Live at the Aquarius Theatre, July 21, 1969, 1st Show
Released in 2001 on Bright Midnight Records
Produced and Mastered by Bruce Botnick
Recorded July 21, 1969 at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood, California
Management: Danny Sugerman
Project Coordination: Kira Matlow
Photo Archivist: Todd Gray
Currently not available as a standalone release. Included as a part of the digital box set, Strange Nights of Stone.
Used copies can be found on eBay.
Back Door Man
Break On Through
What Do We Do Next?
You Make Me Real
I Will Never Be Untrue
When The Music’s Over
Build Me A Woman
Who Do You Love (false start)
Who Do You Love
Light My Fire
Celebration of the Lizard
Aquarian Remembrances: Ray Manzarek
Banned in America! We couldn’t play anywhere. Too controversial, too dirty, too anarchistic, too eschatological, too shamanistic, too damned Dionysian.
Anathema, my friends, Anathema!
Purveyors of filth (sexual freedom). Advancing the cause of anarchy (social freedom). Advocating apostasy (speaking the new religion). Advocating drug use (opening the doors of perception through the ingesting of L.S.D). Advocating the lifestyle beyond the pale, beyond the norm (like Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”). Advocating a terrifying leap into the future (“Break on Through” – to the other side).
Captain Kelly, on stage in New Haven, said to Jim: “You’ve gone too far young man. You’ve gone too far”. And Jim was busted; viciously rousted into the slammer.
Well.. in Miami he had gone too far again. And we were banned all across this land of freedom. The home of the brave said “not in our city”. No municipal auditorium would allow The Doors (kings of acid rock) (kings of orgasmic rock) – insert either in newspaper report – to perform therein. We were personas non grata in 46 of the Continental 48 – New York and California being the exceptions.
So we played The Aquarius in Hollyweird, California. Our hometown. “The Day of the Locust” turf. Nathanael West’s mean streets. Jim loved Nathaneal West, author of “Miss Lonelyhearts” and “The Locust”. Read them both, but especially “Locust” and join us for a concert at the old Earl Carroll Theatre. A throwback to the 1930’s elegant girlie show venues – the shows were called “Vanities”.
It was a classy place with Art Deco sculpture and Moderne motifs of nudes and studs. And bare breasted babes on stage, fresh from Kansas. Striking frozen tableau art posts while Budd Schulberg’s classic momzer, Sammy Glick, looked on in deep loin lust for the Midwestern Brunnhildes.
And Raymond Chandler must have spent many a happy night there at the bar with a bourbon neat and a water back while working on “The Art of Murder”.
But that was in the ‘30s. Now, into the ‘60s… and The Doors are there. Jim loved the irony of that juxtaposition, and I think you will love the performances at this legendary Hollywood landmark. I know I do. Jim was certainly on his game, as were John and Robby. It was a magical time in the City of Angels. And I feel blessed to have been there.
Aquarian Remembrances: Robby Krieger
Before we made the big time, we had to scuffle around for gigs around Hollywood. One place we could always count on was The Hullabaloo after hours. The show started at 2 AM and went until dawn. Somehow we were always last.
A few years later we made our triumphant return to the Aquarius Theater (the revamped Hullabaloo). It felt great.
The only thing I remember from the show was Jim was swinging Tarzan-style from a rope all the way across the stage to the audience’s amazement, right on cue with my dive-bombing guitar riff from “When The Music’s Over”.
Aquarian Remembrances: John Densmore
They say that if you remember The Sixties, you weren’t there… but I certainly remember our gig at the Aquarius Theatre. It was after a long layoff from playing live, because we were banned in most of the large concert halls across the country. Why?
The combination of Jim’s theatrics and drinking culminated in Dade County, the same area that stole the election from Gore. Miami politics as it was, and still is, they railroaded our singer out of a live career on trumped up charges. No, he didn’t expose himself. He tried, he being as endowed as he was, it would have tripped him, so…
Actually, I was pleased that we couldn’t play, because Jim’s self-destruction was bent on a steep decent, which couldn’t be turned around. In the studio, we would just call it quits when he was wrecked, without public eyes.
So The Aquarius was a smaller hall, with better acoustics than the large sports arenas, which are frankly for $$ or basketball, rather than music. Jim had grown a full beard, and added a few pounds to his Adonis frame, deliberately bucking the rock lead singer image he copyrighted. We were tight musically, and Jim was in good spirits (not the spirits in the bottle!) I recall three shows, across two nights, without a hitch. The old quartet was back in its prime. Add in a dash of maturity, and it was a very fulfilling couple of evenings for me. What else could you ask for?
A Reflection from Danny Sugerman
If you like The Doors now, and never saw them live, I’m here to tell you about the word on the street back in the late ‘60s. It was “If you think their albums are good, you’ve got to see these guys live”. The same integrity they captured so well as recording artists was always present except that in concert you never knew what Jim Morrison was going to do. The Doors were performance rock like no one ever before or since. Morrison’s charisma and power came pouring off the stage, entranced, like the rest of us, by The Doors’ music. Morrison appeared possessed, or, it was even whispered, insane.
And I’m not talking about starting riots either. That all happened after the band started to play bigger venues, the hockey arenas and basketball stadiums, after word of their intense live presence cemented their reputation as a band who could deliver the goods. Morrison was a one-man theatricon, a performer of intense talent.
It is my opinion that on a good night Morrison was the rock & roll equivalent of the brilliant and crazed Russian ballet dancer Nijinsky. He was literally possessed by a force he could somehow tap into once the band started playing and the spotlight hit him. Words like mesmerizing, hypnotic, horrifying, ecstatic, otherworldly all apply here.
And it was their reputation, and of course the hit singles, several of which are contained here, that inevitably led to the bigger auditoriums. Bill Graham once told the band “You can’t share shit in those barns” in an attempt to keep them at the smaller-sized Fillmore. But with Jim giving each performance everything he had, and because the demand for tickets was so high, it simply made more sense to do what so many other bands had done, and that was to graduate from the Fillmore Auditoriums to the larger halls and play one show instead of six.
Still, Graham’s prediction became chillingly true. At a warm-up date for the first ever 30-city Doors tour, Morrison let the pressure he was under explode in Miami, Florida. Every single city cancelled The Doors already scheduled concerts, fearing another unprofessional outbreak of obscenity, testing of the laws, dirty words, dirty deeds…
However, this unforeseen occurrence did the band more good than bad in the long run. Yes, they lost a fortune in cancelled performances, but they now had time. Time like they hadn’t had since the early Whisky a Go Go days when The Doors performed almost nightly as the house band working up material that would appear on their first two albums. ‘Morrison Hotel’ and ‘LA Woman’ were the result of the forced lay off caused by Miami because it had been the first time since they hit the big time when they had the luxury of writing and rehearsing.
Live albums had become a big money maker about this period and rather than force out their upcoming studio material, The Doors consented to Elektra Records‘ request to record the band on tape in concert. It seemed such a natural fit, The Doors, one of the best concert performers of their era, captured on tape.
The band agreed, but with one condition: It had to be a small venue. It had to intimate. Elektra agreed and found The Aquarius Theatre where the theatrical musical “Hair” was playing to packed houses six nights a week. Elektra booked The Doors there on the dark night – Monday. Everybody was happy.
During the recording of the album at the Aquarius, everyone in the audience believed The Doors nailed it at the Aquarius. No more concert recordings would be necessary. But upon listening to the playbacks, producer Paul Rothchild thought they could do better. Cautiously, more concert dates were booked to be recorded. These additional concerts, preserved on multitrack tape, will all be released in their entirety on Bright Midnight Records. Because the Aquarius Theatre started the process, Bright Midnight picks up here.
Post-Production Notes from Bruce Botnick
It’s July 21, 1969 and we’re in Hollywood, California, USA, the home of The Doors and The Aquarius Theatre and it’s almost four months past Miami. The Doors have become as anathema. Don’t get any on you.
It’s the beginning of a two show recording for what would eventually cover six cities in two years and become ‘Absolutely Live’. Monday is a dark night at The Aquarius Theatre for the musical play “Hair” which has been running to SRO audiences . All the “in” straight-laced guys are wearing polyester leisure suits and turtleneck sweaters with white belts and matching white shoes. Their wife/girlfriends are in hot pants, bouffant hairdos and boots looking to get modern and learn something of the dress and attitudes of the coming Age of Aquarius.
It’s the morning and the theater hasn’t been cleaned yet from Sunday’s performance and still has ersatz joints everywhere. I wonder how many of the attendees pocketed these props hoping they were real so that they could secretly turn on. What were they rolled with, was it roasted banana peels or lettuce? Backstage, we’re setting up the recording console and tape machines and getting ready for our afternoon sound check. The first to arrive besides the remote crew, Paul Rothchlld and myself, is Babe Hill, one of Jim’s small circle of cohorts. He’s had Jim’s outfits for the shows. Two brand spanking new sets of train engineer clothes and dark glasses. The only thing missing is the hat and a train. Maybe Jim is going to do “Red Light, Green Light” with the audience, just like engineer Bill. The second to arrive is Ray followed by Robby and John. The last in is Jim who’s sober, rested and looking forward to rocking the home town. Haven’t seen him in a while and am surprised by his weight gain and really big beard. Now the new clothing makes sense, gotta be comfortable and hide the beer. The band begins the sound check. While I’m out on the stage adjusting Jim’s microphone, Jim noticed some ropes that are hanging on either side of the front of the stage and verbally wonders if he could do the Tarzan thing during the show. Someone says, “I wouldn’t do that”, and bingo, permission is self-granted. In the second performance, during “The Celebration of the Lizard”, in the “Little Game” segment, Jim swung out over the audience to a roaring cheer. Again in “Soul Kitchen” , Jim brought the audience to their feet with another swing. As the recording equipment was backstage and closed circuit video wasn’t part of the process yet, Paul and I couldn’t see anything that was going on, so we could only judge what was happening by what we heard and what the guys told us after the shows. I remember Chip Monk, who was the lighting director for this concert, explaining to us how his lights were going to be like the pedals of a flower and how the pedals would open up and it would be the most beautiful thing you could imagine. If you were in the balcony you would really enjoy the lights, only problem there wasn’t a balcony.
At the time we weren’t terribly impressed with the concerts as the band seemed listless and Jim was being very careful not to push the envelope. As always, the L.A. audiences way too cool and blaze, not like the East Coast where passion runs high and the crowd really jacks up the performers. As it turns out, we got some real gems and totally misread the quality of the performances. It’s kind of funny that we’re here in 2001 and it’s really the Age of Aquarius. In 1969 the national postulation was of a future full of peace and love. What happened?
TECHNICAL INFORMATION AND OTHER TRUTHS
Recorded July 21, 1969 at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood, California, USA. The remote facilities were provided by Elektra Records Sound Studios and Wally Holder Remote Recording Services. The concerts were recorded onto four 3M M56 solid state 1” 8 tracks and Ampex model 351 tube 2 track Analog recorders. The console was a Langevin 18×8 console, the same console used for the ‘L.A. Woman’ sessions. The 1” tape used was 3M Scotch 206 with the speed at 15 IPS nab and recording levels at +3 db elevated level above Ampex Standard Operating level of 185 nwb. The 1/4” tape was 3M 126 with the speed at 15 IPS nab and recording levels at Ampex Standard Operating level. The A 8 track recorders used no noise reduction and the B 8 track recorders used the new Dolby A Noise Reduction process.
We staggered the recorders so that we could be able to have overlaps and continuity. When it came time to do this album I re-discovered an anomaly with the early Analog 8 track recorders that I had forgotten about. When a tape machine was loaded with a full reel of tape on the left side and an empty take-up reel on the right, the machine ran at the proper speed of 15 IPS (inches per second). As the supply reel got smaller, the machine would slow down as the tension of the breaks increased. When cutting together “Light My Fire” from the first show, right in the middle of Robby’s solo, all of a sudden the pitch changes and Robby and Ray play somewhat flat compared to the outgoing. The incoming is actually the accurate pitch as the outgoing portion of the solo is being played faster because of the original slowdown. The Studer 827 used for the transfer is servo driven so no matter what, it always runs on speed. Joining these two pieces together was the only way to have a complete performance.
Microphones used were AKG C12A’s on Ray’s and Robby’s amps and a Direct Box was on Ray’s piano bass. Sennheiser 405 tube microphones were used for John’s overheads and a ShureSM57 on the snare with an Altec Salt Shaker microphone on the kick. Jim’s microphone was a Shure SM57. The audience pick up was a Neumann SM69 stereo microphone in MS. The 1” 8 track masters were carefully transferred from a Studer 827 through DB Technology AD824 Analog to Digital converters at 96kHz/24 bit PCM and stored on Genex 8500 digital optical disk recorders with 70 gigabyte hard drives. The mix was performed digitally in Stereo and 5.1 Surround through a Sony DMX R100 console with reverb from a T.C. Electronic 6000. Loudspeakers used were B&W 801N’s and the amplifiers are Ayre Acoustics V-1’s with Nordost Super Flatline Cable loudspeaker wire. The stereo mix was sample rate converted using a DB Technology 3000S from 96kHz to 44.1 kHz/16 bit which is the standard CD sampling and bit rate. The final stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes were recorded onto a Sonic Solutions HD System where they were edited and mastered.
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