The first time I purchased a Doors recording was a 45 single record release of People are Strange b/w Not to Touch the Earth. It was from Phantasmagoria, it was sunny and it was at the onset of High School. I don’t remember if I’d already started High School or if I’d just attended orientation. But I remember buying it because I could afford it with the money I had in my pocket.
Part of me says I was on a run in to Barbarian Books with my brother to buy comics, which regardless of everything else is pretty darn likely. We did a lot of those.
I’d initially fallen in love with People Are Strange thanks to Echo & The Bunnymen covering it for the soundtrack to The Lost Boys. It was 1987, I was young, and Joel Schumacher hadn’t yet unleashed one of the most disappointing movies in the history of the action genre.
After that, I’d gotten a dubbed copy of 13 from my friend Ryan, and on the other side of the tape was an album from the band Trio, which later had their obscure hit “Da Da Da” get resurrected in a Volkswagen commercial. I remember the special thrill of being able to say, “Hey! I listened to that when I was a teenager!” the first time I saw the ad. Then the special thrill of realizing what a dork you sound like when you pull the old “I knew it when it was obscure” card.
Anyway, the reason this purchase is so memorable to me, besides being the first item I bought, was that B–side. You want to talk about a strange B–side and a quick initiation into the bombastic ego that could mark some of Morrison’s most indelible lyrics, that one is for the ages. I didn&rdsquo;t know it at the time, but it was the sole track to survive the purging of The Celebration of the Lizard from the album that became Waiting for the Sun; the title track of which, ironically, wouldn’t appear until their fifth album.
It also gave birth to the I am the Lizard King/I can do anything mythos. “Lizard King” became synonymous with the legendary persona built around an alcoholic military brat who accidentally found fame.
The Doors Open
I suppose that first time listening to Not to Touch the Earth was an early cross–roads for a young boy about to embark on the difficult crises of identity that would define High School and college.
I do wonder occasionally if The Doors accelerated and complicated my identity issues. Perhaps if I’d stuck with current pop music and rocked it out to New Kids or Milli Vanilli, I would have been slightly less inclined to define myself by conflict and exclusion. Perhaps if I hadn’t found this path, though, I’d simply have been delaying the complicated Philip K. Dick–style long, dark journey into questions of belonging and self–definition. Perhaps.
But I will remember that first purchase always, even if the specific circumstances around it are fuzzy as I approach middle age. Probably, I don’t even own the 45 anymore. But I remember the cover (pictured here) and I remember what it did to me. It made me see what was possible, and that first taste had me hooked.
The rest, as they say, is history.