Tag Archives: Las Vegas

“Can You Find Me Soft Asylum”

The Soft Parade was the fourth album from The Doors. It was released in 1969. Given that ’69 was the year of such releases as Led Zepplin, Kick Out the Jams, Beck Ola, Ramblin’ Gambling Man, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Tommy, and The Stooges, it is somewhat surprising that The Doors had the opportunity for redemption and were able to release Morrison Hotel the following year and hadn’t been driven off into the sketchy concrete wilderness of L.A.

One of the most peculiar cuts on what is a peculiar album is “Touch Me.” It was the first single from the album. And for some odd reason, it became the highest-charting of the singles from The Soft Parade. “Wishful Sinful” is beyond understanding.

At the time of The Soft Parade, The Lizard King was in full bloat, resembling a boa constrictor in full gorge. One can imagine him rolling around in the studio—figuratively, although literally is not something that takes too much imagination—carrying not a long-neck, as would be appropriate for the next album, but a mixed drink. A martini would not be outside the realm of possibility were it that the drink was contained in a glass less shallow and thereby less likely to spill during an inertial turn of mass.

“Touch Me,” with its horns and sweeping, “I’m gonna love you. . .” passages, is a song that would not be inappropriately covered by contemporaries like Michael Buble. Yes, Morrison and Buble.

It has always seemed to me that “Touch Me” as performed by The Doors could be an audition for a months’-long gig at Las Vegas circa right now, had Morrison not gone the way of all flesh at an all-too-early day.

One survivor of that period—who covered Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” and “All Shook Up” on the aforementioned Beck Ola—, Rod Stewart, has opened an 18-concert series at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

After Stewart overcame his hiding-behind-the-amps shyness, he became quite the performer. And this leads to a question: is there a difference between “a performer” and “an artist”—or perhaps it gives rise to a series of questions, including, is there a continuum of when the artist morphs into a performer, or whether most all of the people that we use “artist” as shorthand for are really performers, and were they not we would not be aware of them. Can anyone listen to the 66-year-old Stewart, who has lived lifestyles of the rich and famous, sing, “Spent some time feelin’ inferior, standing in front of my mirror” and take it at all seriously anymore, or is it simply something that’s about having a laugh?

When Stewart isn’t playing at the venue (all of the shows aren’t sequential; there’s a split), Elton John will be, with a show titled “Million Dollar Piano.” Indeed.

Let’s say the Morrison hadn’t died. That Morrison was playing down the street at The Bellagio. Can we imagine a duet on “What Made Milwaukee Famous” between the two performers? And would it be good?

Video: The Doors – Touch Me

The Doors - Touch Me

Video: The Faces – Maybe I\'m Amazed

The Faces - Maybe I'm Amazed

Defying Gravity

The ad shows Sheena Easton in a tailored two-button suit. She is sans blouse. She is wearing one of those Victoria’s Secret support bras. Presumably, back in her heyday, the bra would have been superfluous. Time and gravity have their effect. On the next page there’s a photo of Dennis DeYoung, once of Styx, who has been heard of late in the VW “Mr. Roboto” commercial. The ad is black and white. Perhaps this is done for purposes of being kind to this paunchy crooner. Yet the fact that his hair is white makes the color choice not particularly flattering. The kiosk display in the lobby announces the Scorpions, Deep Purple, and special guest Dio. Another is for ZZ Top. The billboard shows Rick Springfield in “EFX.” And lest this seem as though this is only a case of stale Wonder Bread, there are signs for bands including The Who.

Yes. Las Vegas. When I caught a shuttle from the airport to the Strip, I was directed to the van by a man resembling the old Elvis. He was wearing a golf shirt and Sans-a-Belt slacks. I didn’t know whether it would be appropriate to comment on his excellently eerie appearance: “Gee, you look just like the image on the rows and rows of slot machines.”

The city is clearly an Entertainment Zone, one that transcends the exaggerated creations found in William Gibson or Jean Baudrillard. The facade is promise. Gravity is the enemy. Gravity in terms of seriousness. Gravity in terms of the universal force that drags us into heat death. Entropy.

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The tables are surrounded by young men with dark, cheesy mustaches. Behind them stand their raven-haired girlfriends with sparkle-filled makeup and dresses two sizes too small. The tables are surrounded by dazed-eyed convention attendees from Topeka and Toledo, giddy with the comped bottles of Bud. The slots are peopled by retirees with gimmie caps and oxygen tanks. By waitresses with hellish jobs, hoping for a break better than the alimony they’re not getting.

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The question: What happens to an old act? Do the Boomers who are frequenting the gambling arenas (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. . .) want to see their images of youth—freshness, vitality—replaced by the time-ravaged memories of these performers? Sure, we all age. The sustained popularity of, say, Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, is largely predicated by their dying young. We capture their images. They will never age. And as we relate to them, we have not aged, either. Strength retained after exhaustion.

(One of the problems faced by the Elvis Industry is that he was seen post-prime, so there is always the young Elvis undercut by the amphetamine-gobbling.)

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Even with every light turned on in my room at the Aladdin, it seems sepia-colored inside. Even though the Desert Passage Shopping Mall—all 500,000-square feet of it—sells jewels, Hugo Boss, Faberge eggs, Tumi baggage, etc., there is no bookstore. You probably aren’t meant to read in brown rooms. Outside my window I can see—and hear—the labor of a clever entrepreneur, who offers helicopter rides over the strip. But the perspective would be all wrong. The edifices that line the strip are meant to be looked up at, to put you in your proper perspective.

Where else would an impersonator be a favorite?

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It’s not that I begrudge these people their livelihood, nor do I want to keep the people who find them entertaining to be entertained. It just seems rather odd to see that performers who have (mainly) disappeared from the ordinary world have this huge presence. Presumably, if Sheena Easton were to play Detroit there might be a small ad in the entertainment section of the Sunday paper, her visage (and cleavage) wouldn’t be on taxi-mounted signboards. Billboards wouldn’t be erected in Chicago announcing the Scorps and ‘ Purple back together again for the first time in almost as many years as the people arriving in cabs at the Aladdin at 4:45 am on a Saturday morning have been alive.

Where else would an impersonator be a favorite?