Friday Night Music Byte
The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, California by vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger. They are considered a controversial and influential band, due mostly to Morrison’s cryptic lyrics and unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death on July 3, 1971, the remaining members continued as a threesome until disbanding in 1973.Despite a career that barely totaled eight years, The Doors still enjoy a huge cult following as well as status in the mainstream music industry as being hugely influential and original.
The Doors were unusual among rock groups because they did not use a bass guitar when playing live. Instead, Manzarek played the bass lines with his left hand on the newly invented Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, an offshoot of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, playing other keyboards with his right hand. On their studio albums (with the notable exception of their eponymous first record), The Doors did use bass players, such as Douglas Lubahn, Jerry Scheff, Harvey Brooks, Lonnie Mack, Larry Knechtel and Leroy Vinnegar.
In September 1967 the Doors gave a memorable performance of “Light My Fire” on the Ed Sullivan Show. According to Ray Manzarek, network executives asked that the word ‘higher’ be removed in favor of ‘better’, as you couldn’t say ‘high’ on national TV. The group initially agreed to this, but nonetheless performed the song in its original form, either because they had never intended to comply with the request, or Jim Morrison was nervous and forgot to make the change (Manzarek has given conflicting accounts). Either way, ‘higher’ was sung out on national TV, and a furious Ed Sullivan cancelled another six shows that had been planned, to which Jim Morrison reportedly said: “Hey man, so what? We just did the Ed Sullivan Show”.
The Miami incident refers to a Doors concert on March 1, 1969, at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, Florida where Morrison gave a controversial performance. The restless crowd was subjected to Morrison’s lack of interest in singing songs that night, as well as to his unconventional emotional outbursts, screaming challenges to the audience, and making irreverent social statements. Unknown to the audience was Morrison’s exposure to The Living Theater the week before, which influenced his performance. The confusion and taunts led to some out-of-control situations, such as Morrison allegedly exposing his penis, which resulted in an abrupt end to the show after only one hour.
At first the performance was simply seen as Morrison drunk beyond any saving grace, combined with his frustration over the trappings of rock stardom and his personal demons finally reaching a climax. But once a review of the show was reported in the local press on March 3, Morrison’s exhibitionism took on a snowball effect in the form of a media and legal firestorm. On March 5, a warrant was issued for Morrison’s arrest on charges of indecency and obscenity, and one after another all the subsequent shows were canceled. Back in Miami for his trial, Morrison took the stand on September 16, but the jury returned a guilty verdict for profanity and indecent exposure on September 20. Morrison was sentenced to eight months’ custody but was allowed to go free pending an appeal. On October 30, 1970, Morrison was found guilty of two charges: profanity and indecent exposure. He was acquitted of the charge of drunkenness but found guilty of lewd behavior, a felony. The verdict was contested and Morrison was to die in July 1971 while his case was still on appeal.
Morrison died on July 3, 1971. In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub by Courson. Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play. The absence of an official autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison’s cause of death. Herve Muller has reported that he believes that Jim died of a heroin overdose at the RnR Circus. This is corroborated by the manager of the club Sam Bernett in a 2007 interview, and subsequent book. Morrison was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 7.
Please enjoy this video clip of The Doors performing the infamous Light My Fire on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968.