On Friday, April 10, 1970, The Doors were scheduled for two shows at the Boston Arena. The 7 p.m. show was respectable enough, beginning with some fierce wails from Jim Morrison before bursting into “Roadhouse Blues,” and concluding with the band’s biggest hit, “Light My Fire.”
But, it’s the second show where you really hear, in keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s words, “crazy, wild Doors at their best.”
The show was scheduled to start at 10 p.m. but didn’t actually get under way until after midnight. “Light My Fire” sprawls over nearly 20 minutes, with bits of “Fever” and “St. James Infirmary Blues” tossed in. Despite Morrison’s obvious state of altered consciousness, the show holds together very well — at least until the organizers decide that enough is enough, and they pull the plug, to the crowd’s great dissatisfaction.
Now, both shows in their entirety have been released on Rhino as Live In Boston 1970, a three-CD set that captures the band at a key point in its career. It was a year after the infamous performance in Miami that resulted in Morrison being charged with indecent exposure (“Do you want to see my genitals?” Morrison taunts the Boston audience at one point), and the band was still enjoying commercial success (the recently released Morrison Hotel was a Top 5 hit), but the band was careening toward the end of their life as a touring act, 14 months before Morrison’s unexpected death in Paris at age 27.
The Boston shows were taped along with a few others recorded on that spring tour.
“We’ve got about eight shows that are multi-tracked,” says Manzarek, speaking on the phone from Napa, Calif. “Then we cherry picked the best performances for Absolutely Live [released in July 1970]. But, now we’re releasing the entire show, because people have said, ‘Hey, we know you’ve got the entire shows; just release them already!’ So, that’s what we’re doing.”
Well before iTunes, The Doors already were reaching out to their fans online via their Bright Midnight Records label (now Bright Midnight Archives), which offered unreleased shows and interviews exclusively through the label’s Web site.
“Yeah, we were releasing live shows on a collectors-only Web site,” says Manzarek, “but now we’ve decided since, hey, there’s so many requests for them, why don’t we just put them out as regular CDs? Rhino does all The Doors catalog items, and they said, ‘Let’s do it; come on, we want put those out so they’re in the stores.’ And we said, ‘Okay, that’s fine, let’s go ahead and do it.’ Consequently, when you do that, interestingly enough, you get publicity! I’ve just read a review of Live In Boston in the Sunday paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. And if we had only released it online, it wouldn’t have been reviewed in the Chronicle. But now, people who read the Sunday paper can see a review of Live in Boston!”
Manzarek recalls the Boston shows as “manic, wild, crazy, intoxicated … the shaman was intoxicated in Boston. I don’t know if you’re allowed to even be a shaman in Boston. But Morrison sure as hell did it! Still, as intoxicated as Jim was, it was never a problem. Even in his most intoxicated state, he’d hit the musical cues. When we’d play ‘Light my Fire,’ you could solo as long as you wanted — and sometimes we did! — and then Jim would scream, improvise, add poetry, or whatever, sang some things that he felt like doing.
“The only thing that mattered was at the end of the solo we’d go back into the first verse of ‘L