September 6, 1968: The Doors Play The Roundhouse

The Doors at The Roundhouse, September 1968

By the time The Doors arrived in England in 1968 they were the number one group in America. The previous summer they had announced their arrival on the national scene with “Light My Fire,” and in the summer of 1968 they recreated the feat with “Hello, I Love You” going to number one. When The Doors arrived at Heathrow airport on September 3 they were greeted by an eager press. The Doors were there to conquer England.

The Doors arrive in Europe

To the English public, though, The Doors were largely an unknown quantity. “Hello, I Love You” had made an impact on the British charts, but for the most part the audiences had no expectations of who or what The Doors were supposed to be. At the Roundhouse on September 6-7 The Doors enjoyed a psychological return to their salad days at The London Fog and the Whisky a Go-Go and were able to play uninhibitedly to audiences that were there to hear music and not witness a spectacle.

The Roundhouse was aptly named, being a former railroad station for turning train engines around. Because of the success of “Hello, I Love You,” The Doors sold out the four shows scheduled for the two nights. On stage Morrison was a contrast in tones, dressed in black leather pants and a white shirt. The Doors pounded out the music at what would be one of their best shows at the height of their performing career, playing their hits like “Light My Fire” and adding an artistic twist by inserting the opening section of “Celebration of the Lizard” to the intro of “When the Music’s Over” that made you believe The Doors wanted the world and wanted it now. Morrison also interacted with the crowd. During the instrumental section of “Light My Fire” he went down into the audience and held out the microphone to let people give out a little Jim Morrison-like yelp that he had been doing the entire show.

The first show on September 6 was filmed by the BBC for the documentary “The Doors Are Open.” The program wasn’t a concert film, although almost an hour of concert footage is shown. The Doors were the focal point for the producers’ political viewpoint, and the film featured scenes from the police riot in Chicago at the Democratic Convention and “The Battle of Grosvenor Square” which had taken place outside the U.S. Embassy in London earlier in the year. Some of The Doors’ more confrontational songs like “Five to One” or “When the Music’s Over” provided the soundtrack for the documentary footage of the riots. Morrison, a former film student, later said, “I thought the film was very exciting… the guys that made the film had a thesis of what it was going to be before we even came over. We were going to be the political rock group…”

Morrison’s interviews in London were also more introspective than some of his recent American interviews. In his London interviews Morrison dropped some of his more memorable quotes, describing The Doors’ music as a “heavy, gloomy feeling, like someone not quite at home.” When asked to compare himself with Mick Jagger, Morrison responded, “I have always thought comparisons are useless and ugly. It is a shortcut to thinking.” Morrison was also impressed with the European audiences overall. He later said, “They really take the music seriously over there, it’s not just a province of children. A new album is like a new book. They discuss it.” When it was over, The Doors had conquered England.

Originally published September 6, 2015. A version of this article appears in “The Doors Examined.”

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