Before settling into a 50th anniversary celebration next year, The Doors are going back to the (near) beginning with its latest vault release.
The limited edition (18,000 copies) London Fog 1966 features seven songs, including blues covers and early versions of “Strange Days” and “You Make Me Real.” These renditions wecorded during the group’s residency at the Sunset Strip club, before they moved shop to the Whiskey a Go Go, where the quartet cemented its reputation as a darkly provocative live act.
It was at the London Fog where the group cut its teeth, and it’s an illuminating recording even for surviving members Robby Krieger and John Densmore. “This is the earliest stuff I’ve ever heard of the Doors. It’s pretty cool,” guitarist Krieger tells Billboard.
“We were obviously just starting out. We’d probably been together for maybe six, eight months, maybe even a year at that point. We hadn’t really found our sound exactly; We were still doing a lot of cover songs and Ray (Manzarek) was doing a lot of signing and Jim (Morrison) was still kinda shy and hadn’t really come out of his shell yet. But you can hear that it’s us.”
If the Doors camp has its way, fans will be able to hear more from that period in the near future. “There is a whole piece of this thing that’s missing,” Krieger says, alluding to tapes that include early versions of eventual Doors classics such as “Light My Fire” and “The End.” “You’re really only hearing half of that evening’s performance,” the guitarist says, confirming that the rest of the recording “is being looked for as we speak. I hope they find it because most of the cool songs are on that one, and it would be cool to hear them before they got recorded to hear how much they changed.”
In “Light My Fire,” for instance, the Bach-flavored introduction was only in the middle of the song, not at the beginning, middle and end as it is in the 1967 recorded version.
Krieger does remember the London Fog as a good incubator for the Doors original material — mostly due to a lack of audience for its gigs. “The way we got the gig was we told he guy, ‘Hey man, we can fill this place up. We’ve got a lot of friends’ and blah, blah, blah,” Krieger recalls. “The first night we had all of our UCLA friends there, 100 or more people and the guy was ecstatic.
Of course the next night there was, like, nobody there — two people came, and it continued like that for maybe a week or two. It was depressing after awhile, but when there was nobody there we didn’t have to worry about people dancing or what they thought. It was great to have a stage and be on the Sunset Strip and play our own stuff. We looked at it as a live rehearsal — although there was one Go-Go girl, Rhonda Lane, who was mad because our songs weren’t very danceable.”
As London Fog 1966 comes out, the Doors camp is gearing up to commemorate the golden anniversary of the group’s first album during 2017, though the plans are still being finalized. “We’ve got some ideas; I can’t give them way yet, but there will definitely be some cool stuff happening with the Doors,” says Krieger, who’s also planning to release a new solo album in the new year.
He does confirm a major festival dedicated to the Doors is planned in London, while he and Densmore are hoping to release a film from their A Celebration For Ray Manzarek tribute concert last February 12 at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. “I’m sure we’re going to do something in L.A., too,” says Krieger. “It really doesn’t feel like 50 years,” he adds. “When John and I played at Ray’s tribute it seemed like yesterday, And I’ve been playing Doors stuff for a long time and people love it, so it feels very alive to me.”