Photograph of Vince Treanor and illustrations used under permission
Vince Treanor’s professionalism and integrity do not allow him to forget the good memories, the hard work of The Doors team, from the Band Boys to the members, regardless of some hurtful disappointments he experienced during his time with the band and how that time ended
Vince Treanor: The Man Behind The Doors
Vince Treanor, the Road Manager of the legendary band The Doors, played an important role throughout the band’s career from 1967 to 1972. He stood directly behind the band on stage, built custom equipment, and was in charge of how audiences heard The Doors live. In this exclusive interview, Vince lifts a fraction of the veil on his upcoming memoir “Behind the Doors,” one of the year’s most revealing books in which he writes down what no other man could within The Doors. This book has been eagerly anticipated for several years by The Doors fanbase worldwide, demonstrating that The Doors are still very much open to dedicated followers and fans, more than 50 years after the untimely death of lead singer and front man Jim Morrison at the age of 27 (who, as Vince puts it, was a generous, intelligent, unmaterialistic man who was also often generous to the wrong people.) This interview quickly turned into a friendly, easy conversation in which Vince tells us some previously unknown details from seminal Doors concerts in rock history, such as the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 and the infamous Miami in 1969; Vince Treanor’s professionalism and integrity do not allow him to forget the good memories, the hard work of The Doors team, from the Band Boys to the members, regardless of some hurtful disappointments he experienced during his time with the band and how that time ended. The conclusion is that Vince Treanor was the perfect man to be behind The Doors, and this is valuable evidence of that.
David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at email@example.com
Your book “Behind the Doors” has long been anticipated by Doors fans who have long wanted to know your story with the band. What new facts and information can we look forward to?
Mainly I try to talk about the activities that go on behind the scene. The people don’t normally recognize what it is like to travel, what it is to set up, what happens before, during and after a performance, what you do in a riot, after a riot, who are Band Boys, how they get there, what do they do. There were five incidents in The Doors history that really were turning points. The first was New Haven, the second was Amsterdam, which was in 1968, the third of course was Miami, the result of Amsterdam I’m sure, then the “Isle of Wight” and finally New Orleans. So those incidents were the turning point in the relationship with Jim with the group and the public. I wanted to make clear what happened, why it happened and how it happened. And I was there to see it all. There was the incredible problem with the recording of the third album early in 1968, and why it took long, why it was troubled, and it almost caused the breakup of the band. Things like that should be known accurately not as a result of rumors and confusing information like I have seen on several sites and several postings by individuals on the web. I just got frustrated with it, so I finished the book that I actually began way back in the 80’s. That was in ’87, ’88, it was before the Oliver Stone film. I picked it up again during or after the Oliver Stone movie, was made. I never saw the entire movie. I have scripts but the whole thing was a sad travesty. It was mostly a distorted view of what Stone imagined the Doors were like rather than what really happened.
But you worked on the movie?
Yes, I was a tech advisor for it. They wanted to know about stage placement, amplifiers, what amps were used. I worked with the sound technicians to show them the arrangements of the microphones and how we controlled the sound. That same set up of course was seen in the movie. In the beginning they used Fender twin reverbs. In 1967 they were playing in larger locations, so they used Ampeg amplifiers on a promotional basis. Then in early 1968 Acoustic Control gave them a set of amplifiers. Almost immediately they proved inadequate for the biggest locations and outdoor festivals so I built an entirely new system consisting of 46 high powered amplifiers feeding 14 speaker columns. The first time the vocal speakers were used was in Madison Square Garden in early 1969. The ironic part of it was that the first use of the complete new system occurred in Miami.
In which the amplifiers almost fell down?
The speaker cabinets, in Miami. The columns on the left side of the stage for Ray’s organ. A bass cabinet for his piano bass. And one of the columns for the drums threatened to fall over as the stage started to collapse. Eventually we laid them down. We didn’t want them to fall over because of the fear of them falling on people on or near the stage. They were very heavy and tall. That was probably my mistake making them that size because they were difficult to handle. But because they were columns and had massive bipolar, push-pull drivers, 600-watt RMS continuous output, they were extremely powerful. In hind sight we should have made more smaller cabinets instead of making fewer big columns. They would have been easier, lighter to handle but they would have taken up more space as well.
The Doors had a big wall of amplifiers as we can see in the Hollywood Bowl concert, did you set it up?
Yes. Those were Acoustic amplifiers. We had a set of 10 of the model 360 cabinets. Steve Marks, owner of Acoustic Amplifiers, called in all the promotional amplifiers from every group that had them and every amplifier they had in the factory. We drove into the Hollywood Bowl in the morning of the 3rd of July because there wouldn’t be any union crew there on the 4th. The union crew insisted on moving the amplifiers into position and then connecting them all. Of course, they didn’t know what we wanted and made a confusing mess of it.
Ken Kawalski, a Band Boy from Lowell, Massachusetts and I, stayed at the Bowl that night. When the union crew left, we took the whole thing down and set it up as we wanted it, connected all the wiring and gave it a quick test by the light of a full moon. That was surreal.,
We stayed there all night. We slept on the stage. There was nobody, no guard around or nothing, that means anybody could have come in and stolen anything they wanted to take. So, we stayed with the amps all night and then, on the 4th, can’t remember exactly what day it was, we did the famous shot heard on Sunset Boulevard. That was exactly at noon. Jim was going to do “The Unknown Soldier” and the gunshot was made with the reverb in the vocal amplifier. We set it all up and at exactly noon, on the 4th of July we shot “the gun”. It was actually heard on Hollywood Boulevard. It was so loud that many people thought there had been an explosion.
Watch The Doors performing “When The Music’s Over” live at The Hollywood Bowl, 1968, where we can catch a glimpse of Vince Treanor working on the sound behind the band
There was just something about that group, and the way they sang, and the way the music was arranged, that this was going to go, it was hit material
Do you concentrate solely on your time with The Doors in this book?
Yeah. I wrote a little bit about The Doors and things that happened and were related to The Doors like Miami, things that John did, when Jim was on stage. After they played the Isle of Wight John was very angry. They were disappointed in Jim’s performance, because he didn’t perform. He just stood there, draped over the microphone stand like a wet towel and sang pretty much without emotion or his usual acting. That was it. It was very lackluster. When John came down the stairs from the stage, he said, “that asshole made a fool of us, I’m never going to play on stage with him again.” He threw his drumsticks on the ground. That was the first time he did it, the second time it was in New Orleans when he said, “That’s it. That’s the end of it, I will never play with him again.” And Jim was fired after that. But there were incidents they were aware of, back and forward, it’s hard to describe them. But primarily, the book will focus on what went by behind the doors, things in the office, in rehearsals, in the recording studio. I did not write about The Doors, as four individuals, that wasn’t my purpose. It’s about what I did, and what we did in the set ups, the travel, setting up for recordings and things that happened during recording. That was more of the story, the things others could not know.
What are your impressions on other books about The Doors?
From the books that I’ve read, Ray’s, who gave me a copy of his book – which he autographed for me when I went to negotiate for the tapes of Vancouver, Seattle and Bakersfield. That was very nice of him. – was a good one I have other books about The Doors. I think Robby’s, which I have read, is the most revealing and personal. It’s beautifully written. I was stunned by some of the things Robby spoke of in his book. I haven’t read John’s; he has never sent me a book and I’ve never seen one to buy so I can’t tell what John wrote. I understand, from those who have read it, that his first book is excellent.
Classical music was your initial musical love. Was this an artistic area you intended to work in permanently before starting you instruments business?
No, I never intended to be a performer, I intended to be a nuclear physicist. The story of how it all happened is in the third chapter. I describe how I got interested in organs and how an interest in learning to play went from a hobby to becoming a fascination and then when I went to college – mostly I didn’t – I began to work with a fellow from Boston. At that time, it turned into a full-time job as an organ builder. My youthful friend, George Reed, became my partner and for the next ten years we built and maintained many different organs. There were all sorts of newspaper articles about us after we set up an organ, we built in the high school chemistry lab for a science fair. That caused quite a stir.
How did you become involved with The Doors?
It was just a chance event in New Haven that really gave the opportunity to join The Doors. When I heard them, I knew that their music, and I stress that, their music was so different from anything that anybody was playing. Because at that time rock music had a certain formula to it and everybody followed the formula. The Doors did not and part of that was because of their past training. They were all trained classically and they brought that into the arrangement of their music. That’s what made it so different. I was taken with that, when I saw them perform live, I walked away saying, “These guys are the American Beatles”. In New Haven, the incident when Jim was arrested, the young guy who was there taking care of the equipment went with the group to the police station to learn what was going to happen to Jim after he had been arrested and taken off stage. Four members of a group I had sponsored, and I took care of their equipment, had it all packed up into the truck and when Bill Siddons, who was their Road Manager at that time, returned from the police station after Jim had been released, Bill came back to the arena and everything was ready. I handed him the keys to the truck and away he went. They were leaving for Los Angeles the next morning.
We had seen Jim being beaten by the police. It was on Sunday night that I called Bill and told him that, five people had witnessed the police beating Jim after they took him off stage. We were willing to go to court as witnesses to speak of the police brutality. He was all excited and said he would tell the managers. He said he was thinking of leaving The Doors because of his situation with the draft. He had an S-1 deferment for college. However, he had missed many classes on Fridays and Mondays going on road trips with the Doors. His counselor told him if he missed any more classes chance was very likely he was going to lose his deferment. Maybe I would consider taking the job.
He called me back on the following Thursday night at 1:30 in the morning, and said “I have to quit, my counselor already told me one more miss and I’m out of school, I need to stay at school or be drafted, so if you want the job call the manager.” That’s how I got the job. It was a Friday, about 1 o’clock sometime around there, when I called the manager’s offices in Los Angeles and I was hired.
Prior to that you had attended some of their shows?
The first show I ever saw, was the behest of a young fellow, Andrei, who was working for me as summer help. It was in August at the Hampton Beach Casino. The second time we went to see them in Boston, it was supposed to be two shows but they failed to show up for the first one, travel or something messed up and they couldn’t make it. So, the second show was a big performance, and it was a sellout, all the members of my band were there. Everyone was excited about the performance and the music. The third time was New Haven. There were two others that we didn’t know about, so we didn’t attend. Had we known of course we would have gone there, so New Haven was the final performance I went to. Little did I know, that just in 17 days, I would be their equipment handle. That’s how fast it happened. My first show was in San Francisco on the 26th of December. There were just 17 days between the two events.
Did it help that you felt drawn to the band, and their distinctive different sound?
Yeah, I was always able to predict the hit. And, I didn’t like rock music, I never made that a secret. People know my opinion of rock music. But I did become aware of The Yardbirds, and certain other groups, some of them were more country music, Arlo Guthrie and people like that, and some of them just hit a button and you knew that, first this was a fantastic song, and second, you knew it was going to be number one. You just knew it. When I heard The Doors music on the radio, the first one was “Light My Fire”, the backside was “The Crystal Ship”, then I heard them live. There was just something about that group, and the way they sang, and the way the music was arranged, that this was going to go, it was hit material. And sure enough, in 1968 of course, they went up like a rocket. The audience was fantastic, Jim was at his top form on almost every performance we did. We really put up some fantastic shows.
The three instrumentalists just worked together to create this sound, this incredible, classic rock sound. It was classic, it wasn’t even rock, it was classic music, played on piano, bass, organ, drums and guitar classic style.
What did you initially think of Ray Manzarek’s distinctive and hypnotic organ playing?
He did not play the piano bass the way an organist would play the pedals of an organ. Not the way an organist would handle the bass to a piece written for organ. Rather the way someone would transcribe popular music to be played on a pipe organ, or actually classical organ music. But Ray did not use the bass in that manner, he used it as a bass guitar would be played, yet, as a keyboard instrument would be used. Ray would use his right hand in the same way a piano player would play, but with an influence of a blues technique. At first, he had a Vox Continental. That failed on stage so they had to replace it immediately. The only thing available was this Kalamazoo and Ray fell in love with it. It had the same sustained sound an organ has, and Ray would play as he would play on an organ. Ray was familiar with pipe organs. He had played the organ in the UCLA, when he went to film school. Though he had been trained as a pianist, he developed the skill for playing the organ and he translated that into the Kalamazoo. But it was a strange combination, of right hand and left hand, neither one of them being traditional. He didn’t play as an organist would play, either part, the bass or the organ and it was a strange combination that made this special sound. That was part of what attracted me, and of course you have Robby’s fingerpicking on the guitar, he made music that no other people could even think about.
And the same with John Densmore’s creative drumming?
John Densmore was always a little bit of a thing, he still is. I have said, and probably been quoted as saying that “John Densmore wouldn’t weigh 90 pounds if he had lead shot in his pocket.” He was a little bit of a guy. He certainly is not a muscular guy, yet, he drove a sound from those drums, that other guys couldn’t do. Other people tried to put on a big show with 16 cymbals, and two bass drums and this and that. John used a simple set of drums, and he created more music, more rhythm, more emphases with those, than most people did with all that extra bullshit. And steady, on beat, he just did it and he fitted everything that he did to back the music, to support the music, to provide this incredible beat to the music. The three instrumentalists just worked together to create this sound, this incredible, classic rock sound. It was classic, it wasn’t even rock, it was classic music, played on piano, bass, organ, drums and guitar in classic style. Everybody in those days were using the pick and they played one string at a time or they strummed using a pick. Robby, played with his fingers, classic style and could make chords or play two or three notes at one time. That was something nobody was doing, unless they strummed. That wasn’t individual notes, that was counter point, melody and harmony on one instrument. That was part of what made the sound. If you looked at the music on a score, the way it was written, look at the notes Robby played, the notes that Ray played, in classic notation you can see the structure of the music, is clearly almost like a symphony would be written. The guitar played this part and that part because Robby could play more than one note at a time, Ray played the violins and woodwinds on the right hand and the double basses on the left hand, John was the timpani, it was completely orchestral.
If we’d take a member out of the band, they would not sound the same?
The band came together member by member, first it was Ray who was fascinated with Jim’s lyrics, then they tried with Ray’s band and Ray’s brothers felt that they were going nowhere, and they didn’t want Jim in the band, probably was partly jealousy, partly feeling that this singer pushed out Ray’s brother as a singer, they weren’t the same style, cause Ray liked Chicago blues and that was what Rick and The Ravens was all about. So, Ray’s style always had a tint of the Chicago blues tendency in it, which is showed up in the last two albums, “Morrison Hotel” and “L. A. Woman”. I think that it was not The Doors music, it was catering to Ray’s desire to play Chicago blues to the public, not to keep the original Doors theme.
In the first, second and third albums, yes, that was all Doors. After that, Jim dried up, he couldn’t produce anymore and Ray generally took over and drove the group into the blues venue. And of course, when The Doors closed, and re-opened with a five-man band, the sound wasn’t the same, neither was the context of the music, it went into the general rock band format, and Ray added the gimmick with the Hammond organ, the bloody Leslie speakers, which I didn’t like, I hate that sound, cannot stand the sound of a Hammond.
The Doors albums were always perfectly mixed and produced, and the majority of their live albums, in which you played an important and active role, sound much better than other live records from a lot of the bands of that era. Were you aware at the time that the sound needed to be played perfectly in order to be recorded perfectly for future preservation?
Yes, but you didn’t think about the future. If every member of the band were thinking about the future, things would have been a lot different. I think there would have been more of an attempt to keep what they had, what they did, maybe live recordings, or many more of their performances, especially during 1968, would had been done. But nobody thought about the future. My intent and purpose, was to have the instruments in perfect condition for recording and remember that in studio they used Fender amplifier. That was only for them to listen too. Their sound was directed right into a recording board and put on tape. That tape was later mixed, according to what Paul Rothschild wanted.
When we talk about The Doors sound on recording, we owe it to Paul Rothschild’s genius and that of the engineer Bruce Botnick as a team. As a recording crew, Paul and Bruce were absolutely wheels and gears, one of them complemented the other, complemented the one. They worked together smoothly; Bruce was a genius with a recording board. He was young, he broke into the industry, and I think a lot of the older guys looked down on Bruce, as in “he has no experience” and so on. When Paul needed a sound, a texture, any kind of balance, Bruce was able to get it on tape. When Paul wanted to manipulate, it, was Bruce who plugged the right cables into the right sockets, through the right equipment he got it. Paul knew what he wanted; he knew the sound that would appeal to the fans. He was fascinated with the sound of The Doors, determined to capture it and capture he did. The one thing that the boys always strove for, and I don’t think a lot of people know this, is that they never wanted to record something they couldn’t play on the stage or they wanted to capture the stage feeling when they recorded. When you went to a concert and you heard The Doors play, and you went back and listened to an album, you heard The Doors play, it was an instant recall.
There are a lot of pieces that Paul did not feel were worthy of putting on records, and this is the time when he thought that the music that was going on the last album was worthless, it was not Doors, it was such a variation, such a commitment to pop music, The Doors had lost their way, had become more of a pop song group than The Doors song group, Paul wanted nothing to do with it
Some songs such as “Universal Mind” are really well recorded live, so much that almost sounds like studio, isn’t that so?
How things were recorded in the studio and how they were recorded live were almost identical. In the studio they used the original Fender amps so they could hear themselves and each other while playing. On stage, they were using much larger and far more powerful amplifiers and speakers so the audience could hear the voice and the music at any distance. In the studio they used splitters to dent the signal from the instrument, or microphone to the recording board. The same thing happened in the hall. The pure sound, without audience noise and building acoustics were recorded. Background sounds were added through separate microphones. Essentially, the only difference between studio and stage was the size of the amps and the presence of an audience.
There are a lot of pieces that Paul did not feel were worthy of putting on records, and this is the time when he thought that the music that was going on the last album was worthless, it was not Doors, it was such a variation, such a commitment to pop music. The Doors had lost their way, had become more of a pop song group than The Doors song group, Paul wanted nothing to do with it, and he said, “when you have something worth recording, give me a call” and walked out. But there were many pieces which they played “off the hip” on stage and were never recorded, like “The Celebration of the Lizard”, that was never fully recorded. The reason was that Paul thought there were a lot of things in there that were boring for the listener. The thought of putting “The Celebration of the Lizard” on the A side of an album and then having Jim reading poetry on the B side of the album, what 16-year-old kid, would want to listen to Jim reciting poetry on an album? Why would they pay 3 or 4 dollars for an album to listen to Jim talking? That is why Paul refused to do it.
Jim got all upset and refused to sing, failed to be present for vocal recording sessions or came into the studio drunk and with a bunch of groupies. That almost caused the destruction of the third album. Paul finally relented and he said “Alright, we’ll take some pieces of “The Celebration of the Lizard” and put it on the album but we’ll not do the whole thing because it doesn’t link.” “Celebration” was supposed to be about a group of guys who went out to the desert and were sitting around a campfire. Each of them told a story about a dream, a fantasy, and event. They were using symbolic words, or creating images with words to tell their stories. But the problem was that one story did not link, did not blend, or direct the theme into another person’s story. These stories were not like chapters in a book. They were basically separate and distinct from one another. They had no relevance to each other. Paul did not want that because there was no coherence in the various songs of “The Celebration of the Lizard.” So, he picked out those songs he thought would be popular, and they were recorded.
Was there a song the band played live that you considered to be your favorite?
It’s difficult. I would have to say “Light My Fire”, “The Crystal Ship”, the stuff that Robby wrote was fantastic, and there were other pieces, “The End”, “When the Music’s Over” are monumental pieces. Jim’s wildest imagination. But I would have to say pieces on the first, second and third album. There were some other pieces here and there on other albums, the orchestral album “The Soft Parade” had a couple of good pieces but on the whole, the best music The Doors ever performed were on the first, second and some of the third album. That exhausted Jim’s resources. After that, Jim was trying to write stuff. It was like “hurry up we need material for the next album, so write something” and it just didn’t work. It was not The Doors; it came out as pop songs. Jim writing things based on stuff that you heard other people do, based on what he thought would be popular, something that would sell. The original wild and weird Doors style of lyrics degenerated into “Pop” music for the general audience. They succeeded in appealing to the wider listening public, but they lost their vision.
Watch The Doors performing “Light My Fire” live at The Hollywood Bowl, 1968, where we can catch a glimpse of Vince Treanor working on the sound behind the band
Who are Band Boys?
Band Boys were just lucky kids who happened to be at the right place at the right time and they wanted to get in to see a Doors performance. I would pick out 4 or 5 guys and let them know that if they were willing to carry equipment and do what they were told, they could get in. Once they proved they brought the equipment in and helped to set it up they learned how things went together and how to wire the signal cords into the amplifiers. I would give a kid maybe 16 or 18 years old, a total stranger, a 20-dollar bill and send him out to get food for 6 or 8 people. The kid would bring back food. We would sit around on stage and have a feast and wait for the second billing band to show up. Then the Doors would come in for their sound check. As a reward for their hard work, faithfulness and honesty, in coming back with the money and food, they’d got to be on stage and they stayed on stage for the performance. Seats that no amount of money could buy. Once the equipment was set up, I never left the stage. There was always a fear somebody would come in and try to steal something, we were always cautious, once the set– up was there we’d never leave. If the boys demonstrated that they were reliable and trustworthy and did not take advantage of the situation to try to be chummy with one of the groups, they would go on the tour as crew. They would have their own rooms in a motel, I would feed them and give them a bus ticket home when the tour was over. We treated them like human beings, not like one time Johnny’s, giving back to them the respect, they gave to us. Of course, they had tremendous bragging rights back in school. Monday morning, they had quite a tale to tell when they went to class. And they would comeback for other shows when we visited their area. They became permanent crew, so to speak.
(in Amsterdam) The fact that the guy who was with Jim didn’t stop him from taking the hash and eating it was unbelievable. His job was to keep Jim from getting too much to drink. Certainly no one expected that Jim would eat a cake of hash, especially after drinking so much alcohol. Certainly, Jim should have known better, yet he ate the whole damn thing in one shot.
Their concerts in Europe in 1968 have a considerably heavier tone than usual, with instruments sounding louder on occasion. Was the band attempting a somewhat more experimental approach during those concerts in order to experiment with a new audience or was it circumstantial?
It was circumstantial, in the Roundhouse for instance I did not control the sound, they had a big PA system in there and they controlled it, in other places I did as usual, we were playing in new places, to new audiences, they were nervous, they wanted everything to go well, and everything technically did go well. They also were interested in doing a bit of side stuff, not the normal stuff they played, but basically, I think the things that went on was due to building’s acoustics and circumstances that affected sound. It was always the same equipment and in general, the same tonal settings. There was no real reason why the sound would be radically different
What are your memories of the 1968 Amsterdam concert events during which Jim Morrison was unable to perform with the band?
The first half, let’s say, was bad, the second half was outrageous. The Amsterdam performance was the best that The Doors trio put on. That was acknowledged by the music critics and the audience was absolutely delighted. Everything went well, it was just fantastic. Ray, who had been the singer in his brother’s group, took the lead and Robby had to do the back up. They had been together and practicing for so long, they knew every move that everybody was going to make. They just took over a new job, but as far as in playing the instruments, it was no different from any other location. It was just the vocals that were different because of Ray’s vocal tone and Robby’s vocal tone. However, when it went through the speakers, over the instruments and went out to the audience, it didn’t sound all that much different. Ray phrased the words slightly different, hung on to some notes but the music was fantastic and it was written up in the newspapers. What preceded that performance was tragic, the fact that they set a guy who’s an alcoholic to watch an alcoholic was stupid. And I said so. The fact that the guy who was with Jim didn’t stop him from taking the hash and eating it was unbelievable. His job was to keep Jim from getting too much to drink. Certainly no one expected that Jim would eat a cake of hash, especially after drinking so much alcohol. Certainly, Jim should have known better, yet he ate the whole damn thing in one shot. Why did this guardian angel let that happen, he was supposed to be there watching Jim preventing anything like that from happening.
Who was that person?
They hired some guy to follow Jim around and keep him out of mischief, I don’t remember his name or even know his name. Bill Siddons kept me isolated from the inner workers of The Doors, he made sure of that. He was constantly paranoid that I’d step in when he made mistakes (and there were a lot of them) and make a fool of him. And I wasn’t going to do that, he was a manager, I was a road manager, I owed him my loyalty and support and I gave it to him. In several instances he made some terrible mistakes. I backed him up, covered for him and took care of it and never went telling any tales to The Doors. It wasn’t the thing to do. It would only have made the situation worst instead of better. So, I kept my mouth shut and I endured it. One time in fact I’ve quit. It was in a performance in Arizona. Things had gone wrong and we had been abandoned at the airport. I was furious because we didn’t have time to check over the equipment. That was the night the amplifier failed during the performance. I walked into the dressing room after the show and said, “You have my apologies and you have my resignation”. First Ray spoke up and said “we’re not going to accept” and then Robby and John said “don’t worry Vince, it was a good show” and Jim said “nah, c’mon Vince” and that was it. Siddons said nothing, and it was healed over. Mike Jahn, who wrote a book about The Doors, talked to me afterwards and said, “I know what’s going on, and The Doors know what’s going on. Just be cool and if you need support, I’m here, you can go to Bob Greene. The incident was washed over. But it was tough, he did the same thing to me in Europe and when we toured during November after we came back from Europe.
Do you have a favorite concert and a less favorite concert that you can choose from?
There was not one, but a series. The first series were in March and April of 1968 in New York, Boston and Upstate New York, Colgate I think it was, Eastman Theatre, and then Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, that series of concerts each one got better, each one was the best they ever did and yet they got better. That had to be one of the most outstanding things and, for all it’s worth the Amsterdam concert was one of the best they ever put on. The Hollywood Bowl, I know Jim wasn’t as lively as he usually was, but it was a spectacular show, if for nothing than the wall of sound, and John was up on this enormous riser and just played his heart out and so did Robby. It was great, Jim could had done a better job but overall, Hollywood Bowl was a good show. There was a lot of good shows in 1968, it was an amazing year for them. It was only in Amsterdam that things began to decay and of course the shows that followed Miami were under a lot of pressure, because a lot of the time there were cops standing right there on stage, and if Jim had blinked his eyes wrong, they would’ve arrested him, so there was a lot of pressure there. These shows were not as open, as free. The music was always there, no matter what happened, I think the worst show was New Orleans, not Miami.
Watch the trailer for The Doors 1968 film “Feast of Friends”, documenting the band on the road
You couldn’t imagine what Miami was, but it was pretty close to 14.000 people packed in an abandoned airplane hangar, hot humid Florida night, and they stripped their clothes off, because Jim said so
How was Miami?
I was behind the amps, to John’s left side, that’s where I controlled the sound. Jim had been doused with champagne, his shirt was soaking wet, his clothes were wet, the stage was wet. He took his shirt off, that was uncomfortable, sticky cause there was champagne all over him. After some words he said “Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked”, Ray pointed to Jim and said “Vince, don’t let him take his pants down”, I stepped up on the drum riser, walked past John’s snare drum and cymbal, his hi-hat, stepped on the stage and walked up behind Jim, I’ve put my fingers in his belt loops and lifted his pants up and I stayed there until he finished his dialogue and turned to go over to Robby. Then I let go, walked back and went behind the amps again. The policeman who was there at the left side of the stage saw the whole thing. Robby saw it, Ray saw it, John saw it, the audience didn’t see it because I was behind Jim, and the spotlight was straight into Jim, I was in his shadow, Jim was a little bit taller than I was, his hair was bushier, so nobody really saw me. There’s a rumor that somebody threw red paint on Jim’s pants, that is a lie. No one threw red paint on Jim’s pants, and the pants which are on display, splattered with red paint, are a lie, it never happened. No paint was ever thrown on Jim’s pants in any performance ever.
In Miami when he said, let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked, and the kids did. Thousands of them, took their clothes off, there were naked bodies, thousands literally, you couldn’t imagine what Miami was, but it was pretty close to 14.000 people packed in an abandoned airplane hangar, hot humid Florida night, and they stripped their clothes off, because Jim said so, and all these bodies rubbing against each other, there must have been something going on out there, but the kids wanted to do it, some didn’t of course, there wasn’t total nudity, there were a lot of kids out there who kept their clothes on, some only partially but the majority of them were absolutely naked, which was what brought about the outrage, about Jim, what he said on stage and the accusation he had exposed himself.
Eventually the promoter came up and shoved him off stage, knocked him off the stage into the crowd, and that was the end of the show. With all the ruckus on the stage, then the rear right stage platform began to collapse, then we had to keep the amplifiers from falling over and things just disintegrated. John had to get off the drum stand because it was beginning to go down and Ray got out of the way and then Robby took off. The show essentially ended when the promoter came up and shoved Jim off the stage into the crowd.
Back then people used to mistake you for a band member, is that right?
(Vince laughs) Yeah! A chauffeur in England was supposed to take Jim around town to see the sights. I came down from my room in the Royal Lancaster hotel. When he saw me, he thought I was Jim. We spent the day going to hot tourist sites. He took me to Soho where I bought a lot of mod clothes – which I still have to this day. I wore some of it in the Doors movie.
Were you a part of the 1969 PBS TV show performance?
I was at the performance but I didn’t have any part in the show. The equipment was set up for the show. They did sing the songs live but the music track was from a master tape they had recorded in studio. They did not have somebody else as equipment handler, I did all the set up and I was always there but that show was only union people in there. My contribution was the set up. As in Hollywood Bowl, union people had to do all the work which I would normally do. I don’t know why because they never know what they are doing and cause more trouble and delay than they solve.
Morrison’s image was fabricated. Jim did not want to be a sex symbol, he did not want to be known only for wearing leather pants (…) That was an image and all of a sudden, he begun to find it very distasteful.
Do The Doors still appeal to new generations?
The generations have changed, kids today, and when I say kids, 14 to 20, are not the same mentality, not the same ambition, the same thinking that occurred in the late 60’s and early 70’s, a lot has changed in society since then and the youth has changed with it. I think that those who hear The Doors music, who hear the first and second albums, and as I say, their third album contributed to some of their fame and fantasy then and now. The kids today I don’t think quite appreciate what that was at that time, especially stuff like “The Unknown Soldier”, obviously with Ukraine that has become much “timely” shall we say, but “The End”, “When the Music’s Over”, the philosophical pieces had the Acid Rock, that was what it was called. The Jefferson Airplane fell into the same category, so did The Yardbirds, and a couple of other bands. That kind of music was incredibly popular at that time, and the bands who played it were separated from other bands.
The Fugs were famous because they went on stage nude hiding behind their guitars. The Doors were famous because of their insane lyrics and because of the strange music or the strange style of their music. There were other bands who followed in that, but generally the rest of it was teenybop music, all catered to be popular, all “you’re my girlfriend, you’re my boyfriend”, and then you had the folk music which spoke of life itself, and today I don’t know, I know there are Doors devotees, I’ve spent 20 years over in Korea, and I know there was a fan group over there in Korea, and that society, was certainly much different than the U.S, and yet, there was a popularity of The Doors music and a following of Doors fans over there. Same thing in Europe, The Doors still live on in Europe.
Does that popularity also rely on Jim Morrison’s image?
Morrison’s image was fabricated. Jim did not want to be a sex symbol; he did not want to be known only for wearing leather pants. In fact, Jim wore jeans and pants made of other materials, he wore other types of clothing than his leather stuff far more often than he wore the leather pants. That was an image and all of a sudden, he began to find it very distasteful. He supposedly became a sex symbol as a result of the leather pants and his belt, so he got rid of it, he gave up on it. In Miami he was wearing leather pants, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff that made Jim rebel against that image. He did not want that image.
Do they still have a cultural impact today?
No, they had a cultural impact then, but today’s society has changed in such a way their music is no longer relevant. The issues are much different, the mental attitude of the kids today can’t compare to the people of yester-year. The war in Vietnam was a big thing, then anybody who’d rebel against that thing, who spoke out against it was popular and that was one of the things The Doors said, “be yourself, don’t follow the man, don’t be forced into a mold.” And that has gone to extremes today, what Jim thought, don’t get caught in a mold, the mold was broken a long time ago, probably by the turn of the century, the things have changed, the 90’s, 2000’s, the millennial generation is totally different, the thinking, the atmosphere. Today minorities rule, you can’t speak your mind anymore without having to apologize. You can’t sing the things that Jim sang back then without being banned for this or that, or sued or in court, going to jail for saying the wrong thing. Today the language that Jim used is more than acceptable, that’s one thing that has changed. Jim’s language, that he spoked on stage, and sometimes sang, was a bad thing back then, today it is common place not just to see it in songs but on TV, movies and books and everything else. I once talked with Tom Clancy, who wrote several, amazing best sellers, and some of the last books used the F-word and I said, why did you have this and he said, “it’s realistic, it’s common new language that people started using today and I’m just trying to make my character’s real and speak as a person who speaks in this day and age”. In my day, The Doors Day, if a kid walked down the street and used the language that is being used today, he’d get his face slapped right there by a total stranger. What The Doors did was break on through, I don’t think anything can be truer than that. And today, it has been broken on through to the ridiculous extreme. There’s nothing that has any shock value anymore. Back then “walked on down the hall, mother I want to…” that was breaking on through, today that’s nothing, you see that in a TV program.
What would be Jim Morrison’s thoughts on today’s society?
I don’t think he would have had much to say cause society did exactly what he said it should be doing. Jim said, do your thing man, “break on through to the other side”. He said, “do what you want to do”.
(after Jim Morrison’s death) Everybody was shattered, everybody was devastated. It was a case of a reformation of the band. It was a different sound, different music. It wasn’t The Doors anymore. I knew when I heard the music that this was not good. This just wasn’t The Doors and it wasn’t going to be a success.
Are you still in touch with John Densmore and Robby Krieger?
When Robby was writing his book, yes. I was in contact with his ghost writer and his editor several times and we had discussions back and forward about what I remembered; it was a good time. I’ve contributed with a picture, from the making of “The Doors” movie, I have all the 540 pictures and negatives from the movie which I took and I own. Robby wanted one which I gave to him, a color print and is printed in his book. I’ve been in touch with him over the years and it has been good. The memory is always there, I always resented the way Bill fired me, and The Doors never asked me personally if I was quitting, leaving them and why. None of them ever contacted me to ascertain the truth of what Bill told them. Bill told the Doors, “He went over to make a movie in Hawaii and quit”. In fact, I had not gone there to make a movie, I went over to scout locations and I kept calling Bob Greene and say, I should come back, and he would say “no, don’t worry about it”. I stayed on and on and finally, I called Bill and he said “just keep on doing your job over there and making a movie, everything is cool, we got Dave Hopper” and that was it. The Doors listened to him, they believed him, that I had quit to make a movie, which was a lie. They hired Dave Hopper, who worked with me during the 1968 European tour, and Dave was a nice kid, was smart, strong and knew the sound system pretty much, but the way it had been treated, when I saw it after the final tour… Bill Siddons asked me to come and repair it, the state it was in when I saw it, I was sick, I didn’t even want to touch it. And I finally said to Bill, I’ll do it, but I get the electrical system, and anything else I want. They could have the amplifiers. And I fixed it all up and they sold it to [girl group] Fanny and it disappeared. We looked for it for the movie and we couldn’t find a trace of it. What happened, nobody knows. When they closed the Office they sold it, so The Doors equipment which I built, disappeared into obscurity. Everything you can see in the movie was built as a movie set, it never worked.
That was after Jim Morrison’s death?
Yes, it was when they were preparing to go on the big 1972 tour that they did in the United States, Europe and then back in the United States. It was the second tour in the United States that failed. They couldn’t sell tickets. The fans did not want to hear The Doors Chicago blues.
Was the glue within The Doors falling apart?
The Doors reconstitute, Ray bought a Hammond B3, and had it cut down so it could go on the road. They added a bass player and a guitar player. The guitarist used a pick instead of playing the guitar in classic style as Robby did. So, the sound changed, that was the first thing, the second thing is that they didn’t do too many of The Doors songs, they wanted to do this new stuff that Ray had written, the Chicago blues stuff. Kids buying tickets wanted to hear The Doors playing, didn’t matter how they looked like, three guys or five guys. They wanted to hear them play. Ray was doing the singing and Robby some of the backups. It didn’t have the same sound and the music was definitely not the same, it was Chicago blues. That was the end of it, they just failed.
After Jim’s death did the same people working behind the scenes remained working for The Doors?
The Office staff remained there, Bill continued on as manager, Kathy was there, I was there, and that was the inner circle, the actual staff for The Doors. Leon, was the publicist, he took care of the fan club and publicity, he stayed on. Everybody was shattered, everybody was devastated. It was a case of a reformation of the band. It was a different sound, different music. It wasn’t The Doors anymore. I knew when I heard the music that this was not good. This just wasn’t The Doors and it wasn’t going to be a success. Nevertheless, we did the 1971 tour, the four performances, and sure enough, people did not like it. When the five guys played Doors pieces, the audience was ecstatic, really happy, clapping and cheering, when they played the new music, it wasn’t anything, there was applause but the excitement just wasn’t there, they didn’t have their hearts in it.
Something was missing?
Something was missing and that was the sound, and the songs of The Doors. If The Doors had not reconstituted, if they had gone on the road as a three men group, Ray singing lead, Robby singing back up, playing The Doors music, they would’ve continued on, I would be the oldest Road Manager in the world.
(in New Orleans) Jim stood up, took the mic shaft and threw it out into the audience like a javelin. It couldn’t have been better if he was an Olympic javelin thrower. He just reared back, took the thing over hand, that’s the way you do it, and threw the damn thing out into the audience, why someone wasn’t hit, or seriously injured I don’t know.
How was New Orleans, their last show together?
During “Light My Fire”, Ray, Robby and John were doing their solo, and Jim was sitting on the drum stand to John’s right side of the drum stand, he was sitting there and waiting, and then he just sat, and sat and they went through it and through it, and he continued to sit, and then Jim got up and smashed the microphone base through the floor of the stage. When he made a hole, the base of the stand broke off. He threw the shaft into the audience. Later, I recovered the base from under the stage but we never found the shaft. Jim left the stage and went into the dressing room on the second level. First John and then Ray followed by Robby left the stage. And at that point, The Doors closed.
There are rumors of audio from that tape being kept by someone?
I don’t believe it is a real tape. I had some things described to me that were on the tape but were not on the show. The second thing is that the tape doesn’t have the slamming of the mic base on the stage, and I believe it was David Dutkowski who said that Jim had hit the stage with the microphone base only twice and broke it. No, he didn’t. The stage was made of two layers of three-quarter inch plywood and he smashed his way through, it was not two blows, he stood there and pounded and pounded while everybody just watched, the music stopped, and then when the three-quarter inch plywood broke through, the mic stand base snapped off and then Jim stood up, took the mic shaft and threw it out into the audience like a javelin. It couldn’t have been better if he was an Olympic javelin thrower. He just reared back, took the thing over hand, that’s the way you do it, and threw the damn thing out into the audience, why someone wasn’t hit, or seriously injured I don’t know, but it landed on the floor somewhere out there and we were looking for it and somebody took it, I recovered the mic base which was under the stage. But we never saw the shaft again and then, immediately after that Jim walked off stage, went up the stairs into the gallery up there that was the dressing room. With it The Doors closed, that was the end of The Doors.
A lot of rumors have been said to come from the 1980 biography “No One Here Gets Out Alive”?
That was not factual. It’s Danny Sugerman’s dream about making himself an important figure in Jim’s life. He was 14 at the time and claimed to be Jim’s confidant. You have a 14-year-old who claims to be the confidant for a 24-year-old alcoholic. Danny was nothing more than a pest, he was a groupie. And I said so in the book. He was constantly trying to sneak into rehearsals, and we had a way to getting him out. Ray would ask him to go get cigarettes, give him a couple of dollars: “Danny go across the street and get a pack of cigarettes”, he’d come back, I was waiting at the door, put my hand out “Give me the cigarettes Danny, keep the change”, close the door and pull the green curtain and Danny was on the outside not looking in. And that was the end of it. Many times, he tried to do that. Danny ingratiated himself to Kathy, by going up and down saying “I’ll open the fan mail” and thought that “maybe I’ll be with the band” so he hung around the Office, and every once in a while, Bill Siddons would give him some money and tell him “Go over get me something to drink”, sending him on silly errands just to get out of the place but he was nothing more than a pest. He claimed he helped The Doors to move into their new office. He didn’t do any such a thing. He was a boy in school, it was 1968, he was 14 years old. What kind of an idiot has a boy moving The Doors into their new Office? Leon wasn’t even in the country. He claimed Leon helped The Doors to get it, that’s not true. Leon was in Europe.
Did it ever cross your mind that Jim Morrison would never return from Paris or that he’d die at such a young age?
No, nobody suspected that, why would you believe that? Jim had called John a couple of weeks before he died and he said “I’m feeling better, I wrote some new stuff and stopped drinking, I’ve cleaned myself up, I realize all the stupid mistakes that I made and I’d like to come back. How about we consider to get together again, you can look at my new stuff and we can go on.” John was completely non-committal and refused to say yes or no. But Jim called John because he was the one who was adamant that he would never play with Jim on stage again. He was trying to let John know that things were different, that he was cleaned up, and two weeks later he’s dead. Nobody suspected that, why would we? There were a couple of post cards and a letter suggesting that things were going well. He and Pam were enjoying their stay and he was fine. We didn’t know what he was doing. The stories about his life in Paris came out after he died, the clubs and the drinking and Pam’s constant use of heroin, her source and the fact that Jim was calling Bob Greene all the time asking for more money. He had run out of money. Bob told him “You’re out of money, you’ve spent all of your share of The Doors pay that you have and you better consider coming back, you can’t live like that.“
“(Pamela Courson) She was a terrible influence, she was one of the sources of his disquietude, they fought often and violently (…) Jim spent his money entertaining his “friends”, people who claimed to be friends as long as he had money to take them to the bars, the restaurants, to other rock shows and get in free (…) When the money was out of his pocket, he had no friends, they left him in the bars or wherever he was, they went to somebody else and left Jim hanging”
Do you think Pamela Courson contributed to his early death, that things could have gone better if she wasn’t around?
Absolutely. First, she was a junkie, she was manipulative, had him buying her heroin. They argued a lot. She had him buying all the clothes to her boutique and then she gives the clothes away to her friends, Jim would be buying more clothes and she’d give them away to her friends. The whole place was a den of inequity. She and her heroin buddies would be over there shooting up and smoking grass, while sitting on the floor telling each other how wonderful the world was, while Jim’s out there trying to earn money, at that time he was doing “HWY”. She was a terrible influence, she was one of the sources of his disquietude, they fought often and violently. That was one of the causes of Miami. First, he had seen the Living Theater performance where they performed nude, the second was he had a violent fight with her before he got on the plane, then they gave him all the alcohol he wanted on the plane, he was totally drunk by the time he got to Miami. When he heard about the Miami promoter cheating him, and he was determined not to do a show in Miami, that was why there was so much talking and not so much singing.
Jim Morrison wasn’t a materialistic person, is that right?
The only thing he ever bought of any materialistic value was a car, that was the only thing he wanted, a hot rod, he was going to be another James Dean. Jim spent his money entertaining his “friends”, people who claimed to be friends as long as he had money to take them to the bars, the restaurants, to other rock shows and get in free. As long as Jim was spending money, he had friends. When the money was out of his pocket, he had no friends, they left him in the bars or wherever he was, they went to somebody else and left Jim hanging and he had to make his way back to the motel or the Office where he would sleep often in Bill’s office. The next morning I’d come in and Jim would say, “Say Vince, could you loan me 20 bucks”, I would reply “Sure Jim no problem.” Of course, Bob Greene would give me the money when I got my pay. Sometimes I didn’t even mention it, and I just would give him the money. You knew when Jim needed some cash, he had been out on the town with his buddies and they had cleared him out, he had no money at all. He borrowed money so he could go get breakfast somewhere, maybe at Barney’s Beanery or across the street there was a small restaurant, and he would go get breakfast or get a taxi and go wherever, but the point was that they cleared him out and then they left him, they abandoned him. He had no real friends but his money was wasted on these ones. “HWY” took a lot of money too because he had to pay Paul Ferrara and Babe Hill, the cameraman and the soundman, and all the expenses. I’m not sure if they did pay Frank Lisciandro for his editing time. “HWY” was not funded by The Doors; it was funded by Jim.
He was a generous person to the wrong people…
That is putting it in a nutshell, that’s exactly like.
I had many talks in the morning, I would go and he’d be there in the office and sometimes he’d be waiting for the guys to come in to rehearse, and you could talk to him when he was sober, and it was interesting cause he was an intelligent guy, well read
What is the image you keep of Jim Morrison as a friend and collaborator?
I had many talks in the morning, I would go and he’d be there in the Office and sometimes he’d be waiting for the guys to come in to rehearse, and you could talk to him when he was sober, and it was interesting cause he was an intelligent guy, well-read, one of the things he did that put him above other people, I think that’s why he did it. He read things so that he could talk about things that people didn’t know, understand and didn’t think about. That made him seem extremely brilliant. He had a very good memory, he was conversational but also confrontational, he liked to put you in a position for justifying your position.
Watch The Doors playing “The Unknown Soldier” live at The Hollywood Bowl in 1968
A Man who speaks with the machines
How was your life after The Doors?
We were all caught unaware, really bad. After I realized that part of my life was over, I continued doing my movie and worked on it for the next couple of years and we showed it in Hawai and California. Pacific Theaters made us an offer to do a profit-sharing deal, which I rejected because it was asking for trouble. They would take the film and make a lot of money on it, would never be a profit on their books accounting, they were going to blow it up to 35mm and it was shot in Cinerama, was the only surf film ever done in widescreen, we had a portable screen that we used to show it. After the movie I kind of fell on hard times. I did some work on electronics, I worked for modern music, tuned some organs and harpsichords, went into studio, and worked in an electronics shop repairing amplifiers. Then I got into electronic games, that was when pong games came out. I worked with them and I got in with these two guys who owned a string of pong games, and maintaining pinball machines.
Then, I got into this photo thing. There was a thing in Las Vegas where you could have a 20×24 black and white photo in one minute. It was a gimmick, people would go to Las Vegas, looking for a good time, they had a memory thing and they would comeback with these posters. The machines that did these things, were built by a guy in the San Fernando Valley, and he was building a piece of crap machinery, they were failing and having kickbacks on it, these were serious worrying. So, they came to us and asked if we could copy the machine and we reinvented the whole machine, did a whole new design, and it was a smash success because it always worked, didn’t fail or had the problems the other machine had. Then we went on and did a color version of that, the first ones to do it. The chemistry came from a small company up in the Valley, tech sales company, a rapid chemistry for color and we invented the process that could use it, so in 13 minutes you could have a 20×24 full color portrait or picture of any negatives that you wanted. We went into production on that and we had a great success and we had a guy coming to us from Japan who wanted to be the dealer for Japan so we signed the deal. He wanted to buy five machines as the first investment, but things went around the bend. The guy who negotiated the deal between the Japanese guy and me, got to my partner and convinced him he should dump me, steal all the plans and take them to Japan, to make the machine there. He did that, he went to Japan on the pretext of going to train people to operate the machine. He took the patent copy, all the drawings and technical details I’ve written in note books, all of it in a suitcase which he said was his clothes and brought it to Japan where they said they were going to produce it. Mata Fuji who was going to do this thing, couldn’t get the backups. He got drunk at a party, insulted his finances man’s daughter, and that was the end of that relationship and he returned.
I got into the marine service business for a while. I was doing 5 dollars an hour as a dispatcher for Danny Daytona’s towing service and one of the guys there said “why don’t you go over to the marina, they pay a lot of money for technicians, you could work over there” and that’s how I got into the marine business. I never looked back, despite the fact that I had offers from The Bee Gees, Crosby Stills, Joni Mitchell and other groups, but they weren’t The Doors, I didn’t want to have any part with, I just turned my back on it. So, I just wander off until I got into the marine business, which was 1985, I continued on until 2000 when I went to Korea to build organs again. I returned back from Korea in 2020, and I am working now in the organ industry, building organs again.
We can say you’re a man that speaks the language of the machines?
Yeah! I like steam locomotives, rockets, electronics, I love the machinery, all the things that made the United States great, the industry that made America great. America lost its heavy industry and will never be great again until the United States wakes up and realizes it’s handed its technology to China and they made China not only strong but a strong enemy. That was a stupid thing to do. That’s what greed does, a lack of foresight, and the fact that you can get into bed with the politically opposed, and make a goal of it and you can’t do it. All you do is make them a stronger enemy.
The conclusion is that you were the perfect man to be in the middle of The Doors…
One thing that made it good, is that I respected the guys as musicians, for what they did and for what they were doing, they were polite people, kind people, considerate and generous. I got a first-class ticket home, every Christmas I got a 1000 dollars bonus, they were absolutely wonderful. To me as an individual, the other thing that made it really good for me is that they respected me as a person. When I said something like, you should do this, you should do that, they did it. They listened because I had their sound, their image, performance, in my hands literally. They knew that what I said was for their benefit, not detriment. And it always worked. Each time they would follow my advice always worked out to be better. For that reason, they trusted me. It was such a wonderful relationship, that is why I was so surprised when they never followed up Bill’s statement about me leaving The Doors. I was prepared to go with the new Doors. Bill slammed the door literally.
Watch The Doors playing “The End” live at The Isle of Wight festival in 1970
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what: Road Manager Vince Treanor’s memoirs of his years with The Doors
title: Behind The Doors. The Story Of A Legendary Band’s Road Manager
photos: black & white
number of pages: 522
size: 17 × 24 × 4 cm
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Listen to the 1970 album “Absolutely Live” by The Doors
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