Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Tale of Two Morrisons: The Doors and Them Onstage

The Whisky a Go Go was a music venue on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles that played host to a number of seminal 60s bands.  The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love were all performed there. Audience members included a number of important musical figures as well.  The Doors were the 'house band' for a while until Jim Morrison's controversial performance of The End one night. 

Them had a two week residency that ran from June 2 to June 18, 1966.  The Doors opened for them and the two groups were on particularly friendly terms.  On the last night of the residency Jim Morrison joined Them onstage for a classic jam of Gloria.  In an interview in Wavelength 21 Jim Armstrong, who payed guitar with Them, reminisced about the Whisky residency.  He said that part of the band's deal for the shows was free beer and spirits at half price.  Nonetheless in two weeks the band accumulated a $2600 bar tab.  He is quoted as saying rather redundantly, "they were heavily into drugs while we were all heavily into drink."   

The Whiskey a Go Go shows were part of an exhaustive west coast tour which ultimately were among the last shows performed by a Van Morrison-led Them. Van Morrison left the group in September, 1966 after their return to Ireland. The Whisky shows were sell-outs and extremely well-received. Apparently, The Doors had difficulty finding places in the audience to watch Them's opening night. Jim was very impressed with the band and with Van Morrison's performance.
The famous jam between Them and The Doors was mentioned by John Densmore in his book.  He said it was one of the greatest musical moments of his life to be on stage with two drummers, two guitarists, two keyboard players and two Morrisons.

In a 1983 interview, Ray Manzerk also spoke about the night they appeared with Them.

“Yeah, there were some good times at The Whisky-A-Go-Go, boy that's for sure. We played with Them; the first gig we played at The Whisky was Van Morrison and Jim Morrison - on the same stage. And Van Morrison was insane. You know how he got into just standing there and singing? I haven't really seen him in a long time, but when he was with Them, the guy was ALL OVER the stage, man. Absolutely insane. Did that thing of holding the microphone stand upside down, and singing, and smashing the mic stand into the stage, and just...God, was he incredible! He was so good. Then the last night we played we had a jam, We got a couple of photographs of that somewhere, but nobody recorded it. The Doors and Them, together on stage, the two Morrisons.”
(Paul Lawrence, Ray Manzarek: The Audio Interview, Audio, Dec. 1983)

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