Riders Jump the Shark

Hi, I’m Kerrin Revell, welcome to my journey of thought, which today is about the Riders on the Storm music video by the Doors.

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Doors album: L. A. Woman. The final album with Jim Morrison whilst he was still alive. To mark the occasion, the band have released a 50th anniversary edition and a brand-new music video for Riders on the Storm.

As a fan and collector for around thirty years now, the creation of a new music video had me very excited, to say the least. Sadly, this is the first time The Doors have let me down and my brain is squirming like a toad.

The video appears to be made by people with only a passing knowledge of the band, who included a few tips of the hat to the fans, in a failed attempt to keep us happy. Such as Morrison hangouts, Barney’s Beanery (which, as an aside, is worth visiting and having a meal at, trust me) and the Alta Cienega Hotel.

The video begins with a woman loosely tethered to a power pole while some lightning appears around her. This is the first nod to the past and the L.A. Woman album. In the original pressing of the album, there was a yellow insert which had a naked woman crucified on a power pole. The woman in the video is clothed, which I think is a mistake as they should have tried to stick closer to the original image. It could have been lit in an artistic way so you wouldn’t see any, as Monty Python would call them “naughty bits”, or just be bold and show the nudity. In Ray Manzarek’s (Doors’ keyboardist) L.A. Woman music video from the 80’s there was nudity, so why not? And anyway, what are the Doors without a bit of controversy? I do think it was interesting to begin with the heroine being crucified, albeit in a lackluster manner.

I should take a moment here to mention that Jim Morrison wrote a movie about serial killer hitchhiker in the desert and made a movie with Doors’ photographer and insider Paul Ferrara in 1969 called HWY: An American Pastoral (which deserves an official release but that’s another post). Parts of the lyrical imagery from Riders on the Storm reflect the movie, which the makers of this video appear to be riffing off.

Which brings me to my next gripe: why, oh why, when there is so much desert available in and around California, was this shot on green screen? Step outside, it’s right there! Use it! Not only will this look more authentic but will be less work in post-production too. It appears to not have even been made in California, which could be why they didn’t go to the desert, but that just creates more questions about the production.

CGI plays quite a large role here too, and not good CGI either. For instance, there is a man, who appears to be the “killer on the road” who morphs into a lizard… or a toad? No, a fish! No, wait… an alien? The jury is still out on that one. Anyway he is in two shots and is seemingly defeated by a couple of cliché sexy poses by the heroine.

Some more CGI introduces us to (for no real reason) an Adam and Eve-esque couple who are making out a few times and then aren’t seen again. And there is a shot which I am sure I have seen in the movie ‘Frozen’.

Along the roadside there are CGI glowing mushrooms and other such stuff, which are supposed to give it a dreamy or surreal feeling. The Doors music can sure sound surreal at times, as can the lyrics but this just doesn’t work here. It looks like a quick scene between levels on a video game more than a music video.

The Doors are from the 60’s and 70’s and, naturally, that’s how the majority of their videos look. Being cut from actual concert footage etc from the time definitely helps a great deal with that, of course. So maybe this is an attempt to market to a younger crowd? I have to question that reasoning though as the Doors have consistently appealed well to younger fans for decades now, with no need to “modernize” them and I see no need for them to do so. Even the music videos made in the ultra-cheesy 80’s don’t stand out as badly as this one.

The other issue with the video is that the visuals don’t match the feel of the song. It’s a spooky, dark, melancholy, brooding song, whereas the visuals are too clear, clean, smooth and light. There is one section which is quite nice, where we see the heroine seemingly lost in the darkness with colours swirling around, but this is over too quickly and is out of style from the rest of the video. It’s a shame they didn’t start with that and grow the idea from that.

There seems to be some technical issues with it as well. The video seems to momentarily stall now and then, which could have been a rendering problem and should have been picked up before it was released.

The majority of the rest of the video is the heroine posing on top of a very static motorcycle as the “scenery” races by. Hardly enthralling stuff.

The song, of course, is as great as ever… even if it is an edited version. If you aren’t familiar with the song then you won’t notice but I found it jarring. That of course is their call and not the first time we have had an edited version of a song in a music video from the Doors.

I just can’t believe this was made with The Doors approval. I see their legacy as high art which will be appreciated for a long time, much like Mozart and Bach. The lyrics, whether written by Morrison or Robby Krieger (guitarist), are pure poetry and the music being the perfect equivalent. Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were both graduates from UCLA, where they studied film. Sadly they are both gone now and I have to wonder if something like this would have even passed the storyboarding stage if one or both were still around. Drummer John Densmore sued Ray and Robby over artistic integrity and now we get this? Come on guys, if this is what it has come to, you might as well let car companies use your music in commercials.

Into this world the music video has been thrown… and we should throw it back.

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