The Lizard Queen, Ms. MOJO Risin’ By: Peggy of Troy

Written by on November 24, 2022

Music and songs are more than sounds and words. There are the artists and the personalities behind the creations. One that particularly blew my mind was Jim Morrison of The Doors. In high school I really started getting into music and buying many albums. I bought the Doors eponymous classic first album in 1979. When I looked at the songs the only one I ever heard was Light My Fire. I played it and heard “Break on Through (To The Other Side”) for the first time. The lyrics were much more compelling than “Light My Fire”, as was the beat. “Day destroys the night/night divides the day/Try to run/try to hide/break on through to the other side.” The singing had a rich tone and a shouting angst in the chorus. “Light My Fire” was written by guitarist Robby Krieger, these were Jim’s lyrics, much darker and poetic to me. 

“Soul Kitchen” stood out as a favorite, the bluesy tune was based on a soul food restaurant in Santa Monica named Olivia’s, that Morrison frequented. The poem was written on a paper napkin when he came to his band members to put it to music. The song takes you to Olivia’s, a place that was purported to be more of a home in Mississippi than California. A favorite song of both Patti Smith and Ian MacCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen who both covered it boldly. The magnum opus was the last song, appropriately titled “The End” that evolved from several months of live performances to an 11:42 slow marathon of beautiful doom. I saw an apocalyptic Eden with the words “Can you picture what it will be?/So limitless and free/desperately in need/of some stranger’s hand./”The end of laughter and soft lies,/the end of nights/we tried to die.” The climax of the song has the Lizard King screaming, “Mother I want to f*** you.” The oedipal reference, is this song about death or a breakup with a girlfriend? It is both impressionistic and expressionist in its layered metaphor, not a clear linear image and it was about what is felt not the object of the song. I was infatuated. I immediately went out and bought all the Doors albums.

I got my hands on the first biopic on Jim, “No One Here Gets Out Alive” in the early 80’s. After reading this page turner and learning about his storied life, the reasons for my infatuation became clearer, we had some things in common for sure. The number one thing was having a major traumatic event early in life. Morrison and his family were traveling near Albuquerque when they came upon an accident scene. Several Native Americans were lying on the road dead and dying. The young Lizard King broke down and was screaming and crying for hours after the tragic incident. Years later he claimed one of the dying Navajos had entered his soul, forever changing him. 

When I was six years old trauma came into my world also possibly in a more graphic instantaneous manner. I was playing wiffle ball on the street where I lived in a front yard when a four-year-old boy on a tricycle came out between two parked cars and got hit by a passing car. He went flying up in the air and came down on his head. There was blood splattered everywhere and his arms and legs were quivering as my friends and I watched in disbelief and horror. My mother came and took me home in a hysterical state. I could not sleep that night and had difficulties with frequent nightmares for years. The boy’s untimely death darkened my childhood by giving me a precocious insight into death first hand.

In the book, Morrison’s early life and teenage years were unsettled. He began using alcohol at the age of 12 that led to heavy drinking in early adulthood. He was described as a highly intelligent and a shy loner. He would push people’s buttons for a reaction with his attention seeking behavior. He was a bibliophile and read deep adult material at a young age. My partying started early too, in high school, my wild behavior got me in trouble with the law. I was rebellious and literate too.

I pretty much drifted in my teens and early adulthood, searching for meaning in life and the world, it seemed like Mr. Mojo reached out to me on a personal level. “When the Music’s Over ” from the Strange Days album got me with the lyrics, “The music is your special friend/dance on fire as it intends/music is your only friend/until the end.” Yes, the music was my only friend, it guided me through my gender identity confusion and comforted the isolation of me hiding within myself as Peggy. It would not be for decades that I would be able to display my flower and poetry to the outside world. The early alcohol abuse that Jim and I both shared stunted our emotional maturity. His often ill-mannered immature behavior patterns was proof of this.

The Lizard King was always an unpredictable performer. On the Ed Sullivan show he defied the producers when they told him to change the word “higher” in the song “Light My Fire,” because of the drug innuendo on a family show. It cost him the six future shows that were booked. In concerts the mercurial poet would often rant and insult the audience then blow them away with an amazing performance. More than a front man, the dark shaman poet was linguistically adept at speaking his mind. At the RPI field house in 1967 on his 24th birthday, he called Troy ” the armpit of the world ” He was displeased with the unreactive audience and told them, “If this is Troy, I’m with the Greeks.” He was arrested in Miami. The next day he was arrested in New Haven mid concert and taken off the stage in handcuffs for a scuffle with a police officer before a show. In 1969 he was arrested a few days after a wild gig in Miami for supposedly exposing himself on stage. It was never ending for the icon and these careless impulsivities might have prevented him from being taken seriously for his artistry. 

His years of drug abuse and alcohol finally caught up with him in 1971 when he was found dead in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. He lived the Dionysian life that he wrote about. Nothing fake about that, it should have been a lesson for future artists who seemed to join the “27 ” club, like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix preceded Mojo as the founding members of this extraordinary group. His short amazing life and abilities are not to be repeated and might be the lesson learned from the Lizard King, Who Could Do Anything.

It seems the future is uncertain, but the end is not always near. I am just beginning my midlife chrysalis which has made me hear the Scream of the Butterfly. Thank you, Mr. Mojo, for being my special friend.

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