Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971 by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
It’s funny to be writing a review of an anthology of musings on now legendary albums on the same day I read a review of a Nine Inch Nails concert where the writer (from the Associated Press, no less) said the highlight of the evening was the show stopping encore – “a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt.'” The review didn’t bother to research that the song was in fact a Nine Inch Nails song! For now, let’s forgive that horrible oversight and jump in the time machine. Let’s go back, way back, to the late 1960s when new music sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before and each week saw the release of a mind-blowing album. Enter Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Her book “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” is a collection of her reviews from the golden age of rock and roll. For those of us that weren’t around in this heyday, Patricia sets the stage by describing the times. From free records and free love to gaining back stage access and overcoming rampant sexism in the industry, Patricia was lucky enough to have some incredible stories and even better – she got paid to write about them!
In music today, when talking about artists, the first words that come to mind are “sounds like [insert classic band name here].” In the late 1960s, you had to be a lot smarter because the music that was being released often sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before (or since!). Keeping these thoughts in mind, reading her reviews of records such as “Cheap Thrills” by Big Brother and the Holding Company are even more essential as she dissects the nuances of how the songs sound on the album versus how they were performed in concert, an experience many of us would kill to have had. In the end, she recommends the album by telling the reader, “it’s wild, it’s exciting, it’s exuberant as hell, and it loves you.”
As if it weren’t enough to try and explain Janis Joplin to people that may not have been familiar with her music at the time, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison also had the formidable task of reviewing “The White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” by The Beatles. Having lived in a world where those albums always existed, I found myself setting “Rock Chick” down many times to just close my eyes and imagine a time where these legendary recordings were being heard for the first time. By today’s standards, you could not say that every cut on each album is anything but essential (except “Octopus’ Garden,” which has not gotten better with age), but at the time, she explains her honest feelings on “The White Album” – “the first time I heard it, I thought it was spectacular, then I thought it was dismal. Now I think I won’t think about it, but just dig it, because more than anything it is a happy album.” She rightly compares the tensions of the songs on “Let It Be,” to the sound of creaky floor boards about to cave in from the pressure and further goes on to state that the album might as well be called “Rest In Peace.”
“Rock Chick” isn’t all about album reviews, however. Patricia wrote about her experiences at Woodstock, going to music events with the art elite (read: art snobs) at the Whitney Museum (some things never change!), critical analysis of the changing times (foreshadowing the dismal state of music today) both for women and the music industry, rants about the rising cost of ticket prices (to $10 at the time – oh, to be so lucky now!) and interviewing future legends such as Jeff Beck. Her reviews are peppered with after thoughts, written specifically for the book, that put into context what was happening at the time, both in her personal life as well as the politics of the magazine, which brings us to perhaps the most important reviews she wrote – those of The Doors. If you are unfamiliar with Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, you are about to find out where the Morrison in her name originates.
Getting to interview The Doors on a trip to New York as they were recording their most left of center record (and perhaps my favorite), “The Soft Parade,” Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy really hit it off, to put it mildly. This is where “Rock Chick” and Kennealy-Morrison’s autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison” fits in perfectly as a companion book. “Strange Days” elaborates on the romance and ultimate wedding of Jim and Patricia and we get to be flies on the wall for some of the most epic stories in rock and roll. Despite their relationship, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison had no problem calling The Doors out on a weak track and refused to write a glossy review of Jim Morrison’s first poetry books “The Lords and The New Creatures,” to placate her lover. She goes on to explain that Jim appreciated her honesty and in fact felt that her review was constructive criticism and as Patricia points out, a marriage proposal followed several days after the publication of the article, so clearly the artist valued her journalistic integrity. “Rock Chick” also features her reviews of “Morrison Hotel,” “The Soft Parade,” “13” and “Absolutely Live.” Kennealy-Morrison had left Jazz & Pop prior to the release of “LA Woman,” so no review is included, but again some of the behind the scenes stories of “LA Woman” are featured in “Strange Days.”
The times changed and Patricia Kennealy-Morrison moved on from Jazz & Pop to become a copywriter for RCA Records, getting to work with and write ad campaigns for David Bowie, The Kinks and Lou Reed, just to name a few artists. Ultimately, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison would go on to write 14 other books (with more on the way): the science-fantasy series “The Keltiad” as well as “The Rock and Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries,” of which she drew inspiration from her real life experiences in ‘the biz,’ as well as her autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.”
Flash forward to present day. We live in a world where music is instantly forgettable and reviews are often more tedious and pretentious than the music itself. Books like “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison are living proof that it was not always that way – far from it, actually.
Birthday greetings go out to Patricia Kennealy-Morrison who celebrates her special day on March 4. Patricia has lived the life that many of us have all wanted to live. She was a successful music critic in the golden age of Rock and Roll – the era that saw the debut of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the psychedelic Beatles and of course, The Doors. One thing led to another and Patricia and The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison got handfasted (the Wiccan equivalent of marriage). Patricia chronicles these amazing adventures in her book Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison. After Jim’s death, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison has gone on to write many successful sci-fi/fantasy and mystery novels, including the eight volume series, The Keltiad, which is about Celtic legends in outer space as well as the Rennie Stride Mysteries. She has been knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and writes a popular blog called Mrs. Morrison’s Hotel. Through the magic of the internet, I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with Patricia a little bit and like her books, she’s smart, quick witted and very funny! Keep your fingers crossed that one day soon, you’ll see a photo of Patricia and I in the “Encounters with G” column. Until then, happy birthday, Patricia!
On January 24, 2011, Theophilus London performed at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. He raps, he sings, he dances! His debut album will be out in February and judging from his live performance, it sounds like it’s going to be a must have album. Click play and get your groove on!
Strange Days by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Out Now!!!
There have been countless books written about Jim Morrison, the exploits and the music of The Doors. He was even immortalized in a movie (or extremely long music video with dialogue as I like to think of it). The other day was the 40th wedding anniversary of Jim and his wife Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Wife?
For those that know little about The Doors, here’s what you need to know prior to reading Strange Days – My Life With And Without Jim Morrison by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison: Jim Morrison, lead singer of the rock group The Doors, while known amongst the Facebook generation as a drugged out rock star, was actually an extremely intelligent and well read person. The guy read (and understood) William Blake and Rimbaud at the age of 16, wrote down the lyrics of concerts that he heard in his head by his early 20s and was a world famous sex symbol by the age of 24. Even under societal pressure and under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the guy still wrote the lyrics for 6 albums worth of music, performed hundreds of concerts across the US and Europe, wrote 3 poetry books and directed a film in the short span of 4 years, and all before his death at age 27. What people don’t know is that he was also married (actually the correct term is “handfasted”) to a witch during the last 3 years of his life. For the spiritually illiterate, a witch is not the Disney-version image that instantly pops into your head when you hear that term, and instead is a celebration of oneness with the divine and all that exists.
That brings us to Strange Days. In 1969 on a tour of New York, Jim Morrison had a one-on-one interview with then rock journalist Patricia Kennealy. Their discussion resulted in a mutual respect for each other’s brains but also beauty. Over the course of the next 3 years, Kennealy and Morrison kept in touch and saw each other whenever possible (which was quite a lot). From all the other books you might read on Jim Morrison, written by people who didn’t even know him, he is only portrayed as a raging alcoholic/druggie to which all people around enabled his addictions. All except one – Patricia Kennealy. Patricia, a smart and successful woman in her own right, knew and loved a Jim Morrison that no one ever talks about, most likely because as the nightly news has proven, stories of horrible things get better ratings than stories of good things. Strange Days depicts a Jim Morrison that found a partner who met his match – mentally and physically – in Patricia Kennealy, and the stories of their adventures together are a necessary but often missing piece of the puzzle, when it comes to biographies on the man.
Jim and Patricia fell in love and they decided to celebrate their love for each other in a handfasting ceremony (which is the Wiccan equivalent of getting married). While this spiritual gesture is better for the soul, it’s not formally recognized by the state of New York. What is most interesting about this ritual than “legal marriage,” is that death does not part, but only lack of love. Patricia finds out she is pregnant with Jim’s child and due to all kinds of impossible circumstances (an obscenity trial, a junkie on-again/off-again girlfriend, Jim flat-out admitting he did not want to have a baby, nor could he or would he take care of it), has an abortion. After the experience, on a visit to see Jim in Los Angeles, Patricia tells the story of an encounter with Pam Courson, known in most Doors mythology as Jim’s “main squeeze.” Guess who comes home during that encounter? The book is worth the cover price just for that story alone as it is truly amazing. I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll have to read the book, but trust me – it’s worth it! There are also stories of Patricia’s experience at Woodstock and seeing some of the most amazing bands of all time at venues that are beyond legendary. Kennealy also recounts her experiences with a Jim Morrison that I mentioned at the beginning of this article – a sensitive man who was brilliant far beyond his years. It’s baffling that everyone overlooks this side of him, but luckily for us, it is revealed by someone who not only knew him, but knew him better than most. We can thank the Creator that because Kennealy is a writer, she kept detailed journals of her experiences.
On a personal level, it was great for me to read Strange Days again because the last time I read it, I was living in Los Angeles and New York was a foreign place to me. Now that I live here, I was able to connect with so many of the locales in Strange Days where Jim and Patricia spent time together. Again, Kennealy reveals a key piece of the puzzle that is generally glossed over in other biographies. When Morrison dies, even though we all knew it was coming, it’s like learning the information for the first time. Patricia writes in a way that transcends the fact that Jim was a public figure and instead, we are reading the intimate portrait of a man loving a woman (and vice versa).
After Jim’s death in 1971, Kennealy has gone on to write many successful sci-fi/fantasy and mystery novels, including the eight volume series, The Keltiad, which is about Celtic legends in outer space as well as the Rennie Stride Mysteries. She has been knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and writes a popular blog called Mrs. Morrison’s Hotel. Strange Days as well as The Keltiad and the Rennie Stride Mysteries are all available now! And many happy returns to the Morrisons!