Paul Nelson didn't write a lot about the Doors--and he only briefly met Jim Morrison--but what words he did put to paper were poetic, to the point, and unashamedly revealing of a critic yearning to understand not only the the band's music but the nascent and far from established new art form called rock & roll. For instance:
And Jim. To see him sing is like witnessing a man dangling in some kind of unique and personal pain. Watching Morrison come face to face with some ultimate truth in song can be truly frightening. The shrieks and screams come from a subconscious layer under the conscious artistry: Morrison is levels, not all of them pretty.
When I learned that the intense and talented writer and director Tom DiCillo
(Living in Oblivion
, Box of Moonlight
, and his most recent film, Delirious
, are among his best) is feverishly at work on a Doors documentary, I forwarded him Paul's rare writings about the group, the best of which is "Perceiving the Doors," a piece written for the long out-of-print songbook We Are the Doors
. "What an amazing writer," DiCillo responded. "It is pretty astonishing. I particularly liked his analysis of the Doors' sound":
When they play, they seem to be held together by both terrific, almost terrifying, strength and by sheer nervous tension. They expand, contract, and the song is stretched like a live thing to a point of birth or breaking or both. The passion is always contained within the control. Ray [Manzarek] plays the organ like a holy man, his thoughts almost as visible as smoke, while Robby [Krieger] oozes out those slow, melted flamenco notes as if he were shaking them from a slow-motion guitar. John [Densmore] is all speed and power on the drums, a perpetual-motion machine. And Jim. To see him sing is like witnessing...
"It is close to my own view of what distinguishes the group," DiCillo continued, "but he writes extremely eloquently and with real, knowledgeable detail. I thought his review of the first album showed real perception." In fact, so alive was Paul's forty-year-old prose that DiCillo had a request: "Can you please pass my admiration on to him?"
I informed him that Paul had passed away in 2006. "I had no idea," he replied, "It touches me deeply. It has much deeper meaning now."
Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.