Put the Boot In: The Doors Danbury High School October 11, 1967 – ‘Is Everybody In?’

by | Mar 19, 2017 | 1 comment


Today in the ‘rock room’ I am enjoying one of the few and
rare recorded live documents of The Doors to circulate from their first year of
major popularity, 1967.  Early recorded
performances are at a premium in the case of the Doors with the recently
released 1966 London Fog fragment and the famed Matrix recordings from 1967
being the foundational recordings available to fans. The Peter Abram’s recorded
1967 Matrix recordings deserve an entire chapter of their own to tell the
story; but know that the dialog regarding the prior and future release of these
tapes continues to this day.
In 1967, prior to legal issues, drugs, alcohol, women, money
and the trappings of fame destroying the spirit of Jim Morrison and the
successful internal dynamics of the Doors as a band, the group was ascending
rapidly due to the stratospheric popularity of ‘Light My Fire’. The concert
field recording I am listening to today comes from this era of extreme
popularity and immortalizes the band in a perfect moment of discovery,
companionship and musical power.
Touring in support of their second album Strange Days, this had been released the
previous month, the October 11, 1967 performance features focused playing by
the Doors and a eager and enthusiastic Jim Morrison. The concert was originally
scheduled to take place at Western Connecticut State College but due to repairs
taking place at the arena on site the concert was moved to the Danbury High
School Auditorium. This is quite an auspicious venue for such a group of dark
musical vagrants like the Doors. Reports are that the ‘gymnasium’ had 2,000
people in attendance for the one hour concert taking place for the
aforementioned college’s ‘Fall Weekend’.
Lucky for us an enterprising member of the faculty decided
to record the concert via 2 on stage microphones, the result being a well
balanced and ambient capture of the Doors at their early musical peak. Morrison
is notably sedate when compared to the upcoming December appearance in New
Haven which would result in his arrest, but the focus on this particular night
results in a powerful Doors musical expression.
The tape begins with a slightly ornery principal sternly
telling the assembled crowd that there will be a 15 minute intermission, no
smoking, and no one can leave their seats or you will be ‘escorted to the
door’.  After this buzz kill introduction
the tape captures Morrison compadre Tom Baker stating, ‘The Doors, ok?’ as the
band enters into a buoyant and bubbly ‘Moonlight Drive’.
The ‘B’ side to the August 1967 ‘Love Me Two Times’ single
‘Moonlight Drive’ slithers silvery on Krieger’s blue slide guitar lines and
Manzarek’s  groove setting organ. The
Doors distinctive instrumental aesthetic captures the crowd immediately while
Morrison sings confidently and in seductive throat. The tape elicits some sonic
anomalies that come and go but soon sort themselves out. There is a nice
balance some slight hiss, but a wonderful eyes closed ambiance that encourages
headphone lights out concentration.
‘Moonlight Drive ‘percolates through its lunar changes
before turning stormy for Morrison’s atmospheric reading of the poetry verses
of Horse Latitudes. Densmore, Krieger
and Manzarek militarize the groove of the song underneath Morrison, while he
theatrically croons the verses. The band climaxes fittingly before reprising
the verse of ‘Moonlight Drive’ and reaching the songs finale.
Morrison lets out a substantial ‘yeah’ that segues to the
inquisitive introduction to ‘Money’. Krieger remains on slide and he and Ray
cash in as they both take a solo swing around the verse melody. The band is
sunk deep into a rich jangling pocket from which emerges a call and response
between Morrison and Krieger during the outro. 
Morrison plays with the girls in the crowd as Densmore
clicks out the boss nova beat of ‘Break on Through’. What follows is a textbook
reading with heated and frayed edges from the rising from the lust of the live
performance. Morrison lets out a ‘come on baby’, ‘you’re my girl’ amidst a
series of sensual asides. Manzarek’s organ bass is picked up loud and clear on
the recording pulsing underneath Krieger’s thick rope guitar lines. Mid song
Morrison leads the band through the unique to live performance ‘There You Sit’
segment. The dynamics drop and the groove intensifies. Ray and Jim get together
joining forces while breaking down musical walls revealing the ‘other side’ and
initiating the group to a thrilling conclusion.
An early stand alone ‘Back Door Man’ comes next and is
ushered in with a conglomerate of Morrison grunts, chuckled, squeals and
groans. The Doors concert standard is played with a menacing gusto with the
band locked into a blues groove. Morrison sings about ‘having the right’ during
the ‘pork and beans’ section of the track before screaming the backing trio
back into the song proper.
Drawing cries of appreciation from the audience a rare
performance of the current September 1967 single ‘People are Strange’ follows.
The song allows for a mid concert respite and offers a picture perfect studio
rendition spotlighting the instrumentation and songwriting that made the band a
unique commodity for the time.
An always welcome ‘Crystal Ship’ continues in a mellow and
mysterious vein. The recording reveals Densmore’s careful and lucent cymbal
work in addition to Manzarek’s special organ work during the solo interlude.  Without his usual sustain Manzarek’s solo
offers a cool uniqueness to the performance. While the vocals are somewhat
distant, as typical to this performance Morrison is fully into putting on a
show for the assembled patrons.
One of the excellent aspects of this recording is how
Morrison peppers the show with fragments from his famous opus, The Celebration of the Lizard, which was
in its formative state. Morrison invites the crowd to ‘Wake Up!’ and in what
would later become usual practice, prefaces an expansive version of ‘Light My
Fire’ with a dramatic poetry prelude. Krieger uses a shimmering and multi dimensional
tone during Morrison’s reading often spotlighted during this era and it lends a
ethereal and spooky air to the proceedings.
‘Light My Fire’ ignites from the hallucinatory ashes of ‘Wake
Up’ and spotlights a beautifully constructed version before the complacency of later
years set in. Again, Ray plays with minimal sustain and lays clean and crisp
quotes over the churning Densmore and Krieger groove. Morrison is getting off
with shouts in between solos. Krieger then follows suit with an exploratory
solo spot that highlights his melodic sensibilities. The tape contains an
organic ambiance that really shines here and allows for timely inspection of
the instrumentalists of the Doors.
Setting the stage for the big conclusion of the concert, the
remnants of crowd noise is joined by the sparse twinkling of Manzarek’s organ
and the fearful wash of Densmore’s cymbals. An extended cool dusk introduction
soon coagulates into a sonic alien introduction to ‘The End’. Krieger’s tangled
licks defy categorization as the snake across the tribal melodies reverberating
from Densmore’s taught skins. Approaching twenty minutes the band plies the song’s
arrangement which remains in constant flux like a soft warmed putty.
Morrison begins normally enough singing the intro of the
song, but soon enters into the ‘Names of the Kingdom’ fragment from the Celebration of the Lizard. He tests the
swirling band waters for a melody line which he can use. Morrison soon hits on
one that works for the cadence of his poetry. Flying free, Krieger starts to
prod Densmore and assists in winding the groove into a pressurized spring. Classic Doors.
The music morphs organically before Morrison signals to ‘stop
the car’ to which the band responds in kind. Morrison takes the opportunity to
quote ‘I see your rider’, which in turn becomes lyrics from the yet to be
released, ‘Who Scared You’. The music gets shaded and its dark blues becomes
psychedelicized as the group ushers in the famous, ‘Killer awoke’ segment of
the song.
Patient and dramatic Morrison recites the section deadly
serious to which Krieger responds with ominous and controlled feedback. The
band shifts with every word, responding while slithering across rocks and
keeping away from the light. The ‘Mother, I want to…’ lyric is reached and the
ancient door is cracked revealing a stunning full band detonation. Morrison
lets out a ‘yeah’ as the ‘blue bus’ jam enters and soon becomes an excited Indian swirl’.
The band is now under deep hypnosis and the four members become a reptilian ghost, a
single monster, with Morrison controlling the breath and movements.
The band continues to swell, Densmore keeper of the
ceremonial tempo understands that Morrison is peaking and pounds for his life.
Morrison verbalizes the conjured beast and moans in dramatic sympatico. Krieger
finger picks a supernatural chime that leads him to ascend and descend his guitar
neck increasing the tension. The music reveals its cracks and speeds
uncontrolled until a head on conclusion is the only reality. Stopping one inch
away from certain demise and impact the band takes soft pause then proceeds to destroy itself
in a sonic explosion. 
Reports are the Morrison smashed the microphone stand into
the floor of the splintering stage at the climax of ‘The End’ and hearing the aural
document it’s easy to visualize. The scars of Morrison’s battle ax remained for
years as a reminder and imprint of the amazing musical exorcism that took
place in a New Haven high school gymnasium in 1967. Amidst the sonic chaos and debris Manzarek
brushes ample organ whitewashes that intertwine with Krieger’s typically demented
guitar drones until a full circle is reached and connected.
The band finishes in glorious fashion, obviously having
spent their musical savings. The crowd responds in excitement and awe. The MC
from the introduction of the concert has obviously been moved by this
performance as his return to the stage is underlined with the simple comment, ‘wonderful
show’. While an obvious understatement, there is really nothing else to add as
what has taken me numerous overblown lines to express; he hit firmly on the
head.

1 Comment

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