Critics love to hate The Doors. And I can’t really blame them; since the band arrived on the Scene in the late ’60s, youth culture at large has had to suffer obnoxious Jim Morrison wannabes running around spouting bad poetry, humping parking meters and, as a general rule, not being able to hold their liquor. And if it hadn’t been for that melodramatic Morrison, by God, we wouldn’t have to put up with this idiocy.
Still, The Doors wrote some amazing songs, and when Jim kept it together—projecting his hypnotic, Sinatra-inspired croon into the dark recesses of some dingy club or auditorium—they were an electrifying live band; not to mention the oft-overlooked value of those other three cats no one ever talks about. Jim might have had the vision and—before he became a caricature of himself—the heart, but The Doors were a band, not a one-man circus. On the performances captured here, Ray Manzarek does a fine job of taking up the vocal slack when Jim is too loaded to grace the stage, and he does it while playing all the bass and organ parts simultaneously on his keyboards. Drummer John Densmore pounds away furiously, keenly following Jim’s every drunken deviation, while guitarist Robbie Krieger is transcendent on “Spanish Caravan” and “Light My Fire.”
Those familiar with Oliver Stone’s The Doors will recognize much of Live In Europe’s footage, which was carefully reconstructed for the 1991 film. Aside from five or six redeeming performances, however, this hour-long DVD is a disaster. Originally airing on HBO in 1988, the documentary is narrated by the musical moron twins—aka Grace Slick and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, who shared the bill with The Doors on the Europe ’68 tour (and whose genius was so unequivocal that they later changed their name to Jefferson Starship). The pair’s burned-out, painfully out-of-touch commentary on what Morrison was really like and about what the ’60s meant—not to mention Slick’s Debbie Gibson-style hat and stylish polka-dot blazer—are about as interesting and insightful as “We Built This City (On Rock ’N’ Roll).” Further, the DVD contains no extras and, at times, the sound and picture quality are sub par. But as a historical document, the older footage is fairly interesting, offering us a rare, real-life glimpse into one of rock ’n’ roll’s most mythic figures.