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Campus Flashback: A Strange Band Plays Cal State L.A.

Sophia Biggs

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Original "The Doors" Poster

October 6, 1967 is an important date in Cal State L.A. history. The Doors played in the Eagles’ Nest Gym, and students got more than they bargained for. I was able to track down an author by the name of Ralph Hulett whom attended the show and reported on his recollections in the publication Record Collector News. After many years, Hulett was able to recall every detail of what could be the most memorable concert of his life and allow other to share in the experience. Ralph Hulett is the infamous author of Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight With Led Zeppelin. 

Biggs: How did you first get interested in a band called, The Doors? 

Hulett: Well, I had friend who was a musician named Clyde Johnson; he was in a lot of rock bands in the sixties around La Crescenta. He was really involved in the music scene. Whenever a new groundbreaking album would come out, he would play them at his house, and that’s exactly what happened when I heard the first Doors album. Break On Through was just an amazing-different-kind-of-a-sounding piece when I first heard it. It had elements of jazz in it; it had elements of blues and rock all mixed up in an electronic mixer. When I heard “The End,” I said, “Oh my gosh, no one’s ever done a song like this before.” I was really interested in Morrison because he performed in such a strange unique way, and he was almost, for that time, outrageous on stage. He exuded this mystery and this aura. Later on, they advertised a show at Cal State L.A. and I decided to go. 

Biggs: How did you hear about the show at Cal State L.A.? 

Hulett: Word spread fast amongst the student body because everyone was talking about, “The Doors are coming to Cal State LA! This is gonna be great!” Strange Days had just come out and “People Are Strange” was a hit on the radio, and The Doors were a strange band. Especially, at this time in music history, people were calling them “L.A.’s reply to The Rolling Stones.” 

Biggs: Tell me more about the experience at the Cal State L.A. Show.

Hulett: The Cal State L.A. show, first of all, was a complete concert it was about an hour-and-a-half. The Doors were the third band. There was The Sunshine Company; they were more bright, bouncy, and positive, the opposite of The Doors. Then, there was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were a folky-type band that were really cool and would play a lot of acoustic instruments, mandolins, and so on. Then, The Doors came out. They started with being in complete darkness, and Ray Manzarek’s organ started playing “When The Music’s Over.” It kind of created this whole feeling of a ceremony. It was more than just a show; there was this mood that everybody kind of got sucked into. Jim Morrison came out from behind some amps, and then a spotlight hit him… he came up to the edge of the stage. I remember when Robby Krieger’s guitar attack started and his big explosion into his first notes after the organ introduction, Morrison just screamed right into the mic. Everyone in the front row just jumped, and he shocked the audience. I think that has a lot to do with the way he was. Morrison was into this aural cinema thing, creating all of these different moods and changes in people through the music. He wanted people to think differently and let the music take you wherever it goes. 

Biggs: Do you think the Cal State L.A. show was important to their career? 

Hulett: The show certainly cemented The Doors reputation with the college crowd. They were a local L.A. based band. This was an important show for them, as far as letting people in L.A. know that this was the band to be reckoned with. 

Biggs: What was the most memorable moment of the Cal State L.A. show?

Hulett: In Cal State L.A.’s gymnasium there was a center aisle; Jim Morrison jumped down into the crowd and ran up the center aisle. Morrison was screaming into the mic until he reached the top of the aisle, and now the house lights are on. He slams onto the floor and he rolls back down and as soon as he hits the stage, all of the lights went out and the band quit playing; we were in complete darkness. Then we saw a spotlight, and Morrison started singing…this is the end…I’ll never forget them when they did “The End.” That was pretty amazing.

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2 Responses to “Campus Flashback: A Strange Band Plays Cal State L.A.”

  1. Robert Sheehan on January 3rd, 2017 12:02 am

    Thank you for sharing this amazing experience. Do you have any pictures or videos of this concert?

  2. Craig Carl on March 13th, 2018 6:02 am

    I’m one of the Kappa Sigma brothers who put on this concert, which arose from a brainstorming session on how to attract more pledges. Bil Gekas, who died a few years ago, was our main “producer.” Bil became a drama professor. We grossed $17,000 — a full house, — but only broke even (the Doors cost us $7,500). We should have involved a finance major!

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