38. Song No. 317: “An American Prayer,” The Doors
An American Prayer, 1978
I freely admit that, despite the love of classic rock that’s basically the only thing making my husband’s and my musical tastes a Venn diagram rather than two circles operating obliviously of the other, I didn’t really appreciate The Doors until we started dating and I found out that they’re one of his favorite bands.
Taboo as it might be to celebrate old white men who don’t speak of women in the most ostensibly flattering of lights, Bukowski is my all-time favorite poet and another discovery I can attribute to hubs and a fateful evening with the film Factotum early in our relationship.
But the relevance here isn’t how often I give the things my husband loves a chance to world-unlocking success: It’s how, at some point a number of years ago, I became convinced that there were recordings of William S. Burroughs giving a series of Bukowski poems the spoken-word treatment.
I have no idea why I was so convinced of a literary performance melding two incongruous forces or why I was so convinced it involved these specifics giants of self-destruction. And having no musical aptitude, I couldn’t account for how vivid and funky and catchy the tune I was trying to place was. There was no way I’d imagined such an infernal earworm no matter what sequence of questionable decisions and ingestions conspired to create it. It was too specific and concrete. It had to exist somewhere outside me.
I can’t even quantify the tunnel-visioned effort I put into proving the existence of something I must have conjured up in one of those dreams that isn’t clearly either an imagined reality or a fuzzily recalled one. I still wouldn’t be convinced that the pink elephants I’d been chasing were completely hallucinatory constructions if I hadn’t come back around to this posthumously released collection of Jim Morrison’s poetry.
Realizing how far off the mark I was and how this marriage of minds I wanted so badly to believe in was a total disappointment, but it was kind of a relief to track down both the source and proof of this thing I was starting to wonder was evidence that I’m a little more disconnected from reality than I give myself credit for. And I do love that it’s just as off-puttingly uptempo but persistently ominous as I had built it up to be.