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, that neuroses could be diagnosed and treated. To try and prove his theory he tried to talk his 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 in The Doors was the best 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 rockstar. The Doors wasn’t becoming what Morrison had envisioned it as a mixture of theatre and poetry and 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 rioting in dispersing the yippie 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.” Morrison was using 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 two very personal references to his past, 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. The third reference in “Peace Frog” is Chicago, most people assume Chicago is in there as reference to the police riots of August. But why would Morrison include a more historical reference after two extremely personal references? Could it be that Morrison had in mind this performance in mind when writing “Peace Frog?”
Video (left column) is part one of an audience tape of The Doors performance May 10th, 1968. Part 2 is on Youtube.
I also found a history of the Chicago Coliseum and it had a very interesting history. It was razed in 1982.
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