Elektra wanted The Doors to record a live album to help offset the production costs of The Soft Parade ($86,000), and The Doors wanted to prove to audiences they were still a musical force to be reckoned with, so Elektra rented the Aquarius Theater for two shows during which they would record a live album.
The Aquarius Theater was home of the Los Angeles production of the musical Hair. Elektra had rented the theater on the musical’s off night (Monday). Parked a van out back stuffed with recording equipment, cables snaking into the theater, where producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick listened to the concerts.
The recording of The Doors live had originally been planned for the Whisky a go-go, a return for The Doors to the home where they had started their career a mere three years previously. When the Whisky didn’t work out, they moved the recording to the Aquarius theater that Elektra had rented out for concerts on Monday night, (previous weeks had included other Elektra acts such as Love, Bread, Lonnie Mack, and A&M’s The Flying Burrito Borthers) the night off for Hair. The Doors still viewed it as a return, to the artistic, not the sensational. When fans starting streaming in the theater they were shocked to see a bearded Jim Morrison sitting onstage wearing a loose fitting white shirt and striped pants, no leathers, no leather clad demon, no lizard king, only The Doors, musicians.
By all accounts the shows were an artistic success, Jim for most of the performances simply sitting on the stool and singing the songs while the band played. The shows did have their moments though, during the second show during the Celebration of the Lizard, Morrison climbed the scaffolding of the Hair set and delivered the opening lines of the song before grabbing one of the stage ropes and swung out over the audience and landed on the stage to continue the song. The one thing they weren’t was that the shows didn’t sound very good on tape. As The Doors toured, other shows were recorded and edited together to make an album more representative of a good night’s Doors performance.
A couple notes on the Aquarius shows. Before the start of the shows Jim handed out copies of his poem Ode to L.A. while thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased, to fans waiting in line to get in. The poem is a tribute to Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones who had been found dead in his swimming pool earlier in the month. A member of the Los Angeles cast of Hair was Michael Lee Aday, who would later go on to be known and record as Meatloaf.
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