The moment The Doors’ Jim Morrison became the first rock star to be arrested on stage
Jim Morrison is the source of a lot of incredibly salacious rock and roll myths. He is also the source of a lot of true but unbelievable tales. From exposing himself in Miami to being knocked out by Janis Joplin, before his death in 1971, Morrison had seemingly completed the rock star bingo card.
There was one particular moment though that will forever put him in the history books, for better or worse… largely worse. In 1967, Morrison became the first rock star to be arrested while performing on stage as he fronted The Doors. It will forever be known as ‘The New Haven Incident’.
On December 9th 1967, The Doors were performing in New Haven Connecticut when the rebellious Morrison, as he often did, met with a girl and took her backstage for a tour of the grounds. According to keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the two were “making out” in a shower cubicle backstage at the New Haven Arena when they were approached by a police officer looking to cool proceedings down.
The officer was there for the band’s protection but this policeman had clearly not read the brief or studied the pictures as he did not recognise Morrison. He told the two lovers to move out of the area, to which Morrison, ever the agitator and often the aggressor, reportedly replied: “Eat it”.
The officer then took the mace, a non-lethal pepper spray, out of his holster and declared “last chance” to which Morrison replied: “Last chance to eat it.” Needless to say, Morrison spent the next moments of his life rolling around in painful defiance as the mace burned his eyes and likely made him question his big mouth.
The officer, however, was the one soon to be apologising after realising that he had just maced the lead singer of the band he was hired to protect—not a good look. He admitted that he hadn’t recognised the singer. “Okay, if you’re famous, you don’t get Maced,” Manzarek said. “If you’re just a kid making out, then you’re gonna get it. So it was like, ‘Hold it, man, it doesn’t work that way.'”
Naturally, the concert was delayed so that Morrison could somewhat recover from the incident, at least physically. The Doors did take to the stage later that night but with a suitably pissed off Morrison at the mic, it wouldn’t be a long set. He had a devilish look in his eye.
When ‘Back Door Man’ was performed by the band, Morrison recalled the backstage incident to the crowd. He was reported to shout: “The whole fucking world hates me!” as well as taunting the police officers at the side of the stage picking on the cop who had maced him by calling him a “little blue man in a little blue hat” as well as a “little blue pig”. The tensions in the arena were growing.
Then came the moment that may have sealed his fate. He told the crowd, “I’m just like you guys, man – he did it to me, they’ll do it to you.” The cops did not hold back and soon responded by jumping up on the stage and stopping the show. This action naturally led to a whole crowd of disgruntled fans turfed out on to the streets leading to 13 further arrests.
Jim Morrison was formally charged with inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity. He quickly posted bond and the charges were later dropped. It would be a sad moment in The Doors singer’s life as it set down a marker for further depleting behaviour. He would soon be exposing himself in Miami, would find himself arrested again just a few months later as his drug and drink use continued to spiral wildly. The Miami incident would see cities refuse the band and essentially end their touring career.
As with every story of Jim Morrison, there is a sad undertone to the proceedings. Although he would be the light of much of the counterculture revolution in the sixties he would not see the end of the next decade, nor the beginning really, as he sadly passed away in 1971 having just finished the recording of a new album.