Two Separate Things: Morrison & Money

“Jim’s drinking habit had grown in parallel with our success, so the members of our band and crew rotated the chore of attempting to keep him as sober as possible on show nights. On December 9, 1967, that chore had fallen on me. . . . He wasn’t drinking more than his usual amount, but his usual amount was more than usual to most people. I had yet to discover a successful strategy to lure Jim over to moderation. Arguing didn’t work. Saying nothing didn’t work. Encouraging him didn’t work.”

That’s Robby Krieger, guitarist for The Doors (as well as a subsequent number of other groupings, although none, obviously, as influential and consequently memorable—as in making a memoir something that might have a wider audience than, say, fans of Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen), from his new memoir, Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying and Playing Guitar With The Doors.

And it is fairly evident that trying to discourage Morrison from getting drunk was something that didn’t work.

The night in question was when the band played the New Haven Arena, promoted by the New Haven College.

According to Krieger, just before the show “Jim was making out with his date in a shower stall.” A police officer didn’t recognize the man who was yet to become The Lizard King, apparently thought he was someone who slipped in, and Morrison “allegedly mouthed office and the cop allegedly sprayed him with Mace.”

Krieger goes on to say of the alleged occurrences (which seems somewhat odd, given that this happened 54 years ago and presumably any legal ramifications are no longer existent so either it happened or it didn’t or Krieger is being ironic, which doesn’t work particularly well in this case if that is his intention), “Jim loved mouthing off to cops, and cops loved having an excuse.” The proverbial double-win.

Undoubtedly, someone who was essentially mouthy to cops under ordinary circumstances had his hackles at stratospheric levels after that (if he was the Lizard King, in this context he would have to be a Komodo dragon). . .but he had to go out on stage, during which performance Morrison, not surprisingly, “launched into his now-famous rant about the little blue man in the little blue suit with the little blue cap who had temporarily blinded him backstage.”

The police came on stage, arrested Morrison, and the rest is legend, especially as a writer for Life magazine happened to have been arrested, as well, and there was coverage of the band in the middle-brow weekly magazine that emphasized the outlaw nature of the band.

Morrison died in 1971 at age 27. Think about that: about four years between the arrest in Connecticut and a heart attack in a bathroom in Paris.

A more famous—which seems an odd way of putting it, but there it is—encounter with the law occurred in March 1969 when the Dade County Sheriff issued an arrest warrant for Morrison, charging him with indecent exposure, public drunkenness and other things that added up to a single felony count and three misdemeanors. Included among the things that Morrison faced in a trial that occurred in September 1970 was simulated oral copulation with. . .Robby Krieger during the concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami.

Morrison was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine. As it turned out, he died before he did the time.

So at this point it is time for the obligatory “Oh, if he didn’t die so young” discourse. But that really isn’t the case, I think, because if Morrison hadn’t been the combative individual with a huge substance abuse problem we wouldn’t have the music of The Doors.

This is not to say that there is anything laudable about the behavior, but that we sometimes fail to take into account that were his story to be different, then the outcome would also be different than what came to be. Conceivably, Jim Morrison would have been a variant of, say, Tom Jones (Morrison was born in 1943 and Jones 1940). Morrison would have gone through a period of residency at some Las Vegas casino and would now be preparing to go out on the road. Morrison, one can imagine, would be a little sassy, and album titles used by Jones would conceivably be right in his sphere: Love Machine (1976) and The Lead and How to Swing It (1994).

And we would pay approximately no attention to him.

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On a completely different subject, but one that is quite a bit more remarkable than stories of Jim Morrison behaving badly on stage, is what a firm named “Blackstone” did last week.

Blackstone, according to itself, “is a leading global investment business investing capital on behalf of pension funds, large institutions and individuals. . . . We invest across the alternative asset classes in private equity, real estate, credit and hedge funds as well as in infrastructure, life sciences, insurance, and growth equity.”

And now music. It invested $1-billion to create a new private fund, Hipgnosis Songs Capital, with Merck Mercuriadis, who established the Hipgnosis Songs Fund, which has heretofore invested a reported $2-billion in buying up song catalogs. Think: this new fund, in one swoop, represents 50% of that.

Qasim Abbas, Senior Managing Director, Blackstone Tactical Opportunities, told Music Business Worldwide, “At this point in time what we’re looking to do – as a starting point, really – is acquire about a billion dollars [worth] of catalogs. I would emphasize that’s just the start. Our ambition is much more substantial than that.”

One-billion dollars as “a starting point.”

A firm that invests in “infrastructure, life sciences, insurance.”

Now music catalogs (and it, of course, is not alone).

According to the Associated Press, the biggest lottery jackpot in the U.S. was a $1.586 billion Powerball bank in January 2016. It was split three ways.

Still, those people could have presumably bought a reasonable amount of music catalogs.

But who would have thought that was something in the category of “alternative asset classes”?

Rock and roll can change your. . .portfolio.

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