The Doors: The Bright Midnight Sampler
Bright Midnight (September 2000)

The Doors: Bright Midnight:
Live in America
Elektra / Bright Midnight (February 2001)

I remember an article in the local newspaper, advertising that the Doors
were to establish an own subsidiary publishing label, to dive into the
vaults and to pull out all existing material that had been left untouched
for decades... I was both thrilled and held back, probably bordering
suspicion even. Why that is, I will explain after the following bit of
history, or rather the misplaced irony thereof.

What we -Rainer and myself- have been doing for a few years now,
is to not only reintroduce the Doors Quarterly Magazine as it once was,
making sure that both the publications as well as Rainer's many years of
dedication and aspiring work would not go down unnoticed in the 21st
Century. It is also about moving forward from the time when DQM seized
to exist. To rewind and focus a bit on the more important things in 'Doors
land' since the final issue of DQM, in June of 1999. Prominently, the
many releases of music both reissued and previously unpublished -
officially that is. Bootlegs released after 1999, still relevant and
worthwile reviewing today: I'm sure that we will find them and give
them proper attention. So, that being the motivation to go back 16
years in time and write about what 'Doors land' looked like then, here
is a first of what might be called 'retro reviews'.

Explaining my cautious approach to the aforementioned news from the
turning of the Century... Wheeling back some more, say to 1983 perhaps,
is the key to understanding what it was like to be a demanding Doors fan
in pre Bright Midnight Archives times, perhaps in pre internet times as well
for that matter. Sure, 'Alive She Cried' (1983) was awesome for the lion's
share of the public - unpublished recordings, including two songs that
weren't on any of the existing albums, not forgetting Jim's poetry in places.
Great! Yet for the more weathered fan, and in particular for the long time
collector of tapes and bootlegs, it was but the tip of the iceberg and hardly
anything new at all. They knew about the real extent of the vaults, they
could tell that most of the material on the new album was heavily edited,
cut and pieced together, not unlike 'Absolutely Live' 13 years prior to date.
Still, better than nothing at all was the motto for even the most die hard
completist. The 1980's was the decade of a handful of video releases,
which in term held a wealth of freshly surfaced material, most notably 'Live
at the Hollywood Bowl' (1987) from which a mini (!) LP was derrived. The
optimistic, and perhaps correct way to label the vinyl / cassette / CD, would
be EP; Extended Play. Cool! Although many a fan preffered to plug the video
tape of the concert instead: the complete concert, or should I say: what
was available at the time. Surely, soon enough audio tape copies were
being made, opening the floodgates for bootleggers to confiscate a piece
of the cake.

After that, things got quiet, both of the 1980's live albums quickly went
out of print, and by the end of the decade there was a certain gap in the
Doors back catalogue on CD: 'Absolutely Live'. That soon changed in 1991,
in the slipstream of 'The Doors' movie, with the huge boost of interest in
the band: the Doors were hot, and they were all over the place. 'The Doors
in Concert' was advertised as being the set compiling, and thus making
obsolete, the existing live catalogue at the time, but in that it failed.
"Where's the Hollywood Bowl concert?!"... Eventually, the wait for that
brought us as far as 2012, that year finally produced the concert in its
entirity - more on that in a future feature. But that was it, really.

Reissues and compilations, yes, we got all of those. Leaving us wondering
when we would be granted something new finally, and what would that
be; were the vaults ever to be exposed in the first place? Sure! But it was
a long slow process, a project lingering for too long a time, the conception
of what we had all been waiting for: 'The Doors: Box Set' (1997). Much,
very much can be said about this and I won't go into any detail for it has
been reviewed with great precission for the Doors Quarterly at the time of
its release. I, to be completely honest, was disappointed. But that was me,
with a flightcase stuffed with bootlegs in the CD format, and with a clear
idea of what else was out there; untouched and ignored, while disc number
4 of this long awaited archival project was nothing more than an upteenth
collection of album tracks! Further cut, copy and paste jobs on the 'Live
in New York' disc - 'Absolutely Live' and 'Alive She Cried' style, all over
again. So, no. Once again: Great! Cool! But no. And that was pretty much
it for the remainder of the Century, the Millennium even... Until that
newspaper ad, some time in the year 2000.

Hoping for the best, though expecting the usual, Doors fans around the
world eagerly awaited the birth of 'The Bright Midnight Sampler'.
Announced as being an apetiser for the many things to come in due
time, at hindsight it's nothing more than a selection of the concerts that
have been dedicated to CD and/or LP in their entirity - bar one; at the
time of writing. But hey! The day this baby landed in my mailbox...
Let's have a closer look:

'Light My Fire' opens the set. Thankfully not the rendition we got on both
'Alive She Cried' and 'The Doors in Concert', this is from the Philadelphia
show. And, more importantly: this first track was an early sign that a
different deck of cards had been laid out. No cuts, no edits, no taking out
the weak bits, leaving in the bum notes and further flaws... This was real
and raw! Not the best ever performance of the song, not by far, but who
cares! At last, finally here was something new. 'Been Down So Long'
followed, from the excellent concert the Doors did in Detroit - remember,
these recordings were all done in 1969 and 1970, with a live album in
mind. A very rare live take of the 'L.A. Woman' album song, unreleased
at the time of the concert, 'Been Down So Long' was new to the Detroit
crowd filling the Cobo Arena on May 8, 1970. A mean stomping blues
the way only the Doors could do it, courtesy of their forming days,
playing blues standards at the clubbing scene of Los Angeles.

That was it, by the time of this second track I was stunned! Next up was
more of the blues: 'Back Door Man', as part of a medley coupled with
'Love Hides' and 'Five To One' - exactly the way people attending the
show in Pittsburgh heard it 30 years prior to date; no edits. Listening
closely for echoes from the existing live albums left the spectator
unsuccesful. Has this "sampler" really been put together in a fashion
void of any takes, of cuts being repeated? It sure seems to be just that,
an assumption further materialised by the next couple of songs: both
from the shows at the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, 'Touch Me' and
'The Crystal Ship' debuted as live tracks here. Onwards, 'Break On
Through' does sound familiar here and there, it is possible that this
performance from the Felt Forum in New York City was partly used for
the oddly titled 'Break On Thru, #2' on initial pressings of 'Absolutely
Live'. The same could be said about the following, 'Roadhouse Blues'
from Boston: tiny bits and pieces, certain fragments do sound as if
they were thrown in the mix for the well known rendition that has
appeared on so many albums and videos, starting with 'An American
Prayer' in 1978. Ignoring 'Bellowing' from Boston, none of the
remaining three recordings had ever been used before in any way:
'Alabama Song' (New York), 'The End' (Detroit), 'Love Me Two Times /
Baby Please Don't Go / St. James Infirmary' (Bakersfield). The medley,
perhaps being the biggest surprise, is of a lesser sound quality; an
audience registration instead of the soundboard recordings by the team
working for Elektra Records. Rough and raw, it's what we had been
demanding for so many years, so no one's complaining about this little
gem, included for its sheer rarity, unheard of by the non bootleg
buying / trading public.

Overall evaluation? At the time, in September of 2000: eleven out of ten!
And the best news was that this would only be a start, so it seemed that
with Bright Midnight Archives, the tide had turned and Doors fans would
finally get what they had been anticipating for all those years.
With 'Bright Midnight', to be precise, the additional word 'Archives' was
introduced a few years later on. And the future would hold further change
for the young upstart label. For the first handful of releases, the albums
used to be available from the Doors and Rhino Handmade websites only.
There was no sign of the new product at shops, perhaps the reason for
Elektra to launch their own version of the album in 2001. 'Bright Midnight:
Live in America' consisted of the exact same content so one could get
either this or that, completists hot on the heels of this outpouring of new
material, cashed in on both; the fact that Elektra made it a "Limited
Edition" helped push sales of their clone of the amazing 'The Bright
Midnight Samper'.

Perhaps a bit dated nowadays, with all of the featured shows out on CD
in their entirety; bar one: we're still waiting for Bakersfield. But the
album makes for an excellent representative of what the Doors were all
about in concert, and we should think about it as if it were the year 2000
still. Perhaps it is very fitting for me to be doing this retro reviewing today,
now that the 50th Anniversary of the band is in sight; no doubt that
January 2017 and the following months and years will yield further
offerings from the Doors archives. Or so we are being promised. Until
then, Bright Midnight Archives is what we'll be focussing on.
To be continued...

Kevin Chiotis for the Doors Quarterly Magazine Online - June 2016