War II, and were on a whole more conservative than their children, a fact the younger generation did not like. In the early 60’s the electronic media (Television and radio) became an important communication tool, as opposed to the largely print based media of previous decades. With change came a profound increase in the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and information, which in turn influenced a generation to become much more active in politics and other affairs which affected them, than what the previous generations would have been. The youth culture aimed to change all of the contradictions that remained unchanged from their parent’s culture. Examples of this move for change and progress included politics, religion, class struggle, racial issues, and the Vietnam war, but the area in which this change was most visible was in the arena of popular music, which too had become a tool for the communication of ideas.

James Douglas (Jim) Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida on December 8th, 1943. He was the son of a Rear-Admiral, who’s father, grandfather, and family all had lifetime careers in the Navy. This suggests a strict and militaristic upbringing, with the assumption being that the young Morrison would be a career Navy officer like his ancestors. Clearly Morrison came from the kind of household that the youth culture were rebelling against. Perhaps this was one of the causes of Morrison’t open rebellion. When he had finished school, he moved to California, where he enrolled in the theatre department of the University College of Los Angeles (UCLA), and hoped to become a movie director. It was here that he met Raymond (Ray) Manzarek, who was also a student of the film school. Manzarek had learned classical piano as a child, although his personal tastes led him to playing blues on the organ. In 1965 the two conceived the idea of forming a band. Morrison wanted the band to be not just a group that creates music, but a form of ‘rock guerrilla theatre’- using the music as a way to communicate his ideas beliefs. He wanted the band and the audience to be connected through a colletive conciousness. This being a long way from the music of previous decades, where while the audience may dance to the music, they were not physically, or emotionally involved with the band. Manzarek saw a performance by a group called the ‘Psychedelic Rangers’, and asked guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore whether they would be interested in joining the group. The two agreed, and they took the name ‘The Doors’ after a book called ‘The Doors of Perception’ by Aldous Huxley, which was in turn inspired by a quote from the poet William Blake “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite”. Blake was one of Morrison’s primary poetic influences. This was also the origin of Morrison’s well known phrase “There are things known and things unknown and in between them are the doors”. The Doors primary themes were sex, violence, and politics. Morrison was also a suprisingly good poet, which is evident in the song’s lyrics, and many of his poems were published after his death.

At this time, “rock acted as a kind of ‘counter culture’, challenging the boundaries of the dominant culture where it had become hyprocritical and even unjust... The main thrust of rock music was a force for change, both on a personal level [ie. sexual morality, drug use, etc.]... and on a societal level, in opposition to the Vietnam War, [and] racial injustice... Rock and roll provided much of the communicative power of the ‘counter culture,’ and, as such, was a force for change.” (Macken, 1980: p23)

“Rock, the music of the Sixties, was a music of spontaneity... It came from the life experiences of the artists and their interaction with an audience that was roughly the same age.” (Frith, 1981: p41); rock was not made to be commercial, ie. it was not produced to sell records and make money. Rock music was a reflector