In a cramped, overcrowded ballroom where “strange sweet smoke” floated above a wild and excited audience, Colorado College became a part of rock and roll history.
It was the fall of 1967 and somehow—in what many who attended likened to a miracle—a group of fraternity brothers had booked The Doors for CC’s Homecoming Dance.
“It was a magical night,” said Martha Auld, a CC alumna.
If it hadn’t been for one alum’s spring cleaning in 2005, the concert might have been forever forgotten.
While there is some debate over who actually booked the band when all was said and done, two members of the Blue Key Society, Bob Sears and Doug Brown, had somehow found a connection to the group while searching for a cheap-ish act to play the dance in an effort to plan and execute a memorable night.
In the springs of 1967, Brown said he asked some fraternity brothers of his if they knew any bands that could play at homecoming. They didn’t, they told him, but they had a connection with a record company in California.
“I asked which was the most expensive one I could afford, and [the company] said The Doors,” Brown recounted in a letter to the alumni office. “I said OK. He asked me to send him a telegram. A few days later, he asked for a signed letter and contract [from] someone at CC over the age of 21.”
The contract was signed, and Brown let the looming date pass to the back of his mind.
“When I went home to South Bend that summer, I didn’t think anything about what I had done… until Light My Fire came out in June or July and went straight to number one on all the charts,” he said. “When I got back to CC in late August, I was convinced we would have no problem filling the Broadmoor and paying for the doors.”
Those who remember booking the band debate about how much the contract actually stipulated Jim Morrison’s iconic group would be paid, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. An exuberant amount in 1967, there was a fear among organizers that they wouldn’t be able to recover the costs of booking the band because not enough tickets would be sold. One dean even suggested that the college break the contract.
Before the concert even happened, even more problems arose.
“Several weeks before The Doors were to perform, I got a call from the agent,” Brown said. “He informed me that The Doors were now getting $50,000 per night. He asked if he could send another band instead. I said no.”
The college, Brown, and Sears held their ground and finally, on one fall day, The Doors—a band that would arguably become the most important acid rock group of history—showed up to the Broadmoor Ballroom ready to play.
‘I discovered a red tin can’
Thomas Reynolds, class of 1974, was cleaning his basement in Fairway, Kan. when he stumbled upon a red tin can that once contained Moravian cookies. Inside were some tapes his father had made during the 1940s of Benny Goodman. There was also a small reel—about three inches in diameter—that looked a little out of place.
It was a recording of The Doors performing at The Broadmoor in 1967.
Reynolds was a freshman at Fountain Valley High School when he met Jim Morrison of The Doors.
With a recorder he had bought in Tokyo, Reynolds set out to tape the performance, a show that took place at the turning point of The Doors’ career.
What he didn’t expect was to run into the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison.
“I met him in the drugstore of the Broadmoor, and I had the tape recorder ready for the show. He was in there in his black leather pants,” Reynolds said. “I went up to him, he was looking at some magazines, and I said, ‘Hey, are you one of The Doors?’”
Morrison went to speak into the microphone and let out what Reynolds remembers as a hiya yeah uh I yuh.
“He just looked at me, and he was so unintelligible,” Reynolds said. “Just completely gone. I think he was just numbing the pain. Knowing their schedule, I think they just wanted to get it over with.” The set list was only five songs.
In the autumn of 1967 and as part of a promotional tour for their initial self-titled album, The Doors were booked every night.
“Colorado College was really on the cutting edge of the beginning of The Doors’ success,” Reynolds said. “They had just been playing at clubs in LA before coming to CC.”
Reynolds found himself at The Doors’ show when his older sister, who graduated in 1972, invited him to tag along to CC’s Homecoming of 1967, which was held at the Broadmoor Hotel.
By the time they had reached CC, The Doors had already adapted their signature psychedelic style of performance. Despite the event’s purpose as a Homecoming Dance, the band’s performance consisted of “spacey” tones in addition to readings of Morrison’s poetry.
As typical with their new performance style, The Doors prefaced “Light My Fire” with an eerie poetry piece entitled “Wake Up.”
“It was hard to understand that at a dance,” Reynolds said. “It was all sort of dissonant organ; he was moaning. And then it broke into ‘Light My Fire.’”
“We knew the song [‘Light My Fire’] on the radio,” Reynolds said. “Everybody was dancing; it wasn’t like a concert. But, when that song came on, everyone was singing along with it.”
Reynolds remembers the show as “incredible.”
“The recording was a little distorted,” Reynolds said. “Probably because I was dancing so much.”
In 2005 Reynolds donated the tape to Colorado College’s Special Collections, a donation that curator Jessy Randall remembers well.
“There’s all these ways for these things to have new lives,” Randall said of the short, approximately 30-minute recording of roughly half the performance.
Shortly after the donation was made, Tutt Library blogged about the historical acquisition, posting roughly 30 seconds of the recording online.
The post caused a ruckus.
A representative from The Doors emailed the college requesting that the snippet immediately be taken down and that the recording never be reproduced or released. The representative warned that any reproduction would be construed as a violation of intellectual property, anti-piracy, and copyright laws.
Once believed to be first live recording of The Doors ever captured, it is now understood that Reynolds scratchy tape wasn’t antecedent, but surely among the earliest.
The recording remains in both its original form and on one single compact disc in the Special Collections section of the library where it remains with a few newspaper clippings and one grainy image of the show.
Every so often, someone comes in to listen to the tape and view the archives, Randall said, but for the most part, the only-known record of The Doors’ performance remains safely out of sight.
‘They came. They sang. They left.’
“While many have hailed the 1967 Homecoming Dance as an ‘unqualified success,’ we feel that some aspects of the event bear close scrutiny, both in terms of the fiscal aspects and in terms of the means by which the ‘success’ was achieved,” read a staff editorial in The Tiger, CC’s student newspaper until 1969 when the publication became The Catalyst.
Alumni records and The Tiger remember the concert as nothing short of a wonderful event, even if a swarm of “high school couples” showed up to hear the band, apparently much to the disdain of CC students.
“As the crowd streamed into the lobby of the grande dame of the Rockies, packing her elegant mirrored ballroom the atmosphere was a mix of fraternity party and the World Series,” Bob Sears wrote in his recantation of the night.
The Broadway Shell and Muse Band, a CC “acid rock” band that often played shows in Rastall, opened for The Doors.
“As the drummer in the opening band, I did get to meet Jim [Morrison] in the Broadmoor Hotel’s equivalent of the green room,” Fred Worden, who graduated in 1968, wrote. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t actually remember yesterday, but I do remember that night.”
In an article about Worden’s band in The Tiger, Janet Drescher wrote that the group often played frat parties at the college and around Colorado Springs and were among “the newest of CC’s three pop bands.”
After The Broadway Shell and Muse Band’s set, Morrison and The Doors took the stage and played two sets, which are remembered to have lasted around 45 minutes.
In the low-quality recording, the pervasive and ever-present organ tones ring loud and clear over the drums. It’s obvious from the cheers, applause, and singing that the ballroom was packed that night.
On “People Are Strange,” Morrison’s vocals are clearly heard, chanting over the instruments. During “Light My Fire,” the audience is screaming along.
“It was a special night that I will never forget,” Reynolds said.
Jesse Paul, Editor-in-Chief
Jack Sweeney, Managing Editor