The Doors LA Woman and Jim Morrison’s tipping point

An outtake from The Doors publicity photo shoot for Elektra Records in New York City, NY in November 1966. From left: Jim Morrison (1943-71), John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek (1939-2013). Photo by Joel Brodsky.
An outtake from The Doors publicity photo shoot for Elektra Records in New York City, NY in November 1966. From left: Jim Morrison (1943-71), John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek (1939-2013). Photo by Joel Brodsky.

Nobody can remember the precise reason why The Doors flew 1,500 miles east from Los Angeles in mid-December 1970 to play two shows in Texas and Louisiana. It might have been because their manager, Bill Siddons, was best friends with a promoter in Dallas. Or perhaps The Doors wanted to discreetly try out a new setlist, and Jim Morrison suggested New Orleans, adding Dallas as an afterthought. Who knows? But whatever the reason for the gigs being booked, everyone remembers the outcome. They were Morrison’s tipping point.

“Dallas was actually pretty good,” relates drummer John Densmore. “We played ‘Riders On The Storm’, which we’d never done before, and it went down really well.” But in New Orleans the following night (December 12), the vibrations were very different. The venue was a ballroom on the banks of the Mississippi, described by keyboardist Ray Manzarek as “a dark, strange, voodoo-filled place… an ancient building possessed by the spirits of dead slaves”. Morrison, depressed by his Miami trial in September (and its guilty verdict in October), was in a dark, strange place himself. An overweight, heavily bearded alcoholic, he faced six months in a Florida prison – with hard labour—for indecent exposure and profanity at the infamous Miami concert in 1969. He was currently free on licence, waiting to learn if his appeal would succeed. His 27th birthday (December 8) hadn’t been much of a celebration.

Onstage in New Orleans, during the obligatory “Light My Fire”, it became clear that Morrison had a problem. He sat dejectedly on Densmore’s drum riser, repeatedly missing vocal cues, before rising to his feet and angrily smashing the microphone stand against the stage until it broke. Finally he stormed off as the audience watched in silence. He never performed live again. Today’s equivalent might be Amy Winehouse, a singer who seems equally trapped in a fame bubble and an addiction vortex. Winehouse, of course, hasn’t delivered an album in five years. Morrison, by contrast, began making LA Woman – that most feline of she-creatures that stalk rock’n’roll’s midnight alleys and freeways—within days of his New Orleans meltdown. The Doors completed the LP in a whirlwind fortnight, and by February Morrison was gone from their lives forever.

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Retrieved on 21 December 2018 from https://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-doors-la-woman-and-jim-morrison-s-tipping-point-20996

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