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No One Here Gets Out Alive Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1995
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I have to admit, I sort of wish I did not read the first part of the book where Sugarman goes into Morrison's childhood. Rather, I think I'd like to believe that Morrison was hatched from some kind of rockstar egg as an angst ridden adolescent ready to rock and roll and cause trouble. It was interesting to get some of the private stories behind the scenes of the Doors and I did like that this book focused on Jim Morrison throughout. The part about his young life wasn't all that revealing to me and it felt almost forced as if Sugarman was setting the stage for the other parts of the book. Jim Morrison's life up until moving to Venice Beach and meeting Ray on the beach wasn't all that moving in the way Sugarman wrote it. It was well researched, but kind of blah.
Where the book really gets interesting is Jim Morrison's climb to fame. I was pretty interested to read about how Jim was such a motivated person who was actually pretty smart about promoting the band and networking himself and the band. One would think a drug and booze soaked rock and roller like Morrison and his crazy antics and unique powerful voice were always there ready to be discovered. However, the book sheds light on how a series of coincidences along with Morrison's surprising CEO-like intellegence actually got the band noticed. The best chapters dealt with the Whiskey A Go Go days.
Once The Doors became famous, the book surprisingly breezes through most of these years. There are some pretty interesting stories about Morrison's drug and alchohol abuse and certain recording sessions and parties which Morrison 'left his mark on' so to speak. There was a lot of focus on Jim's 'dark side' ... egotistical, irresponsible and apathetic. I don't feel that I got to know who Jim Morrison was while I was reading this book. There was no real 'connection' made with Morrison as I read the words. However, I do feel informed about Jim's life through this book. I would have liked more of the book to focus on the period of success the Doors had and Jim's personal life throughout this period.
Instead, after a few chapters about alchohol, booze, etc. the book speeds into the Miami incident and ends with a lot of emphasis on the Paris days before Jim Morrison died at 27. I feel this book focuses 25% on Jim's childhood and teenage years, 25% about the Doors breaking onto the scene, 25% on the Miami trial and 25% on Paris. Perhaps one of the most fascinating things in the book involved how the Doors got discovered by paying girls to scream and carry on at the shows and other trickery the band did to fool promoters into thinking the band was more popular than they were. However, one thing was always made clear in the book and that is how Jim's shammanistic 'pied piper' presence sucked people into the band and held them there until Jim himself decided to destroy that bond.
A few things that are hard to believe is that while Morrison was one of the most famous people in the United States, he essentially lived in a 2 mile radius within West Hollywood wandering from bar to bar, sometimes on foot. It is hard to believe that Morrison could wander around town like the book states and not get mobbed by people. The book goes into how insane the concerts were ... and how immensely popular Jim Morrison was as a pop culture icon at the time. Yet, he paints a lonely simple life for Morrison while in LA. I wonder if it could be true that Jim could have moved around so freely. In those days were famous people left alone, unlike in our day of TMZ and paparazzi. It might be true ... there are very few photos of Jim Morrison other than the 100 or so that you always see popping up. I don't think there is a single photograph of Jim Morrison in the Alta Cienga Motel, where he lived for a year. And not a single photograph of Jim Morrison in Barney's Beanery, which was a favorite spot for him as he descended into alchoholism.
The Paris chapters were pretty depressing. I don't fault the author for this ... but at the same time, it is pretty clear that Sugarman is setting up the end of Jim Morrison in them. A lot of the information is stuff I have not read on internet sites or in interviews. I think out of all the things I read about this period, Sugarman finds the best sources to piece together exactly what happened over there up until the night Jim Morrison died. I would have liked more 'closure' or information about what happened ... but the book pretty much devotes only a few pages to it and then focuses on the aftermath.
This is a must read book if you are a fan of Jim Morrison. It probably is the most complete timeline as to the life of the greatest rockstar. Some other stuff you may be interested in reading is the interview with Tony Funches, Jim's bodyguard. He tells some interesting stories about the days when the Doors were at the top of their game. It's a little over the top and embelished, I am sure. But interesting. Also, a few of the 30 - 45 minute long interviews for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice can be heard on youtube. Those are great to hear after reading this book because they are actually Jim Morrison talking with a reporter and mentioning some of the same things in this book.
I will probably read John Densmore's book next on Morrison as he seems to have the best bond with him out of any of the former Doors. This was a good one to start with though because I can't imagine anyone being able to piece together as many first hand accounts as Sugarman did. I enjoyed reading it and was through it in only a couple days. While a little longer than I would have liked (I'd have cut down on the Miami trial and the early years a bit), it painted an accurate and thorough portrait of Jim Morrison and was entertaining.
It provides a window into the life of a major rock icon, both positive and negative. Tragic that his life ended so soon and so tragically. Had he lived, Jim Morrison had a lot more to give.
No One Here Gets Out Alive is an important and powerful read and a great introduction to the life, death, and mind of a great man that lived his own idea of his own personal tragidy.