The Doors remain a focal point of music when looking back at the last century’s sonic victories. Jim Morrison and The Doors’ influence on today’s music is undeniable, but their importance to an audience in 1970 is vastly underrated. Take a look back at the band’s last ever filmed performance at the Isle of Wight Festival from 1970.
One of the band’s last ever performance before Jim would leave for Paris and ultimately lose his life, the show has recently been released as a brand new live album and comes with an accompanying video of the performance.
The songs featured on this legendary set in the UK are all one’s fans are familiar with. There’s nothing too obscure to put off fairweather fans, with the exception of a somewhat trippy version of ‘Ship of Fools’. Apart from that, the performance features much of what one could expect to hear when seeing the band in 1970, expect to see ‘Light my Fire’, ‘Break on Through’ and many more, spellbinding and sumptuous as it is.
The band’s performance is engaging and exciting to a tee. Every song ringing out with the artistic prowess which left audiences open-mouthed in awe when seeinf them. Each song was given its room to breathe and float, while Morrison’s vocal is near-perfect in such an unpredictable setting and considering he was reported to have downed two bottles of Southern Comfort with The Who’s Roger Daltrey before going on stage – probably the best one could hope for.
It’s a performance from Morrison which actually offers a key insight into his life at the time. Far removed from this energetic reign as The Lizard King from a few years before, now Morrison was more firmly gripped by his growing addictions. There are no leather trousers or conch belts, this is the bearded and broken version of Jim.
Not long before Morrison would leave what had become an untenable situation of hangers-on, drunks, drugs and debauchery in his native L.A., the performance is a reminder of the fragility of the singer. It was a realisation Morrison himself had noticed, choosing to escape to Europe to focus on his art and craft before his untimely death. Little did he or the band know but that would be one of the last times Morrison would perform live. Jim would sadly succumb to a heroin overdose in July 1971, at the tender age of 27.
Still, on this performance that moment was far from anyone’s mind. Jim’s charmingly hoarse crooning reaching dizzying new heights with the crowd and his commanding screams were enough to gather armies – such was the power of his poetic performance. Keyboardist Ray Manzerek also lends his virtuosity to the standout solo on ‘Light My Fire’ and guitarist Robby Krieger lays some mean psyche-tinged flamenco licks in there too.
While this footage and accompanying live album may not be the best live recording you’ve ever heard, what it does hold is worthy of revisiting. The Doors remain a pillar of our musical Coliseum, that is undeniable, but what this performance adds credence to is Morrison as the gladiator in the pit.
Fighting his own demons and ultimately gazing upon the unwanted ‘thumbs down’, this footage and this performance remain a touching moment in the saddening end of one of the greatest leading men we’re ever likely to see.
0:00 Roadhouse Blues
5:24 Back Door Man
9:40 Break on Through
14:27 When the Music’s Over
27:55 Ship of Fools
35:09 Líght my Fire
49:16 The End