If Jim Morrison was a conduit to things like William Blake, Antonin Artaud’s mad theatre, shamanism and Oedipal trances, then Dave Brock is the perpetuation of these things. Only Brock’s been at it far longer. In fact, his Wild Child was a tribute band when there was no such thing as tribute bands. He was playing the Whisky to wilder crowds than the Doors ever did. After 22 years, he still looks like the “surf-born Dionysus” that Morrison did in the mid-to-late 1960s, the “Light My Fire” days when he wore his Mexican wedding shirts and tight leather pants, crumpled over on stage after too many barbiturates.
There’s something to be said about this kind of longevity—something Jim couldn’t say himself, since he kicked over at 27 years old after burning the candle at both ends for too long. And Brock figured out that the art of imitation is learning to avoid emulation.
“You know what, Jim only lasted four years doing it and I couldn’t possibly live up to that,” he says. “It’s a standing rule in our band that nobody can be wasted. It’s not good for the show. There are people paying good money to see us, so we need to be the best we can be. And you can’t do that when you’re high. But there are plenty of people who come to see us who are high.”
Wild Child played its first show on July 3, 1986, 15 years to the day after Morrison died in Paris. The show was held at the Whisky and was a “triple sellout”—they turned the room three times that night. Like all great mysterious beginnings, Wild Child came about by complete accident. Brock, a Long Beach State student at the time, heard a radio commercial with the legendary Bill Gazzarri grumbling about the Jim Morrison Rock Opera, and showed up to the time and place thinking he was there to watch the show. It turned out to be an audition for the role of Morrison in the Opera, put on by Jim’s sister, Anne, as an answer to Danny Sugarman’s recently released No One Here Gets Out Alive—which they thought was a sensationalized account of his life. Next thing Brock knew Anne was having him photographed, and a week later he was cast as the Lizard King. The show quickly foundered, but into this world was thrown Wild Child.
“Why I started Wild Child, there was a lot of talk about movies at the time,” he says. “I hadn’t been in any movies. So, how was I going to sell myself to one of these people who kept contacting me saying that they’re going to do a movie on Morrison? There was at least six different people telling me that they were going to do the movie. I had some background of doing this live show, but the show wasn’t really going anywhere. We were in pre-production for about six months and had done about two weekends worth of shows and then it collapsed.”
The one who ended up making the movie, Oliver Stone, was very intrigued by Dave Brock’s striking resemblance to Morrison. So much so that Stone went to check out his performances with Wild Child on numerous occasions, as Brock had all the stage mannerisms of Morrison down, and had combed live recordings to authenticate the experience of a live Doors show.
“I did end up auditioning for The Doors movie—I actually had three call backs. I almost got it, but it didn’t end up working out,” he says, not sounding all that regretful. “Oliver went to a bunch of our shows. And not only Oliver, Val Kilmer went to a bunch of the shows. He sat in the back most of the time, never came up to say hi or anything.”
Turns out, they were just taking notes.
But Wild Child lives on. Original Doors’ guitarist Robbie Krieger performs with them from time to time, and Ray Manzarek has introduced the band to the legions of insatiable fans who can’t get enough near-Morrison. It’s a very real experience. Wild Child uses the best pieces of a song from the scant available footage of live Doors’ performances—“they didn’t have a camera in every orifice like they do today,” Brock laments—and it continues to tour the world as the greatest representation of the real deal since Rembrandt’s pupils painted under the bankrupt master’s rubric.
“We toured almost all of India, if you can believe that—that’s a strange place. Goa was the best; we played the soccer stadium there. We had crowds up to 100,000 people. It was huge man, people up the hillsides as far as you could see, and when they’re having a good time, they throw bottles. All over the stage. They go nuts.”
And now Wild Child is visiting Stinger’s in San Bernardino. As with all things IE, this show promises to be a cross between Brock’s Goa and the Monterey Pop festival circa 1967, back when the other Morrison tested the boundaries of reality with all the friends he’d gathered on his thin raft.
Wild Child at Stinger’s Bar & Nightclub, 194 W. Club Center Dr., San Bernardino, (909) 872-0308, Sat., Oct 25, 9PM, $15