Instead of The Doors, it sounded like Jim Morrison with an orchestra. When Morrison Hotel came around with Roadhouse Blues, I think a lot of our old fans were back on board with us. The whole trial thing was hanging over his head and all that. He wasn't feeling too well health-wise.
I remember him coughing and spitting up blood, probably from smoking too many cigarettes. But in my mind, Jim was indestructible.
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I thought he'd be drinking a fifth of whiskey a day until he was 90 years old. Guess I misjudged that…". Still together after all these years: Manzarek and Krieger in When he went to France, was the general idea that he'd go chill out for a while? We were happy for him, too. We thought, God, he needs that. Maybe he'll come back and he'll be fine, you know? I never thought this was going to be his last album. Had Jim lived, where do you think the band would have gone musically post-LA Woman?
Jim was really getting into the blues. In one of our songs, he sings, 'I'm an old blues king. Blues and jazz - both of which are part of our roots anyway. In the early '70s, bands like Yes and ELP were getting big - progressive rock with very long, complex arrangements. Well, you never know, we might have done that, too. We could've gone that way. He's got such a unique swing to his playing. How was he feeling about the band then? He was vocal about his displeasure with Jim….
A lot of times he was on the verge of quitting. But he always liked playing the music with us. I think it was a two-edge sword with him. Through it all, he was definitely the drummer for The Doors.
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Nobody could have done the things that he did musically. Jim was really into the blues. Jim liked all kinds of music. It was something on one of the FM stations, and it was that little thing I did on Texas Radio - 'da-daa-dupp! Maybe if the guy who wrote that song calls me, I'll give him some money. It worked out pretty well. Mark knew what he was supposed to do. I thought he did a great job. At first, Jerry started copying Ray's left hand, but that didn't work, so he came up with a cool thing.
And he was with Elvis Presley at the time, so the part he played reminds me of Burning Love. On some of the songs, when Jim didn't know what to sing, he would look in his poetry books and get ideas from that.
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This time, he came up with that stuff about LA and an 'LA woman. It's slower, but your main guitar figure is almost identical. I probably wouldn't have done it if I would've thought about it. What guitars did you use on the album? You played an SG Standard on most records, but occasionally there were a few other ones.
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In fact, Gibson's going to be making a copy of that guitar pretty soon. In those days, the Twins had JBL speakers, and you could get a really clear sound out of them. If you played really loud, though, they would break up really nice.
So you could have the best of both worlds. They were very reliable amps, and I just liked the way they sounded on recordings. I had a Maestro Fuzztone, which I used, but other than that… let me think Shifting to the present, the song you guys did with Skrillex, how did that come about? They had a guy play with a classical group, they had a guy play with a jazz group, somebody played with blues, and we were the rock one. I wasn't sure how it was all going to work, really. Apparently, they put it out in England, and it's number one right now, so I guess people like it.
At first, he had some beat he was doing, and I dug it. Ray didn't; he was like, 'What the hell are you doing, man? Try it like this! It's cool. But it's more organic sounding than most electronic music. I think he draws from all sorts of music. He's pretty plugged into what kids like right now - I don't know why. He's just this kid from the Valley who started putting his stuff out on the internet, and it clicked with the kids.
So we developed laminated magnets. We built our magnets out of sheets of thin iron put together to produce a laminate. To begin with, a run would produce about metres of paper from the pen recorder, with peaks all over it. Up till then, the only way you could communicate with computers was by means of a typewriter or a Flexowriter and results came back on sheets of computer paper. But then Digital produced a new kind of computer called a PDP8 that allowed you to get voltages out of your computer instead. So you could tell it to scan a voltage and instead of numbers, a time dependent voltage would come out.
I was very lucky: the Australian Research Grants Committee gave me a small computer and, with that, we first of all managed to make it control our magnet sweep; then we got it to record the ion peaks and measure up their heights; and then it assigned a mass scale to them and wrote it all into memory. What could we do to interpret the data?
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By that time, mass spectrometrists all over the world had gathered mass spectrum information for about 20, molecules. So we had a catalogue of mass spectra and we managed to put this all on to a disc of the computer. We then found, if a new unknown was fed to it, it would run a pattern recognition program and, in 10 seconds, you could scan 20, mass spectra and identify one—if it was there in the catalogue.
We still had the unknowns, those molecules that the mass spectrometer had never seen before. What do you do with them? This is when we got an idea!
We managed to write some artificial intelligence programs that would take a completely unknown spectrum and tell us, within a matter of five seconds, everything that it could figure out about it. We were surprisingly successful with that; it worked quite well. Yes, there was another great discovery. A German, Professor Paul, discovered a kind of mass spectrometer called a quadrupole, which was an extremely simple instrument. With a quadrupole, you could scan a mass spectrum 50 times a second, which was a tremendous improvement.
We must have built 30 or 40 quadrupole mass spectrometers in the lab, they were so easy to build.
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And they worked much faster. But they worked by a different principle: not magnetic separation, but ion frequencies. During the time when all this interesting research was going on and all these marvellous results came out, La Trobe University, like all other universities, was in a very turbulent state with all the student riots and dope smoking—a very difficult environment.
Can you tell us a bit about how you survived that? It was mainly the humanities and sociology students with which we had most of our problems. David Myers, the vice-chancellor at La Trobe, asked me to design a university college for them and then to be its master and live in it for six years. So we had quite an experience. You see, HG Wells had always said that science would save the world; but having to deal with a population of something like people in the to year age group gave me a different story of what saving the world was going to be like. Yes, we managed it, although I must say that it was a blessed relief when I was invited for a while to go to stay at the University of Utah.
You see, there had been a very famous mass spectrometrist at Utah, Henry Eyring, and I must have made a good impression on Henry because they used to invite me back almost every year to Utah and I had made many friends there. It was a blessed relief to get away from our student problems to the much more conventional students of Utah, with the Mormons. I had been very lucky to make friends with an old prospector that I met in the deserts north of Salt Lake City, and he used to take me dinosaur hunting up into the San Rafael Swell, near Capitol Reef.
All of the most elegant dinosaurs lived in what was called the Morrison Formation, which intrigued this fellow very much.