Four decades later, recording of 1970 performance is released
By John Mackie
November 20, 2010
Jim Morrison died in 1971, but nearly four decades later his band,
The Doors, is as popular as ever. The quartet are a staple of classic
rock radio, and continue to sell product by the truckload: Each of
the seven albums the band released while Morrison was alive has sold
several million copies.
Record companies have done their bit to keep Jimbo the Lizard King by
releasing a steady stream of hits and rarities compilations (21 are
listed on Wikipedia). There has also been a torrent of live albums
released from gigs in L.A., Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh and Boston
(18 to date).
Next up: The Doors Live in Vancouver, 1970, a double CD of the band's
show at the Pacific Coliseum on June 6, 1970, which is being released
Nov. 23 by Rhino records.
Keyboard player Ray Manzarek says the band was "on a creative high"
that night, which meant the songs are longer than usual because
everybody was improvising. ( Light My Fire is 17 minutes and 55 seconds long.)
Why were they in such a good mood? Because blues great Albert King
was the opening act, and got up to jam with the Doors on four
blues-rock standards: Little Red Rooster, Money, Rock Me and Who Do You Love.
"We played dark and deep and funky," Manzarek, 71, recalled over the
phone from his home in Napa Valley, Calif.
"Morrison was just transfixed by Albert King's manual dexterity and
adroitness on the guitar, so he was in blues-boy heaven. We were all
blues boys, we had all gone to the south side of Chicago, which
appeared magically in Vancouver, Canada. And we're playing the blues,
we're a blues band on the south side of Chicago playing with Albert King."
Manzarek said The Doors loved playing Vancouver, a counterculture hot
spot that was viewed as a "safety net" by young Americans at odds
with their country's involvement in the Vietnam War.
"It was the West Coast escape centre [for draft dodgers]," he said.
"It was like the Civil War and the underground railroad, moving
people up from the south to the north. That's where people were
going, to Vancouver.
"So you knew when you played Vancouver it was going to be a great
audience, there was going to be a lot of pot in the air, and there'd
probably be a lot of expats, American expatriates, in the audience.
That's the way it seemed when we played there."
Manzarek still loves Vancouver, in fact.
"In all honesty, Sarah Palin gets elected in 2012, Ray and Dorothy
Manzarek escape to Vancouver," Manzarek said.
"We're getting out, man. We'll keep the property here in Napa, but
until she's out of office, we're going to go up and eat a lot of
salmon and Chinese
food and all the other great stuff you guys have up there in Vancouver.
"It's a fabulous city. And it doesn't snow! It snows outside of
Vancouver, but it doesn't snow [in the city]. For us California
people, we can handle the weather there, because it's so close to the
ocean. And it's so civilized, you guys are so damn civilized."
But back to the record. The show was recorded by the band's road
manager, and the recording isn't perfect: At times, Morrison's vocals
are a bit distorted. But Doors fans will be thrilled to hear his
blood-curdling scream in the middle of When The Music's Over, the
interplay of King and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, and Manzarek
improvising like mad on the organ.
The band opens with Roadhouse Blues, a crowd-pleaser Manzarek still
plays live when he tours with Krieger.
"All we have to do is step onstage and have Robby play the opening
lick and the audience breaks into a cheer of appreciation and
acknowledgment and knowledge of the song," he says.
"Then when we get to the end of it the whole audience sings 'I woke
up this morning, I got myself a beer. The future is uncertain, and the end
is always near.' Man, they're singing that song with us in Belgium
these days. It's amazing. And what a great line, 'The future's
uncertain, the end is always near.'
"Sort of prophetic in a way. Jim didn't have really long to go after
that. It's almost as if there's an intimation of his mortality, and
the tragedy that was to come. It might have flashed before his eyes
-- the future's uncertain, and the end is always near. Can you
imagine him writing that alone at night? I wouldn't be surprised if
that's what happened...the angel of death brushed his wing, or the
angel of death brushed her wing, her wing, against his shoulder as he
was writing. He probably got a shiver in completing that line. It's a
great line, but it's also tragic."
Morrison seems to be on his best behaviour, a far cry from some of
his other shows.
Asked what the wildest thing he ever saw Morrison do, Manzarek laughs.
"What was the wildest thing? I'm not telling you! Are you kidding?
How about Miami, let's go with Miami (where Morrison exposed himself
to the audience in 1969). The man could eventually have gone to jail
for that performance. Can you imagine that? They were going to put
him in jail for Miami."
In fact, Morrison was sentenced to six months in jail for his Miami
hijinks, and was out on bail when he died in Paris on July 3, 1971.
Manzarek has probably talked about the Miami show thousands of times,
but still gets worked up discussing Morrison's legal troubles.
"[He was] scared. Scared [bleepless], man. We were all scared
[bleepless]. He was going to go to jail. To jail! 'What did I do?'
'Well, you performed an obscene act in public.' 'What was obscene?'
'You whipped out that
"And there were no photos. There were a hundred photos offered in
evidence, and not a single photo of that magnificent [body part]."
"What, did people stop taking photos all of a sudden? Fourteen
thousand people went 'Oh! My God, look at it! It's there! It's
alive!' It was odd.
"There were photos of everything else, the riots, Jim with the lamb,
all offered in evidence, and not a single photo of exposure. And yet
he was found guilty of that charge [indecent exposure]. He was found
guilty of two charges. One was obscenity, open profanity: 'Oh my God,
he used the f-word at a concert! How horrible, he must be put in jail
for that!' And he exposed himself publicly.
"Each one of those was a three-month sentence. Wouldn't you think
that public exposure would be a lot longer? But they were equal
sentences, three months apiece."
Are there more live albums in the pipeline? Manzarek won't say. But
he is still keeping a busy schedule as a musician. He toured the
States and Europe with Krieger this summer, and is gigging with blues
guitarist Roy Rogers. Resting on his laurels is the last thing on his mind.
"Why? My fingers still work, my brain still works. I'm strong and
healthy, eat good food, and I love to play music. People have said to
me 'Why do you do this, Ray?'
"What am I going to do, just sit around?"