The disastrous tale behind The Doors’ final live performance

The whiskey drenched, acid poet that is Jim Morrison was well on his way to decline by the time The Doors played their last ever show. The bearded lizard king was under fire from various run-ins with the law and had been displaying increasingly erratic behaviour on-stage.

When The Doors took to the stage on 12 December, 1970 at the Warehouse in New Orleans, they were certainly known for their disastrous performances. In fact, it was part of their appeal.

Famous rock critic Lester Bangs put it perfectly: “The Stones were dirty, but the Doors were dread.”

This fated performance was a mockery of Morrison’s former self and proved prophetic for the singer, whom only had a few months to live.

The Doors

The Doors final performance on 12 December, 1970 brought the band to a screeching halt in a fashion typical of the demented prophet that was Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison was a far cry from the svelte, leather pants wearing sex symbol of The Doors early days. His violent alcoholism, weight gain, and unkempt beard turned Jim ino a self mockery of himself and a wildly unpredictable performer.

As Morrison once told Circus Magazine: “I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously, most of the time unconsciously, cooperated with.”

“It was just too much for me to really stomach and so I just put an end to it in one glorious evening. I guess what it boiled down to was that I told the audience that they were a bunch of fucking idiots to be members of an audience. What were they doing there anyway? The basic message was to realise that you’re not really here to listen to a bunch of songs by some good musicians. You’re here for something else. Why not admit it and do something about it?”

His arrest on stage in New Haven in December 1967, and charge for exposing himself at a concert in Miami on March 1, 1969, causing many venues to ban The Doors outright. People were more interested in attending their shows for the debaucherous spectacle than any form of musical prowess.

As a result the band retreated into the studio and recorded what would be their final album, L.A. Woman. They would debut several of the songs at the New Orleans show and for all intents and purposes it started out fine.

Morrison ambled onto stage in his typical drunken way, cool but collected. They rolled through Roadhouse Blues and various older hits under halfway through Morrison forgot the lyrics and the singer tried to compensate by launching into a lengthy joke that fell flat without a punchline.

Morrison supposedly continually urged the band to play St. James Infirmary Blues, singing the lyrics no matter what song was being played. Out of his mind and highly inebriated Jim collapsed and failed to get up.

Disgusted with Jim’s behaviour the band left the stage as Ray Manzarek later said in his biography, “I could see Jim’s spirit leave his body, even though he was still standing right there.”

Stirring from his stupor Jim Morrison urged the crowd to clap and call the band back out, and they begrudgingly obliged.

The glory was short lived however as Morrison then proceeded to lean on the mic stand like a crutch as the group launched into Light My FireDuring the solos Morrison shuffled over to the drum rise to sit down and failed to get up for the final verse.

Watch The Doors playing Light My Fire just four months prior at The Isle Of Wight below:

Drummer John Densmore finally nudged the lolling singer with his foot, leading Morrison to grab the mic stand and smash it into the stage until it bore a hole and splintered the boards, at which point he threw the mic and stormed off stage, ending the show early.

Perhaps the self-demonising poet held so much content for his early allure as a star, and the pop tags that attached themselves to Light My Fire that he physically couldn’t bear to play it anymore. Perhaps he was drug-addled and deranged. It’s likely to be a mixture of both.

Shortly after the show the other three band members voted unanimously to cease all forthwith Doors performances feeling that it would only produce more legal quarrels and further disappoint fans.

Jim Morrison returned to the studio to to complete overdubs for L.A. Woman before retreating to Paris for a sabbatical, in which he could write, escape, and shed the corrosive addictions. The hooks of habit  would not release him however and he was found dead in a Paris bathtub on 3 July, 1971. He was only 27.

Nonetheless, fame and mythology have cloaked themselves about the hirsute hero that is Jim Morrison to this day The Doors still sell a mammoth amount of records each year.

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