Archive for the ‘Venice Beach’ Tag

The Beginning of The End

End sign USA

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.

the doors venice canal

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.

jim morrison mural restored

Morning Shot (repainted) by Rip Cronk (1991 & 2012)

end road sign in desert

Son of a Beach

michael shrieve woodstock santana soul sarcifice

I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking a small intersection one block back from Venice Beach in LA. It’s on Westminster Avenue. The names are European but the vibe is very much Californian. The last few stragglers coming back from the beach under the bright moon. The palm fronds swaying gently in a perfect cool breeze. A black dude with baseball cap at reverse 45 degrees is standing on the opposite corner under the Do Not Enter sign with his drum on a small trolley. That’s how a totally Venice evening got under way. I walked down to the beach with Mrs Simple Pleasures just after 6, only to hear the beat of the drums across the sand. We walked in the direction of the pulse and came across a circle of humanity, drumming together, dancing together, being together in the lowering sun. A stars’n’stripes fluttered above the Soul Sacrifice, see-through in the sunshine, adorned with an extra native American proud on his horse. A girl with waist-length curly hair in an electric pink bikini top and sheer sarong belly-danced with abandon. All manner of drums were beat with hands, with sticks, with plastered fingers. This is a regular gathering – Saturday and Sunday evenings – as the sun sets. A skinny bearded hipster danced a mad back-to-the-60s dance, moving weirdly but well, right to his shoulder joints. The sun drops behind distant hills but the beat goes on…

Mrs SP headed home, swopping places with Enfant Terrible No. 1 and we headed along the beach in the Santa Monica direction. At a stall we watched a fella scratching with languid fingers, playing the vinyl and the decks at moments with elegant flow which captured the power of that strangest of hip-hop inventions – playing the machines.

Our sunset promenade was punctuated by wafts of weed, sometimes from mysterious sources – a breath of sweet scent with no-one in range.

In search of coffee we came eventually to a cafe beside in a pub-like bar. From the bar came unexpectedly but so aptly the strains of Mr Mojo Risin’ – a Doors tribute band called Peace Frog. Another regular Sunday night happening. ET1 has got into the band in a big way in recent months so we sat&listened over drinks in the adjacent cafe, going more for an imaginative experience than a literal visual one. We discussed musicians and singers who died at 27 and he filled me in on the Amy doc I keep missing. We talked about fucking up your kids and what a good drummer his cousin has turned out to be. We strolled back with the shades of the Lizard King ghost-dancing about us. Oh, and there was a pale 12 foot long boa constrictor at one point. Camden Town-on-Sea. Everything Venice should be.

Mural by Rip Cronk (1991)

Morning Shot by Rip Cronk (1991)

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