by Robert Hilburn 1969

Though the concert wouldn't start for another hour, the line outside the Aquarius Theater stretched far down Sunset Boulevard. Six nights a week the theater is home of the Hollywood company of "Hair", the love-rock musical that has captured the imagination of those on both sides of the generation gap. On Mondays, the theater is normally closed.

But last week, just as "Hair" always plays to capacity audiences, the sold-out sign was again displayed. The special Monday night attraction was Jim Morrison, the twenty-five-year-old sex symbol of rock and lead singer of The Doors, a vigorous group whose music sends chills up parents' spines much like Elvis Presley, Morrison's reported idol, once did.

Tickets for both shows (which were being recorded for an album) had been sold out for weeks. The Doors are a hot item. Formed three years ago in Los Angeles, the group's early appearances at the Whiskey-A- Go-Go were wild, unpredictable, and exciting. It led to an Elektra recording contract.

Ever since their first album, The Doors, particularly Morrison, have been involved in controversy. Tight black leather pants became Morrison's trademark. His almost panting vocals were often punctuated with sudden body movements that excited the teenage girls and outraged others. The themes of The Doors' songs often dealt with such subjects as death, violence, fear or, above all, sex.

All this emotion and theatrics reached a peak last spring when Morrison was accused of indecent exposure during a Miami concert. The widely publicized incident led to an equally publicized "Rally For Decency" that featured Jackie Gleason, Kate Smith, and the Miami Drum and Bugle Corps. The Miami affair has continued to follow Morrison. When the group played Chicago recently, one writer started his review: "Jim Morrison didn't 'do it.'"

Well, as you may have heard by now, Morrison didn't do it last week at the Aquarius either. He looked anything but a sex symbol as he sat almost motionless on a stool at center stage. Puffing slowly on a cigar while the sound system was being tested, Morrison stroked his new, full beard and stared through tinted glasses into the auditorium darkness. He was wearing loose carpenter-like pants and a white sport shirt.

He seemed only remotely interested as the theater doors opened at a little past 7:30 P.M. and the stream of fans moved inside. Two girls, who were in the first wave, were walking by the front of the stage when they realized the bearded guy was Morrison. They finally com- posed themselves long enough to take a picture.

A seventeen-year-old, who sat next to me clutching a $2 ticket that she bought from a scalper for $5, seemed puzzled by Morrison's new beard. "It ruins his looks," she said at first. A few moments later, she added "Before he looked like a devil. Now he looks holy. It's all right. He's so exciting."

At 8:15, the concert began, Morrison cupped his hands around the microphone, closed his eyes, moved his mouth next to his hands, and began singing "Back Door Man," a gutty song from his first album. The other Doors- Robbie Krieger (who writes many of the group's songs) on guitar, Ray Manzarek on organ, and Joh
n Densmore on drums- play simple but solid rock support.

Morrison's range as a vocalist is limited, but he has a sensual intensity and deliberate phrasing that make his delivery powerful. The reaction was overwhelming at the first show. The audience seemed to sense Morrison was trying something different and it was with him.

By ridding himself of all the old symbols, Morrison was trying to demonstrate that he is more than a black leather freak, more than a rock sex symbol, more than a Miami incident. Perhaps more mature and more serious, Morrison is concerned with a higher ambition. He wants to be recognized as an artist.

Without doubt, he was an artist last Monday. If he continues in his new bag, Morrison may prove that, far from being as bad as much of his past publicity would have one believe, he is as good as his many fans have long felt that he is. He took a giant strike in that direction at the Aquarius.

Los Angeles Times
July 28, 1969