Listening to everything, so you don't have to

All the new stuff will be here: RatDog, Furthur, Phil & Friends... I listen to the rehearsal tapes that surface on etree, I watch the videos from Dime and Trader's Den. I also occasionally post little research projects on various periods and people that were pivotal in the life of the Grateful Dead.
Everything you never got around to checking out, I did.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Doors, Europe 1968

In September 1968, The Doors went to Europe. They played in London (two shows), Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (two shows) and Stockholm. We've all heard the albums and seen the Oliver Stone movie, so I'll skip over the basics.

I got the recordings as part of a Box Set posted online (I forget where, probably Dime). It includes what looks like all the available recordings from that period, as well as hundreds of photos and press clippings and book excerpts relating to each show: a huge amount of work. The recordings are not all complete and there are one or two AUD recordings that are beyond atrocious. However there are also several soundboard recordings that were very enlightening to hear, since the majority of the official Doors catalogue consists of studio recordings.

There are a few things that stand out: the first is the almost punk-rock energy of Morrison and Krieger. Morisson howls and screams, in true rock n roll form, straining the speakers and clipping out the recordings. Add to that Robbie Krieger's overdriven, almost punk tone, and there's a rawness and excitement that does not translate in the studio albums.
Manzarek glues the whole thing together with the bass parts, always loud in the mix. I got the impression that he was more assured, that the musicians relied on him, to a certain extent, for cues etc.

A majority of their tunes are relatively straightforward: short and simple. However, there are a number of much longer, stretched out tunes that anchor the sets. Some songs (When the Music's Over especially) have relatively long silent passages with just a basic bass beat (from Ray Manzarek), and the crowd is absolutely silent. The band builds anticipation until the whole thing explodes into loud, screeching madness, everybody howling away. The Unknown Soldier and The End were big closing numbers with big finales.

Contrary to Val Kilmer's perpetually moody, self-absorbed character, Jim Morrison could be quite open on stage. There are a few passages that made me laugh out loud. At one point, during one of the long, near-silent passages, he completely breaks character: "Is someone snoring over here?" Another was before "The End:" he would ask the light man to turn all the lights off. In London, it took a while, with Morrison ribbing him: "Come on... all the way..."

There were a few interviews in the "Box Set." One of these conversations (dubbed "Stoned but articulate" by the interviewer), covered a lot of ground, and seemed genuine. Morrison talks at length about the show as a performance piece, as an art form. He explains how he sees the audience as a part of the performance, and equal but separate element, and he gets upset when people shout out or screw around to stand out without contributing to the experience. One question centers on "Hartford" (I couldn't tell you the date). He apparently pissed off the police that night and they charged him with incitement. I would have expected him to rail against the pigs and the man, but instead he says he was out of character, venting something personal, expressing his own frustration. I'm guessing that the whole thing went down somewhat differently than the movie scene where he takes the officer's hat and taunts him.

Finally, there are a few instances where Morrison would sing different lyrics: Crawling King Snake over Back Door Man, or even Mack the Knike over Alabama Song. I suppose you have to keep things interesting for yourself somehow; they only did about 20 songs.

I don't know that I would recommend anyone go to too much trouble to get a hold of Doors bootlegs. Aside from the occasional goofery or ad-libbed Morrison raps, the songs are arranged and performed just as you hear them on the albums. However, I personally always feel that bands sound better, more energetic, more interesting in a live situation. I will definitely hold on to the SBDs, but I'm throwing those AUDs the hell out (as soon as the share ratio hits 1.000, naturally).

Next up: I'm listening to the recordings from the GD's rehearsals with Keith in Sept/Oct 1971. So far, there's not much on the tapes save the tunes they're running. I'd like to talk about the conversations/banter/discussions etc. that characterized the band's relationship in that period, since I just reviewed Port Chester. If none of that stuff is forthcoming, I'll move onto something else.
As always, suggestions are welcome.

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