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Classic rock conspiracy theory: ‘Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon,’ the dark heart of the hippie dream

The standard modus operandi of a work of “conspiracy theory” is fairly straightforward. The author/researcher takes some commonly accepted historical narrative, and lavishes scepticism upon it, while simultaneously maintaining an alternative understanding of what “really” happened, one that ostensibly better fits the considered facts.

While Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon : Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream, indubitably follows this approach, its focus is utterly unique. Not to put too fine a point on it, the book is no less than the Official Classic Rock Conspiracy Theory, with individual chapters tackling the unlikely subjects of Frank Zappa, the Doors, Love, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Gram Parsons and more, the careers of which are scrutinized for the fingerprints of the secret state.

What you make of McGowan’s criteria in and of itself (which ranges fairly widely, and at times wildly, from a “tell-tale” preoccupation with the occult to heavy military-industrial family ties), to my mind the virtue of Weird Scenes dwells in the ensuing atmosphere of incredible fairy-tale strangeness—not unlike Joan Didion’s own famous look at California in the late sixties, The White Album. On almost every page, movie-star mansions, knitted with secret passages, spontaneously combust; murders, suicides and overdoses spread through the celebrity populace; cults spring up peopled with mobsters and spies… and all the while, this timeless, intriguing music keeps on geysering away. I contacted McGowan about his bizarre book earlier this week…

Thomas McGrath: Hi Dave. Could you begin please by telling us something about your previous work?

David McGowan: My work as a political/social critic began around 1997, when I began to see signs that the political landscape in this country was about to change in rather profound ways. That was also the time that I first ventured onto the internet, which opened up a wealth of new research possibilities. I put up my first website circa 1998, and an adaptation of that became my first book, Derailing Democracy, in 2000. That first book, now out of print, was a warning to the American people that all the changes we have seen since the events of September 11, 2001 – the attacks on civil rights, privacy rights, and due process rights; the militarization of the nation’s police forces; the waging of multiple wars; the rise of surveillance technology and data mining, etc. – were already in the works and just waiting for a provocation to justify their implementation. My second book, Understanding the F-Word, was a review of twentieth-century US history that attempted to answer the question: “if this is in fact where we’re headed, then how did we get here?” Since 9-11, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the events of that day and looked into a wide range of other topics. My third book, Programmed to Kill, was a look at the reality and mythology of what exactly a serial killer is. For the past six years, I have spent most of my time digging into the 1960s and 1970s Laurel Canyon counterculture scene, which has now become my fourth book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

Thomas McGrath:  Am I right in presuming that you take it as a given fact that power networks are essentially infected by occultism? Are these cults essentially Satanic, or what?

David McGowan: Yes, I do believe that what you refer to as power networks, otherwise known as secret societies, are occult in nature. The symbolism can be seen everywhere, if you choose not to maneuver your way through the world deaf, dumb and blind. And I believe that it has been that way for a very long time. As for them being Satanic, I suppose it depends upon how you define Satanic. I personally don’t believe the teachings of either Satanism or Christianity, which are really just opposite sides of the same coin. I don’t believe that there is a God or a devil, and I don’t believe that those on the upper rungs of the ladder on either side believe so either. These are belief systems that are used to manipulate the minds of impressionable followers. In the case of Satanism, it is, to me, a way to covertly sell a fascist mindset, which is the direction the country, and the rest of the world, is moving. Those embracing the teachings think they are rebelling against the system, but they are in reality reinforcing it. Just as the hippies did. And just as so-called Patriots and Anarchists are. I don’t believe there has been a legitimate resistance movement in this country for a very long time.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. What is this new book’s central thesis?

David McGowan: To the extent that it has a central thesis, I would say that it is that the music and counterculture scene that sprung to life in the 1960s was not the organic, grassroots resistance movement that it is generally perceived to be, but rather a movement that was essentially manufactured and steered. And a corollary to that would be that for a scene that was supposed to be all about peace, love and understanding, there was a very dark, violent underbelly that this book attempts to expose.

Thomas McGrath: How convinced are you by it and why?

David McGowan: Very convinced. It’s been a long journey and virtually everything I have discovered – including the military/intelligence family backgrounds of so many of those on the scene, both among the musicians and among their actor counterparts; the existence of a covert military facility right in the heart of the canyon; the prior connections among many of the most prominent stars; the fact that some of the guiding lights behind both the Rand Corporation and the Project for a New American Century were hanging out there at the time, as were the future governor and lieutenant governor of California, and, by some reports, J. Edgar Hoover and various other unnamed politicos and law enforcement personnel; and the uncanny number of violent deaths connected to the scene – all tend to indicate that the 1960s counterculture was an intelligence operation.

Thomas McGrath: You propose that hippie culture was established to neutralise the anti-war movement. But I also interpreted your book as suggesting that, as far as you’re concerned, there’s also some resonance between what you term “psychedelic occultism” (the hippie counterculture) and the “elite” philosophy/theology? You think this was a second reason for its dissemination?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. Hippie culture is now viewed as synonymous with the anti-war movement, but as the book points out, that wasn’t always the case. A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene, along with a women’s rights movement, a black empowerment/Black Panther movement, and various other movements aimed at bringing about major changes in society. All of that was eclipsed by and subsumed by the hippies and flower children, who put a face on those movements that was offensive to mainstream America and easy to demonize. And as you mentioned, a second purpose was served as well – indoctrinating the young and impressionable into a belief system that serves the agenda of the powers that be.

Thomas McGrath: One thing your book does very convincingly, I think, is argue that many if not most of the main movers in the sixties counterculture were, not to put too fine a point on it, horrendous, cynical degenerates. However, one might argue that a predilection for drugs, alcohol, and even things like violence and child abuse, does not make you a member of a government cult. You disagree?

David McGowan:  No. I’ve known a lot of people throughout my life with a predilection for drugs and alcohol, none of whom were involved in any cults, government or otherwise. And I don’t believe that a predilection for drugs makes one a degenerate. The focus on drug use in the book is to illustrate the point that none of the scene’s movers and shakers ever suffered any legal consequences for their rampant and very open use of, and sometimes trafficking of, illicit drugs. The question posed is why, if these people were really challenging the status quo, did the state not use its law enforcement powers to silence troublemakers? I do have zero tolerance for violence towards and abuse of children, which some people in this story were guilty of. But that again doesn’t make someone a member of a cult – though it does make them seriously morally challenged.

Thomas McGrath: You say in the book that you were always a fan of sixties music and culture. Weirdly, I found that, even while reading Weird Scenes, I was almost constantly listening to the artists you were denouncing. I mean, I found albums like Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, Return of the Grievous Angel,et al sounded especially weird in the context, but I still couldn’t resist sticking them on. I was wondering if you still listen to these records yourself?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. The very first rock concert I ever attended was Three Dog Night circa 1973 – a Laurel Canyon band, though I did not know that until about five years ago. To my mind, the greatest guitarist who ever lived was Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin was arguably the finest female vocalist – in terms of raw power and emotion – to ever take the stage. I don’t know that it is accurate to describe my book as “denouncing” various artists. Brian Wilson, who composed Pet Sounds, is described as the finest and most admired composer of his generation. The guys from Love, architects of Forever Changes, are presented as among the most talented musicians of the era. Frank Zappa is acknowledged as an immensely talented musician, composer and arranger. And so on. It is true that I believe that some of the most famed artists to emerge from Laurel Canyon are vastly overrated, with Jim Morrison and David Crosby quickly coming to mind. And it’s true that on some of the most loved albums that came out of the canyon, the musicians who interpreted the songs weren’t the ones on the album covers. And it’s also true that, unlike other books that have covered the Laurel Canyon scene, Weird Scenes doesn’t sugarcoat things. But the undeniable talent and artistry of many of the canyon’s luminaries is acknowledged. And the book also shines a little bit of light on some of the tragically forgotten figures from that era, like Judee Sill and David Blue, which could lead to readers rediscovering some of those artists and the talents that they had to offer.
Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream is available now in special pre-release hardback only from Headpress. The paperback is out next month, and should be available from all strange bookshops.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Beyond the Doors: Conspiracy theories about the deaths of Jimi, Janis and Jim

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Jim Morrison in diapers
12:14 am

Pop Culture

Jim Morrison

The Lizard King at the tender age of three.

“Killer on the road.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Jim Morrison declares ‘Fat is beautiful’ 1969
10:06 am


Jim Morrison
Howard Smith

A “meatier” Jim Morrison by Andrew Kent, 1969

“I felt like a tank, you know, I felt like a large mammal. A big beast. When I moved through the corridors, or across the lawn, I just feel like I could knock anybody out of my way, you know? I was SOLID, man! It’s terrible to be thin and wispy, because, you know, because you could get knocked over by a strong wind or something, man.”

An animated version of a 1969 interview Jim Morrison did with Howard Smith in Los Angeles. The Lizard King discusses his college diet, how he once weighed 185 lbs and proclaims oh so poetically that “fat is beautiful.”

Then he challenges Smith to arm wrestle!

Animation by Patrick Smith. This is pretty genius.

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘You Forget to Answer’: Nico sings about Jim Morrison on French TV, 1972
12:34 pm


Jim Morrison
Danny Fields

In one of her very few televised appearances, Nico performs “You Forget to Answer” on French TV’s POP2 program in 1972. The songs’s cryptic lyrics convey the despair the avant garde ice queen felt over hearing of the death of her former lover Jim Morrison and how she was unable to reach him by phone on the day he died. It would eventually appear on her 1974 album The End, which takes its title, of course, from her infamously doomy cover of the already infamously doomy Doors’ original.

Talk about low budget, it looks like they’ve got her singing in a rec room or something, here, but still, once she gets started, it’s like she blots outs everything else and pulls this remarkable, spine-tingling black musical shadow from deep within her desolate junkie soul.

In case it passed you by, last November Universal Music Group put out an expanded 2 CD edition of The End and it sounds a lot better than the old CD does (comparing the two, it sounds like the earlier “budget” disc that Island put out in 1994 wasn’t even mastered for CD). I’ve gotten massively into this album over the past few months, playing it from start to finish on headphones in the darkness (the way it was obviously meant to heard) dozens of times.

Produced and arranged by John Cale and featuring Brian Eno (doing some astonishing things on his VCS3 synthesizer) and Phil Mananzera, The End is clearly not for everybody—or even most, or even many, people when you get right down to it—but to my ears, the new deluxe set, with outtakes, OGWT performances (audio only), Peel sessions and her controversial take on “Das Lied Der Deutschen” from the June 1st, 1974 concert (If Jimi Hendrix could play “The Star Spangled Banner,” why couldn’t Nico perform the German national anthem?) makes for one of the most satisfying releases of the past 12 months.

Below, Dangerous Minds pal Danny Fields tells the “meet cute” story of how he introduced Nico and the Lizard King at The Castle in Los Angeles.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lester Bangs invocation of the Lizard King
01:19 am


Jim Morrison
Lester Bangs

Lester Bangs wrote this defense of Jim Morrison back in 1981 for Creem Magazine. He wrote it to remind people of the indelible mark Morrison had made on rock ‘n’ roll and the reach of his influence. Hard to believe it had to be stated, but glad that Lester made the case.

Fat lot Robert Christgau knows about rock and roll. The emperor’s jimmies got the final bronzetone about two years ago when, flesh no doubt nuzzling up the McGarrigles he wrote off The Doors in an “I Remember 1967” Consumer Guide Extra, “Not getting around it - Jim Morrison sounds like an asshole.”

One thing’s sure: Patti Smith wasn’t whispering dictation in Big Bob’s ear when that particular thunderbolt clattered down from on high. Whatever else you might say about her, Patti Smith’s always paid downright somber homage where due to all our sweet boppin’ daddies. Jimbo, Hendrix, Arthur Lee – wherever a stiff drops, there’s Pats hawking memento mori samplers. As well she should, because without Jim she might well have ended up spouting her rocksy poesy in quatrains redolent of Leonard Cohen burrowing his doddering peepnose ‘neath schoolgirls skirts. Which of course wouldn’t have birthed any kind of phoenix.

Think about it. Without Jim Morrison no Patti, but what’s more or less no Iggy perhaps no Bryan Ferry in his least petit-bonbonned moments. Without Iggy, of course, no punk rock renaissance at all, which means obviously that Jim was the real father of all that noise, because if you wanted to look at it as cynically as Ig deserves after The Idiot you could even say that all his whole career amounted to was one frenetic attempt to prove he was as mucho macho as the Lizard King. When, as we all know, Jim was such a complete Man he could even brag about his impotence!

Just ask Dotson Rader if you believe anything he says anymore, or better yet check out Jim’s new spoken poetry with Manzarek overdubs album, An American Prayer, the best recitative sluice of American literature on LP since Call Me Burroughs, and hell, even Burroughs never had the sheer nerve to lead with “All join now and lament the death of my cock.” In a way Jim was really the end of the Masculine Mystique as celebrated American culture up to and through rock ‘n’ roll, because unlike clowns like John Kay or indeed any of his progeny, he was a maters of the sly inflectional turn, so that his every utterance no matter how repetitious rolled out oozing irony and sanity.

Who further to say that he finally showed the fans his weenie in Florida he was not oh-so bemusedly letting them in on the cosmodemonic comedy the whole thing boiled down to, the understanding of which he’d been considerate enough to spare them up to then because he respected virgins as much as the next good Irish Catholic boy? Who’s to say the “bubble gum” / “parody” in the third and fourth Doors albums, so dismaying to early believers, was not entirely intentional, premeditated, one juncture in a vast strategy of liberation? A strategy scripted from day one to ultimately reveal that not only did machismo equal bozo in drag, but furthermore that all rock stars were nothing more than huge oafus cartoons ( more New Wave foreshadowing!), that in fact these games of both “Poet” and “Shaman” were just two more gushers of American snakeoil. He knew! And now, eons later, so do we.

This album proves what the emergence of Patti Smith had given us reason to hope: that beatnick poetry is not dead. Jim’s whiskey breathed wordslinging varooms on, not only in Patti Smith, but in Richard Hell and maybe even Bruce Springsteen if he’d ever get down with the greasemonkies he talks about. Fuck the James Taylors, not to mention the Warren Zevons, who may wave brave handguns but are pure pseudo Randy Newman mannerism. Jim’s violence is cool school: “Hey, listen, man I really got a problem. When I was out on the desert, ya know, I don’t know how to tell you, but, ah, I killed somebody. No…it’s no big deal, ya know. I don’t think anybody will find out about it, but, ah…Let your children play… this guy gave me a a ride, ah ah, If you give this man a ride…started giving me a lot of trouble, sweet family will die, and I just couldn’t take it, ya know? Killer on the road And I wasted him, Yeah.”

I’d like to see Charles Bukowski beat that – “A .45 To Pay The Rent,” indeed! Why even bother playing the fucking rent, when Jim understands the single kernel of no mind koan-truth that eluded both philosophers and poets (not to mention P. Smith) over the centuries: that death is about as serious as anything else we diddle our imaginations with. Or at least that our attempts to rationalize it are beautifully, lovingly funny. Anybody who thinks this stuff just dope-noggined gibberish oughta recheck Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues and “Old Angel Midnight” of the extra opiom-ated latter pages of Lautreamont’s Maidoror. Or Patti’s Babel, for that matter. All those benighted verbiage-vectors went on at ridiculous length about the tragic communication of sex and death: Jim was hip to the comedy implicit in romantic obsessor: “I pressed her thigh and death smiled. Death, old friend. Death and my cock are the word…Hey man, you want girls, pills, grass? C’mon…I show you a good time…”

Sociology? “He’s rich, got a big car.” God-stuff? “We could plan a murder or start a religion. Guru’s questions answered? “Will you die for me? Eat me.” Allen Ginsberg hasn’t written anything this good in 20 years almost. The Beats meant to bring poetry back to the street’s and the guttermind of the people at large, and they succeeded: they gave birth to Jim Morrison, a giant resplendent in the conviction that stardom my guarantee Chivas Regal till you drown, but to clown is divine and ultimately sexy.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘First Love’: Jim Morrison’s UCLA film from 1964

In 1964, Jim Morrison made the short film First Love as part of his UCLA Film course. This version has been re-cut to The Doors track “The Spy” by Nuno Monteiro, which fits rather well.

Bonus - alternative version of Morrison’s film after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
An outstanding documentary on The Doors
02:26 pm


Jim Morrison

Morrison in Paris two months before his death.

Jim Morrison died 41 years ago. today. Here’s a fine documentary on The Doors to commemorate this sad day in rock history.

People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend.” Jim Morrison

Tom DiCillo’s When You’re Strange narrated by Johnny Depp.

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For those about to rock: Pop stars in their youth





From top to bottom: Freddie Mercury, Shane MacGowan, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison and David Bowie.


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The Doors: Soundstage Performances 1967-69

A little something for a Sunday, 3 excellent showcases from The Doors recorded in Toronto, Denmark and New York between 1967 and 1969. With introductions and interviews with Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger.

Track listing:

Toronto 1967
01. “The End”
Performance Europe 1968 - Denmark TV
02. “Whiskey Bar”
03. “Back Door Man”
04. “Love Me Two Times”
05. “When The Music´s Over
06. “Unknown Soldier”
New York 1968 PBS ‘Critique’ 1969
07. “Follow Me Down”
08. “Whiskey Bar”
09. “Back Door Man”
10. “Wishful Sinful”
11. “Build Me A Woman”
Critique  interview with The Doors
12. “The Soft Parade”

Now let’s all have a good week!


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Pissing on Jim Morrison’s grave

Ray Manzarek desperately attempts to resurrect the 40 year old corpse of Jim Morrison.
Yesterday, on the 40th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger played a Doors gig after visiting Morrison’s grave site at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Fronted by one of the band’s endless series of faux Lizard Kings, Morrison look-a-like David Brock of Doors cover band Wild Child, Manzarek and Krieger did their best to remind anyone watching why their music careers have been utterly insignificant since Morrison died. John Densmore had the good taste and wisdom to not attend.

Advice to Manzarek: stop pissing on your legacy. I know your Muse - and cash cow- abandoned you when Jim checked out in that bathtub but your determination to milk every last drop out of the Doors’ legacy has been arrogant, pathetic and shameless. If you must perform, call up the former members of your Doors knock-off Nite City. They could probably use the work. And Ian Astbury has probably got some holes in his Cult tour schedule. Every time you drag out another version of The Doors, you remind us all of how utterly empty the band is without Jim’s voice and presence.

Last night in Paris, the “Doors” played “Riders On The Storm” with all of the conviction of a jaded lounge band eternally grinding it out in a Ramada Inn somewhere in Hell. May the wrath of the ghost of the Lizard King be upon them.

“When the music’s over
Turn out the lights”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Jim Morrison does his Bill Murray impression
12:16 am


Jim Morrison
Bill Murray

The Lizard King has an epiphany and starts channeling Bill Murray…all the way from the future.

Great minds meld outside of time. Can ya dig pure unbounded joy?

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Free Jim Morrison! Florida Gov. Crist may pardon the Lizard King for 40 year old non-crime

The Hill blog reports that outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist is considering pardoning Jim Morrison for a crime that was most likely never committed.

In his last two months in office, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is considering a December surprise: a posthumous pardon for Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, for indecent exposure charges after an infamous 1969 Miami concert. In a phone interview with The Hill, Crist said “stay tuned” regarding the idea of a posthumous pardon for the singer who died in Paris in 1971.  Crist said he won’t make the decision lightly, noting the many complexities surrounding the 41-year-old case. Numerous sound recordings from the show exist, for example, but Morrison’s defenders say none of the scores of photographs from the show prove the exposure charge. “We would have to look into all of that,” Crist said.

Archival footage of Morrison’s Miami trial (no sound).

Via The Daily Swarm


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Jim Morrison’s Film Debut

Before attending UCLA to study film, The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison was a student at Florida State University, where he studied art and psychology. It was during his stint at FSU that Morrison appeared in a promotional film, called Florida State University - Towards a Greater University. Even in this little clip, the teenage Morrison exudes the sullen charisma that would later make him a star.

A fellow student, Gerry McLain recalls the young Lizard King:

AL: How did you meet Jim Morrison?

GM: I was a film student at FSU. At that time, the department consisted of two people: myself and Werner Vagt who ran the operation. There were no formal classes. Werner made short films for the university and some outside clients. He had been a director in Germany. Jim Morrison appeared in a short we did for United Way. As I recall, he walked to a mailbox and mailed a letter.


With thanks to Maria Guimil

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
William Burroughs does Jim Morrison: ‘Is Everybody In’

Burroughs reads Morrison’s ‘Is Everybody In’ on this track from Doors tribute album ‘Stoned Immaculate’ released in 2000. The surviving Doors provided the music. 

Bill Burroughs, the originator of the mashup.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Thirty-nine years gone, Jim Morrison predicted electronic soul—but not Plunderphonicized Doors…

Detroit techno soldier Monty Luke hepped me to this rather remarkable clip from an unnamed American music show in 1969. It seems apropos since last week marked the 39th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death, and his ghost still haunts what once was the Doors Workshop in Los Angeles. Below, the LizKing notes that music in the future “might rely heavily on electronics and tapes” and feature performers “using machines.”

You think he figured that electronic music geniuses like John Oswald a.k.a. Plunderphonics would have such a blast blowing out the Doors, as shown in the fan video after the jump?


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment