The night The Doors tore it up at the Alexandria Roller Rink

June 20, 2013
The Doors pose with WPGC DJ Jack Alix, holding a copy of GO Magazine between his teeth, before the Doors' show at the Alexandria Roller Rink on Aug. 18, 1967. Also pictured are members of the Blades of Grass and the Jackettes Go-Go Girls. The show is believed to be the only time that Jim Morrison, who graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria, played in Alexandria. (Clinton Star-Leader archive at the Prince George's County Historical Society)
The Doors pose with WPGC DJ Jack Alix, holding a copy of GO Magazine between his teeth, before The Doors’ show at the Alexandria Roller Rink on Aug. 18, 1967. Also pictured are members of the Blades of Grass and the Jackettes Go-Go Girls. The show is believed to be the only time that Jim Morrison, who graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria, played in Alexandria. (Clinton Star-Leader archive at the Prince George’s County Historical Society)

Many big-name rock bands passed through the Alexandria Roller Rink in the ’60s and  ’70s — Janis Joplin, Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull — but maybe the hottest night was when The Doors came to town.

Mark Jones on WETA’s local history blog, Boundary Stones, dug up the details of Jim Morrison’s only performance in Alexandria, where he once lived and graduated from George Washington High School. He had gone off to college in Florida, then California, where The Doors were formed, while his folks continued to live in Arlington. (The Post’s obit is here, with an interview with his father.)

It was August 1967 and The Doors were at the top of the charts with “Light My Fire.” The hit-making WPGC radio was sponsoring what would now be an unheard-of double bill: a 7:30 p.m. show in Annapolis, and a 10 p.m. show in Alexandria. Jones reports that Morrison got into a disagreement with the rest of the band in Annapolis and they refused to ride with him to Alexandria. When Morrison arrived in a separate car, he apparently was staggering drunk.

The original poster for the Doors' show at the Alexandria Roller Rink Arena in August 1967. "In person!" (Ebay)
The original poster for the Doors’ show at the Alexandria Roller Rink Arena in August 1967. “In person!” (Ebay)

But the place, also known as the Alexandria Arena on North St. Asaph and Madison streets, was packed with 4,000 psychedelic love children and Morrison apparently revived and put on an entertaining show that included an extended version of “Light My Fire” and finished with “The End.” (Presumably his parents weren’t there.) Then Morrison tossed a cymbal stand into the audience, WPGC DJ Jack Alix had to wrestle the mike away from him, and Morrison yelled “Hey Alexandria” and issued a “one-finger salute” as he left the stage, Jones writes.

Jones based much of his reporting on the book, “The Lizard King Was Here: The Life and Times of Jim Morrison in Alexandria, Virginia” by Mark Opsasnick, which is available here, and by a story in the Clinton Star-Leader which appeared five days later. And here’s a good piece that John Arundel did last year for Alexandria’s Local Kicks.com on the Alexandria Arena and Roller Rink.

Here’s a live, 11-minute version of “Light My Fire” that was directed by keyboardist Ray Manzarek and just released last month. Between the opening free verse by Morrison and the lengthy solos by Manzarek, this version from 1968 was probably similar to what the crowd at the Alexandria Roller Rink saw that night.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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Tom Jackman · June 19, 2013