The other day I saw the legendary keyboardist from The Doors, Ray Manzarek, shopping at Amoeba. Seeing him brought back a flood of memories of hanging out with my stoner friends during my high school years that absolutely worshiped The Doors. They bought into the whole "Jim Morrison’s mystique" and his “Lizard King” persona. Personally, other than a few songs, I was never really into them. The record we would listen to over and over again was the posthumous An American Prayer.
American Prayer was released in 1978, a record that combined spoken word that Jim Morrison recorded in 1970 with music that the remaining members of The Doors created in 1977. It was a possible glimpse of what The Doors would have sounded like if they stuck around that long. I remember hating it. For one, it didn’t have any of songs I liked and two, I never liked Jim Morrison’s poetry. There were even a few Discoesque tracks on the album. It seemed like all the rock artists at the time were trying to play disco back then: David Bowie, The Doobie Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, all had Disco hits on the radio. For most Blacks and Latinos in the 70's/early 80's, it was our first tastes of those classic rockers because they were playing music we familiar with.
A few years back I heard L.A. DJ Garth Trinidad spin “Ghost Song” at a club. It fit perfect with other R&B tinged house tracks he was playing that night. I few days later I was at a record shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, and found a copy of American Prayer for 99 cents. After a few listens it occurred to me that American Prayer was way ahead of its time. It was an updated version of the Beat poetry records that came out in the 50’s at a time when no one was doing anything like this. Most of Jim Morrison’s poetry on this album is dated but set with the semi-funky beats the poems come off as modern club tracks.
There are a few cuts from this album I love to spin at clubs. “Ghost Song” and “The Hitchhiker” always get reactions from people. “Who does this song?” they ask me. When I tell them it’s The Doors, they then ask me, “Who did the re-mix?” My favorite track to spin is “Latino Chrome.” I always pull it out when I’m spinning the Chicano old school jams. It a perfect fit with classic El Chicano or Timmy Thomas style jams.
I feel like many musicians must have had the same experience as myself of being stuck in a room with idol-worshipping stoners listening to that album. Yet something about American Prayer left a lasting impression on the music that we would all create later. On the track “Dawn’s Highway” Jim Morrison talks about seeing...
“Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding,” and how the souls of the dead Native Americans penetrated his...“Young child's fragile eggshell mind.”
Whether I like to admit it or not, I guess American Prayer left a little Doors influence on my own “young fragile eggshell mind.”