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London Fog 1966 (10" Vinyl w/CD)
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Before The Doors took the music scene by storm in 1967, they were the house band at the London Fog, a Sunset Strip dive bar located just footsteps away from the world famous Whisky a Go Go, the future home of many of the band’s most legendary performances. The Doors open a virtual time capsule with LONDON FOG 1966, a Collector’s Edition boxed set that features unearthed audio recorded at the club in May 1966. Previously unreleased and not even known to exist until recently, this marks the earliest recordings of the band and finds the quartet mixing blues covers with early versions of Doors originals. LONDON FOG 1966 is the first of many special activities and releases coming to celebrate The Doors’ 50th Anniversary in 2017.
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An early reviewer of The Doors first album said the band appeared fully formed and the London Fog does nothing to dispel that impression. Which begs the question where did The Doors work out their sound? History has said that their time at the London Fog was a time for them to work out their sound, and lengthen songs like “The End” and “When the Music’s Over” which I don’t doubt, but these London Fog recordings prove that The Doors were already well on their way to being a mature group performance and arrangement wise.
The Doors as heard in The London Fog recordings are a bluesier band, but as Ray Manzarek once noted a comparison to the Rolling Stones or The Animals is reasonable, but there are a couple of caveats I’d like to add to that. The first is, The Doors sound different than those above mentioned groups. The second, all those groups were pulling from the same inspirational source, the blues they loved.
“The Doors: The London Fog” was recorded in 1966 by Nettie Pena when The Doors were in residence there from late February to early May of 1966. Jim Morrison asked her to make the recording. She brought along a twenty-two pound reel-to-reel tape recorder and a couple of cameras. Most of the songs are covers from Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Albert King (with whom The Doors would play with in 1970) Wilson Pickett and Steve Cropper, which is due, in equal parts, to The Doors short list of originals and bar owners wanting bands to play songs familiar to customers. The Doors cover of these songs “Rock Me”, “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, “Don’t Fight It”, and “Lucille” are above average renditions of those songs. You can hear their original spark in them. The “London Fog” recording also hails from a time when maybe The Doors were a little more equal in stature and presence with Ray Manzarek handling the vocals on Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man” giving it a real Chicago tinged feel to the song.
The Doors originals on “The London Fog” “You Make Me Real” is far blusier than the version on 1970‘s “Morrison Hotel” but the country-rock antecedents are there albeit pushed to the back, but still has the carefree exuberance that will fully flower in the album version. “Strange Days” which was leaked a few years ago, as noted then is very close to the version released on The Doors second album, but as it appears on this release “Strange Days” sounds in context with the rest of the set The Doors play but it is DIFFERENT from anything else The Doors were playing obviously they set themselves apart early on from other bands. Whether this was conscious or not is debatable, or only The Doors themselves know for sure.
The London Fog recordings also capture the ambiance of the London Fog 50 years ago, a small, smoky bar with an audience only mildly interested in the band playing and two or three people bothering to clap, and Jim Morrison’s exhortations to get up and dance, and a band standard of “don’t go away.” Gives you the feeling of exactly what the London Fog was like.
In Ms. Pena’s notes about the night she recorded The Doors she writes that there were two reels of tape that over the years and moves she’s made in her life the second tape has disappeared. The second reel contains an early version of “The End”, based on what I’ve heard from this package and the recordings I hope she finds the other reel and there’s a “London Fog II”.
Jim Cherry is the author of "The Doors Examined" and "The Last Stage"
Drop by my website sometime @ "JudeMacforever". Google it, always something there for about everyone.