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Greil Marcus Delivers Another Masterpiece

Rock critic explores The Doors making cultural history

Dec. 20, 2011
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Greil Marcus is already regarded as one of the leading rock music critics. With The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (PublicAffairs), Marcus has written another masterpiece equal to his Mystery Train or The Old, Weird America. Featuring elegant design and multiple narratives flowing seamlessly, The Doors brings his canon to an explosive height of achievement.

The band's sensibility was close to fine art, yet their high-culture intentions soon lit the fire of popular culture with such intensity that their story deserves the structured and creative analysis Marcus provides. The multiple-narrative voice of The Doors could confuse an unenlightened critic, as Marcus' analysis addresses revelatory, interconnected subjects as wide-ranging as Thomas Pynchon and Charles Manson. The story of the band is infused with a running narrative of how pop culture was changed by the band while being changed by many other factors. No, this is not the subjective mind of the author, but rather the answer to a question objectively posed: "What does it mean to make cultural history?" Marcus answers that it means launching ideas and sensations "that feel absolutely new even if they are not" with "old forms dressed in new clothes that turn history in a new direction."

The Doors
is not the usual fan book, but instead an account for those who understand that you cannot understand music out of context, without examining the world around the songs. Marcus recreates the world of the 1960s while chronicling Jim Morrison and company. Calling their recordings "the artifacts of this emerging folk culture of the modern market speaking in code, speaking a secret language," Marcus presents an objective history of The Doors during a seminal period. He also opens passages of perception that provide readers with an inventive and accurate vision of the culture that nurtured and embraced the band. The rapidly evolving "secret language" of pop culture, with its many levels of meaning beyond the obvious, is the book's true subject.


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