Note: to those of you who have viewed this previously, this is the finished version.
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
“Death makes angels of us and gives us wings where we had shoulders, smooth as ravens claws.”
“Riders on the Storm,
Riders on the Storm,
Into this house we’re born,
Into this world we’re thrown,
Like a dog without a bone,
An actor out on loan,
Riders on the Storm,
Theres a killer on the road,
His brain is squirming like toad,
Take day long holidays,
Let your children play,
If you give this man a ride,
Sweet memory will die,
Killer on the road, yeah.
Girl you gotta love your man,
Girl you gotta lover your man,
Take him by the hand,
Make him understand,
The world on you depends,
Our life will never end,
Gotta love your man, yeah.
Riders on the Storm.”
–Riders on the Storm
Ahh, The Doors. They only happen to be my favorite band of all-time. I could go on for hours and hours talking about The Doors and their music. But I won’t….for now. I’ll spare ya.
But I will talk about a certain concert I saw the other night. You see, it went like this: I was at work, heard my email box go ‘ding!’ (that’s really what it does…..every twenty minutes), and there it was, in big, bold letters:
“FREE TICKETS TO SEE ‘RIDERS ON THE STORM’ THIS THURSDAY AT THE AVALON…..FEATURING RAY MANZAREK AND ROBBIE KRIEGER OF ‘THE DOORS.’
Wow……that one almost floored me. Good thing it was almost the end of the day and I didn’t have much work to do….I needed some time to come to grips with things. After a couple minutes, I ensured that I had a ticket for myself, and then I started asking around to see who else might want to go. In the end: a temp that I work with, her friend, and my buddy Jay were to be my guests.
Anyway…back to the point. Like I said earlier, The Doors are my favorite band of all time. I grew up listening to them on beat up cassette tapes while driving with my parents on road trips. By high school, if I had my headphones on, it was usually The Doors. At this point, I can recite most of the songs by heart. I consider myself a diehard: if there was a way to phrase it like Deadheads (diehard Grateful Dead fans), well, I guess I’d be one of them.
To give a brief history of the band:
Band history: After meeting at UCLA in 1965, Jim and Ray decided to form a band (Ray was a graduate student studying film; Jim was getting his Bachelor’s Degree. Contrary to popular belief, caused entirely by compulsive liar/filmmaker Oliver Stone, Jim did graduate with his Bachelor’s Degree. Takes a little away from his bad ass image I guess…..but whatever.). Jim wrote the lyrics to their first song, “Moonlight Drive,” and after hooking up with Robbie and John, they were a band.
From the start they were controversial: Perhaps their most mystifying song, from their first album (titled “The Doors”), was “The End.” In it, Jim described killing his father and having sex with his mother. To say the least….this didn’t go over very well with a lot of people in the late 60s, and they were banned from more than a couple recording studios.
But their music stood out. As their music gained popularity, so did they: they became pop starts, featured in teeny bop magazines. Their next few albums would be criticized as being commercial by many, but despite what critics said, they always managed come up with underground type songs that weren’t played on the radio.
They started getting into trouble around 1970. They were already known for bumping heads with authorities (an absolutely great story is from when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. Ed Sullivan wanted absolutely no drug/sex related themes being played on his airwaves [remember: this is the show that filmed Elvis from the stomach up so the audience couldn’t see him shake his hips], but, for obvious reasons, he wanted popular rock and roll bands on his show. In 1966 or 67, The Rolling Stones were on his show, singing “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Well….we all know what that can come to mean. So the lyrics were switched to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.” Its hilarious to watch the footage of this, and see the band members visibly roll their eyes as the song is played. Well….the same situation came up with The Doors. Their big hit at the time was “Light My Fire.” The version being played on the radio at the time was not the seven minute version we’ve come to know and love; it was a three minute version with all the music chopped out. But the problem was with a line that Jim was to sing: it went like this: “You know that I would be untrue/You know that I would be a liar/If I was to say to you/Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” Well, there’s some obvious drug talk there. So ofcourse the show’s crew approached The Doors beforehand to make sure it was changed. I’ve heard different versions of what the line was supposed to be: on a TV show I was watching a few years back, I remember Ray saying that someone came into the dressing room a half an hour before show time, told them to change it to anything, and left, prompting Jim to saying, “We’re not changing anything.” On Wikipedia, it says that the line was changed to “Girl we couldn’t get much better.” Whatever the case…nothing was changed, and Jim sang the original line: Ed Sullivan was so furious he refused to shake their hands. According to Ray, after the show the same crew member from before barged into the dressing room and shouted, “You’ll never do The Ed Sullivan Show again!!!!” To which Jim responded: “Man…..we just did The Ed Sullivan Show.” But whatever…..this was before they really started to get in trouble.), but things would get worse. Jim was having more run-ins with police and security at concerts, being maced for alledgedly making-out with a fifteen year old at one concert. He was frequently showing up drunk at concerts. And then in Miami, 1970…the shit hit the fan. Alledgedly (a big alledgedy….no photo has ever been provided), Jim exposed himself. Suddenly, their U.S. and European tours were cancelled, and The Doors started their downward spiral. They did manage to produce one more great album (Morrison Hotel, 1970), but things really started to fall apart. By 1971…Jim was dead in a bathtub in Paris due to an alleged heart attack (there were a lot of conspiracy theories that we was alive for awhile, which I pretty much see the same nonsense surrounding Elvis’s death and Tupac’s death. Not sure what this phenomena should be called.). Anyway….that’s The Doors in a nutshell.
Now…..where was I. Ohh yah….I was writing a music review.
Well, the show was playing at the Avalon: for those of you not from the area (Boston), that’s right near Fenway Park. And it just so happened that there was a game starting about an hour before the doors opened. This meant that there was literally thousands of people crawling the streets with Red Sox shit on: it also meant that I could get a sausage from Chi Chi’s (good times!). There was a slight logistical problem: the friend I was meeting shares a cellphone with his wife, and he was taking the T in from Somerville, and anyone that knows Boston knows that taking the T on a night the Sox are playing can make you want to commit suicide (seriously…..I’ve been on trains crammed with like four hundred people, as we sit motionless for 5 minutes, and the thought has crossed my mind [Dude…I should just end it now. The Green Line sucks] before Red Sox games). But whatever….I got to people watch while I waited for my cellphone-less friend. When he finally showed up, he was sprinting down Brookline Ave, wearing a sport coat, jeans, and sunglasses. I flagged him down but he couldn’t see me, cause, you know, he was wearing sunglasses. Finally I got him.
“Wow, you really got deckd out, huh?”
“Hey man, I’m seeing The Doors…..I had to dress like a rock star.”
Hey….atleast there was logic involved.
Anyway, our next stop was Boston Beer Works, where we drank some very good house made beer and met up with my co-worker and her friend. After hangin for about an hour, it was show time.
Now….we already knew that we were gonna have a good seat due to the fact that only 400 tickets were sold: they were expecting to sell 1,900. So we headed in, grabbed a couple Heinekens, and waited for the dude with the crazy white guy afro and acoustic guitar to finish up his act (this guy wasn’t bad….but he wasn’t great. He kept putting everyone to sleep, and then he’d scream, “You know what I mean, Mutherf**ker!!” and everyone would wake up.). Finally, his set ended.
And finally…..the show started. Riders on the Storm consists of the following Riders:
Brett Scallions-vocals (formerly of Fuel)
My apologies, I can’t find the name anywhere…..drums
My apologies, I can’t find the name anywhere, but I know he’s from Jamaica….bass
They played the following set: Love Me Two Times/Break on Through/Peace Frog/Blue Sunday/Strange Days/When The Music’s Over/Moonlight Drive/Wild Child/Spanish Caravan/5 to 1/Texas Radio and the Big Beat/Touch Me/L.A. Woman/Encore: Light My Fire.
As best as I can, I will give a song by song analysis:
Love Me Two Times/Break on Through: This was a good way to start the show: bring out some old classics that everyone knows. And more importantly, they knew what we were looking for: the emphasis was the music of Ray and Robbie. Both had fantastic solos in these first two songs. Drums, bass, even vocals, were simply there to support the wizards.
Peace Frog/Blue Sunday: I’m really glad they broke these two out. As many Doors fans know, this was a favorite duo of the band to play at concerts. First you have the joyful, bouyant beat of Peace Frog, and then, the sweet melody of Blue Sunday. No, no one can croon that song like Jim could….but it was still good to hear.
Strange Days: Good pick! I was anticipating some songs that are not as well known or appreciated. Sure, Strange Days is on the Greatest Hits double disc, buts its usually overshadowed by its more famous cousin, People Are Strange. I was very glad to hear this song, but much more glad to hear….
When The Music’s Over: Absolutely my favorite Doors song of all-time, which is saying a lot since they’re my favorite band of all-time. This song is simply a masterpiece that is meant to be played live: I have about 8 live versions on my iPod. And the version they played was as loud, wild, and unpredictable as any I’ve ever heard. Sure, its not the same without Jim belting out the mesmorizing words, but the musical aspect was phenomenal.
Moonlight Drive: An old classic that they almost couldn’t not bring out. I mean, c’mon….it was the first Doors song ever! No its not my favorite song….but it allows Robbie to that really creepy sound come out of his guitar. Pretty cool.
Wild Child: Another one I didn’t really expect to hear. A good one….and a loud one.
Spanish Caravan: Without a question in my mind, the highlight of this show. Everyone left the stage except Robbie, and he played the flamenco guitar for about 3-4 minutes before everyone came back out, at which point they started playing ‘Caravan.’ It was really a treat.
Five to One: Well, everyone who kept screaming it out all night got their wish. And it was a great version….they did a great job. I did think it came a little early in the set, however; its more of a finale song.
Texas Radio and the Big Beat: Totally unexpected on my part…I didn’t think they’d play this one. Its a good one, real bluesy. Its never been one of my favorites, but some Doors fans swear by this song.
Touch Me: A very good version of a song which I’ve never really liked that much. Maybe because there were no horns I liked it more. Whatever the case my be….I liked this one.
L.A. Woman: You just knew this one was coming. Not only is it one of the Top Five Greatest Highway Driving Songs of all-time, it was never played live by The Doors (Jim passed away too soon). So you knew it was coming. The only problem: we also knew it was the end of the show.
Encore: Light My Fire: What can you say. One of the most music heavy songs of their entire collection. You just knew it was going to come. Robbie and Ray didn’t disapoint. Ray actually played the organ with his foot. It was fantastic. But still….I was saddened that there wasn’t more.
Now, there were some noticable songs left out. They were:
Alabama Song/Back Door Man: I bring up these two because afterwords the roadies were handing out setlists, and they were on the list but crossed out with pencil. Also, I know that at other stops on this tour, these songs were played. As much as I liked the set we saw…I would have killed to see either of these, especially Back Door Man. I mean, it doesn’t get much more vintage live Doors than that. I would have gotten rid of Wild Child or ‘Texas Beat’ in a heart beat for either of these two.
The End: My friend asked me beforehand if I thought they would finish the show with The End. I told him I didn’t think so, and I sure hoped not. Yes, The End is perhaps the most iconic of all Doors songs, but its also way to Jim-heavy to perform today. Jim made that song what it was. To play it would have been blasphemy…trust me. It also probably would have fallen flat, and left everyone feeling depressed. But I wasn’t really worried…I was next to positive they weren’t going to play it (other Jim heavy songs I sort of wanted to hear, but not really [for the above reason], were The Crystal Ship and I Can’t See Your Face in my Mind).
Riders on the Storm: This was the big one. I mean, the name of their band is Riders on the Storm. It would just seem right to play it. Although some may say its Jim-heavy like the The End, I disagree: I think the music would have really carried this one. I didn’t even notice until after I had left, actually. My friend and I discussed it, and both came to the same conclusion: the crowd sucked. I’ll get back to this in a second. First, I want to talk quickly about the band itself and I thought of them:
Robbie: Absolutely ELECTRIC. ON FIRE. SUPERB. I don’t even know how else to describe the guy. He was simply amazing. I can’t imagine seeing these guys in their prime…..not only was Jim perhaps the most charismatic performers of all time, but his guitarist must have been incredible to see.
Ray: The same as Robbie. These guys were so on their money it was scary. I mentioned earlier that Ray was playing the keyboard with his foot at the end, and it still sounded good. They were both phenomenal.
Brett Scallions: I knew this position (vocalist) would be key to the way the entire show played out, and was a little aprehensive. I told my friend before the show: “All he has to do is not f**k it up. Don’t try to be Jim, but be enough like Jim that it seems real.” In retrospect, what I was expecting was pretty damn hard.
I mean, can you even imagine taking on this job. There’s only way to approach it: know that you can’t be Jim, and try your hardest to be Jim, without crossing the line.
In all honesty….I thought he did a very good job. He had fun with it. Dressed in some leather pants, danced around the stage….kept the party moving. I liked it. His voice obviously couldn’t get it done: but I still think he did what he was supposed to. Like I said….he didn’t f**k it up. He moved out of the way for Robbie and Ray when he needed to, but acted a little like Jim when it was expected. If he had f**ked it up….well, we all would have known, and probabaly wouldn’t be none to happy.
Bass…..he kept a good base line.
Drums: honestly, I think this was the one real weak spot. The drummer never really got it done for me. My co-worker mentioned the same thing the next day. I know it seems easy to just get any old drummer…but I can’t seem to stop thinking about how much better if John (Densmore) had been the drummer.
In John’s defense: he’s the one member of the band that people seem to forget, but he shouldn’t be. In my opinion, he is one of the most theatrical drummers of all-time. He and Jim mastered the theatrics at concerts: Ray and Robbie took care of the music. It was more noticable at times that we wasn’t there than Jim.
Ofcourse, like so many great bands from back in the day (Pink Floyd, anyone?), the band is feuding. Ray and John have been feuding over certain issues for the past few years. I believe lawsuits are in order. If I may, can I just say a word here: would all of the great bands from the sixties and seventies just stop feuding already? Just stop it. Us Generation X-ers never got a chance to see you in concert, and now we want to. Stop being grumpy old men.
But to get back to the point….I wish the drummer was better. But in actuality, maybe it was the shoes of John, and not Jim, there weren’t supposed to be filled (not saying Jim’s shows were filled).
Anyway….thats what I thought of the band.
Now, the one major weak point of the night, and the real reason Riders on the Storm wasn’t played: the crowd. Can you say WEAK? Granted, there were only 400 of us…..but it still didn’t cut it.
At first, the crowd was wild. For about the first 5 songs, it was mayhem. And then, I’m not sure what happened, but after When The Music’s Over, the crowd mellowed. It was like we had been worn out. I wasn’t…..I kept shouting the whole time. But it was noticable.
Well, the show kept going, and then the unthinkable happened: L.A. Woman finished, the band left the stage, and, well…..I heard the worst attempt at an encore cheer I have ever heard. It was like everyone was too tired and wanted to go home or something. I was screaming my head off, but it was almost a sickly silence. There was not one lighter up…..maybe they’re banned or something, but c’mon. I would have said something, but didn’t want to be a hypocrite since I didn’t have one myself (I knew some folks had atleast one, because a certain smell was in the air throughout the show). After about two minutes, they came back out (some guy had to actually come out from backstage and tell us to cheer for more music…..I was appalled). I was so embarrassed, I can’t put it into words.
Well, after about two minutes, they came back out (because they had to), and they played a great version of Light My Fire, and that was it. Done. Lights on. And we didn’t get to hear Riders on the Storm, as played by Riders on the Storm. Because the crowd was filled with pansies.
Some more notes on the crowd:
1) People were throwing cups of beer into the crowd and onto the stage during the stage. C’mon….is this the point we’re at. First peace and love….then riots….then more violent riots….and now we’re throwing beer cups. Jesus….they probably were standing on stage thinking, “Man, this generation sucks…give me the Sixties back.”
2) I noticed that throughout the show, Scallions did a lot of spitting. Whatever……when you’re performing, you do this stuff sometimes. But I heard from people that were up front that he wasn’t always hitting the stage: sometimes he hit the people. Sorry, Scallions….maybe Jim Morrison could have gotten away this, but there is no way you should be spitting on people.
3) It was an interesting crowd, to say nothing better. There were a lot of folks in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and then there were a lot of kids no older than 15. I didn’t mind the older folks…..there was a 50-something couple making out hard core next to me (the woman was wearing a bitching leather jacket), but thats to be expected. The high school kids, however, I could have done without. One kid approached us totally out of control, crawling around on the floor and mubbling strange things. When we asked his friend how many drugs he was on, we found out he was only drunk. He spent about 15 minutes trying to get us to buy him beer.
But thats not what pissed me off about the high school kids: it was the cellphones. Filming during the show….texting during the show…..just looking bored and playing on the phone during the show. I mean, c’mon…..what would Jim Morrison say? He must be rolling in the grave.
I felt like shouting, “Hey, you little punks, when I was in high school, we weren’t allowed to have phones in class!” Then I realized I felt like I was a 75 year old man. Damn….I can’t wait to see how much I hate the youth when I’m 45 instead of 24.
Well, I feel as if I’ve covered this subject far enough. To sum it up: it was a good show, I just wish the crowd could have done some more. Here’s some fun Doors stuff:
Fun fact #1: The Doors were one of the few bands not to have a bassist, yet on many of their songs, there is a noticable bass line. How did they do it?
Well, when playing live, Ray would play a special organ, which was state of the art at the time, that allowed him to play both keyboard and bass. To me, this is unfathomable. The man was playing to entirely different pieces of music with each hand. PURE WIZZARDRY.
In the studio, however, they would usually hire a bass player to play: they played with many different bassists. For this reason, the organ sounds fuller on studio songs: Ray was using two hands instead of one, so he could really explore.
Fun Fact #2: While it is commonly believed by many that Jim wrote nearly all of The Doors lyrics, many songs were written by other band members, notibably Robbie. Three of his songs: Light My Fire, Love Her Madly, and Love Me Two Times. I read in Rolling Stone once that these three songs sound more like Jim Morrison than Jim Morrison: its really the only way to put it.
Fun Fact #3: Jim’s dad was a Rear Admiral in the Navy: he was one of the top people involved with nuclear studies in the military.
A related link: If you want to hear the guys over at The Weight weigh in on this same concert in New York (where they played Riders on the Storm, as well as Albama Song & Back Door Man), check this out:
And now, since its only right, some cool footage:
An interview on PBS with The Doors after their 1970 freefall. Interestingly, after their crisis, PBS was one of the only ways for them to promote their albums. It gets cut off, but its still pretty good.
While Jim was travelling around as a child, he got to experience a lot of stuff, like starring in promotional videos for Florida Universities. Check it out:
And finally…..the reason why The Doors were so great. This is a twelve minute version of When The Music’s Over which is fantastic. Try not to be bothered if the timings off by a few seconds. Enjoy.
Until Next Time,