|The Aquarius Theater
The Aquarius Theater began its life as the glittering landmark, The Earl Carroll Theater. In 1938 Earl Carroll decided to open a theater and supper club at 6230 Sunset Boulevard and in just 75 days he converted an empty acre of ground into a dazzling night club and theatre. In those short weeks he created a building so advanced that 30 years later no one had yet matched its glory or technical virtuosity.
The facade of the original theatre held two of Hollywood's most renowned landmarks: the 20-foot high "painting in neon" of Beryl Wallace, one of Carroll's "most beautiful girls in the world" and Sunset Boulevard's "Wall of Fame" presenting in cement the personal inscriptions to Earl Carroll of more than 150 of Hollywood's most glamorous stars.
The 60-foot wide double revolving turntable on the 80-foot main stage, the three swings which lowered from the auditorium ceiling, the elevator, revolving staircase and the rain machine were part of a stage machinery complex not duplicated in any other theater in America. Combined with the recently added motion picture projection equipment and stage lighting system, the venue, now the Aquarius Theater, is the match of any in the country.
After a stint in the Sixties as one of the many L.A. Rock and Roll clubs, the Hullabaloo, the Theater was again closed.
The design and renovation of the Aquarius Theater, under the direction of talented young scenic designer, Michael Baugh, was accomplished in the breathtaking tradition of Earl Carroll's 75-day wonder. In just 60 days, with crews working around the clock, the entire interior of the theater was redesigned and reconstructed to ready it for the arrival of L.A.s production of Hair and to prepare it for its future as Los Angeles' newest, yet most historically fascinating legitimate theater.
The Doors at the Aquarius Theater:
July 21, 1968 - Elektra records has rented the Aquarius Theater inexpensively for a series of "Dark Mondays" during the run of Hair in order to produce an affordable series of concerts to highlight the Elektra talent roster. These highly acclaimed shows are uniformly regarded as the Doors' comeback performances. The music is fluid, exceptionally tight and dynamic, and the entire band radiates an unprecedented musical maturity and revitalized atmosphere of assurance and conviction.
Jim dispenses with the rock star persona, sporting a full beard, and delivering a vocal performance which is nothing short of outstanding. He skillfully interacts with the audience in an unusually casual and easygoing manner, sometimes seated on a stool at center stage. His introduction to the audience goes something like this: "For a long time, we've wanted to record a live album. Tonight's the night...but, we're going to keep it loose and almost casual. ready? Let's go!"
The shows are recorded for a forthcoming double live album and the sound is acoustically superb throughout the theater. Morrison's only attempt at theatrics comes during the second show at the opening of Celebration of the Lizard when he appears in the right balcony illuminated solely by a deep blue light, and then grasps a rope and swings down onto the stage. Artistically, these Aquarius shows are a real stepping stone for the band. Aside from being much more congenial onstage, they have re-embraced their roots in authentic American blues music.
These are the first of a series of shows recorded for the upcoming Absolutely Live album. The cover of that album features a photograph from these performances with another photograph of Morrison superimposed on it. It is later determined that additional shows will be recorded because, as is often the case with live recordings, an extraordinary performance does not always translate successfully to tape.
*After the show, the Doors present Feast of Friends to the remaining audience.
*Jim Morrison's recent poem Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased is distributed at each of the Aquarius shows. The poem was printed at Jim's expense. It is a dark green type on light green paper. Brian Jones, a founding member of The Rolling Stones, drowned in his swimming pool at his home in England on July 3rd.
*The Aquarius shows replace the scheduled appearance at the Whisky May 19 - 22, where the Doors originally planned to record a live album.
Aquarius Theater Show Reviews:
Cash Box: "The Doors, fully cleansed from the unfortunate after-effects of the highly publicized Miami exhibition, emerged from many months of self-exile to give to a native Los Angeles crowd one of the best and most powerful exhibitions of music performance ever witnessed locally. Morrison came back, and then some. His new visual appearance and new ease of stage presence combined to create a new image...sort of a 'thinking man's singer.' Morrison can no longer be stereotyped as a 'rock singer.' Of the ample new material the Doors displayed, it ran the gamut from hard rock to up-tempo blues to ballads...all led by the new, more confident Jim Morrison. They ended their set, an encore, with a rare performance of their chilling (literally) theatrical piece, 'The Celebration of the Lizard,' which combined poetry and song in a truly sardonic (but artistically successful) mixture." (P.S. The Doors, Cash Box, Aug 2, 1969)
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner: "The Doors are an assertive, demanding group. They preach revolution. They reach out for love. They play beautiful rock 'n' roll. Robby Krieger is a beautiful, eclectic and often volcanic guitarist. The Krieger, Manzarek-Densmore instrumental passages are among the most intelligently conceived among contemporary popular music. As an encore - or perhaps an afterthought - Morrison performed one of his tortured paranoid poems set to music. He slowly left the stage, telling the audience to 'retire not to your dreams.' And what dreams the Doors inspire. They are controlled, compressed nightmares." (Michael Ross, The Exciting Doors Record a Live Album, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, July, 1969)
Los Angeles Free Press: (On Absolutely Live)"This album, I'm sure, will convince everyone that the Doors have gotten it together, because the electricity in the air, the magic that was created that evening, was a testament to the fact that whatever it was the Doors had once upon a time, when they and their world were younger, they not only had again in spades but had the added virtue of being as sublime and self - assured as they were once brash and vulgar. There was Jim Morrison, more the Rabbinical student than the Sex God, and looking more comfortable in his new guise. Seeming less self-conscious, but singing, if anything, better than even his greatest fans thought he could sing. How can Morrison be accused of singing less well just because the hostility and the sensuality have given way to something richer textured, fuller, more aggressively grim? They have approached Art, no matter how much they have offended, amused or even thrilled the rock critics. The standards by which their art must be measured are older and deeper." (Harvey Perr, Stage Doors, Los Angeles Free Press, Aug 8, 1969)
Back in the Sixties a L.A. Rock and Roll club may have been the last place a respectable DUI attorney San Francisco would want to find his daughter, but there's no denying the important role those clubs played in The Doors history. Young people flocked to these clubs to see the newest bands and to experience all aspects of L.A. nightlife.
Copyright 2002 Greg Shaw et al/Waiting-forthe-Sun.net