On this day 1969, in his hometown of Miami, Florida, controversial Doors singer Jim Morrison finally abandoned all notions of changing society through his role as a pop singer and entertainer. Instead, profoundly inspired by three successive viewings of the highly experimental Living Theatre’s “Paradise Now”, Morrison conspired to use the Doors’ concert at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium to once and for all sacrifice his sex-symbol persona in deference to his original and true guise of Blakean descendant.
In The Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos, Knud Rasmussen wrote: “Every great shaman must, when asked and when a number of people are present, exercise his art in miraculous fashion in order to astonish the people and convince them of the sacred and inexplicable powers of a shaman.” And on March 1st 1969, in front of a sardine-packed audience hot and restless from waiting more than three hours for the Doors to appear, Morrison exercised his art in the most provocative, antagonistic, drunken – but, to be certain – miraculous and astonishing fashion.
We know he was passed a live lamb by a member of the audience because there is photographic evidence. And, thanks to sound recordings, we know precisely what he said – that barrage of profanities and audience-bating capped off of course with the notorious “You came for something more, didn’t you?” rant. But did he really expose himself? Lead a snake dance through the auditorium? Disappear from the stage then reappear as if by magic high up in the balcony… puckishly observing the wholly pre-meditated chaos he’d created below? Despite some 13,000 bearing witness to the proceedings, no one seems to have emerged from the Dinner Key Auditorium with the same story.
Jim Morrison’s Miami Mischief Night would result in charges of public profanity and indecent exposure – the subsequent trial and guilty verdict destroying the Doors and forcing Jim to flee to Paris and his untimely fate. But it remains one of the most infamous, legendary performances in rock and roll history; a genuine Dionysian rite of mystery and madness. What would rock and roll be without its myths? Or its greatest myth-maker and sacred superstar, Jim Morrison?
Thanks for remembering this magical night. It is so often remembered negatively but you are right. It was a shamanic event.
A shamanic spectacle indeed, and I can fully understand why 13,000 witnesses couldn’t consistently agree on the same events.
I say this because I saw Julian in 1992 at Manchester Academy during the Jehovahkill tour and experienced a similar thing. A little context – this was my first Cope gig, following a couple of years of ravenously absorbing his back catalogue and history up to that point. Four of us went to the gig and during the night got split into two groups and both groups came away with totally different recollections.
During the gig, I was convinced I saw Julian slash his belly during Reynard, I was certain he used his famous ‘cosmic asshole’ mike stand during Pulsar (even though this very mike stand was clearly parked next to the merchandise stall as a raffle prize yet how did he lean over the audience, arms outstretched at practically 90 degrees from a standing position?). Of course, neither of these things actually ‘happened’, yet such was the strength of the performance, the power of the shamanic rock and roll ritual on that evening that my unconscious mind seemed to project elements of the recently subsumed Cope mythology onto the singer and band. (I’m sure Jung might have been able to explain.)
Rock and roll is a high magick ritual and when delivered by the most capable, visionary and shamanic practitioner can certainly be capable of immediately changing and informing the perception and participation of the audience.
When Morrison paraphrased Rimbaud with his famous quote “I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown” he knew exactly what he was talking about, yet he also expressed concern that the performer and participant were becoming ever more separated;
“There are no longer dancers, the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time”.
This quote from The Lords helps explain just what Jim spent the majority of his career trying to reconcile, with the Miami concert being an (arguably) frustrated last ditch attempt to bring the performer and audience together as a collective, heightened mass.
There aren’t many gigs I’ve been to where I have felt transformed from mere spectator to ‘the possessed’ but that 1992 concert was one, and I imagine for those who witnessed Morrison at the height of his powers there were many similar experiences.