Circus Magazine – Richard Meltzer

(Following is Richard Meltzer’s current feelings on the Doors. When we asked him to write the article, we suggested he hear an advance copy of their new album, but he said, “nah, don’t need it. Just tell me what songs are on it.” So we told him and this is what he brought to us the very next day.)

Performances before your album is out are only icing on the cake of history, it’s not money in the bank unless it is. When the Doors hit Ondine in the very beginning of their long and illustrious career they had a total of $325 in their combined pockets and it had to last them two weeks. That precluded extravagant clothing so Jim had to count on his surfer T-Shirts and cerulean blue dungarees. Did it hamper his dynamic style? No it did not. Did it make his ultra-heavy lyrics less meaningful? No siree. Also his hair was quite short, due largely to the cost of upkeep (combs, shampoos, grooming aids) of the long stuff. Did that in any way interfere with the sincerity wrenched across his face? Nope, in fact the only visible difference was that Densmore was on the stingy side of the fence with his sticks; he sure didn’t throw them around like they were water as he does today. Oh yea there was one other major difference: Manzarek rarely, if ever, removed his glasses. It seems they were prescription models and he was afraid they’d be his last. If some careless fool stepped on them that would have been it, the cost of a new pair would have been prohibitive, particularly with a child on the way.
Things have changed- and how! But have years and years and years of swimming in the green stuff altered their big show with a capital B and capital S? The only way to tell is to go look at the record and bring your ears along. Ask a scientist and he’ll tell you no record’s as good an indication of the progress the Doors have made as the latest hot wax by the tough-nosed foursome itself. And that’s not Morrison Hotel nor Soft Parade. It’s the Doors’ BRAND NEW LIVE ALBUM, partly recorded live and lively at the Felt Forum, built specially for fights not big enough to sell out the big Garden.
The Stones had their live album, so did the Dead. Then came all the bootlegs to make live albums a dime a dozen, as exclusive as a box of popcorn. They sold a lot of popcorn the night the Doors made the record but there was strictly no eating the minute the show started. People sat astonished with their tongues hanging our asking for more while others danced in the aisles. The outcome was not to be forgotten and luckily it’s been pressed into vinyl (and thank God for Mr. Edison). And certainly this is no run of the mill live album, it is in fact the smasheroony of them all, including Stan Getz at the Café au Go Go.
“Five to One,” the anthem of an entire generation of fast living, fast loving folks, could be the high point of the album. It could be only it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good one because that’s exactly what it is. It’s so good you can feel Morrison clutch the mike stand. You can also hear him sing, and his singing has come a long way. No longer the Mel Torme type mellow crooner of last summer, Jim has become another Howlin’ Wolf.
How can you top it but you can, all the you need is “Break On Through.” Throughout each and every second of the top drawer musical experience. Manzarek’s keyboard line was never better and maybe it never will be so you make sure you don’t miss it. All you need is the record or a friend who does and you’re all set.
And you better wipe all the wax out of your ears so that you hammer, anvil and stirrup carry the message full volume right to your brain when the needle finally wends its way into “When the Music’s Over.” Hold your hat and make sure there’s a fire extinguisher handy too. If you’re a square loosen your tie and take this tip: turn out the light even before it’s over and light a candle. When the end comes blow it out. It’s the longest cut on the album so that’s a lot of darkness. The Doors will teach you that dark is better than light and if you learn the lesson well you might get an A. The lowest you get is a B.
So if you happen to see John Densmore driving around in his Morgan arm in arm with Wendy March, a former Miss Nevada, shout out your words of encouragement loud and clear so he can hear it over the roar of the engine. All these years of tubs work has surely earned it for him. Same goes for Ray, Robby, and Jim, they’ve worked themselves silly to entertain you, the fan. They’ve even visited far out, far away San Diego in the pursuit of communication, showmanship and fun. They’ve learned every trick in the book, one of which is to perpetuate themselves for a heck of a long time. Only time will tell and so far the message is they sure keep the ball rolling. Give them six years and they’ll be better than the Beatles.