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1970: Jim Morrison's Final Concert With The Doors

Icons | December 12, 2019

Jim Morrison circa 1970. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On December 12, 1970, the Doors and Jim Morrison took the stage at the Warehouse, a drafty waterfront venue in New Orleans; it would be the last time the band were on stage in front of an audience with their poet/rockstar frotnman. After five years of grooving on a steamy mix of sexy blues rock, the band fell apart in the public eye mostly due to Jim Morrison’s alcoholism.

While working on what would be their final album with Morrison, L.A. Woman, the band’s singer had spiraled out of control, and the group’s attempt to play some warm up shows to try out their new songs went horribly. After a night at the Dallas Fairgrounds, the band trudged to New Orleans, where Morrison fell apart on stage.

The former sex machine and lizard king was embracing his paunch, and was no longer the Morrison of years prior who could slink around in tight leather pants and love beads. He’d devolved into a state of self parody. 

The Band’s Live Shows Had Been Deteriorating Apart For Years

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It’s not like the band’s final show in New Orleans was the only bad show that the Doors ever played. The group spent years trying to coax a passable live set out of Morrison. When he was on in the early years of the group he could be hypnotic, lulling the audience into a trance. People would follow Mr. Mojo Risin’ through the fires of hell, but once he lost himself in the bottle Morrison’s live performances were fraught with disaster. He was arrested at a show in New Haven in 1967, and two years later he exposed himself onstage in Miami on March 1, 1969.

Aside from his penchant for taking off his clothes and getting arrested, Morrison liked to rile up his audience while verbally assaulting them. The police drew a particular ire from Morrison; if there was a riot to incite or obscenities to shout in public he would do it. 

Morrison’s Spirt Left His Body During The Show

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The Doors have a reputation for being wild dope heads, but more so than anything they were an incredibly spiritual group - especially Morrison and keyboard player Ray Manzarek. During the band’s final show, Morrison stumbled about the stage and rambled into the microphone, then slumped in front of the microphone stand. That’s when Manzarek says that he saw the singer’s spirit leave his body. It came back, though, and when Morrison’s soul returned to his body he took the microphone stand and began smashing it into the stage until it shattered apart. The singer’s freakout brought an early end to the night, with the group doing their best to rip through a ragged version of their earliest hit “Light My Fire.” 

A Recording Exists But We Won't Get To Hear It

source: heritage auctions

There are recordings of the band’s final two shows, and while there’s a truncated recording of the Doors playing in Dallas the night before their New Orleans performance, music legend has it that a full recording of their performance at the Warehouse exists. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), we’re never going to be able to hear it.

Allegedly the show was recorded from the mixing board, but the tapes never surfaced. When Ray Manzarek sought out the supposed owner of the tapes in 2013 he learned that they were thrown out by the venue. The person who picked up the tapes wouldn’t even let Mazarek hear the tapes without an undisclosed sum of money. It’s likely that tapes will never come to light without the Doors estate ponying up some cash for a box of mystery recordings. 

Here's a low-quality recording that is said to come from the show:


This Was One Of The Only Shows Where 'Riders On The Storm' Was Performed

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One of the things that makes this final show so desirable is that it’s one of the only times the band played “Riders On The Storm” in full, and in fact it may be the only full recording of the song. There’s a tape of the song from the previous night, but the on that version the recording cuts out before the song finishes. It’s a frustrating issue for the fans of the Doors, but it leaves a Holy Grail out there for the bootleg collector. The bright side of the missing tape is that everyone who saw the show -- band members included -- say that it was one of the worst things they’ve ever seen. The bootleg may be rare, but that doesn't mean it's good or enjoyable. Are we better off without it?

Even If Jim Morrison Had Lived, This Show Might Have Been The Last Doors Performance

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Morrison’s antics for the last year of the band’s existence as a performing entity ensured that the band's days were numbered. Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore met after the show and agreed that there was no point in continuing to perform live if the results were this abysmal. Instead, they agreed to continue on as a recording entity and finish L.A. WomanMorrison accepted the band’s terms -- after all, he still had a six-month prison sentence to serve for his performance in Miami the previous year. The band finished the album and Morrison took off for Paris while the group mixed everything. The album was a hit when it was released the following April. Unfortunately the band was never able to regroup and give performing another shot, as Jim was found dead in a bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971.

Tags: Jim Morrison | Rare Facts And Stories About History | RIP (Famous Deaths) | The Doors

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.