Revisit Jim Morrison’s disastrous final performance with The Doors
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at a very sad performance. During it, The Doors rattle through their subversive songs while Jim Morrison, a caricature of himself, provided some sad foreshadowing. It would be the last performance he’d ever give.
Morrison, who was living in Paris at the time of his sad passing, was found dead in a bathtub by his then-girlfriend Pamela Courson. Morrison was 27-years-old. The official cause of death was listed as heart failure, however, due to French law, no autopsy was performed as it was not required at the time.
The release of The Doors sixth studio album, L.A. Woman, coincided with Morrison’s move to Paris, the frontman deciding to take a leave of absence following an intense few months in the recording studio with his sights set on the anonymity that Europe could provide in comparison to the bustling West Coast. Morrison once told Circus Magazine: “I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously, most of the time unconsciously, cooperated with.”
He added: “It was just too much for me to really stomach and so I just put an end to it in one glorious evening. I guess what it boiled down to was that I told the audience that they were a bunch of fucking idiots to be members of an audience. What were they doing there anyway? The basic message was to realise that you’re not really here to listen to a bunch of songs by some good musicians. You’re here for something else. Why not admit it and do something about it?”
What was the audience there to see? The character of Jim Morrison being dismantled from the inside. The Doors were about to suffer a serious implosion that would end in tragedy. It had all started back in 1967 when Morrison had been maced at his own show, it was compounded in ’69 when he exposed himself on stage, as well as these events, Morrison had become overweight, he was consistently drunk and his art had fallen away from him.
By the end of 1970, the band had returned to the studio to record their final LP L.A. Woman and the intense sessions would prompt Morrison to take his trip to Paris. Their time putting together the album saw the band work without a producer following a falling out with Paul A. Rothchild.
The group created a makeshift recording studio at their rehearsal space, a location that was dubbed ‘the Doors’ Workshop’, and was positioned in a two-story building at Santa Monica Boulevard. During those recording sessions, a short clip was filmed of The Doors performing a rendition of historic blues song ‘Crawling King Snake’, a track which is more commonly referenced to John Lee Hooker.
You can watch it below.
After their recording sessions, the band would take to the stage in New Orleans to debut a few of the L.A. Woman songs and it all started out well. Morrison walked on to the stage with the kind of ambling obliviousness that only drunks have. The band rolled through ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and some older hits but that eventually came to a halt as Morrison began to forget the lyrics.
Faced with a grumbling audience, Morrison decides to switch the pace of the performance and try to tell a joke, which falls flat and without a solid punchline. The disastrous set continued as Morrison attempted to plough on and to sing ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, shouting the lyrics over the top of the group no matter what song they were playing.
Clearly drunk and without a direction, Morrison collapsed on the stage in a heap and refused to get up. The band were purely disgusted with Morrison’s antics and Ray Manzarek later said in his biography: “I could see Jim’s spirit leave his body, even though he was still standing right there.” It remains one of the most startling moments in the band’s career and signified the end of Morrison as a force of nature.
Morrison did eventually rise to his feet and managed to gather up enough gusto to coerce the crowd into clapping and calling for the band’s return—the band duly obliged. But the glorious return was a short affair, Morrison leaned on his mic like a crutch and allowed the group to begin ‘Light My Fire’.
However, during the performance, Morrison sat on the drum rise and failed to return to the mic. Drummer John Densmore managed to kick Morrison into gear but only enough for Morrison to get up and start smashing the mic stand into the stage floor. A demonstration of Jim Morrison’s self-hatred at the pop star he’d become and the artist he’d left behind.
Morrison would head off to Paris in 1971 after completing the overdubs on L.A. Woman keen to reconnect with his work and escape the caustic nature of addiction. Sadly, he would never escape and die on this day in 1971.