The Doors Play Live in Denmark & LA in 1968: See Jim Morrison Near His Charismatic Peak

Do they look a bit scruffy, the Doors on live Dan­ish TV in 1968? My image of the Doors is for­ev­er col­ored by Oliv­er Stone’s The Doors. But the real Jim Mor­ri­son had even bet­ter hair than his dop­pel­gänger Val Kilmer (“not a case of cast­ing,” quoth Ebert, “but of pos­ses­sion”), even if the above per­for­mance is less Lizard King than lounge lizard. John Dens­more lays back on the beat, gets out the way of Morrison’s free asso­cia­tive poet­ry. Gui­tarist Rob­bie Krieger riffs intent­ly, looks sub­dued. Always the one to watch, the recent­ly depart­ed Ray Man­zarek plays hyp­not­ic base­lines with his left hand while his right dances around melod­ic blue note phras­es. It’s a very cool show, but the lack of an audi­ence is pal­pa­ble.

Mor­ri­son was at his best, and prob­a­bly also worst, before crowds of admir­ers. He has no lack of them in anoth­er ’68 per­for­mance, this time at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. Where the Dan­ish gig is cabaret, this is a shaman­is­tic hap­pen­ing: Mor­ri­son wears some­thing like a sleeve­less toreador’s jack­et and the band plays loud, espe­cial­ly Dens­more, who bash­es his drums like John Bon­ham. Jim Mor­ri­son seems entranced, and real­ly stoned. Dens­more lat­er said he’d just dropped acid: “I could tell once we hit the stage because his move­ments, his per­for­mance, was a lit­tle delib­er­ate; a lit­tle like he was hold­ing it togeth­er. But he was fan­tas­tic.”

The Hol­ly­wood Bowl is the show to see. It was a mag­i­cal night. It was a big deal to play the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. We were all so excit­ed. We’d had din­ner with Mick Jag­ger just before the show and he was right in the front. For any fan of The Doors — young or old — this is real­ly the way it was; this is the way to see what it was all about.

In nei­ther of these con­certs is Mor­ri­son quite the unhinged mani­ac of leg­end, but things, as they say, had already begun to unrav­el. Two years lat­er the band would play its last show with Mor­ri­son at The Ware­house in Decem­ber of 1970. Some believe the Doors peaked in 1967 and nev­er topped their debut (a “stoned, immac­u­late clas­sic” and the dark under­bel­ly of Sgt. Pep­per’s sun­ny psy­che­delia). I don’t buy that at all. But even if these shows catch them on the start of a decline, it was a long slow burn, and beau­ti­ful to watch.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Doors Key­boardist Ray Man­zarek (1939–2013) Tells the Sto­ry of the Clas­sic Song, ‘Rid­ers on the Storm’

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Pre­serves Jim Morrison’s Final Poet­ry Record­ings from 1971

A Young, Clean Cut Jim Mor­ri­son Appears in a 1962 Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­mo Film

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.