The single most famous gig The Doors ever played took place in Miami, Fla., on March 1, 1969, when a drunk and combative Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself onstage, resulting in the singer’s arrest for indecent exposure and subsequent conviction, from which the band never fully recovered.
Nobody could have envisioned such a downward spiral back on July 5, 1968. That’s when The Doors — whose single “Hello, I Love You” and album Waiting for the Sun would hit No. 1 in Billboard that same summer — headlined the prestigious Hollywood Bowl, roughly a year after “Light My Fire” made the California quartet famous. This show, released in a shortened form in the late 1980s, has been restored and reissued in full under a new title, Live at The Bowl ’68 (Eagle Rock Entertainment), and the DVD looks and sounds as good as any other official Doors footage currently available.
Aside from the mock execution that takes place in “The Unknown Soldier” and some brief poetic music interludes, Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore steer clear of theatric and esoteric urges, devoting a sizable chunk of their time to their enduring epics “When the Music’s Over,” “Light My Fire” and “The End.” There are moments in the concert when Morrison seems like he’s going through the motions (most notably during “Light My Fire”), and that might be due to his believed acid consumption prior the show.
That widely assumed rumor is addressed by Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore in “You Had to Be There,” one of three bonus documentary features that really make Live at The Bowl ’68 worthwhile viewing. Joe and Willie Chambers of The Chambers Brothers (who opened for The Doors at the Bowl) provide funny and insightful anecdotes in “You Had to Be There,” while cameraman Frank Lisciandro and audio restorer and mixer Bruce Botnick cover some of the technical details involved with the project.
In the bonus feature called “Reworking The Doors,” Botnick (who engineered the band’s studio albums and coproduced 1971’s L.A. Woman) explains and shows how he went to other sources to fill in the vocal gaps and glitches that were in “Hello, I Love You,” “The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” and “Spanish Caravan,” which had all been withheld from 1987’s Live at The Hollywood Bowl.
“We owe it to the fans to tell them … It’s not to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” Botnick says — otherwise, without the corrections, the performances would not have seen the light of day. With the release of Live at The Bowl ’68 (also available on Blu-ray, CD and vinyl), this concert is now complete — and these judicious audio adjustments shouldn’t be a distraction to hardcore Doors fans.
— By Chris M. Junior