Last Call for the Doors

Jim Morrison and Robby Krieger

Ray Manzarek remembers the Doors’ last concert well. It was the night singer Jim Morrison’s spirit left his body — though it would return to linger for another few months. The date was December 12, 1970; the Doors were playing a large, dank waterfront venue in New Orleans. Hunched over his keyboard, Manzarek says, he felt Morrison ”leave the stage” — but Morrison’s body was standing stock-still in front of the microphone. When the singer’s ”spirit” returned, it was with a vengeance: He smashed a hole through the stage with a mike stand, ending the concert early and providing a suitably dramatic finish to what turned out to be the Doors’ final performance with Morrison.

Their appeal was perhaps best explained by critic Lester Bangs: ”The Stones were dirty, but the Doors were dread.” Formed in L.A. in 1965, the Doors — Morrison, Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, and drummer John Densmore — crammed sex and blues and jazz and death into a heady rock & roll stew that was the perfect soundtrack for a generation bent on breaking down the doors of perception. The group’s 1967 ”Light My Fire” was hardly a pie-eyed hippie anthem. It simmered with an implicit threat in Morrison’s half-spoken vocals, an ominous edge to Manzarek’s chilly organ playing; the music’s understated menace hinted that the singer’s love would be incendiary — and possibly soul shattering. No wonder Morrison called the Doors ”erotic politicians.”

Over time, the once-svelte singer developed into a bloated, reckless alcoholic. He was drunk when he exposed himself on stage in Miami in March 1969 (he was arrested but never got to serve his six-month jail sentence). ”Miami was definitely a turning point,” admits Manzarek, 61. ”After that, the audience was coming to see a geek show.” But while police surveillance forced Morrison to control his onstage behavior, off stage he continued to rampage. Finally, in March 1971, Morrison retreated to Paris for a sabbatical; he died there of a heart attack July 3. (The remaining Doors released two lackluster albums, 1971’s Other Voices and 1972’s Full Circle, before calling it quits.)

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Retrieved on 24 December 2018 from

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