June 9, 2007

Jomo and The Smoothies – Jim Morrison’s lost poetry tapes

I find it a bit humorous and regretful that my first real Doors post (in over a year and a half of doing this? How is that possible?) is really quite . . . inaccessible. It’s not even much music, but poetry instead. But it fascinates me by virtue of being a lost little bit of musical history, which you know I love to read up on.

If you’ve ever had a hankering for poetry about Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding, intense visitations of energy, new hands, and obeying the moon, then you will love this mp3. I’m also pretty sure that it feels really profound if you’re high. Portions of these sessions were released as An American Prayer, but other things off here are a bit harder to find.
In the Spring of 1969 and Summer of 1971 (just weeks before his death), Jim Morrison went into recording studios and laid down tapes of his poetry. This mp3 combines the two sessions into one continuous recording, an uncut 51-minute session in the studio, where you can hear all kinds of background conversations, liquid pouring into glasses (I’m guessing it wasn’t water), messups, tuning, and re-takes. The first 36 minutes are the earlier session (I believe recorded in LA, not Paris), and the last final session of 1971 starts after that.

The final 14 minutes in Paris are Jim with some unknown street musicians (Jomo and The Smoothies), and they sound to be extremely intoxicated (the whooping, difficulty tuning, and gargling kinda gives it away). In the spirit of the day they call each other things like “cat,” and they say “far out” a lot. Around 43 minutes, you can hear Jim’s craaazy song “Orange County Suite,” a wandering piece about girlfriend/common-law wife Pamela Courson, where he forgets the words. Here is some detail on the 14 minute Paris recording, which I found here and here:

On one of his walks through the narrow streets of St-Germain des-Près one day [Jim] discovered a recording studio, and went there again on June 16th to listen to a reel-to-reel tape of the poetry he had recorded in March 1969 in Los Angeles. On stepping out of the studio in search of liquid refreshment, he stumbled upon two young American street musicians who were playing guitar in front of the Café de Flore.

The guitarist wore a buckskin jacket, and the singer wore a cowboy hat. They were murdering Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs, one after the other. Jim, pretty drunk, loved them immediately. After they performed “Marrakesh Express” and nobody gave them any money, Jim introduced himself and graciously invited them to have a drink. He told them about the nearby recording studio and asked if they felt like walking over with him and doing a session. The two guys couldn’t believe it.

“Wait, man, hold on,” one said. “You are shitting us, right? Are you really Jim Morrison?” An hour later, they found themselves in the studio. Jim told the engineer it was his own band called Jomo And The Smoothies and paid for an hour of recording. The fifteen-minute tape has survived.

“I get twenty-five percent of everything that happens, right?” he told the musicians. The others tuned their guitars. This took a fairly long time while the tape was running, and it sounded horrible. Jim grinned “They’re tolerating us until we get our asses in gear,” he said.

But the three musicians failed to make decent recordings of songs they knew, although one guitarist suggested songs like ‘Little Miss Five Feet Five’, ‘Three Little Fishes’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With My Indigo Sugar’. Even when it came to his own material, Jim couldn’t quite remember all the lyrics of his ode to Pamela, ‘Orange County Suite’, screaming and yelling the hazy parts. The session ended after only 14 minutes and the engineer cut the tape. Jim and the two others listened to the tape again, but decided not to record more. Jim scribbled “JOMO AND THE SMOOTHIES” onto the box and put it into a plastic bag in which he also put the poetry tape and a few other belongings.

Now maybe I should be cosmically zapped for questioning the Great Lizard King (who has, like other musicians, become an untouchable martyr of sorts in death), but when I listen to some of the impassioned poetry portions of this recording, a part of me definitely pictures the bearded Will Ferrell in the hot tub reading these aloud to his lover.

But there’s also something very vulnerable and lonely about these sessions, the latter of which was recorded only two weeks before he died in his bathtub in Paris. The Paris session is also probably the only thing he recorded during his time in the City of Lights, while the popularity of the Doors was hitting an insane pitch in the U.S., and he was trying to escape it all. Jim was only 27 when he died – that’s my age. He looks a lot older.
(the picture below, also used for that unofficial “album cover” above, was from his personal collection, probably taken by Pamela, on 6/28/71)

The Lost Paris Tapes – Jomo & The Smoothies (Jim Morrison)

Tagged with , .
Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →