By the time The Doors arrived in London to play their first ever UK shows, on September 6 and 7, 1968, at converted London train shed The Roundhouse, their notoriety was reaching its peak in the US. The band’s arrival in Britain was greeted by howls of protest, not least by moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse. “The Doors, who are a political extremist organisation, are now in England,” she wrote in a telegram to the Chief Superintendent of the Special Branch.
The Doors brought controversy with them when they arrived to play their debut UK gigs, but over two nights at London’s Roundhouse it was their incendiary music that did the talking.
But for the capital’s hip elite it was a chance to see just what the fuss was all about. The Roundhouse bill (for two shows on two nights) was bolstered by co-headliners and fellow West Coast psychedelic ambassadors Jefferson Airplane, plus The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Terry Reid, Blossom Toes and Blonde On Blonde.
The Who, Traffic, Cream and A-list movie couple Terence Stamp and Julie Christie were out representing the capital’s music and film royalty, while Granada TV sent along their cameras to film proceedings for a documentary, The Doors Are Open.
Joss Mullinger (audience): I was a public schoolboy at Christ’s Hospital in Sussex. I was seventeen, and my friends and I were mad about The Doors. Polydor Records in London was distributing Elektra, so I’d written to them in early 1968 and they sent us monthly newsletters, which is how I knew about the Doors shows.
Jorma Kaukonen (guitarist, Jefferson Airplane): Even the physical configuration of The Roundhouse – a circular building – was unusual, different and very cool. For us, coming from the West Coast, there was a Mecca aspect to coming to London. It was very exciting to be there, not just because of The Beatles and the Stones but because of the whole scene.