Did Judge George Hatch slam these Doors or just leave them ajar?
"In those days, rock-and-roll was 'tribal.' Jim saw it as a great Dionysian explosion, a religious experience. It's what religion should have been—total joy and exhilaration. And The Doors for me was one of the few bands that could excite that emotion in an audience."—Paul Kantner of The Jefferson Airplane.
The Doors Live in Europe: 1968 is an all too short documentary of the group's tour through London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt in 1968. The Jefferson Airplane accompanied them, and Grace Slick and Paul Kantner provide some insightful narration about the social upheavals that were occurring in the 1960s and how it was reflected in the music of the era. Kantner points out that they went to a small college in Iowa and "everybody came dressed in prom gowns and tuxedos. A year later we went back and they were having nude love-ins and body painting ceremonies." Slick recalls an incident in London specific to this tour. They'd be walking down the street and dozens of people kept offering them drugs of all kinds. "But you never take anything all at once—because you'd be dead. Jim, on the other hand, took everything he was given—right on the spot."
There's some bad footage of a deliriously stoned Morrison doing a wild improvised dance to The Airplane's "Plastic Fantastic Lover." The band "got hooked on his moves, so we started playing faster and faster." Morrison kept the pace until he collapsed and had to be dragged off-stage. He was still unconscious and unable to perform, so keyboardist Manzarek took over the vocals for the entire set. According to Slick, this was "getting to be a regular thing. And while Jim was one of the best, he was becoming one of the most unreliable lead singers."
The professionally shot concert material in The Doors Live in Europe: 1968 gives an incisive look at the band—percussionist John Densmore, Robby Krieger on guitar with Ray Manzarek noodling the keyboards—and the "Morrison mystique" in the following songs:
• Light My Fire
There are a few too many extreme close-ups of Morrison's face in "Love Me Two Times" and "Back Door Man." He was indeed a handsome man but, like Elvis, you had to see him in full body shots to capture his charismatic stage presence. You'll get some of that in "Back Door Man" and "Spanish Caravan." The latter starts of with one of Morrison's long, poetically surreal introductions. These enigmatic musings seem to be flowing spontaneously from his subconscious and can literally hypnotize an audience. Believe me: I've been there! Most of them have been published in Lords and New Creatures, and two volumes of his "lost writings," Wilderness and The American Night. Morrison goes full-tilt with his seductive attitude and posturing in the complete 12-minute version of "When the Music's Over" and an extended "Light My Fire." Screaming fans had to be pulled away from the stage by security guards, and Morrison obviously relished the power he has over the crowd. "Unknown Soldier" is noted for Densmore's dramatic tattoo on the snare drum, followed by Morrison being "shot" by an execution squad. In this sequence, you can see Manzarek holding his arm up in the background, prolonging the suspense before giving the cue for Densmore to "Fire!"—and Morrison reacts like he's been hit point blank in the chest with a shotgun. Powerful stuff!
"Hello, I Love You" was filmed outside on a street, and it has the look of a music video with frequent cuts to a crowd either bewildered or embarrassed at being caught on camera. Morrison looks like he's trying to be a "family friendly" nice guy flashing a lot of bright smiles and cute winks. Although well filmed and edited, this is my least favorite sequence because it's candy-coating is not at all representative of the real Jim Morrison. "Five To One" should be re-titled "Two to One" because we get only a few minutes worth—but this was poorly filmed footage anyway. "Alabama Song" plays over a montage of people visiting Morrison's grave on the anniversary of his death. (He's buried in the same Paris cemetery as Chopin and Molière.) Grieving fans leave flowers, lighted candles, and love notes—while the remaining Doors sign autographs and photos. When they can get close enough, teary-eyed devotees try to caress the face on the stone bust of Morrison that has become an international shrine to his memory.
There were rumors circulating that Morrison committed suicide with an intentional overdose, but Grace Slick thinks otherwise. "He had so much to drink one night he simply died. He'd done it before and it always worked. I think what happened is that this 'roulette wheel' that spun around and around finally just stopped and said, 'Not this time.'"
The film was directed by Paul Justman (Standing in the Shadows of Motown) and co-directed by Densmore and Manzarek. I remember tracking down this documentary after some reviewers criticized Oliver Stone for "lifting scenes" for his 1991 film The Doors starring Val Kilmer in a spot-on, mesmerizing performance. Yes, that final graveyard scene is in both, as is the Heathrow Airport sequence where the members of the band introduce themselves with their full name, age, and the instrument they played. Jim Morrison comes in last, smiles and says simply, "Jim." I believe Stone was just "recreating" memorable historical moments to draw the audience into his "biography" of the band. The soundtrack was terrible on that tape but Eagle Rock remastered it and the Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Stereo are spectacular giving the music a CD-quality sound. "Hello, I Love You" was The Doors' first single in stereo, and there's a "twang" in the middle of the song that shoots from one speaker to the other. It's as head-spinningly effective on this DVD as it sounded on earphones listening the original 45 rpm.
I've read some complaints about the quality of the concert footage but found no problems at all—save for a few cheap-looking video-cam shots—and those emphasizing Jim Morrison's "8x10 glossie" looks, instead of the full-bodied psychosexual beast he was on stage. Paul Kantner claims Morrison and The Doors were "the precursors of punk and heavy metal rock." As one of the older reviewers here, I wouldn't try to "sell" The Doors Live in Europe: 1968 to that audience. But as a point of reference, Talking Heads in the 1980s, and Pearl Jam—with lead singer Eddie Vedder—in the 1990s, come the closest to capturing innovative power, substance, and delivery of The Doors at their best. And you will experience that in The Doors Live in Europe: 1968.
"I am the lizard king, and I can do anything.
Not guilty! Court dismissed!
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