The Doors have decreed 2012 as “The Year of The Doors” but if there was a “Year of The Doors” it was 1966. 1966 took The Doors from obscurity to the edge of fame and it started at The London Fog. In late February or early March of 1966 (the exact date is unknown), The Doors auditioned for and became the house band at The London Fog.
By all accounts The London Fog was a non-descript bar. While it was only about half a block down the street from the Whisky a go-go, it didn’t have the clientele or the reputation for quality of acts that the Whisky did. The London Fog was a hole in the wall bar with a nautical décor and customers that included drunks, prostitutes, and sailors looking for a good time, and smelled of spilled beer and overflowing ashtrays.
When The Doors auditioned all of Morrison’s and Manzarek’s film school friends filled the club. Owner Jesse James (he claimed to be the great-grandson of the real historical outlaw) probably thought he had found the band to fill his club, however, the club quickly returned to its usual clientele and the bar remained mostly empty giving the band what amounted to paid practice sessions. Morrison was still too shy to face the audience so he performed most of the time with his back to the patrons. It’s also where some of The Doors songs started filling out because the band didn’t have a lot of songs in their repertoire they started to elongate songs adding solos and occasionally Morrison would add his own poetic improvisations and songs like “When The Music’s Over,” “Light My Fire,” and “The End” started filling out in length and complexity. Ray Manzarek once said that because of the London Fog The Doors “became this collective entity, this unit of oneness.” Although the London Fog gave the band a chance to hone their songs, they had their eyes on the Whisky and hoped word would get out and make its way down to The Whisky. The Doors stayed in residence at the London Fog until late May of 1966 when they auditioned at The Whisky.
Last year, thirty minutes of a tape made of The Doors at the London Fog was discovered. It is the earliest known recording of The Doors live (and an early recording of the band with the exception of the demos they made) and is set to be a release for “The Year of The Doors” some time this summer. Stay tuned for more details….
Sources: The Doors FAQ by Rich Weidman
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