The Doors — Songwriting and Performing

THE DOORS — Songwriting and Song Performing

Jim Morrison continuously expressed his belief that there are no rules at a rock concert and anything is possible.  Jim was clearly ahead of his time.  He achieved great acclaim for his  unpredictable and entertaining concerts along with his electrifying songs.  Jim would constantly express his emotions on-stage, no matter what the consequences.

He was a man that was not inclined to follow the predetermined standards of the time and a man that would repay anyone if they tried to interfere with these uncultivated beliefs.One of the earliest incidents of Jim’s sense of on-stage lawlessness occurs in 1966 at the Whiskey a’ Go-Go in Los Angeles, California. While singing “The End” he abruptly changes the  lyrics from the original, mother I want to destroy, to mother I want to fuck you all night baby.

The stone face and shocked band members watch in dismay as they add to Jim’s intensity by accenting him with more powerful drums, keyboards, and guitar.  It was as if they had sent a bolt of lightning through his body.  Jim continues to repeat these lyrics, all the while dancing frantically. He eventually comes to rest on stage, flopping around like a fish out of water. Despite this astonishing incident, as The Doors are leaving they meet up with an extremely impressed record company owner, Jack Owlsen.  He offers, and they accept to make a record with him and Electra records (Oliver The Doors movie).

In 1967, The Doors are hired to appear on Ed Sullivan.  This could be thought of as their biggest concert yet.  Although there were only a few thousand people in the audience, it would be watched by a viewing audience of ten million.  The Doors then discover that the CBS censors  had a problem with the words to “Light My Fire.”  They are ask to replace, girl we couldn’t get much higher,” to “girl we couldn’t get much better.”  He reminds them that Mr. Sullivan is considering them for four more shows.  Robby Krieger, guitarist and originator of the lyrics assures the producer that Jim will change the lyrics if  he gives him five minutes to talk to the band.  Keyboardist, Ray Manzarek tells Jim.  “It’s just a word.”  Jim defends by arguing,  “Well then why don’t you change your name to Sidney or Irving Manzarek? It’s just a word” (Riordan and Prochnickey).  Jim finally agrees.  He sings the new lines in rehearsal, but when it comes time for the show he boldly sings the original lyric, “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” (Riodan and Prochnicky 169).

Although this language was completely unacceptable on television, Jim didn’t think twice and loses his chance to play on Ed Sullivan again.  This however is a proud moment for Doors fans who realize Jim stood up for his belief that it should be acceptable to say high on television, and that there should not be any rules or regulations regarding words.  This is also the image that he is trying to create.Before the 1968 New Haven Connecticut concert Jim is backstage with a girl he presently met.  Looking for a more intimate place to “talk,” Jim found a shower stall near one of the dressing rooms.  As could be expected, within a few minutes Morrison and the girl were kissing in the shower stall (Dalton and Tosches 100).

Moments later Morrison’s little party was rudely interrupted when the shower door was suddenly yanked open by a confused policeman, who mistook the singer for a trespassing hippie.

He ordered them out, but Jim refused in annoyance of not being recognized.  The officer insisted, whereupon Jim grabbed his own crotch and told the cop, “Eat it!”  The impatient cop then detached his black aerosol can of mace and waved it in front of Morrison’s face, warning, “Last  chance.”  Morrison stared at him.  “Last chance to eat it,” he challenged (Dalton and Tosches 100).  Infuriated now, the cop fired away spraying Jim in the eyes and face with the mace.

Morrison screamed in pain and ran in the dressing room with tears streaming down his swollen face.  His shouts brought Doors road manager Bill Sidons, who angrily informed the policeman that he had just maced the main attraction.  As Siddons helped Jim wash out his eyes the officer acknowledged that he hadn’t known who Morrison was before he maced him, but he still wanted to take him into custody.  Realizing the show was in serious jeopardy, Siddons pleaded with Lieutenant Kelly and the other policemen that were there, to allow Morrison to go on stage.  Siddons argued that there were some two thousand people waiting for the performance and the show was to raise funds for a scholarship fund program.  Finally, the police relented and Morrison and the officer who had maced him apologized to each other (Dalton and Tosches).

The recovered Morrison and The Doors hit the stage to an enthusiastic crowd.  At the conclusion of the concert The Doors performed  “Back Door Man.” Jim’s rage for his unjust treatment backstage had taken its toll. His anger was boiling and overflows as he stops mid-song during the instrumental break, and with the use of language that today hardly seems inflammatory and were certainly within his First Amendment rights tells the crowd all about the incident with the cop.  He allows himself to look innocent and even polite.  With the rhythm of “Back Door Man” he begins telling his story:

“I wanna tell you about something that happened just two minutes ago right here in New Haven.  This is New Haven, isn’t it?  New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America?”  I was having a discussion about religion with a waitress, see, and we wanted some privacy… And so we went into this shower.  We weren’t doing anything, y’know. Just standing there and talking…and then this little man came in there, this little man in alittle blue suit and a little blue cap…”

“Whatcha doin’ there?”

“Nothin.’ ”

But he didn’t go ’way.  He just stood there, and then he reached ’round behind him and brought out this little black can of somethin’.  Looked like shaving cream. And then…and then y’ know what he did then, man?  Sprayed the mace right in my eyes, man, RIGHT IN MY GODDAMN EYES (Riordan and Prochnicky 203)!

Suddenly Morrison shouted, “The whole world hates me!. The whole fucking world hates me (Crane 189)!  and swung straight into “Back Door Man” as suddenly as he had
departed it.  After approximately thirty seconds, the lights were on and Morrison was arrested and the show was finished, or so the police wanted.  Although Jim had a violent arrest, He still had the last laugh.

It seems ingenious if Jim could have predicted how negatively his actions would depict the New Haven police and how much trouble it would cause them. Two photographers got three policemen on tape, two holding Jim’s arms and one punching and kicking him.  They also filmed the police kicking Morrison into the police car(Riordan and Prochnicky 204)

Early the next morning, a crowd of about eighty gathered outside police headquarters angering and annoying the police.  Police arrested nine teenagers during this demonstration.  In the courtroom the police were blown away with outstanding incriminating evidence.  All charges against Jim were dropped, making the cops look even more foolish. Several articles were written in Jim’s favor stating that the police were out of line (Riordan and Prochnicky  209).

This single incident shows with great certainty Jim’s uncontrollable need to unleash his inner feelings on-stage.  The policemen crosses him and Jim turns millions against the entire New Haven police force.  The police disagree with Jim’s freedom of speech, and they pay the price.

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