Live In New York (Bright Midnight R2 521457)
The Doors’ four Felt Forum shows in New York in 1970 were among the most requested and anticipated shows collectors wanted to see released when Bright Midnight began. After almost a decade of waiting Live In New York was finally released this November. The sound and editing on these discs is tremendous, perhaps some of the best work yet to be released by this label.
The notes accompanying this set claim: “A long, long time ago, when nobody thought that we would ever need the 8-track tapes again, many bits and pieces were removed from these shows and were scattered through many Doors albums. Large chunks were used in Absolutely Live, An American Prayer, and Alive, She Cried. Goings-on between Jim and the audience, as well as parts of songs from the 8-track masters, have disappeared forever, though some do exist on the live 2-track tapes. Through the generous help of a few of our Doors collectors, we were able to obtain personal copies of audience recordings that helped us sort out the road map, show us what bits went where, and determine exactly what was missing.
“In putting this project together, The Doors and I agreed that it was very important to have complete shows. The plan was to insert the audience and the live 2-track recordings where chunks were missing from our masters, in order to have a faithful reproduction of the concert. So, you might be rocking to ‘Five To One’ or ‘Light My Fire,’ and all of a sudden the sound might change into the live 2-track or an audience recording, and then back again. We tried to keep this at a minimum, but felt that going about it in this fashion would, in the end, be a more satisfying experience. Beyond the audience recordings that have been circulating through the Doors-o-sphere, this is the first time that we have all four concerts complete.”
The sound quality and editing done on these shows is so good that they are not noticeable at all. Bright Midnight have more than atoned for their messing up of the Matrix shows earlier in the year with this release.
The previous Doors show in New York was a year before on January 24th, 1969 at Madison Square Garden, being one of the first rock bands to play the venue. These four are at the relatively intimate, 5,000 capacity Felt Forum. Occuring three weeks before the release of Morrison Hotel, they preview several new songs like “Roadhouse Blues,” “Peace Frog,” “Ship Of Fools,” and “Maggie M’Gill.” The band’s tactic at this time, after the cool reception of The Soft Parade, was a return to the roots by playing the blues. This was reflected not only in the style of the new album, but also by their inclusion of covers such as Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster,” and John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake.”
The Doors are not represented well in the current underground market. There have been two silver Doors boots released in the past three years. But the Forum shows are among the earliest Doors tapes to be booted in the late eighties and early nineties. Build Me A Woman – The Live Experience (Great Dane Records GDR CD 8908) in 1989, Live In New York 1970 (Armando Curcio Editore DIR 46) in 1990 and New York 1970 – Live (Stentor Sten 91.001) in 1991 were a mixture of the two January 17th shows.
Other songs can be found on various bootleg compilations such as Break On Through (Live & Alive LA CD 110) released in 1993 and Celebration Of The Lizard (Sarabandas (Allegra) CD 9019) a few yers after. A few are dedicated to one of the particular shows such as New York Blues (Document Records DR 033) in 1988 and disc one of Do You Wanna Have Fun Tonight (Oh Boy OH BOY 2-9127) in 1991 feature the late show on January 17th and Freedom Man – The Doors in 1970 (Banzai BZBX 036/037/038) with the January 18th early show.
Needless to say this really puts to rest any previous release of these shows, both official and unofficial. The six discs are housed in cardboard pockets and it also comes with a hard cover small booklet with a long and detailed summary of the New York shows, the after show party thrown by Jack Holtzman and the work done on the current release.
In what would turn out to be the Doors’ final New York shows with Jim Morrison, the New York audience receives them enthusiastically. Mike Jahn, writing in The New York Times, points out that: “The Doors, the Los Angeles rock group, fought off repeated assaults by young members of their audience…Onstage assaults, where teen-age girls must be pried off the bodies of the performers, are tributes usually reserved for the best-known rock idols. Saturday (January 17th), at least two dozen teen-age girls and quite a few boys had to be dragged away from The Doors’ singer, Jim Morrison, by stagehands. The other three Doors – Robbie Krieger, guitar; John Densmore, drums; and Ray Manzarek, organ – played on unperturbed.” Jahn goes on to say that: “The Doors played their familiar songs quite well, much better than in last year’s concert in the Garden.” He also claims that they “confined themselves to their older material” which isn’t true since many songs from the new album are played.
Felt Forum, New York, NY – January 17th, 1970 (first show)
Disc 1 (74:21): Start Of Show, Roadhouse Blues, Ship Of Fools, Break On Through (To The Other Side), Tuning, Peace Frog, Blue Sunday, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar), Back Door Man, Love Hides, Five To One, Tuning/Breather, Who Do You Love, Little Red Rooster, Money, Tuning, Light My Fire, More More More, Soul Kitchen, End Of Show
The first Felt Forum show is the shortest and most “standard” of the four. In addition to having several tracks represented on the above unofficial releases, the tape for this show also circulated under the Westbury Music Festival (Octopus) hoax. “Peace Frog,” “Blue Sunday” and “Money” were also featured on The Doors: Box Set Disc 2: Live In New York released in 1997.
They whisk through the set with very little time to slow down and take a breath. Morrison says nothing to the audience outside of singing the songs and there is very little onstage improvisation in the numbers. The audience also sound very subdued as well and don’t really seem to get into the show until they play “Back Door Man.” That four of the first five songs were unfamiliar at the time probably had something to do with that.
Performance does hit a peak with “Five To One” and the string of cover tunes played before “Light My Fire” which naturally is played at all four shows. Since it is such an improvisational song it tends to differ between performances. At just over eight minutes this is the shortest of the four. There is two minutes of audience cheering before the band come back out for the only encore “Soul Kitchen.” Overall it is a good first show but they will get better.
Felt Forum, New York, NY – January 17th, 1970 (second show)
Disc 2 (72:48): Start Show 2, Jim “How Ya Doing?”, Roadhouse Blues, Break On Through (To The Other Side), Ship Of Fools, Crawling King Snake, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar), Back Door Man, Five To One, Pretty Neat Pretty Good, Build Me A Woman, tuning/ breather, Who Do You Love, tuning/ breather, Wild Child / tuning, When The Music’s Over
Disc 3 (43:26): Tuning/Breather, Light My Fire, Hey Mr. Light Man!, Soul Kitchen, Jim’s Fish Joke, The End, End Of Show
The second January 17th show is much longer and looser than the first. It circulated on a very good to almost excellent audience recording that is incomplete, missing from the show (between “Build Me A Woman” and “The End”) is “Who Do You Love,” “Wild Child (Attempt),” “When The Music’s Over,” “Light My Fire,” “Soul Kitchen,” and the little joke Jim tells. Four songs, “Roadhouse Blues,” “Ship of Fools,” “Crawling King Snake” and “The End” were used on The Doors: Box Set Disc 2: Live In New York but now thankfully we have the entire performance in excellent sound quality.
The tape starts as the appear on stage. Morrison greets the audience, saying “how you doing?” There is a short tuning and delay which prompts him to joke, “everything is fucked up as usual” before they start in with an aggressive version of “Roadhouse Blues” and a performance of “Break On Through” which Manzarek dominates on organ. “Peace Frog” and “Blue Sunday” are dropped in favor of a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake,” a tune they would record later in the year for L.A. Woman.
Another interesting cover in the first half of the show is Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” They stretch the song out to nine minutes long and Krieger throws in the melody of “Willie And The Hand Jive” by Johnny Otis in the middle. “Wild Child” from The Soft Parade is given an attempt but is abandoned for “When The Music’s Over.” For fifteen minutes they improvise in the middle and it’s during this song people rush the stage prompting Morrison to make the famous remark “well that’s New York for you. The only people to rush the stage are guys.”
“Light My Fire” is a bit longer in the second performance, lasting nine minutes with a forceful solo by Krieger in the middle. Afterwards Morrison asks for the lights to remain as they are before they play the first encore “Soul Kitchen.” Morrison tells a lame joke afterwards (“did you ever hear the one about the blind man who passed the fish store? You know what he said? Hi girls.”)
“The End” is given its only performance in out of the four shows. Morrison shouting out “bring out your dead!” is a prelude before the band start the tune. Since there is no time to end they take their time playing the song, stretching it out to nineteen minutes including the “ride the snake” interlude. The last track on the disc is the promoter thanking everyone for coming and wishing them a good night. This is one of the best shows they performed in the Felt Forum.
Felt Forum, New York, NY – January 18th, 1970 (first show)
Disc 4 (79:29): Start Show 3, Roadhouse Blues, Ship Of Fools, Break On Through (To The Other Side), Tuning/Breather, Universal Mind, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) – False Start, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar), Back Door Man, Five To One, Tuning/Breather, Moonlight Drive, Who Do You Love, Calling Out For Songs, Money, Tuning/Breather, Light My Fire, More More More, When The Music’s Over, Good Night – End Show
The two January 18th shows follow the same pattern. The early show is shorter and less adventurous than the evening show which is longer and much more loose. “Roadhouse Blues” and “Ship Of Fools” start off the show and sound straight with no variations. But Manzarek then plays an interesting variation on the introduction to “Break On Through” which livens up the show a little. There is a forty second tune up before the only Felt Forum performance of the excellent “Universal Mind.”
Manzarek begins “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” but has to call a halt when there is a loud, piercing whistle going thorough the PA. “If it ain’t one things it’s another” Morrison quips while the roadies work on the organ. “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” resumes and is played as part of a medley that includes also “Back Door Man” and “Five To One.”
A tight performance of “Moonlight Drive” follows which has a recitation of “Horse Latitudes” in the middle. “Who Do You Love” is only six minutes long but like the late show the previous evening contains the “Willie And The Hand Jive” reference. There is a delay before the last song since the buzz from Manzarek’s organ comes back. “Thank you for being so patient. It usually takes us about an hour to get warmed up” Morrison says before they play the “radio song” “Light My Fire.” A wild twelve minute long version of “When The Music’s Over” closes the early show.
Felt Forum, New York, NY – January 18th, 1970 (second show)
Disc 5 (60:35): Start Show 4, Roadhouse Blues, Peace Frog, Alabama Song (Whisky Bar), Back Door Man, Five To One, We Have A Special Treat, Celebration Of The Lizard, Alright Let’s Boogie, Build Me A Woman, When The Music’s Over, More More More
Disc 6 (70:18): Soul Kitchen, for fear of getting too patriotic, Petition The Lord With Prayer, Light My Fire, Only When The Moon Comes Out, Close To You, The Encore Begins, Rock Me, What To Do Next?, Going To N.Y. Blues, Tuning/Breather, Maggie M’Gill, Tuning/Breather, Gloria/End Of Show
At over two hours, the fourth and final Felt Forum show is the longest. The Doors: Box Set Disc 2: Live In New York contains two songs from this show, the seventeen minute “The Celebration of the Lizard” and the “Poontang Blues/Build Me a Woman/Sunday Trucker” medley.
Morrison speaks the the audience before the first song, saying that “I know what you do in the bathrooms” before they start a strange version of “Roadhouse Blues.” Morrison experiments with a different vocal melody leaving the rest of the band befuddled. Instead of playing “Break On Through” they follow with “Peace Frog” instead which, instead of segueing into “Blue Sunday” is linked to “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar).” A lascivious “Back Door Man” follows and runs straight into “Five To One.”
Afterwards Morrison tells they audience they “have a special treat.” They are going to play “a tour-de-force we’ve only played a few times in front of strangers” and tell audience to relax and “think about your eventual end.” There is a delay so Morrison continues, reminding them that they are recording “and if you want to be represented in eternity with some uncouth language then I hope you stand up on the top of your seat and shout it too clearly or else we’re not gonna get it on tape.” What follows is a sixteen minute, disjointed “Celebration Of The Lizard.”
“Pootang Blues” is a short improvisatory boogie played as an introduction to “Build Me A Woman.” They continue after a twelve minute “When The Music’s Over” with “Soul Kitchen” which has the prayer “as I lay me down to sleep” in the middle. Morrison jokes around afterwards, telling them that, “for fear of getting too patriotic, we’re going to attempt a rendition of the national anthem” before reciting the beginning of “The Soft Parade” as an introduction to a eleven minute, adventurous version of “Light My Fire.” “Close To You” with Manzarek closes the show.
Before the encores Morrison introdcues John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian who plays harmonica on “Rock Me.” Drummer Dallas Taylor, who’d played on Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut, joined for Taylor for “Going To N.Y. Blues” and “Maggie M’Gill.” They try to figure what to play to end the night and it takes Krieger to start playing “Gloria” for the rest of them to follow and they give a long, thirteen minute version of the piece.
The Bright Midnight label received much criticism over the years for not delivering on their promise of four to six releases a year. And they really took a hit with the Matrix shows by using high generation tapes but claiming they were from the master. Live In New York is so good it will alleviate any such concerns and more than makes up for their misjudgements. The timeliness, the packaging and the soudn quality of the tapes pushes this close to being the definitive live statement of The Doors available in any form and is an essential title for the collection.