SUE’S SUNDAY SOJOURN: Each week I will showcase a particular artist or band during my entire two hour set. Each week, prior to the set, there will be a blog post where I will write about my memories, favorite stories or share other interesting tidbits. The idea here is not to tell the story of the band or play two hours of their greatest hits. The idea behind Sue’s Sunday Sojourn will be to spend time with Sue, down in her music vault. As she puts together the set, she will reminisce and share special memories. “I remember when this came out,” or, “I recall hearing this for the first time and I thought…” She might share little known facts, favorite memories, fun stories or maybe even some personal experiences.
The sets will have plenty of the big hits but be ready for a few obscure tunes that may be her personal favorites. She will probably include a few rarities or possibly unreleased material, along with other sundry curios. So join her every Sunday night from 7-9 as she lets you into her world.
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Aldous Huxley, 1954
It’s Los Angeles in 1965 and a poet and three Jazz musicians got together. What do you think happened? They formed one of the most legendary rock bands in history; that’s what they did! Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison were both attending Film School at UCLA. Ray heard some of Jim’s poetry, including what would become the lyrics for Moonlight Drive.
“Let's swim to the moon.
Let's climb through the tide.
Penetrate the evening' that the
City sleeps to hide.
Let's swim out tonight, love.
It's our turn to try.
Parked beside the ocean
On our moonlight drive.”
Ray thought they were great and decided to introduce him to two other musicians he knew, Robby Krieger and John Densmore. A band formed and Jim suggested they call themselves “the Doors,” a reference to a book by Aldous Huxley called the “Doors of Perception.” This was a book, published in 1954 and written while Huxley was taking mescaline.
I recall hearing Light My Fire from their first album for the first time when it was released in 1967. The opening keyboard riff captured me and reached deep within me, touching my very soul. Then came the keyboard and guitar solos that completely mesmerized me before coming back to that magic riff. The song was a whopping seven minutes long, yet it left me wanting more every time! There was a three minute version played on Top-40 radio in which the mesmerizing solos were cut out. It would give me quick fix of that riff, but I always preferred the long, hypnotic version, which could put me into an altered state of consciousness if I wasn’t distracted.
The great albums of 1967: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane, could all be described as “psychedelic.” That term could be used for the Doors’ debut album too, but it’s not the first word that comes to my mind. I’d rather describe the music as “haunting.” There is an “other-worldly” quality to it that haunts yet lulls you into a calm, but magical, state. It is hard to put into words but it seems to be timeless music but always draws you into the night time mode, like you are remembering it from a party at 3 AM last night. I think even back then, my soul loved the night and the darkness (not in an evil sense) and this drew me to the music of the Doors.
Their sound was unique for several reasons. They were basically Jazz musicians coming over to rock and roll but they couldn’t help but bring some of that influence over with them. Furthermore, their guitarist, Robby Krieger (only 19 years old when they formed), was a classically trained Flamenco (Spanish) guitarist. Finally, they did not have a bassist. Their keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, would play the regular keyboard parts (including that magic riff) on a Vox Continental organ with his right hand, while playing a Fender keyboard bass with his left. (See photo below.) All this made for a sound that remains one of the most unique in all of rock music.
One of my favorite Jim Morrison and the Doors stories tells of their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. Back then, the censors were very strict on what could be aired and even drug references were taboo. The Doors were scheduled to perform Light My Fire and the censors had an issue with the line, “girl we couldn’t get much higher.” The band tried to explain that it was not drug related but eventually agreed to change it for the live TV performance. (Recall the Stones were forced to change “Let’s spend the night together” to “Let’s spend some time together.”) After the producer left, having their promise to edit out “higher,” they decided that they could go “Fuck off!” They went on and Morrison kept the offending line intact. He even looked into the camera with a knowing smirk as he said it. The Producer came into their dressing room after they came off and he was quite pissed off. He was yelling and said, “You promised you wouldn’t… You’ll never do the Sullivan Show again!” Morrison, in a calm and matter-of-fact, voice looked at him and said, “We just DID the Sullivan Show.”
Including that magic debut album, they came out with seven albums and then the entire world came crashing down on 3 July 1971. I remember it was Saturday of the holiday weekend and in the late morning I was listening to the radio in the car. “We are getting reports out of Paris, France that singer, Jim Morrison of the Doors, has died.” WHAT?! This couldn’t be! There were no details so I convinced myself it was a mistake, hoax or maybe a publicity stunt. I went through the rest of the day in a daze, refusing to believe or accept it. (Remember, this was before our instant access to news like we have today.)
I turned on the TV to the Five O’clock News and it didn’t take long. I had it straight from the lips of Walter Cronkite; Jim Morrison was dead. It had to be true if Walter said it was. James Douglas Morrison, Poet, would be laid to rest in the historic Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris alongside such greats as Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Chopin.
Nine years later Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman released their biography of Jim Morrison, No One Here Gets Out Alive. The title was a lyric taken from Morrison’s magnum opus, the Celebration of the Lizard. This book stirred up a massive resurgence in the popularity for the Doors and introduced them to a new generation of fans. (Many in the more recent Goth scene claim the Doors as a strong early influence and it was probably due to this surge in popularity when they were young.) The radio station where I worked decided to ride this wave of popularity and do a two hour special on Jim Morrison and the Doors. Management met, along with a few senior on-air personalities, and they decided that the show should be a comprehensive retrospect showcasing their music, along with history and maybe some personal anecdotes from the disc jockey. The next day, before my set, the Programing Director called me into his office and gave me the bad news. They had unanimously decided that this task would fall to me.
I say “bad news” because this was something of a hot potato. Sure there’d be some extra money but the amount of work involved would be great. Remember, this was before computers, iTunes, mp3’s, word processors and the like. This was the age of writing, clipboards, vinyl records and reel to reel tapes. I had been seen reading the book by my colleagues and my collection of Doors music was known to rival that of the station, and of course I had access to it for the show. But the real reason at the end of the day was that no one wanted to do the work so it fell to me. I put about 20 hours of prep work into that two hour show, a special from 10:00 PM to midnight on a Saturday night. I was told that I hit it out of the park.
The Doors resurgence was mainly due to the book, but the use of the End by the Doors in film, Apocalypse Now, the year before contributed. At about the same time as the book came out; Elektra Records released a Doors’ Greatest Hits album adding to the mania. My two hour show was a part of all of this and without a doubt it was my greatest moment on the air. I have thought a lot about this show and all of the prep work did back then while preparing this week’s Sue’s Sunday Sojourn. I think that I’ve finally realize that it was the high I experienced doing that show 37 years ago that has inspired me to create Sue’s Sunday Sojourn. I want to recapture even a piece of that if I can and I think I have.
After Morrison’s death, the Doors fulfilled contractual responsibilities to Elektra Records and released two more albums, Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972). I recall the reality of just three portraits on the front of a Doors record really striking home when I saw Other Voices for the first time. Morrison had recorded himself reciting his poetry and many high quality reel tapes existed of him doing so. The three surviving Doors entered the studio once again and recorded the backing music and the best of these poems were made into an album of poetry and dramatic reading, An American Prayer (1978). Most of us believed that this was all there was and we expected nothing new to come out from Jim Morrison and the Doors ever again.
The resurgence had Elektra searching it vaults high and low for anything by the Doors that they may have missed. There were some unreleased live recordings, but they had not been released because they were of inferior quality, usually because Morrison was too drunk. There had been more recordings in Elektra Records’ archives but they disappeared in the 1970s but this recent search would pay off. It turns out they were in the vault the whole time and it was just that no one had bothered to properly catalog them originally. There was one precious gem on one of these tapes, what could pass as a studio recording of Gloria, a hit for Van Morrison and Them.
It wasn’t a studio recording but it wasn’t live either. It was 1969 and the band was setting up for a performance that would be recorded live at the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles. It was a known fact that Morrison rarely showed up for sound checks and if he did he was drunk. This afternoon he not only showed up, he was both sober and psyched for the show that evening. They took the stage and after the sound check, they had to test the recording equipment for that evening. Morrison called for Gloria and the band went right into it. It was a flawless take. It can’t be called a “studio recording” because it was not done in a studio but there was no one in seated in the audience so it wasn’t a live recording either. I’ll play it Sunday night and I bet if I didn’t say anything here you would have believed it to be a studio recording.
The desperate search for the lost tapes had yielded more live material and even that sound check of Gloria, but would there be more? In 2000 the Doors went back into the recording studio to make a brand new song WITH Jim Morrison, who had been dead for 29 years! Remember, Jim recorded all of that poetry, so they took those tapes and a computer and were able to create a new Doors song with Ray, Robby and John writing and playing the music and Jim singing the lyrics. The song is Under the Waterfall and I’ll play it Sunday night.
During my set Sunday night I’m going to take you on a very special trip with me. At times we will go into the studio with the Doors and I’ll play you some of their early raw takes. You will hear directions being given prior to the song and then you will hear a very different version of a song you know well. I’ll also take you to see them in concert at times, which was a unique experience in itself. And then I’ll also share curios and rarities from the Vault. For example, did you know that the studio version of Break on Through (to the Other Side) had lyrics edited out by the censors? The lyrics you have heard all these years are:
“Everybody loves my baby
Everybody loves my baby
I found an island in your arms
Country in your eyes
Arms that chain
Eyes that lie
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side”
The lines that say, “She get…” originally were recorded as “She get high.” Once again, it was a time when even a drug reference was taboo. The record company cut the word from Morrison’s vocal track and just left the backing music. I will play the original studio version you love but with the Morrison’s edited words restored.
There is one more story to tell and it belongs to AWT. On 20 May 2013, we lost Ray Mazarek and I posted on May 27th that I was doing a two hour set in his memory that night. (You can read that post here.) During that week I remixed two songs that are usually played back to back as one goes right into the other. These were Peace Frog and Blue Sunday. Peace Frog has a place where Morrison states (rather than sings):
“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding, ghost crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.”
When Jim was a young child, he was riding in a car at dawn with his family. A truck full of Native migrant workers had flipped and there were many injured, dead and dying on the road. He was convinced that a couple of those ghosts jumped into his soul. In my remix, I’ve taken the two songs and added a recording of Jim telling the story at the beginning. I’ve also mixed in a bit of his poetry that is pertinent and other relevant bits of recordings to create the new version. I will play this version on Sunday too.
DJ Sue’s Vault…
Above is one of my bootleg Doors albums, supposedly released by their French Fan club on Paris Records. You can see I posted a blow up of the lower left corner below the picture of the record. Among the details is the release date, 7-3-71 or July 3, 1971, the day he died. If that isn’t creepy enough, the name of the album is “Resurrection.” Stories had spread early on that he really didn’t die and they persist to this day.
I’ll play a cut from it Sunday in which improvises the words of Mack the Knife over the Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar). Morrison was known for doing all sorts of weird shit without telling anyone beforehand. The band never knew what to expect from him.
Above are the two albums they released without Morrison after he died, Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972). I recall looking at Other Voices when it first came out and finding the cover without Morrison rather eerie. I’ll play something from these on Sunday.
Star Collection can best be described as a European K-Tel. They came out with two volumes of Doors songs. Above you can see my copies.
The above album is rather rare. It was a re-release of their first two albums in West Germany during the mid-70’s. It is appropriately titled “2 Originals of the Doors,” and when you opened the gate-fold of this double album, the two halves of inside were the two covers of their first two albums.
Above is my copy of a book of poetry by Jim Morrison, the Lords and the New Creatures (1968).
In case you haven’t guessed, the Doors are my all-time favorite rock band. Like with the Moody Blues a couple of weeks ago, with this installment I have really let you into my world. It has also touched my very soul and reminded me why I do this, DJ and blog with all of you in SL. It’s easier now with computers and mp3’s. I recall preparing my Doors special and having to search a reel of tape for a particular Morrison piece I needed. After 20-30 minutes of searching, I had to transfer it to another reel of tape that would contain all of the bits I needed from various sources for the show and in order so I didn’t need to waste time searching. I did this all from copious notes written in pencil on a clipboard. The world sure has changed but the music of the Doors seems to transcend time and space, taking us back to a simpler time during some forgotten lifetime. I listen to their haunting music and suddenly I’m back at a party in 1974, it is dark and the only light comes from the orange glow of cigarettes and joints, and the glow of the dial on the turner of the stereo receiver. Morrison sings to us… “This is the end.”
Huxley took the title of his book, the Doors of Perception, from a poem by William Blake, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793)…
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”