PHOTO: Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
The Doors playing at Ondine in New York City in 1966
Before the Doors had their breakthrough in 1967, they were the house band at the London Fog, a Sunset Strip dive bar located just footsteps away from the world famous Whisky a Go Go, the future home of many of the band’s most legendary performances.
The Doors will open a virtual time capsule in December with London Fog 1966, a Collector’s Edition boxed set that features unearthed audio recorded at the club in May 1966. Previously unreleased and not even known to exist until recently, this marks the earliest recordings of the band and finds the quartet mixing blues covers with early versions of Doors originals. London Fog 1966 is the first of many special activities and releases coming to celebrate the Doors’ 50th Anniversary in 2017.
London Fog 1966 will be available as an individually numbered limited edition of 18,000 copies from Rhino/Bright Midnight Archives on December 9 for $49.98. Presented in a lift-top package designed to look like a vintage storage box, the set features seven songs on both CD and a 10-inch record that’s made to resemble a test pressing. Noted Doors engineer Bruce Botnick recently mastered the audio for this collection.
Along with the unreleased music, the set is packed with memorabilia and historic liner notes to provide a true time capsule of that fabled night at the London Fog, including a poster, the set list handwritten by John Densmore, a program for the Royce Hall UCLA student film screening, plus a London Fog coaster. There are also liner notes included from Sunset Strip legend Ronnie Haran-Mellen, who was the talent booker at the Whisky a Go Go. Haran-Mellen saw the Doors live for the first time at the London Fog and then booked them as the permanent house band at the Whisky, leading to the band’s signing to Elektra and meteoric rise to superstardom.
Also contributing liner notes is Nettie Peña, one of the lucky few to be in attendance at the London Fog for this fabled show. Peña was a pivotal force in this release coming together as she captured the audio on a ¼” reel to reel recorder, which was the property of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her father was a teacher for LAUSD and let her borrow the recorder to take to the show. Peña also photographed the band that evening and five black and white 8x10 reprints of these unpublished photos are included in the Collector’s Edition, featuring a fresh-faced Morrison on a cramped stage with John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek.
The show featured on London Fog 1966 took place the same year that the Doors recorded their eponymous debut. Released in January 1967, the album would become one of the most influential in rock history. Like many of the band’s early concerts, the show captured on this deluxe set reflects the group’s deep love for the blues with covers of standards like Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.” The set also includes raw performances of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” (Big Joe Williams), “Don’t Fight It” (Wilson Pickett), and “Lucille” (Little Richard).
During their residency at the London Fog, the Doors frequently worked out new songs on stage that would eventually appear on various studio albums. At this show, the band played two originals. The first, “Strange Days,” would become the title track for the band’s second studio album, which also came out in 1967. This is one of the only known live recordings of this track. The other Doors original, “You Make Me Real,” wasn’t officially released on a studio album until Morrison Hotel in 1970.
“To hear ‘Strange Days,’ that came out on their second album, in almost final shape so early on was truly amazing,” says Jac Holzman, the President of Elektra Records who signed the Doors to their first recording contract.
Going back to the band’s earliest days is a natural starting point for the Doors 50th anniversary celebration. And next year promises to be a busy one for the Doors with more releases and events lined up for 2017.
London Fog 1966 Track List
1. “Rock Me”
2. “Baby, Please Don’t Go”
3. “You Make Me Real”
4. “Don’t Fight It”
5. “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”
6. “Strange Days”