Jim Morrison was a frontman more prone to a scrape than a toddler’s knees, in fact, he was near enough the original musical maverick. When The Doors first formed in 1965, starting a song with a lightning crack and an apocalyptical atmosphere was out of the question. In the eternal summer of peace and love, the flowery sanguine sound that most of the mainstream music in the era propagated was in direct contrast to the iconoclasm that followed shortly after. As Jim Morrison said long before the band arrived at the masterpiece of L.A. Woman: “I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.”
When tumultuous times thrust the flower-power scene into turmoil, The Doors stood out amid the mixed-up rock ‘n’ roll milieu as a dose of darkness. Rather than pitch black realism, however, they were tapping into a much more mystical sense of cloud cover. As Life journalist Fred Powledge wrote upon first seeing Morrison on stage in 1968: “Once you see him perform, you realise that he also seems dangerous, which, for a poet, may be a contradiction in terms.” Powledge, by all accounts, was not your typical Doors fan, his role in journalism at the time was covering the civil rights movement, however, Morrison seemingly captivated him as a sort of unfathomable rock ‘n’ roll Christ at the precipice of counterculture.
However, as we not sadly know, that penchant for “revolt, disorder and chaos” coupled with his “dangerous” edge proved to push him tragically over the precipice itself. While the dark end is lamentable, it was Morrison’s mantra to be entertaining along the way.
Below, we’re looking at the seven wildest antics in the rock icons life.
Jim Morrison’s wildest moments:
When he was arrested for exposing his, ahem, ‘King Snake’…
In March 1969, Jim Morrison was arrested while in The Sunshine State performing at the Dinner Key Auditorium for allegedly exposing his Johnson while onstage. Morrison fervently denied the charge claiming the bulbous cylinder on display was merely a microphone. Whether or not he did indeed bare his spam javelin is unknown, but it landed him in the slammer regardless.
On the day of the concert, Morrison, who had been drinking heavily and had missed a connecting flight to Miami on the day of the show, arrived at the gig over an hour late as the crowd began to grow increasingly impatient. Police become restless in the conservative neighbourhood, not used to such riotous events, and tensions began to build.
According to equipment chief Vince Treanor, “Somebody jumped up and poured champagne on Jim, so he took his shirt off, he was soaking wet.” Adding, “Morrison told the crowd: ‘Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked’ as people in the crowd began taking their clothes off. Having removed his shirt, people claimed that Morrison held it in front of his groin and started to make hand movements behind it.”
At one point in this madness, he is rumoured to have yelled, “You want to see my cock, don’t you? That’s what you came for isn’t it? Yeah!” At which point the police tugged him off [pause] stage and the rest is history… oh and they also arrest him.
When he nearly got a plane turned around…
The tale goes that Jim Morrison had decided on the morning of the incident to take in a Rolling Stones show at the Veterans Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona on a rock ‘n’ roll whim. He invited The Doors’ publicist and two close friends along for the ride. It was November 11th, 1969, roughly a year on from when he was banned from performing at the venue for inciting a riot that very nearly materialised.
The plans to watch the concert were slightly unhinged when the flight was delayed and from there, the trouble started. Trapped in the airport there was very little for Morrison and his actor buddy Tom Baker to do but drink – a presentment that they were more than happy to oblige in.
By the time the plane was ready to board, the pair were somewhat overly refreshed and when they finally got up in the air, the duo became proverbial misanthropissed’s and took the term ‘rowdy passengers’ to the riotous extreme. According to the Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, they began heckling the flight attendants. Like a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, chaos ensued as the artists showed no signs of sobering.
In the end, the pilot had to intervene and told Morrison and Baker that he would turn the flight around and have them arrested if any more disorderly conduct continued. Seeing no point in making the other passengers suffer, he completed the flight and landed in Phoenix, where Morrison and Baker were greeted by FBI agents and placed under arrest.
He got The Doors banned from The Ed Sullivan Show…
For musicians back in the day, The Ed Sullivan Show proved to be quite a hot ticket. After all, it proved a brilliant launchpad for The Beatles, but when The Doors arrived, already with a number one in their holster, it went very bad, very quickly.
In fairness, as Ray Manzarek rightly states, The Doors always seemed a little bit too dark for the family-friendly show in the first place. “My wife and I were watching at home,” Manzarek recalls, “Ed, at the end of the show came on and said, ‘Next week we’re going to have…a rock group from California, The Doors doing their number one hit ‘Light My Fire.’ We looked at each other, saying ‘Oh I guess we’re on The Ed Sullivan Show next week.’”
However, a wily producer had a cunning way to get the great sound and look of The Doors on the show without rocking the boat, or so he thought… The unnamed producer approached the band about a contentious lyric in their number one single ‘Light My Fire’. The line being: “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” and he tried to enforce them to change “higher” to “better”.
The television producer was keen to keep the show aligned with its family audience and suggested that the reference to illegal drug use would upset the folks watching at home. Naturally, the poet and artist he was, Morrison was furious with the. While the band, most likely looking at the potential for record sales and worldwide success following the performance, agreed to adhere to the changes as the producer left the room Morrison was heard to defiantly say: “We’re not changing a word.”
The rest, as they say, is ancient history.
He lied about his parents being dead…
While lying about the death of your parents may well evade the wild antics classification, it certainly marked him out as a very enigmatic figure and one who needs to be judiciously considered at that. The tale of why he lied about the passing of his parents, however, is emblematic of the antics that followed and underpins his cannon of art itself.
You see, his father, George Morrison, who passed away in 2008, was in the Navy, which meant that his childhood saw him move from state to state. Morrisson became accustomed to this never-ending journey and never settling down in one place for any significant length of time. This idea of a wandering existence and the bowels of great big America is key to many of his songs such as the nomadic anthem of ‘Riders on the Storm’.
Aside from the wayfaring lifestyle of his father’s job, his mother and father ran his house with immense discipline and handed out military-like punishments known as “dressing down”. Once he got into UCLA in 1964, Morrison cut ties with most members of his family, perceiving a lack of empathy and support from them. When people asked about his background, rather than tell the truth and explain that he was estranged, Morrison claimed that his parents and siblings were dead, which seems a stretch for simply being the victim of strict discipline and stern emotions, but then there is a lot about him that still begs questions.
Morrison’s cover-up wasn’t just a lie that he told to friends either, Elektra Records even published that Morrison was an orphan as part of the materials distributed with The Doors’ self-titled debut album in 1967. His family had no idea he was even in a band, let alone that The Doors were capturing hearts and minds all over America and beyond.
His father would later comment in the book The Doors by The Doors: “The fact that he’s dead is unfortunate but looking back on his life it’s a very pleasant thought. I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career,” George Morrison says. “He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.” His sister, Anne, added: “He liked mystique, too. He didn’t want to be from somewhere.”
The pre-fame Tallahassee arrest…
While it might seem from his manufactured orphanhood that Morrison always had an eye on the image of his full artistic gestalt, and as such, manufactured certain flashpoints and backstories, his wild pre-fame tales seem to disavow this notion.
For instance, on September 23rd, 1963, the man who was not yet a rocker received a list of charges that would have Deputy Dog stumbling over his words for hours; petty larceny, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and, naturally, public drunkenness. And all this unfurled while casually watching a football game. On second thoughts, maybe not so casually…
Apparently, Morrison started by just having a few drinks while watching on, but slowly he descended into mocking the football players on display, who were seemingly not up to scratch. Still, as any fellow beleaguered sports fans who follow subpar teams will attest, this isn’t a crime. The issue for Morrison came when his heckling somehow rapidly descended to stealing a police offices helmet and nabbing himself an umbrella from the open police car window too. Although the charges were later dropped, it set a precedence for his many subsequent scrapes with the law.
He developed a secret swinging code…
If you think of Jim Morrison, you’ll almost immediately paint him in leather trousers or his striped pantaloons. The man behind these guises was his best friend and fashion designer, January Jansen. Not only were the pair buddies, but they were also often mistaken for twins. This allowed for a bit of questionable tour antics, to say the least.
While on the road, the duo would often rent hotel rooms next door to each other. If they were lucky enough to convince a lady’s back their rooms – which was presumably quite often seeing as though Morrison has 20 paternity suits posthumously pending against him – they would swap women throughout the evening.
Morrison would leave his hotel room, slam his door twice, which was the signal for Jansen to also leave. They would then mull about somewhere for a handful of minutes before swapping rooms and simply hoping that their sexual partners for the evening wouldn’t notice.
The first on stage arrest…
In a moment that has gone down in history as the New Haven incident, Morrison became dubbed as the first rock star to be arrested mid-performance for inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity.
As the story goes, it was December 9th, 1967. Jim Morrison was backstage prior to a show and unsurprisingly he had a lady with him. At some point, Morrison and the female fan began “aggressively kissing” and a nearby police officer took a dislike to this liberal display. Not knowing it was the frontman for the rock ‘n’ roll band due on stage that evening the officer called for the vagabond to “beat it”. Morrison flared and replied simply, “Eat it”. “Last chance!” the officer yelled in retort, and once more the preoccupied rocker quipped, “Last chance to eat it!” He was sprayed with Mace soon after this…
In the aftermath, the officer was informed that he had just apprehended the frontman and apologies were made. However, clearly, when Morrison took to the stage, these were handshakes he wasn’t willing to accept. When under the spotlight he began yelling at “the little blue man, in the little blue hat,” and as the fevered crowd joined in, the conservative police force saw the need to stem the hysteria and arrested him then and there.