On this day in 1970, the Doors unknowingly played their last concert with legendary frontman, the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. The fabled, once considered prophetic, rock god didn’t go out with the bang he should have. Instead, he went out in a drunken sputter, leaving destruction and disillusionment in his wake.
The New Orlean’s concert hall, The Warehouse, saw Morrison’s encore that night. Nola.com described the frontman taking the stage noticeably impaired the night of Dec. 12.
“Jim had a buzz on that night,” recalled concert promoter Don Fox. “I don’t know what exactly from, but he was not all there. He was slurring and rambling. He was having a tough time.”
The past year leading up to the show had been a doozy for Morrison and the band. Following a 1969 show in Miami, in which Morrison was accused of exposing himself to the crowd, he was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity and sentenced to six months in jail. While appealing his conviction, however, the frontman remained free on bond.
The Doors embarked on a brief tour that December 1970, despite the possibility of a jail stint looming for Morrison. During that time, the frontman began drinking heavily, trading mind-expanding psychedelics for a more mind-numbing substance. He had shed his sex symbol image and went back on the road a big, bearded, bumbling Morrison.
“The fans didn’t even recognize him,” explained the Doors’ archivist, David Dutkowski. “They were expecting this guy to run around the stage and jump off. At this point, he just wanted to stand at the microphone and sing.”
On full display that night at the Warehouse was the new Morrison, one who at some point during the band’s 20-song set stopped singing, sat down, and started telling jokes. “Multiple band members said it was like something left him at that moment,” Dutkowski recounted of the moment. “Ray Manzarek swore he looked up from his keyboard and saw Jim’s spirit leave his body. He swears the shamanistic energy, the soul of Jim Morrison, flowed out of his body and with it, the will to perform.”
Morrison reportedly “lost it” during the final song, a performance of “The End.”
“I was standing on the side of the stage at the end,” Fox said. “Jim started talking about life and death and what was going on in the world in 1970. All of a sudden, he took the mic stand and started smashing it and smashing it right into the stage floor. And then he walks off.
“He drove the mic stand right through,” Fox added after inspecting the damage done to the stage. “He’s the only artist I’ve ever seen put a hole in the stage.”
The rest of the tour was called off after the incident and the band went back to Los Angeles to complete the album, L.A. Woman. Once the record was finished, Morrison went to Paris where he died on July 3, 1971, at the age of 27.
Fox repaired the damage done to the stage, but when he learned of the artist’s death, he reportedly carved “In Memory of Jim Morrison” into the spot. Fox said, “In a strange way, the Warehouse and Jim Morrison are linked together forever.”
The Night’s Alleged Setlist:
1. “Roadhouse Blues”
2. “Back Door Man”
3. “Love Her Madly”
4. “When the Music’s Over”
5. “Riders on the Storm” (Aborted)
6. “Ship of Fools”
7. “Crawling King Snake”
8. “L.A. Woman”
9. “Hyacinth House”
10. “Maggie M’Gill”
11. “Been Down So Long” / “Maggie M’Gill” continued
12. “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”
13. “Who Do You Love?”
14. “There’s a Palace in the Canyon”
15. “Light My Fire”
16. “Summertime” / Instrumental / “Light My Fire” continued
17. “Love Me Two Times”
18. “Riders on the Storm”
19. “Soul Kitchen”
20. “The End”
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images