Can’t we all just get along? Jim Morrison and The Doors showed us how.

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, passed away forty years ago this month.

By then, at the young age of twenty-seven, Morrison had already created a reputation as a rock anarchist, whose wild and unpredictable stage antics added to the Doors' mystique as a disruptive force to be reckoned with.

But here's something most people forget: they loved to conduct Irish singalongs!

In this photo, taken at a famous Doors' performance at the old New Haven Arena, Officer Patrick O'Toole joined in on the wholesome fun with a peppy version of "MacNamara's Band."

Just out of sight were thousands of young fans, arm in arm, singing and swaying to the music.

This was at a critical time in rock history, when the artistic boldness of bands such as the Doors—with their rock noir hits like "Light My Fire," "People Are Strange," and "Riders on the Storm"—put them on a collision course with cultural gatekeepers and authorities who were offended by rock & roll's creative freedom and self-expression. But on this night, the Lizard King and his merry band showed we can all just get along.

(By analogy, a new generation of young workers are demanding more creative autonomy in officeland—a topic for another occasion.)


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12 Comments

  1. I'm more likely to believe the Doors did Latvian polkas than Irish singalongs. I know Morrison had Irish ancestors and all but I think you're not getting enough sleep. To Morrison & Co the battle lines were drawn and the cops were on the other side of it.

  2. No man - I was there. It was unreal ... I know for a fact that cops everywhere loved the Doors, but especially in New Haven. This wasn't long after the summer of love and everybody was just grooving with each other ... I think they got Office O'Toole dosed that night. Doing Irish singalongs when you're peaking on pink paisley is a mind blower. Feel the love, bro. — tc

  3. That whole "Doors and their dark messages" thing opens up one of the most interesting discussions about Rock: Do the lyrics really mean anything or do they really change anything? The Doors in particular always just seemed plain silly and arbitrary to me, Morrison an insufferable and pretentious poser singing Middle School angst poems in leather pants two sizes too small. It all bordered on "Spinal Tap" level satire. I mean, really...Weill? Farfisa organs? A bad jazz guitarist playing clean through Acoustic 360's??? Arg.

    I agree the powers that be have at times become very afraid of certain music, but has it ever made one whit of difference about anything?

    Dylan, Baez, Ochs, Country Joe etc all singing about pacifism to the converted, all those marches and 'Nam ended when we got physically kicked out of the country anyway. The war was not shortened one nanosecond by anything but Charlie's bullets.

    And did the 60's sexual and cultural revolution, which was largely quelled, over and done with by 1972 get inspired by music, or did the music simply pander to the existing climate?

    There's all this prattle over the POWER of rock or rap or whatever, but historically, music simply panders to whatever cultural tastes are leading. Like fashion, it follows, not leads.

  4. Ken, if Morrison was an "insufferable and pretentious poser singing Middle School angst poems" he's had a lot of company over the years. But I'll leave it to others to name names.

    I think your question could also be what is the influence of art as a whole on culture, politics, commerce, etc. Always hard to define but I'd never dismiss it.

    Regarding the folk movement, I think Dylan was ahead of the curve and drew a LOT of folks (including me) into it, and indirectly got MANY thousands of us to question the war. (He wasn’t preaching to the choir in my case. I was in Army ROTC, toting an M16 at that time.) I’d also say that the folk movement catalyzed the civil rights movement—and there were very concrete achievements there. Then the Beatles’ arrival, and the rock & roll cultural explosion that followed, completely shifted American youth away from their blind obeisance to authority. Just because the protest movement didn’t end the war early doesn’t mean it produced nada. I’d argue it DID help push Nixon out. He and his embattled administration (feeling the heat especially from younger voters) overreacted to every threat they saw. They were terrified they’d be beaten by McGovern in 1972, which led to the Watergate burglaries and their subsequent obstruction of justice.

    On a personal level the explosion of the Beatles on the music scene (and the rock revolution that followed) profoundly changed my life. I eventually left academia to play music full time. You too turned to music as a profession at that time—as did so many others.

    Regarding fashion, I don’t think it’s an either/or. It leads AND follows. Someone is always on the innovative edge.

  5. It's a little known factoid that "LA Woman" was originally called "Galway Woman" and was slated as Doors / Chieftains collaboration. I'm pretty sure that's what they're really doing in this sing-along.

    I have a theory about The Doors. When you're young, they are fantastic. Well recorded, exciting, visceral music with often really good lyrics.

    Then you start to think about "The End" and realise the lyrics are tripe.

    Then you read more about Morrison and maybe read (or try to) some of his "poetry" and think he was a total poseur.

    Then you go back to the records and realise they were a really, really good rock band.

  6. I'm sure Jim was feeling enough brotherly love for the both of them that night, if he had his fill of (Irish) whiskey that night.

    May he be reborn again soon, and stick around longer.

    Thanks for digging up relevant items from the past, it's always a trip!

  7. Yeah, Mark. I relate to them differently every time I hear them. But they understood brand. They had a sound (which set a mood) that was all their own. A "salable distinction."

    Dayogaman: yes, Morrison was thoroughly hammered that night in New Haven. Jack Daniels, probably.

  8. um, i don't how to break this to you but morrison was busted on stage that night and was maced by cops backstage earlier ... months later he was busted again in miami.

  9. Dylan was a great singer, and guitarist. Few folks remember that. His chordings and song structures are exceptional. Live, he never missed a note either vocally or on guitar or harmonica.

    As Dylan basically told us many times in many different ways, "I noticed what people seemed to want to hear, and I crafted these songs to that sensibility. I just did it better than anybody else. As to wars and stuff, I don't know anything about that. I can't get involved in all that shit. I don't have time for politics and all that garbage. There's always gonna be wars. Nuthin I can do about it."

    He was a consummate craftsman who was a master manipulator using the folk/pop music medium. If he grew up in Germany in the 1930's, he would have written Hitler Youth songs. Before they carted him off to Auschwitz of course.

    The drugs were critical to the cultural sea-change, as was the Draft and The Pill. It took all 3 to really launch the New Consciousness in the late 60's. Today, who gives a shit about our 5 wars? Nobody. Nobody's in jeopardy who didn't ask to be.

    You were in ROTC??? Holy shit. Babykiller!

    You may be right about the influence of those things over Watergate and Dicky's Downfall. But there's an argument to be made that they were very minor factors. Washington DC in general never gave a flying fuck about the protesters or the movements, even though Nixon kept peering out the window and swearing at them!

    To be right in the middle of the incredible 60's music revolution was the luckiest thing ever for us. What a trip! Frankly, it's been fucking boring ever since!

  10. Ken, Dylan was certainly the “consummate craftsman and master manipulator” — but to whom would that NOT apply? All the top acts from the Beatles on have been called that at some point. None of that means Dylan didn’t believe what he was singing at the time. This was one pissed-off dude in the 60s. I just listened to “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and was struck by his anger and contempt, which was ever-present in his songs up through Blonde on Blonde at least. But he was chewed up by the fame he pursued for so long, until the motorcycle accident in 1966 gave him the excuse get off the tread mill. (Personally, I don’t think he had the same edge after that.) Well before that, in a desperate attempt to gain some sanity, he began to burst the bubble and trash the scene he was instrumental in creating. He was at his best when shattering illusions. That was part of what made him great.

    In the end, what single songwriter made a BIGGER cultural impact in the 55 years of rock/pop music?

    Yup, ROTC. I was a pretty good marksman. But that’s “MISTER Babykiller” to you.

    My view is that Nixon was freaked out by ANY critics — and particularly confused by the fact that young protestors didn’t appreciate all he thought he was doing for America. Never underestimate the depth of an insecure leader’s paranoia.

    Yes, all in all, it was a great trip.

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