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Music

Why did Led Zeppelin describe Jim Morrison as "sickening"?

As two of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Led Zeppelin and The Doors were bound to develop a rivalry. During their respective reigns, they cultivated a sort of cross-Atlantic version of The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones feud, with Led Zeppelin being characterised as the soft English boys and The Doors as the hard and fast American muscle band. Perhaps feeling a little threatened, Led Zeppelin made an effort to attend one of The Doors’ live concerts, but on witnessing this supposedly legendary band, they found themselves astounded by Jim Morrison’s treatment of his fans, describing the frontman as an “embarrassment” in a subsequent interview.

Led Zeppelin and The Doors never toured together, but they did both play the Seattle Pop Festival in the July of 1969, at which time Zeppelin were working on their second album and The Doors had just released their fourth album, The Soft Parade. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones decided to check out what all the fuss was about, so made their way to the crowd of fans swirling around the stage: “We got a lot of advance publicity in England about how sexy Jim Morrison was, how virile and whatever,” Page said in 1970, recalling the gig. Expecting to see some raven-haired adonis vaulting around, they were surprised to see “how static he was on stage”.

While Page had always been a fan of Jim Morrison’s songwriting and vocal prowess, he certainly wasn’t impressed with his approach to live performance. “He [didn’t] really come across in any way like I’d like to see,” Page said, dismayed by Morrison’s antagonistic attitude towards his own fans. “Being dressed in black leather … but standing there like my father would on stage doesn’t really comes across for me,” Page continued. “As far as I can see, the Morrison thing is just an embarrassment toward the audience. He would actually insult them and swear at them”.

Robert Plant was even more disgusted by Morrison’s antics. Speaking as a man who would famously pour himself one glass of white wine at a party and make it last all night, Robert Plant couldn’t make head or tail of the chaotic energy that exuded from Morrison during that Seattle concert: “It seemed like [Morrison] was screwed up,” he later said, remembering how “Morrison went on stage and said ‘Fuck you all,’ which didn’t really do anything except make a few girls scream. Then he hung on the side of the stage and nearly toppled into the audience. He did all those things that I suppose were originally sexual things but as he got fatter and dirtier and more screwed up, they became bizarre,” Plant continued. “So it was really sickening to watch”.

Led Zeppelin’s criticism of The Doors’ frontman hints towards the massive difference in the way both bands approached their craft. Where Morrison’s behaviour hints towards a real contempt for his audience, Led Zeppelin cultivated the image that they truly cared about and respected their fans. “We’re over here to have a good time,” Plant said of Led Zeppelin’s American tour in 1970 “and people pay money to have a good time as well.”

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