Quite literally in the case of The Doors, the stuff of legend.
Sid Smith 2008-11-20
So long after their explosive heyday The Doors and Jim Morrison retain their gold-standard of cool. Like all major acts they’ve been incorporated, corporatized and accessorised to the nth degree – a pair of Doors-branded Coverse All-Stars anyone? Of course not everyone however buys into the myth of Morrison as the epitome of rock n' roll shaman dispensing visionary wisdom. As David Crosby caustically wrote about such myth-making in his 1998 CPR song, Morrison, "I've seen the movie and it wasn't like that."
Strip away the fables surrounding Morrison and The Doors and what are we left with? The answer, or at least something approaching part of it, tantalisingly hovers in and out of view on this 2 CD live bootleg.
Although these tapes will be well known by hardcore Doors fans, this is the first time they’ve seen the official light of day. Massaged into life by Bruce Botnik (engineer on those original Paul Rothschild produced albums), they offer a glimpse, as Ray Manzarek observes, of the band having fun. Playing a sizable chunk of their first album and half of their follow up record (yet to be laid down in a studio), the rest of the set is upholstered with a few greasy-spoon standards.
Just a few weeks on from the release of their debut, word about the band’s impending canonisation does not appear to have reached the handful of punters who turned up to Marty Balin’s nightclub in San Francisco, and who can be heard offering only the politest of applause between numbers.
Without the catalyst of audience reaction and in the face of such indifference, the sparks rarely fly and despite Manzarek's assertion about the extent to which this meant the band could stretch out and experiment, we have a performance that only occasionally smoulders, never quite ever catching fire. In truth, ther'’s little evidence here of a group that matches essayist Joan Didion’s description of The Doors as "the Norman Mailers of the Top Forty, missionaries of apocalyptic sex." Morrison’s celebrated "wardrobe malfunction" was still a couple of years off
Though he would become the patron saint of the rock-star-in-leather-trousers look, here Morrison stands awkwardly at the microphone oozing something between lounge-singer schmaltz and half-hearted karaoke chutzpah that’s a few shot-glasses short on Dutch courage.
Die-hard Morrisonologists will however be cheered by the inclusion of alternate words grasped from his poetic writings and scattered about in songs such as a pulsing cover of the old Them stomper, Gloria and their sinuous classic, The End.
With Kreiger's blazing guitar solo on When The Music's Over, and Manzarek's faux-classical noodling, there's a lot of potential waiting to be called upon. However, at The Matrix we’re in the company of a somewhat quaint and reserved bar band, prone to stretches of timorous research, rather than anyone dropping their trousers in the face of the establishment. That would all come later and with it, quite literally in the case of The Doors, the stuff of legend.