Grace Slick on Jim Morrison
[Excerpts from her memoir: Somebody to Love]
“What when on outside the studio during that time (the making of Surrealistic Pillow), certainly dipped into the Surreal world. We all stayed at the Tropicana, a cheap motel on Santa Monica Blvd., where we had semi-kitchenette set ups and complimentary smog.
On one of our first nights in L.A., we were coming back our rooms, when we heard what we thought was a dog howling. On the balcony, crawling on all fours, was a totally nude Jim Morrison, barking at the moon. Oblivious to the contrast between his natural state, and the urban slum look of midtown L.A., he kept up the dog act even after Paul Kantner stepped over him to get to his room.
When I asked Paul what he said to Morrison, Paul answered: “What do you say to a guy whose becoming a dog, nothing”.
Jim was so willing to take himself completely to the edge of human experience. I found his performances both fascinating and frightening. I tried to imagine what kind of curiosity could take someone to those extremes, without the overwhelming fear of maybe ‘I’ll never get back.’ But back to what? Who’s to say which is the preferable reality?”
“As soon as we were free, we took about a week to buy some new underwear, then zipped over to do the continent (1968 European Tour) Co-headlining with The Doors.
In London, The Doors Airplane concerts took place in an old structure called ‘The Roundhouse’. Images of The Doors performing are still vivid in my mind. No colour, all black except one spotlight on Jim’s face. Both of his hands holding the mic right up on his mouth, eyes closed and silent. You could see him just waiting for ignition to come flying up through his body. The long silence was full of music he could hear but everyone else only felt, then in a sudden step backwards, arms lifting out to the sides, he yelled ‘Fire’. The audience let out a collective scream, relieved by the explosion they’d been anticipating. Most of them had never seen him before, but he had the ability to draw people into his mood without opening his eyes or his mouth. I was always fascinated by the way he seemed to go from one side of his brain to the other, ignoring all the synapses in-between, it was just like his lyric, ‘Break on through to the other side.’
And beautiful, he looked like a rabid Johnny Depp, perfectly formed and possessed by abstraction. I’d been backstage before and after all the shows, talking easily with members of both of the bands, but when I directed a remark to Jim, I usually got back a colourful non-sequitur.
“Jim” I’d say. “You see the broken chair by the speaker system. With a pleasant smile and pupils dilated to the very edges of the iris, he’d respond with something like “Lady in smoke shop, nobody for broken chair… broken chair”. He inhabited two places at once and although I knew there was some pattern of events going on in his head that connected what I just said to what he was thinking, it never made sense. I’m sure that the people who knew him well, must have heard normal dialogue out of him like “What time does the plane arrive”, but I never heard anything intelligible I could respond to, until I was able to see what he was like, alone, away from the frantic energy of the music halls.
We co-headlined in Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, and I cant remember which country we were in when It happened, but I do remember strangely isolated things like the colour of the rug in the hotel hallway, rose pink and maroon, and the nervousness i felt standing in front of the door to Jim’s room.
‘It’s daytime, he’s probably asleep, if he’s asleep, then he won’t answer my knock and I can go back to my room and stop shaking. What if it’s the wrong room? Oh fuck it.”
I did the secret knock, which he wouldn’t have known anyway since it was Airplanes private signal, the opening beat to one of our songs to let the other know it was one of us standing outside the door. I was surprised when Jim didn’t even ask ‘who is it?’ instead, he turned the handle and pulled the door all the way back so I could see him and the whole room.
He smiled. “What’s up?”
I wish I could remember my answer but some specifics about the past are clear while others are really vague. Since I had no idea that anyone would care about this 30 years later, I never kept a diary. In fact, had I known the enormous impact Morrison would have on future generations, I might’ve been tempted to wear a tape recorder. I also wish I could tell you that he came to my room to hustle me, but it didn’t happen that way; I was once again the perpetrator.
Either the hotel had sent them up, on a complimentary food tray, or he’d ordered them from room service, but either way, there were strawberries sitting on a plate on top of the coffee table. I went over to look at them just for something to do while I figured out what to say next, and Jim flopped on the bed and watched me. I brought the strawberries over to the end of the bed, and then for some stupid reason, I put my finger into the middle of one of them. There was an extraordinary cold and hard centre. ‘Frozen strawberries, thank you baby jesus for a topic to guide my conversation with Mr. Non-sequitur’.
“Okay if I put this plate on the radiator?” I asked him. This was Europe 1968, no central heating.
“Sure, but it’s not on” he said. One of the most coherent remarks i’d ever heard from him.
After I set the plate of strawberries on the cold radiator, he crawled over the top of the bed, reached out and picked one up, and squeezed it until it turned to juice in his hand. He laughed and did it again to another one and kept on laughing. Words are hard to respond to, but laughter makes it’s own sense. ‘I can play this’ I thought, and I relaxed.
It wasn’t 9 ½ weeks with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke using food as erotic lubricant, it was more like kindergarten, play mud puddles and silly putty. Smash it, shove it around - not on each other, but we just individually tried to make a bigger mess than the other one could. He outdid me by smearing the strawberries all over the cream coloured bedspread, but then suddenly, the private stories in his head made him stop and go over to the top dresser drawer. He opened and closed it without putting anything in or taking anything out, and came back to where I was kneeling at the end of the bed, still playing in the fruit tray. I didn’t ask him what the dresser move was all about, I was afraid i’d be stepping on that fantasia tape that seemed to be running in his cranium.
This was new, like making love to a floating art form with eyes. I’ve never had anyone study me like that. It wasn’t the standard evaluation of body parts, he seemed to be appraising the distance between us, as if it was an invisible garment that needed to be continually breached with each motion. With our hips joined together, and his body moving up and down, it felt like he was taking a moment each time to circle the area between our bodies with his eyes and consider the space that separated us.
He was a well built boy, his cock was slightly larger than average and he was young enough to maintain the engorged connection right through the residue of chemicals that can threaten an erection. At the same time, he was surprisingly gentle. Somehow i’d expected the sort of frantic horizontal ritual. It’s interesting, the most maniacal guys on stage can be such sublime lovers, but I guess everybody had to stop being a jerk sometime.
Jim mystified me with that otherworldly expression, and at the same time, his hips never lost the insistent rolling motion that was driving the dance. When he did look directly at my face, he seemed to be constantly searching for the expression that might break the lock, as if I might be wearing a disguise. I’m not sure what I mean by that, but I can say it was both intriguing and disconcerting, waiting for him to ask me if I was someone else, an imposter or a product of his imagination.
I have no idea how long I was there, but there was no lying around afterward having a cigarette dreamily looking at each other. I knew I should leave before I got caught, we both had other relationships and it felt like I was an intruder. I dressed as fast as I could without looking like it was a race. Jim didn’t seem to notice, he appeared to be totally unconscious just lying there motionless on the bed, but, naked with eyes closed and without moving a muscle from his completely immobile posture he said, “Why wouldn’t you come back?”. Since I hadn’t said anything about coming or going, I didn’t know what he expected to hear, so I went into proper Finch College mode and said “Only if I’m asked”.
He smiled but he never asked.”
Slick, Grace, and Andrea Cagan. Somebody to Love?: A Rock- and Roll Memoir. New York: Warner, 1999.