Performer: The Doors
Songwriters: Jim Morrison, Robby Kreiger, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore
Original Release: The Doors
Definitive Version: None.
Another song that, based on the title alone, should be the final song on the list. When I did my 1999 list, The End was in the top 10, but it’s dropped a bit over the years. I don’t listen to it as much as I used to, although it still is a stunning song.
I suppose it’s impossible to hear this song and not think of Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola’s use of it in that movie—particularly the scenes where Martin Sheen is having his nervous breakdown—are unforgettable. As it would turn out, I have a story that involves Apocalypse Now.
I saw that movie for the first time when it showed up on Qube in 1981, but it actually wasn’t the first time I’d heard this song. That came a year before.
When I turned 16, as I might have mentioned, Mom turned over use of The Fart, her 1971 VW Squareback, and bought herself a new car, a Volkswagen Jetta. Not long after that, she got a wild hair—one of her last, I would suspect—to go on a roadtrip of colleges for me in Indiana. In retrospect, I wonder how much of the timing had to do with her imminent or current breakup with Roger (good ol’ No. 105). Probably a lot, now that I think about it.
Anyway, she, I and Scott just pretty much up and left for the weekend, without telling anyone, much to Dad’s later consternation. At the time, I didn’t see what the big deal was.
The weekend was OK. We drove to Ball State, Purdue and DePauw, just basically collecting information. Only DePauw had anyone actually at its recruitment office and had a cute female student give me a quick tour of the campus—a good strategy.
A few random memories of the trip stand out, such as when we ate dinner at the Holiday Inn restaurant in Richmond, Ind., and 8-year-old Scott put the folded up napkin from the table on his head, thinking it was a hat. But the thing I remember most about the trip was the music.
As we drove to Indiana, Mom let us stop and buy a couple of tapes to listen to in her car. I chose a Greatest Hits album by George Carlin and The Doors. Having recently awakened musically, I knew The Doors was a band I should like. I chose their eponymous first album due to Light My Fire, which I knew from the radio. (Mom, being clueless about rock music in general, thought it was a Jose Feliciano song, which it was, but I had to explain that The Doors did it originally.) In so doing, I discovered The End.
Fast forward a year. I was looking forward to seeing Apocalypse Now when trailers for it started showing up on Qube. Its debut was scheduled for December 1981, and when I saw it, whatever I’d thought about when hearing The End was irrevocably changed. Now, I think about how my best friend in high school broke my nose.
Wait … who did what? That was almost precisely the reaction Mike’s mother had when she heard what happened but in the opposite direction: “You hit who?”
Here’s what happened. Mike and I (and Steve and a few other guys in our crew) had second-period Physics our senior year. That meant that the first period was either a lab or—most of the time—study hall. We usually all met up in the learning center (formerly the library, but a new name to reflect this new technology called a computer that was there) to finish up homework blown off from the previous night but more often than not just shoot the breeze.
The last day before Christmas break, Mike wasn’t at the usual bull session. Instead, he was finishing up a paper he’d been stressed about, even pulling a near all-nighter the previous night. He finally showed up in between periods as we hung out outside the Physics room and showed his paper. It was done.
Well, being 17 and as full of crap as anyone—actually moreso, because I was 17—I decided to have a little fun at Mike’s expense. I gave his paper a quick karate chop, so I bent back the title page of his paper, as though to say, hey, it ain’t that big a deal.
But it WAS a big deal to Mike … in the moment. As everyone chuckled, Mike cussed and hit me on the shoulder, which only made me laugh more, because it seemed like we all were just kidding around. Mike wasn’t, and he cracked me a good shot right on the nose.
I was livid. What the Hell? I was about to return the favor when I saw blood dripping on the floor. Crap. I just said, “I hope you’re happy now” and wandered off to the nurse’s office.
Everyone said later that Mike was in a daze in class. He couldn’t believe what happened. Neither could I. I lay on a bed in the nurse’s office with a wad of tissue stuffed in my nose to stop the bleeding when the vice principal came in with Mike to see the extent of the damage. IMike was beside himself, but I wasn’t about to give him any show of conciliation.
The diagnosis was simple: My nose was bent way over to the right, because it was broken. I had to go to the hospital and have it set, which wasn’t one of the more pleasant experiences I’ve had.
Before they actually reset the bone, they gave me a local anesthetic that looked like what I imagined cocaine to look like—white crystals in a tiny spoon. Let me tell you, when they put that up against the membrane on the inside of my nose, I’ve never felt pain like that in my life—even when I was going through the events leading up to the removal of my gall bladder. If I ever had any interest in doing coke—and I never did—that killed it once and for all right there. It was so bad, they had to give me a shot of valium, because I had a deathgrip on the chair.
The actual setting was easy. Then they stuffed all this packing up my nostrils to hold the bone and cartilage in place. It made me want to do nothing but sneeze, and I couldn’t. All I’d do was tear up until the sensation passed. When I had the packing taken out a couple days later, that was a real relief.
As for Mike, he came over that night to see how I was doing. As soon as I saw him on my doorstep, even before he apologized for the first of about a thousand times, I’d already forgiven him. Hey, Apocalypse Now is about to start on Qube. Wanna come in and watch?
And that was the end of it as far as I was concerned. The school thought differently. Mike got in-school suspension for a week. I got three days lunch detention for having my nose where Mike put his fist. No, I was punished for being an instigator, which Mike thought was ridiculous. It wasn’t a big deal.
I’d love to tell you that Mike got an A on his paper, but he didn’t, so in a sense, I suffered a broken nose for nothing. Well, at least our crew got some humor out of the situation. For the next five years, Mike couldn’t do anything without someone saying, “Not in the face!”