My love for The Doors is no secret. I listen to them almost daily, talk about their music every chance I get, and have even gone as far as displaying my admiration of Jim Morrison in ink on my left hip. In other words, I am a huge Doors freak, and their music has helped mold me into the rock and roll fanatic I am today.
I really value the moments that lead me to discover a certain band, song or album. A couple weeks ago, I was on the hunt for a specific piece of vinyl and was told I should check out Agharta Records in St. Paul by my KQRS co-worker and hardcore music fan, Brian Curski. After browsing through the rows and secret rooms filled with the most unique vinyl, books and vintage trinkets, I came across something I’ve wanted to spin for a while: The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Though I have heard a few of these versions of the songs before, I’ve never listened to the album in full — and certainly not on its original pressing. It couldn’t have felt more special, or necessary, for me to experience.
The Doors always seem to find me when I need them the most, and I believe there must be some underlying reason why I feel so comfortable immersing myself within their music. Listening to the them play live is a great pleasure for me, and this set would truly make any Doors fan go nuts. Live at the Hollywood Bowl was recorded on July 5th 1968 but was not released until 1987 due technical issues with Jim Morrison’s audio, thus not including all of its songs. The full concert was not released until 2012 after a lengthy restoration of the original audio. There are only six songs on its first release: Wake Up, Light My Fire, The Unknown Soldier, A Little Game, The Hill Dwellers, and Spanish Caravan.
“The Doors always seem to find me when I need them the most, and I believe there must be some underlying reason why I feel so comfortable immersing myself within their music.”
The Hollywood Bowl is the coolest venue I’ve ever seen a concert at. In 2014, I traveled to Los Angeles to see my other favorite band, Black Sabbath, perform on their final tour. It was such an insane experience and I don’t think anything will top it. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had when I walked through those gates. I was flying on a cloud and felt right at home. Once I made my way inside, I walked around for a while and tried to imagine myself there when The Doors played this infamous concert 1968. Everyone who’s anyone has played there, and I was completely trapped in the moment and overtaken by the Bowl’s rich history.
Doors concerts often turned into jam sessions steered by Jim’s poetry, allowing them to improvise. It’s how this record starts and ends. Jim Morrison loved to play off the audience’s reactions, which made the band’s performances innovative and different than the other bands from that era. I love that kind of demand for a reaction, and when it comes to The Doors, I can’t get enough. The way Jim Morison yells in particular, turns me in to a psychotic person. You get a nice taste of it in the first song off the record: Wake Up! It’s full scale poetry, and Morrison’s cries and yells throughout are delightfully spooky. I so badly want to get inside his head but instead do what I do with every other Doors song: I drop my head, start to move my body as if it’s an instrument being used to construct the melody, and escape entirely. I lose myself in the music and shout the lyrics with a direct sort of attitude. Morrison’s passion seeps into me without hesitation and allows me to make the song my own.
If you stop and listen to The Doors and really focus on the music, the elements will blow your mind. Each instrument connects with the other like pieces in the most out-of- this-world jigsaw puzzle you’ve ever completed. Live at the Hollywood Bowl‘s live factor makes it authentic, and its sound and vibe is true to their core as a band. Light My Fire was the first Doors song I ever heard, and the one I feel most connected with. I love hearing the audience clap and cheer at the completion of the performance. Ray Manzarek’s breakdown in the middle of the song is one of his most stunning, and seems as if his keys are spitting out his feelings. It’s such a light and fun song, and it’s cool how the band transitions to it from the heavy Wake Up! played previously.
Robby Krieger’s winding guitar melodies in The Unknown Solider are some of my favorites. I like to close my eyes and envision the notes as ribbons streaming quickly around me. I will say it time and again: the thing I love most about The Doors is their ability to feed off one another. Morrison uses his voice as an instrument, and in this song in particular, John Densmore’s drums anticipate his reaction while building up and quieting down at just the right moments. When I crave the kind of release that their music offers, I listen to The Doors, and that’s always how it will be. Not just for me, but for all Doors fans.
Jim Morrison knew how to express himself through his writing, and I believe that he possessed an energy that was intoxicating to everyone around him. His lyrics, which were often comprised of old poetry he inscribed in his journals throughout his young life, voiced universal fears in a way that was understandable to his audience. The Hill Dwellers is another one of his poems that freak me out and makes me wonder. It ends abruptly with the band stopping and Morrison yelling: “Wait! There’s been a slaughter here!” Then, in a second, one of the prettiest Doors songs starts to fade in, Spanish Caravan. The Doors have a wild sense of flow, one that’s meant to be out of control.
“Jim Morrison knew how to express himself through his writing, and I believe that he possessed an energy that was intoxicating to everyone around him.”
Even more so than the music, I am attracted to Jim Morrison’s poetic being. By putting his emotions on public display through his music and writing, his fans are constantly challenged to expand their thinking and are urged to explore their own deep emotions. Everybody deals with positive and negative experiences, and Jim Morrison knew how to make sense of the world by analyzing his own personal struggles in relation to his inner feelings. I am able to look up to that kind of courage, and I think that it’s something many of his fans appreciate, especially those my age. He wrote to understand how he felt — something I do often. I think everyone needs an outlet to let go, and for Jim Morrison, it was clearly his words.
Creativity in music is extremely important to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my silly “I Want You to Want Me” rock and roll, but there’s a reason why I respect The Doors so much. To put it simply, their music has outlasted its time. Their lyrics are out of this world; unimaginable to anyone but than themselves. It’s clearly inspired by the blues, which gives it a dialogue. Ray Manzarek’s upbeat, jazzy keyboarding mixed with John Densmore’s thumping rhythm and Robby Krieger’s pleasingly sporadic guitar, are tied together with Jim Morrison’s words and demeanor, making Live at the Hollywood Bowl the best possible example of a classic Doors jam session.
Listen to Candice talk about The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl: