May 10, 1968 a riot breaks out at The Doors concert at the Chicago Coliseum, in what may have been the first consciously created riot by Jim Morrison.
While still a student at Florida State University (FSU) Morrison took a class in the psychology of crowds, and along with his own independent reading of Norman O Brown’s book Life Against Death came to the conclusion that crowds, just like people could have sexual neuroses, and like people, those neuroses could be diagnosed and treated. To prove his theory he tried to suborn some friends into disrupting a speaker by strategically placing them in the crowd and at appropriate moments in the speech shouting slogans that could “cure” the crowd, make love to it, or cause it to riot. His friends declined to take him up on the offer. At UCLA Morrison and film school friend Dennis Jakob told people they were going to start a band called “The Doors: Open and Closed”. Thwarted in his previous attempts to influence crowd psychology – did Jim Morrison come to the conclusion that through The Doors he had a found a way to prove his theories on crowds? Did he find the perfect position to influence crowds, in front of an audience? To cure them? To make love to them? To cause them to riot?
May of 1968 was the beginning of Morrison’s dissatisfaction with being a rock star. The Doors wasn’t becoming what Morrison had envisioned it as – a mixture of theatre and poetry. Further, The Doors third album which was to include Morrison’s tour-de-force, Celebration of the Lizard was unraveling. At the Chicago Coliseum, Morrison was escorted to the stage by Chicago police who in August of ‘68 would be accused of a riot of their own in dispersing the yippie (Youth International Party) demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention. As Morrison took the stage he was greeted by an eruption from the crowd and The Doors played songs most suited for stirring a reaction from the crowd: Unknown Soldier, Break on Through, Five to One, and When the Music’s Over. And Morrison used every trick of stage performance he had learned: writhing, falling and leaping, throwing himself to the ground, sliding the maracas into his pants. When The Doors left the stage, the crowd wanting more rushed the stage and destroyed it.
In The Doors song Peace Frog. Morrison has some very personal references to his past. First, Venice where of course he had the rooftop visions that produced The Doors first songs. The second is New Haven where Morrison became the first rock star arrested onstage. In the middle of the song is even the very personal reference to the accident he witnessed as a child where he thought the soul of an Indian may have jumped into his. The final reference in Peace Frog is Chicago. Most people assume Chicago is in there as reference to the police riots of August 1968. But why would Morrison include a more historical reference amid the extremely personal references? Could it be that Morrison had in mind his performance at the Chicago Coliseum in mind when writing Peace Frog? A concert Morrison considered on par with the events of Venice Beach and New Haven, his first consciously provoked riot.
Note: This article has been updated and expanded and appears in The Doors Examined.
Subscribe to get The Doors Examiner article’s as they’re published just click the subscribe button at the top of the article. Thank you for reading The Doors Examiner!