Just imagine being there: September, 1968. Not even an unknown co headliner – no one else but the incredible Jefferson Airplane playing together with the Doors in no other place but Camden’s Roundhouse. Of course. When we say Camden is the place to be, we mean it, no matter if back then or now.
I’d sell my soul to the time traveling devil for a time-traveling toaster just to go back and be there to witness that magical experience. I’ve been a fangirl ever since I heard the Doors for the very first time and ever since, they’ve been everywhere: my phone screensaver, ringtone, adolescent room and adult flat wall decoration, I’ve read Jim’s biographies, loved his poems, cried, laughed and meditated to their songs, left a rose when visiting him in Père Lachaise, read books that Jim mentioned were his inspiration and even got his bloody signature tattooed. You can pretty much say I’m a bit obsessed (questionable if with him as an actual being or more with the illusionary concept of him as a mystical creature – probably second).
Today would have been the lizard king’s 80th birthday, (yup, I’m in love with an 80 year old dead man) – if he wouldn’t have joined the 27th club in 1971.
Happy birthday, Jimbo. May your music never be over!
Let’s dive into the past to what is regarded as the door’s best gig ever, that obviously happened in Camden and commemorate Jim on his special day. This blogpost will take you back in time, making you feel as if you were (almost) there. Get to know some interesting facts about the night, see images of the Doors’ days in London, read quotes of the audience members and other important rock scene people and rockstars who attended the concerts and watch the magical concert!
Jim Morrison, born on December 8, 1943, in Melbourne, Florida, was more than just a rock icon. He emerged as the lead singer and lyricist for The Doors, leaving an indelible mark on the music landscape of the 1960s. A multifaceted persona of this enigmatic figure, both as a musician and as a complex human being. Jim Morrison’s lyrical prowess elevated him to the ranks of the poetic elite – his ability to seamlessly blend vivid imagery, introspection, and a touch of the surreal created a unique and entrancing lyrical tapestry. His deep, soulful voice served as the sonic vehicle for his lyrical explorations, with a vocal range, coupled with a magnetic stage presence, he captured the essence of The Doors’ sound. His ability to transition from haunting whispers to powerful crescendos added a layer of mystique to the band’s music. Onstage, Morrison was a mesmerising force. His unpredictable and charismatic performances became the stuff of legend. The unpredictability of his behaviour, combined with the intensity of his delivery, made each show a unique experience for fans. Morrison’s background in film, with a degree from UCLA, reflected his intellectual depth. His free-spirited nature, influenced by the Beat Generation and literary giants like William Blake, shaped his worldview and artistic expression. Morrison’s poetry extended beyond lyrics, delving into realms of philosophical exploration. Growing up in a military family exposed Morrison to diverse cultures, contributing to his eclectic worldview. The nomadic nature of his upbringing instilled in him a sense of wanderlust and a rebellion against societal norms, elements that manifested in The Doors’ countercultural ethos. Jim Morrison’s life was tragically cut short on July 3, 1971, at the age of 27. His death left a void in the world of music, but his legacy endured. The mystique surrounding his persona, both on and offstage, continues to captivate new generations of fans.
But who was he? a complex fusion of free spirited poet and shamanic rockstar that left an indelible imprint on music history. As we celebrate his birthday and reflect on his contributions, let’s remember Jim Morrison not just as the frontman of The Doors, but as a visionary artist and a human being whose legacy transcends the boundaries of time and genre.
The ancient Egyptians used to say: if you say a man’s name, he is alive. I take this opportunity to say, Jim Morrison. – Ray Manzarek
Name? ‘Oh, Jim’
Occupation? ‘Uhmm… :)’
This iconic interview was filmed by Granada TV for the documentary, The Doors Are Open, on September 3rd 1968, in no other place but Heathrow airport, just when the boys set foot for their very first UK show – in London, Camden’s Roundhouse!
‘The Doors arrived red-eyed from an overnight flight from the US and were met by the Granada team, who stuck cameras and microphones in their faces and asked them to identify themselves as they stepped off the plane. Ray was quiet and studious, Robby was so shy that he appeared stoned and inarticulate, John was slick and looking for aggravation, and Jim was enigmatic and almost unbelievably beautiful.’ – Clive Selwood (general manager, Elektra Records UK)
The Doors were already an absolute sensation in the U.S. – The anticipation was electric, and not everyone was thrilled about it. Moral crusader Mary Whitehouse took a stand, denouncing The Doors as a “political extremist organisation” in a telegram to the Chief Superintendent of the Special Branch. Always in trouble with the police, literally already only a day after arriving in the country.
However, for the cool cats of London, this was the chance to unravel the mystery surrounding The Doors. The Roundhouse played host to an eclectic lineup spanning two nights, featuring co-headliners Jefferson Airplane, alongside psychedelic virtuosos like The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Terry Reid, Blossom Toes, and Blonde On Blonde. What an unbelievable lineup, huh?
London’s music and film royalty were in attendance, with just members from The Who, Traffic, Cream, and power couple Terence Stamp and Julie Christie gracing the venue. The spectacle was captured for posterity by Granada TV, immortalised in the documentary “The Doors Are Open.” As The Doors ventured into uncharted territory, both geographically and musically, London witnessed a collision of counterculture forces, and the echoes of those legendary nights at The Roundhouse continue to reverberate through the corridors of rock history!
Saturday, September 7th: The Doors Rock the Roundhouse in Camden, London
It’s time! The image above shows fans waiting in front of the Roundhouse for the gig. In a spectacular musical feat on Saturday, September 7th, The Doors took stage at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse in Camden, London. The venue, a revamped train station with a 2,500-seat concert hall, witnessed both shows of the night selling out, accommodating a total of 10,000 eager fans.
Granada Television captured the door’s magic, filming the opening sets of both concerts for their British program, “The Doors Are Open.” Although the program only featured footage from the second show, the concerts themselves were a resounding success. Fans commented that Jim showcased a somewhat reserved, yet deeply involved performance, delivering his vocals with impeccable control and a striking appearance. The first night saw The Doors opening for The Jefferson Airplane, drawing a crowd that included luminaries from the London music scene, such as members of the Rolling Stones and Traffic. The audience remembered, impressively, Jim remained fabulous and notably sober throughout the night.
As the weekend unfolded, the roles reversed on the second night, with The Jefferson Airplane opening for The Doors. Jim later reflected that the Saturday night performance was likely one of the band’s all-time best. The aura was electric, the crowd was enraptured, and The Doors left an indelible mark on the Roundhouse.
‘The audience was one of the best we’ve ever had. In the States they’re there to enjoy themselves as much as they come to hear you. But at The Roundhouse they were there to listen. It was like going back to the roots. It stimulated us. They took me by surprise, because I expected them to be a little resistant, a little reserved, but they were fantastic. It was probably the most informed, receptive audience I’ve ever seen in my life. I think I enjoyed The Roundhouse more than any other date for years.’ ‘The reason why the second sets were much more exciting both nights was the presence of the TV crews on stage and in the hall [for each night’s first set]. It’s that voyeurism thing. It introduces an objective element that turns people off to a real communion.’ – Jim Morrison
‘I was a public schoolboy at Christ’s Hospital in Sussex. I was seventeen, and my friends and I were mad about The Doors. Polydor Records in London was distributing Elektra, so I’d written to them in early 1968 and they sent us monthly newsletters, which is how I knew about the Doors shows.’ – Joss Mullinger (audience member)
‘We had tickets for the second show on the first night. It’s worth remembering that neither The Doors or Jefferson Airplane were considered huge bands here. Neither of them had had major hit singles here.’ – Mick Houghton (audience member)
‘The audience, over two thousand of them, had been sitting patiently since seven-thirty, and they had to wait a further two hours before the action began. The stage darkened and the audience cheered as dim figures appeared and took up positions behind drums, organ and on guitar. The stage lights went up as John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger launched into Back Door Man to herald the arrival of The Doors’ frontman, Jim Morrison. He walked majestically on stage clad in a tight black leather suit, white shirt and brown shoes.’ – Derek Grant (reviewer, NME)
‘I remember Morrison, standing alone in the light, dressed entirely in black leather, performing The Celebration Of The Lizard. That was a revolutionary way for a rock artist to perform. It was more like a leading poet coming out and reading his poetry but with a rock beat behind it. He didn’t dance, he just writhed around in a snake-like way. It was quite stunning.’ – Arthur Brown
‘We always had a kind of running battle with The Jefferson Airplane because we were both California groups and it was a kinda rivalry.’ – Robby Krieger (guitarist, The Doors)
‘We shared a dressing room with The Doors and I remember there was a fuss about who was going to headline.’ – Jim Cregan (guitarist, Blossom Toes)
“We’re gonna go on first…” “No, you’re gonna go…” “We’re biggest…” “No, we’re bigger…” We tossed it around back and forth. – Ray Manzarek (keyboard player, The Doors)
‘I remember talking to Jim backstage… he was so high I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him a routine question and he’d say something like: “The green mountain has a great dawn coming.” I don’t know how conscious he was of what he was doing, but he used himself as a lab rat. He was on a mission to see how far you can take the human mind… where it will go if you push it with chemicals.’ – Grace Slick (vocalist, Jefferson Airplane)
As we celebrate Jim Morrison’s birthday on December 8th, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the enduring impact of his artistry. Beyond the leather-clad, charismatic frontman was a complex soul whose poetry and musical prowess continue to resonate across generations.
Morrison’s magnetic stage presence and introspective lyricism left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape, solidifying his status as an iconic figure in rock history. As we commemorate his birthday, let us revisit the echoes of those September nights in 1968, where The Doors, in all their glory, graced the Roundhouse with a musical odyssey that transcended time and space. As we delve into the memories of that iconic night at the Roundhouse, may we continue to appreciate and celebrate the enduring legacy of Jim Morrison and The Doors.
Rest in peace, Jim, your art is never over.
“I can make myself invisible or small / I can become gigantic and reach the farthest things / I can change the course of nature / I can place myself anywhere in space or time.”
- The Doors Official Website
- The Roundhouse – About Us
- AllMusic – The Doors Biography
- Ultimate Classic Rock – The Doors at the Roundhouse
- Biography.com – Jim Morrison
- Rolling Stone – Jim Morrison’s Poetry
- Images from: The Doors EU Tour 1968: London England September 5-7th
- Biography.com – Jim Morrison’s Death
- The Doors Official Website
- Biography.com – Jim Morrison
- Ultimate Classic Rock – Jim Morrison’s Vocal Range
- Rolling Stone – Jim Morrison’s Poetry