They wanted to see his cock. But as shit-faced drunk as he was, Jim Morrison had learned his lesson. There would be no genitalia — or anything that might be construed as such — for Boston.
Morrison was eight and a half minutes into “When the Music’s Over,” midway through the first show at the Boston Arena (now Northeastern’s Matthews Arena) on April 10, 1970, when the squealing nubiles made the request. “What do you want?” he inquired of them during a lull in the song. Shrill female shrieking, and a repetitive bass line generated by Ray Manzarek at his keyboard, punctuated the momentary silence as Morrison awaited their reply. “What would you do with it, baby?” he crooned, sparking more hormonal unrest — a collective gasp — and encouraging laughter from the audience. “All right, you tell me what you’d do with it.”
But he never let them fill in the blank. “I think I’ll pass” he finally said, remembering he was in the middle of a song.
“We want the world and we want it” . . . drum roll . . . “NOOOOOOW!”
Jim Morrison was staring down possible jail time when the Doors opened their spring ’70 tour with the two shows now available, in their warts-and-all entirety, on Bright Midnight/Rhino Records’ three-CD The Doors Live in Boston 1970. It had been more than a year since he’d teased Miami with the same peep-show offer, and though no evidence had surfaced to confirm that he took it out, a Miami jury had found him guilty of the misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and profanity. A judge sentenced Morrison to six months of hard labor and a $500 fine for the exposure charge and tacked on 60 days for profanity, the sentences to run concurrently. With good behavior — not exactly a Jim Morrison hallmark — he would walk after two months, but it was the two years and four months of probation he faced that were most worrisome.
Morrison’s conviction was on appeal when he arrived in Boston and drank himself into near-unconsciousness. “Business as usual,” is how the Doors’ former guitarist, Robby Krieger, now describes Morrison’s state that evening. “There was always the possibility of Jim being Mr. Jimbo,” he says over the phone from LA. “You never knew who was going to show up.”
Two Jim Morrisons showed up in Boston that night: the slurring, sloshed, out-of-control powder keg who mangled his own vocals, flipping the bird to fans who’d paid as much as $6.50 to hear him, and the madman/wildman shaman of legend, owning the stage with his hyper-charismatic presence, delivering the mesmeric vocal performances that had made him, at 26, rock’s poet laureate.
The yin-yang Morrison personality was on full display during the early show. On the first CD, “Roadhouse Moan,” a prelude to “Roadhouse Blues,” resembles a field holler crossed with a New Orleans funeral dirge. Morrison masters teetering on the edge, and the tension created by his demented state is fed brilliantly by Krieger, Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore. The grit has kicked in completely by time they reach the “Alabama Song”/“Back Door Man”/“Five to One” medley. Morrison is gone, groaning, bleating, and howling. Throughout, he straddles between artistic brilliance and utter asshole-ness.
“Boston was the best town for rock and roll,” says Krieger, “and I thought that was a great show because Jim was out there but we were able to reel him in. We’d go on to the next song and he’d be right there. Then he might go off a little bit and get into some trouble, but then he’d get back in focus. I don’t know how he did it, but that was part of the excitement.”
The second set is a barn burner. Morrison’s skewed timing is akin to that of a jazz singer: he warps the rhythm, following his own cadence but falling into line when he needs to. And the band fire on all cylinders, splitting the show between hits and album tracks. The second “When the Music’s Over” is better than the first set’s, this time minus the come-on, and “Light My Fire” is regal, an extended version incorporating brief snippets of the standards “Fever,” “Summertime,” and “St. James Infirmary.”
Other highlights are less familiar Doors tunes like “The Spy,” and “Been Down So Long,” as well as the covers of perennials “Mystery Train” and “Crossroads.” A greater allegiance to the blues, always an element of the Doors’ music, blankets the performance. Krieger’s guitar is nastier, grungier than on the studio recordings; Manzarek is creative in his double-duty task, providing the bass parts with his left hand and his more æthereal keyboard lines with his right; Densmore, one of rock’s most underrated drummers, is crisp and lyrical, putting down a much-needed anchor and always hitting the mark.
The Doors, and Morrison, had little more than a year left. Morrison’s death, on July 3, 1971, put a DOA stamp on the band. (The survivors did attempt to continue without him for two more albums.) At the same time, it turbo-charged the Morrison legend.