SSMF Kick Off ~ The Doors 1967

The Sunset Strip Music Festival Kick Off Party                                  The Doors
House of Blues, Sunset Strip                                                               KFRC Magic Mountain Music Festival
West Hollywood, California                                                                  Mount Tamalpias, California
August 16, 2012                                                                                     June 1967
Words & Pixs By Victoria Joyce

The big kick off party for the Sunset Strip Music Festival for 2012 was held at the House of Blues in West Hollywood on Thursday, August 16th capping off a week of special gigs in clubs up and down The Strip. Tonight is a hob-nobby kind of affair for handing out awards, making speeches and rolling tribute films with an open bar and actors working catering gigs passing out trays of mini burgers. Tonight we salute The Doors, that quintessential LA band from any era and festival headliner, Marilyn Manson.

The Doors surviving members are all here tonight. Ray Manzarek (keyboards), John Densmore (drums) and Robby Kreiger (guitar) who still tour, gig and attract big crowds despite losing their charismatic lead singer some time ago. We all know the Lizard King bought the farm in 1971. Along with Jimi and Janis, Jim fed fuel to The 27s myth (which is no myth at all).  Along with the Beatles and the Grateful Dead, The Doors have crossed over from music to religion. Their fans don’t just love them, they venerate them.

The start time for the event was delayed coupled with confusion and bureaucratic snags involving tickets, will call, press list, hand stamps, wristbands, laminates, photo IDs, photo passes, release forms, and the Step & Repeat. That’s the big vinyl blanket bordering the Red Carpet with all the corporate logos in the background that make these events possible. If Morrison was still here, he’d either be passing out Orange Wedge or at Lebanese Blonde brownies, ya think?

All artists playing SSMF 2012 were invited tonight to meet the press and get their faces out there. We saw Love & a .38 looking all pretty and ready for their close up. They are returning champions to SSMF for the third time and have a new guitar player replacing Krishna, one Domo Domoracki. But more about that later. (The Shug will post the interview shortly.)

LA Radio Legend, Jim Ladd was there telling tales of The Doors early days. And Manzarek walked the Red Carpet with Marilyn Manson. The most interesting thing about these guys is that they are the same height. Both are rather tall men.

But we left early. And please hear this with all the love in the universe, the majority of the HOB crowd was made up of City Hall types and Record Industry types, who wouldn’t know The Doors from Dave Dee, Dozy, Beeky, Mick & Tich.  And we saw The Doors when they were The Doors. Have you seen that bumper sticker: “I don’t mind being older. I saw better bands”? Yeah, it’s like that.

In June of 1967, San Francisco radio station, KFRC, the Big 610 put on a weekend of bands, mostly local, playing at an outdoor amphitheater cut into the side of Mount Tamalpias, a half hour north of the city and called it The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. The first of it’s kind.

This is where it was at in 1967: before FM exploded with Album Oriented Rock there was only AM playing Top Forty aka Bubblegum for Teeny Boppers. Then Dylan brought an electric guitar to a folk festival and Rock and Roll gained sophistication and became threat to the status quo. The Protest Song was born. Even BurtBacharach was writing anti-war songs. The windows of the world are covered with rain.

The Summer of Love was in bloom and everybody wanted to be in California, San Francisco in particular. Local entrepreneur, Bill Graham started promoting rock shows at the Fillmore Auditorium competing with hippy commune, The Family Dog running shows at The Avalon Ballroom. A music scene was born.

The Fantasy Fair line up reflecting this was split between Top Forty, Folk Rock and San Francisco and LA bands.

KFRC’s Program Director, Tom Rounds organized the two-day concert with 30+ acts. A one-week rain delay caused a slight change up in the advertised artists. The final headliners were Dionne Warwick, The 5th Dimension, Tim Buckley (Jeff’s dad) and the other quintessential LA band, The Byrds, who blasted the world open with their Dylan cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Everybody’s boot heels started wandering.

Other bands from LA scene were The Seeds, Captain Beefheart, The Grass Roots and The Chocolate Watchband.

San Francisco was represented by The Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & The Fish, The Loading Zone, The Mojo Men, The Sons of Champlain, Mount Rushmore, The Salvation Army Blues Band and The Steve Miller Blues Band.

Canada’s Sparrow who later changed their name to Steppenwolf played a set. The Blues Magoos came from Texas for the same. And Every Mother’s Son did their radio hit “Come On Down to My Boat, Baby.”

Featured Folkies were Tim Hardin, Spanky & Our Gang, Jim Kweskin & His Jug Band and P.F. Sloan.

And oh, yeah, that new band out of LA, The Doors were there too. They had just played the Fillmore for the first time a few months prior, opening for The Grateful Dead and Junior Wells. The next time they played, a couple of months later, they headlined with Procol Harum and Mt. Rushmore opening. At the Fantasy Fair they were one of the starters.

Hitting the scene with their self-titled album in 1967, The Doors released the first hit single, “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” inspiredby Aldous Huxley’s book “Doors of Perception.” (The band also took their name from same.) But it was the second single from that distinguished them in Music History. “Light My Fire” was 7 minutes and too long for Top Forty radio but it was time to break the rules and the long version got the airplay. Though a two-minute something “radio-edit” persisted.

Taking the outdoor stage that day in June 1967, the first thing you noticed about The Doors was – no bass player. The keyboard player (Manzarek) had this mini-bass thing on top of his Farfisa that served the purpose.

And the next thing you noticed was the lead singer. He was gorgeous. Wearing a black military jacket, which was quickly shed in the Marin County sunshine, he sported a psychedelic paisley shirt and wide wale white corduroy pants with boots. A shy guitar player stood near the back (Krieger) and a guy with dark hair played drums (Densmore). And they were really, really good.

They did all the songs from that first album. “Soul Kitchen,” “Crystal Ship,” Twentieth Century Fox“, and “Alabama Song.” “Back Door Man” by Muddy Waters was a stand out that let Morrison’s voice shine and soar. Like the bands of the British Invasion, white boys singing black stood as a battle cry for freedom. Just as a few years prior (1964) Eric Burdon and the Animals sang “Boom, Boom, Boom (Gonna Shoot You Right Down)” and Mick and the Stones did “Little Red Rooster,” everybody’s parents freaked. Uh, Oh! This Civil Rights Movement thing just might have legs. Obama 2012.

The Doors ended their set with “Light My Fire,” the song that started out as a homework assignment, delivered by Kriger as a folk song, fleshed out with a Latin Jazz drum beat from Densmore, tied up nicely with some romantic poetry from Morrison and finished with a Bach-like opener on the organ from the classically trained Manzarek. The time to hesitate is through.

There was no security back in the day and we walked up to the backstage and got Jim’s autograph and took his picture.  Densmore too.  Really cute guys.

One week after the Magic Mountain Fantasy Fair; Lou Adler, John Phillips and Brian Jones pulled off the Monterey Pops Festival, some fifty something miles south of the City that gained national media attention and generated one nifty Rock-Doc making this whole thing real.

Again, the San Francisco bands broke big (talking about you Janis).  Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire, The Who busted up their perfectly good instruments and that was it for the Love Generation. They had arrived. Funny how those artists are still regarded as the best that ever lived.  Taylor Swift much?

One more bit of Summer of Love-Rock and Roll Trivia: The following September  – when us kids were back in school we noticed that everyone who went to The Magic Mountain Music Festival got this newspaper in the mail called “The Rolling Stone.” It had John Lennon on the cover – in his “How I Won the War” character.

Tickets were only available through the mail.  It didn’t take much to figure out that this new Rock and Roll newspaper had bought the mailing list from radio station, KFRC; The Big 610 to launch their first issue. No one complained about a breach of privacy. It was the 60s. Peace.