While the 1960s may have been the age of superstar collaborations, it was by no means the era of friendly camaraderie. The golden age of rock is riddled with stories of bitter rivalry, backstabbing, and the occasional drunken brawl. Two of the scene’s most prominent figures, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, were guilty of all three of these things. But why did they hate each other so much? Well, the answer lies in the jam session held back in 1968.
The Summer of Love may have been in full swing when Hendrix and Morrison met on stage at the uber-cool New York club The Scene, but peace and love was certainly not on the menu. A number of famous heads were in the audience that night, including Janis Joplin. Also in the crowd was Lester Chambers, vocalist of The Chamber brothers. As he recalled: “We were the house band at the Cheetah club, just a few blocks away on Broadway. When we finished at the Cheetah we would walk over to the Steve Paul Scene. You would come in off the street, go down four or five steps and you were in the club. It was a small space, maybe a hundred people at the most, so you got to mingle with whoever was there: John Lennon, Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles; if Janis Joplin was in town she’d be there; Al Kooper of the Blues Project was down there a lot.”
After the last act had finished their set, the waitresses would clear the tables and usher the diners back to their cars where they would start the long drive back to the suburbs. With the stage cleared and the night’s performers mingling in the dressing rooms, the real fun would begin. Slowly but surely, they would descend on the stage, embarking on a series of extended jams that attracted some of the biggest names in the business, including Jimi Hendrix.
Shortly after Hendrix arrived – leaping to the stage to fill in on guitar – Jim Morrison of The Doors stumbled in, blind drunk and itching for a fight. “When Morrison showed up he was very intoxicated, God knows on what, and he was slurring, very stoned,” audience members Michael J Weber later noted. “Jim was an ornery character when he wanted to be. He was very in-your-face. But everybody was at that time.”
But Morrison’s arrogance didn’t sit well with Hendrix, who is is said to have taken an immediate disliking to him. “Jimi was very different from Morrison. He had a lovely vibe about him,” Weber continued. “He was very shy and reserved. He was the same soft-spoken guy when he talked to women. Morrison was very abrupt, he said whatever he wanted to say.”
Before he’d even bought a drink, Morrison swaggered over to Janis Joplin, sat down next to her and pulled her hair down to the floor. In response, Joplin is alleged to have grabbed a bottle of Southern Comfort from the table and dashed it against his bulk. Somehow uninjured, Morrison jumped onto the stage where Hendrix and the others were jamming and started wailing, completely unable to hold a tune in his inebriated state. “He was so drunk he had to hold on to the mic stand, and every once in a while, he’d go: “Oooooooh! Waughhhhhh! Awoweee,” Chambers remembered. “At one point, Jimi said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard the sound of Jim Morrison’”.
Determined not to let Hendrix have the last laugh, Morrison tried an even cruder tactic: getting down on his knees and giving Hendrix a sort of mock blowjob. “So Morrison has his arms wrapped ’round Jimi’s legs and he’s still screaming: ‘I wanna suck your cock!’ Danny Fields, a publicist who Elektra Records who attended the concert, recalled. “He was very loud. And Hendrix was still attempting to play. Morrison wouldn’t let go. It was a tasteless exhibition of scene-stealing – something Morrison was really into. To top it all off, Janis, who had been sitting in the back of the room, saw this happening and suddenly appeared at the edge of the stage with a bottle in one hand and her drink in the other.”
The performance ended with the three musicians wrestling in a pile on the floor – Jimi going for Morrison, Morrison swinging for Joplin and vice versa. In the end, they had to be dragged off stage. Morrison, unsurprisingly, suffered the most injuries, having felt the full force of Hendrix and Joplin’s fists of fury. I suppose that’s what you get for taking the focus away from the music.