The Beginning of The End
I watched the last of the sun dive beneath the hazy hills from the end of Westminster Avenue. I was standing beside a sign saying End in black on a yellow square on the honk, otherwise known as a fat squarish diamond. I watched the last rays across the beach where 50 years ago this month Jim Morrison bumped into Ray Manzarek, sang him Moonlight Drive and lit the touchpaper of one of the great American bands.
“What about you, Jim, you working on anything?”
“Yeah, I’ve been writing some songs…”
I’d just been over for an end of day swim. As I walked back across the deep Venice Beach an LAPD chopper flew along the shoreline, cut square across the sand and then flew along the palm tree line along the back of the beach. The chopper, the tree line and the sudden sound of a plane landing brought to mind the perfect opening of Apocalypse Now to the strains of The Doors’ The End.
Wrapped in sandy towel I walked back up Westminster past #14, the apartment where Jim lived with his friend Dennis Jacobs in ’65. He ate at Derek’s and slept on the roof, where he also dropped acid, looking out to sea. So right now I’m living by chance, of all the streets in LA, on the same street as Jim.
Before my swim I went to get pizza for Enfant Terrible No. 2 who was feeling a bit rough. While I was waiting in the pizza place a fella commented on my T-shirt which says: “1977” in orange 70s text. “The year Elvis died” he said.” “A great year for music” I said “…except Elvis of course”, I added out of sensitivity. “Good for punk. Good for reggae too.” “This” he said “is the greatest reggae producer ever”, pulling out his phone and bringing up a number. “Can’t go back to Jamaica of course. Would get his head cut off.” He explained, in a way I struggled to catch, that he was some sort of agent or promoter or something. “That’s Easyrider”, pointing to a hippy-weird silver-haired bloke in the corner. The inspiration for the movie Easy Rider apparently. Dennis Hopper (of Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now fame) lived in Venice until his death in 2010. “Easyrider played in a band called Storm who opened for The Stones and all of them.” (I’ve just tried to find any signs of all that with a quick web search but to no avail.)
He told me about the formation of Led Zeppelin in conjunction with a singer called Terry Reid. His number was also in his phone. (That does check out on the web.) I asked him about Jim. “Oh yes, I know even more about them.” He pulled out the phone and showed me the number of Chris Morrison. “It’s his son. He’s in jail.” “I didn’t know he had a son – who’s the mother?” “Pamela Courson’s older sister’s best friend.” Apparently he was banging her all the time he was with Pam, she didn’t want him to acknowledge the kid, she took him away to Paris to that end, and she got him into heroin which she used but he never had. And he died there. (Chris checks out on the web.) The pizza arrived. I took my leave of Easyrider and James of Live Wire Rekords. (That kind of checks out on the web in a self-referencing kind of way.)
We first spotted that pizza place on a walk over to the Venice Canals earlier in the afternoon. Bobby Klein photographed The Doors there in 1967.
On the way back from our wander around the canals, the origins of Venice CA, reclaimed from a swamp in the early 20th century, we passed the revamped Jim mural by Rip Cronk. It was on a blue background when painted in 1991 but has recently been ‘restored’ against bright orange, ringed in a line of luminous green which met with severe disapproval from the car park attendant at the Muscle Beach car park below towering Jim. “They should paint it blue again, that’s all.” I agreed and walked on to the end of that back street, Speedway, where we came out on Westminster a few feet from the End.