The Night Jim Morrison and the Doors Saw 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey changed cinema and art in 1968. Jim Morrison and the Doors were present at the world premiere in Los Angeles. Both Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison graduated as film students from UCLA. This was a big cinematic experience for them.

On the other side of the world, David Bowie saw 2001 and it changed his life. His career was on a downward spiral. Bowie said, “Space Oddity was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”

The Byrds recorded the song “Space Odyssey” (the final track of The Notorious Byrd Brothers1968) in the hopes that Stanley Kubrick would include it on the soundtrack to his 2001: A Space Odyssey film; something the filmmaker elected not to do.

Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist of the Doors,  recollects that day, “It was the opening night of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ It wasn’t a big, world premiere, but the Los Angeles premiere and somebody got the Doors about a half-dozen tickets to the theater. There was a 7 o’clock showing and we had a rehearsal in the afternoon. So John, Robbie, Jim, Dorothy and I forget who else, we hop in the car and head over to the Pacific Theater in Hollywood, which had a Cinemascope screen.

We smoked a joint, and when we walk into the theater, the place is packed. The only seats left are in the front row. That’s the last place you want to be to watch a movie — everything’s out of proportion! Ideally, you want to be sitting right in the middle. So we’re sitting in the front row going, ‘ah shit. … what the hell, we’re stoned, we’ll just sit down and watch the movie.’

Turned out to be the best seats in the house. Sitting in front of that screen with nothing in front of you but outer space — then those apes and the sunrise, however, Kubrick did that was absolutely overwhelming. We sat there with our mouths agape. It was so brilliant — that opening with that music. Morrison stood up after the first two minutes, when it went black after that sequence right before the apes, and said, ‘Well, that’s the best movie I’ve ever seen; we can go now.’

‘Jim, sit down, you comedian.’”