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Jim Morrison's Cryptic Ode To Cannabis

Did Jim Morrison play a numbers game with a song that may (or may not) have been about marijuana? Morrison - the Lizard King of rock and roll - laced The Doors' music with many bizarre lyrics. But the most puzzling might be the central phrase in "Five to One" from the album Waiting for the Sun (1968):

"Five to one, baby,
One in five.
No one here gets out alive, now.
You'll get yours, baby.
I'll get mine.
Gonna make it baby if we try."

So what does "five to one" mean? The answer could be cannabis.

According to Rich Weidman's book "The Doors FAQ" (2011) the "five to one" stat could refer to "the number of non-pot smokers to pot smokers" when the song was written. Dylan Jones concurred in his book "Mr. Mojo: A Biography of Jim Morrison" (2015). But both argue that cannabis is just one possible interpretation: the stat could also refer to the ratio of whites to blacks, or old to young people in America at the time.

Doors organist Ray Manzarek, however, backed up the cannabis interpretation by offering a comment on the lyrics,

"They got the guns but we got the numbers.
Gonna win, yeah, we're takin' over."

In an interview with Life magazine in 1968, Manzarek said:

"In California, a number is another name for a joint, a marijuana cigarette. "[I] just thought you might want to know that."

So the song might be a call on young people to arm themselves with joints and revolt against the status quo. That certainly fits with the tune's militant tone and a marching beat, which have led some to interpret "Five to One" as a call for social revolution.

But it could be doing the opposite of that. "Five to One" might be a dig at the hippies for being unable to turn their lifestyle into a revolution. Matthew Greenwald of AllMusic notes that the song (especially its final verses) "puts down the flower generation for being weak and unable to organize their own individual heads."

Morrison certainly was highly critical of the counterculture that embraced The Doors. In a 1970 interview with CBC's Tony Thomas, the Lizard King said,

"The hippie lifestyle is really a middle-class phenomenon. And it could not exist in any other society except ours, where there's this incredible surfeit of goods, products, and leisure time."

But he later admitted that his views could just be "sour grapes" after becoming disillusioned with the 60s.

So is "Five to One" about cannabis? Yes, to some extent at least. It might not be about marijuana specifically, but it certainly alludes to cannabis by criticizing the hippie culture that elevated marijuana to the level of a sacrament.

What do you think? Have a listen to the tune and let us know if you've cracked the song's code.

h/t AllMusic, Metro Times, Snopes

banner image: Ryan Vaarsi / Flickr


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