50 years ago The Doors were thundering through the world at breakneck speed, having catapulted themselves to the forefront of rock culture with their 1967 debut album. Sadly it was a career which would be short lived, and there’s only a handful of fans on the planet who were lucky enough to see Jim, Ray, John, and Robby live.
Luckily for us, tribute bands like Unlocking The Doors exist. With a legendary discography in their back pocket and an Aussie tour closing in fast, we caught up with guitarist and vocalist Mick for the latest news.
Missed the boat on The Doors while they were around town? Don’t sleep on Unlocking The Doors, an Aussie tribute act doing the classic rock luminaries proper justice.
HAPPY: G’day Mick, how are things? What are you up to at the moment?
MICK: Hi, it’s been a time of change for us – we started this project three years ago and recently parted ways with our original drummer. John Densmore is not someone who is easily replicated, he is a certain style and nuance. Lee Carey (ex Midnight Swim and Dead Letter Chorus) has stepped in and is turning out to be a great fit for the part… we are very excited about our upcoming tour.
HAPPY: Tell us a little about how Unlocking The Doors got started.
MICK: Well to be frank, we never expected to be able to do justice to The Doors’ music. I have played in various bands with my partner Sandy and our friend Rich and we used to come home after gigs and Rich would insist on listening to The Doors on vinyl. When Ray Manzarek passed away in 2013 we decided to add a few Doors songs to our set to pay tribute to him, they came together much better than expected and the idea for Unlocking the Doors was born.
HAPPY: How long have you been performing together now?
MICK: We started seriously jamming Doors songs at the end of 2014 and played our first show in August 2015, after nine months spent workshopping a nucleus of songs and developing the show.
HAPPY: What goes into the first show for a tribute band? Practicing a performance is tough enough, but how about nailing the personas?
MICK: Rich has been a diehard Doors tragic for a very long time and this has greatly helped his ability to channel the persona of Jim Morrison, which is the centrepiece of the show. The four members of the band immersed themselves in trying to sonically replicate each of their parts as closely as possible and were listening to the Doors at home and in their cars on constant repeat until the songs were burnt into their subconscious. We still joke about waking in the middle of the night hearing random Doors riffs going through our heads.
HAPPY: 1968 was another big year for The Doors, one of their few in the spotlight. What do you think JM was doing on this day, 50 years back?
MICK: Interestingly, it is 50 years from the famous Hollywood Bowl concert that the Doors performed, supported by Steppenwolf and the Chambers Brothers. The concert was captured by multiple cameras and multitrack audio and contains some of Jim’s best poetic improvisations whilst he was reputedly under the influence of LSD. It has since been released as a live album in 1987 and a video in 2012. Picture this… Jim is a doing a pinnacle concert of his career looking down into the front row, and sees his long term girlfriend Pamela Courson sitting on Mick Jagger’s lap. He maintains his composure, sets his sights on a bug that his fluttered onto the stage, and turns his attention to it rather than anything else that is going on around him.
HAPPY: He’s a big pair of shoes to fill. Did you ever feel some kind of connection to JM before starting Unlocking The Doors?
MICK: All the members of Unlocking the Doors are huge fans of the Doors but our Jim Morrison, Rich is complete devotee and is able to replicate Jims distinctive vocal inflections, stage mannerisms and antics to perfection. As a band we are very protective of the Doors legacy and made a conscious decision not to produce our own merch, instead directing audiences to purchase genuine Doors merch and recordings. Many of our fans attend the gigs wearing Doors t-shirts or 60s style gear which adds to the vibe of the night.
HAPPY: What are some of the less-publicised facts about The Doors and Jim that you’ve come across in your time?
MICK: The Doors did not have a dedicated bassist, the lack of a bass guitarist freed up sonic space and helped the group distinguish their sound from other late ’60s bands. When he was four years old, Morrison allegedly witnessed a car accident in the desert, during which a truck overturned and some Native Americans were lying injured at the side of the road. He referred to this incident in The Doors’ song “Peace Frog” on their 1970 album Morrison Hotel, as well as in the spoken word performances “Dawn’s Highway” and “Ghost Song” on the posthumous 1978 album An American Prayer. Morrison believed this incident to be the most formative event of his life, and made repeated references to it in the imagery in his songs, poems, and interviews.
HAPPY: You’ve locked in yet another tour around Australia, what can we look forward to at these shows?
MICK: Our upcoming shows will include a suite of the Doors’ big hits and also a few of the more obscure and off beat songs; on the quiet, there will be a few tributes to the Hollywood Bowl show surfacing at some of the shows also
HAPPY: Looking forward to it all!
Catch Unlocking The Doors live on their upcoming Australian tour:
July 27th – Lizottes, Newcastle
July 28th – Django Bar, Marrickville
August 10th – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave (Melbourne)
August 18th – City Diggers, Wollongong (Autism Fundraiser)
August 24th – Central Hotel, Shellharbour
August 25th – Leadbelly, Newtown
September 7th – Brass Monkey, Cronulla