In Summer 1970 the double disc set Absolutely Live was the first in-concert release by The Doors. At the time the Los Angeles-based band of (l to r) guitarist Robbie Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and singer Jim Morrison were easily one of the most successful American bands, with a string of five Top 25 hits including a #1. In attempting to explain then why Absolutely Live sold a fraction of their preceding four studio albums, pundits nowadays like to explain the headscratcher as a sudden reversal of fortune for The Doors after a reported notorious concert incident in Miami on March 1, 1969 so tarnished the band’s image that it seriously impacted sales. But I simply don’t buy it, for two very good reasons.
First off, there was no “always on” entertainment media then, so outside of Miami there was little immediate coverage of the accusation of onstage lewdness by Morrison except by one lone Miami Herald reporter. Secondly, Morrison was never formally charged and arrested until eighteen months later, when it then became a national story. But this was over a year after the Absolutely Live album was released.
My personal theory of Absolutely Live‘s relatively low sales is much more obvious. The vast majority of Americans who purchased the first four Doors studio albums in record numbers had done so based on the five Top 40 hits in a scant three years, and most like me who had done so had never been to a Doors concert. So when I set the tonearm needle down on the first song, a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”, there was precious little in common to the tight, bright, clean sound of their radio hits. The primal tribal drum pattern laid down by Densmore on the tom toms and the hypnotic cooing of Jim Morrison’s snake-hipped moaning was suddenly broken by Robbie Krieger’s frenzied bottleneck slide guitar wailing like some witch caught in a buzzsaw. It tore the top of my teenage Top 40 head right off with white hot laser knife precision. The potential of four vinyl sides of this open skull sonic lobotomy was too much on which to risk my lawn mowing money that Summer of 1970. Now though, the intensity of The Doors, three years into a meteoric legendary but brief career, is intoxicating. – Redbeard