The Doors at the Fillmore East

The Doors at the Fillmore East
Audience enraptured. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

On March 22, 1968, the legendary rock band The Doors performed at the East Village’s fabled Fillmore East.

The performance is considered one of the most iconic in the band and the theater’s career — which is saying a lot, considering the near-mythic status each enjoy.

The Fillmore East had been open just two weeks; The Doors, while internationally known, were nevertheless barely a year out from the release of their first album and single.  Sadly, the meteoric rise and fall of both would follow similar brilliant but abbreviated paths; the Fillmore East would close just over three years later on June 27th, 1971, while The Doors — at least in their classic incarnation — would meet their demise just six days later, on July 3rd, 1971, with Morrison’s mysterious death in a Paris bathtub.

But what a night they both had on March 22nd, 1968.

The Fillmore East in full view. The entrance on Second Avenue remains today, though the theater, located behind it on Sixth Street, was later demolished. The Saul Birns Building, housing Ratner's to the north, can be seen at right.

The Fillmore East in full view. The entrance on Second Avenue remains today, though the theater, located behind it on Sixth Street, was later demolished. The Saul Birns Building, housing Ratner’s to the north, can be seen at right.  Photo by Amalie R. Rothschild.

Two nights, actually — as they played again on the 23rd, with two shows each night at that.  The first was scheduled to begin at 8, and the second at 11; according to at least one reviewer, the later show did not end until 3:25 am.  You can view a partial setlist here.

Audience enraptured. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

Audience enraptured. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

Anyone who is a Doors fan will recognize some of the more memorable images of Morrison and the band which came from this show.

Morrison with the Joshua Lightshow as backdrop. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

Morrison with the Joshua Lightshow as backdrop. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

Morrison levitating. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

Morrison levitating. Yale Joel, Time-Life.

And anyone who is a fan of the baroque stylings of the Fillmore’s hall will be impressed by the images captured by Life Magazine of The Door’s performance, amply illustrating how the Fillmore earned the sobriquet “the church of rock ‘n’ roll”.  The Fillmore of course had been built as a Yiddish Theater as part of the “Yiddish Rialto” which lined Second Avenue in the East Village. Read more about the Fillmore’s history here.

The Fillmore's interiors, via Yale Joel, Time-Life.

The Fillmore’s interiors, via Yale Joel, Time-Life.

One of many iconic images from the show.

One of many iconic images from the show.

Highlights of the evening included the psychedelic stylings of Bill Graham’s ‘Joshua Light Show’ — a standard feature at the Fillmore, but in this case supplemented by a showing of The Door’s short film “The Celebration of the Lizard,” which was anticipated to the be the title of their third, as yet unrealeased album (they eventually went with the somewhat more circumspect “Waiting for the Sun”).

The original flyer.

The original flyer.THE HAROLD c. BLACK COLLECTION

After a long night at the Fillmore, The Doors and Bill Graham nourished themselves on classic New York deli at Ratner’s, just one door north of the Fillmore in the Saul Birns building (read more at http://gvshp.org/blog/2011/08/02/whats-in-a-name-the-saul-birns-building/).

Probably a good thing it wasn't "Celebration of the Lizard."

Probably a good thing it wasn’t called “Celebration of the Lizard.”

In 2014, GVSHP placed a historic plaque marking the location of the Fillmore East — see more here.

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.

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