Everyone loves a good mystery, and while we usually expect tales of unknown intrigue to be in the form of books or movies, there are many unsolved tales throughout music history that has puzzled fans for years. Is Paul dead? Who killed Biggie and Tupac? Did Led Zeppelin get freaky with a groupie and a freshly caught mud shark? Most of these stories have either been proven false or remain unsolved (except for the "mud shark" one...turns out that one's true), but the is one particular question that has remained a classic rock legend to this day: What the hell happened at the Doors' concert in Miami?
There are many varying accounts of the night of March 1, 1969, but what we at least know for sure is that the show was unmitigated chaos, the incident marked the beginning of the end for the Doors, and the night ended with the band's enigmatic frontman, Jim Morrison, facing jail time for allegedly showing his genitals to the crowd of 12,000 people. But before we get into whether or not Morrison pulled out his little Jimmy onstage, let's zoom out and discuss the night in its entirety, including the events leading up to it and its lasting impact on the legacy of the Doors and Jim Morrison.
Despite a string of hits and a strong wave of success, 1969 proved to be a trying time for the Los Angeles quartet, largely thanks to Morrison's increasingly erratic behavior. The singers drinking problems and increased reluctance to cooperate in the studio caused the recording sessions for the bands fourth album, The Soft Parade, to grind to a near halt, only to be released to lukewarm critical reception. Morrison had built his persona on being provocative and confrontational, from insulting police to their face onstage to refusing to censor himself on The Ed Sullivan Show (yes, "higher" was hard-R language in 1967). It was only expected for Morrison to be seductive and dangerous onstage, "The King of Orgasmic Rock" as the Miami Herald called him at the time, but problems arose when that persona consumed him, both onstage and off, to the point where he couldn't properly function.
Morrison's problems were literally put on display throughout the Doors' Soft Parde tour, as he often showed up too drunk or strung out to properly sing or remember his lyrics. That all came to a head when the band rolled into Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium, their final tour date before a much needed break. Though the venue was only meant to house 7,000, the seats were removed so promoters could squeeze in an extra 5,000 people, and the lack of air conditioning already put the hot and sweaty crowd in an unsettled mood.
Before the show, Morrison attended a play by the experimental theater troupe, the Living Theater, who were known for antagonizing and confronting the audience as part of the performance art. The group was clearly on Morrisons mind when he made it to the venue, fashionably late while the rest of the band played instrumentally to cover him. They tried to open the show with their first hit, "Break On Through (To The Other Side)," but didn't get very far before Morrison started drunkenly mumbling incoherent rants about "revolution" and "having a good time."
At one point, Morrison started taunting and teasing the audience, saying, "Love me! I can't take it no more without no good love. I want some lovin'! Ain't nobody gonna love my ass?" At another point, an audience member ran onstage and gave Morrison a live lamb, and as Morrison handed the animal to a roadie, he said, "I'd fuck her but she's too young."
Though concerning, Morrison's babble about making love and talking 'bout a revolution was at least in line with the "hippie" sentiment of the time; things didn't get bad until he decided to try and get a rise out of the audience during the song "Five to One." This moment was actually depicted in Oliver Stone's movie about the Doors, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison, and aside from some details regarding order of events (and the ghost Indian chief), it played out pretty much the same way: Morrison gets through the first part of "Five to One," pauses and stares out into space for a few moments, and out of nowhere screams into the mic with twisted anger, "YOU'RE ALL A BUNCH OF FUCKING IDIOTS! Let people tell you what you're gonna do. Let people push you around. How long do you think it's gonna last? How long are you gonna let it go on? How long are you gonna let them push you around? Maybe you love it. Maybe you like being pushed around...You're all a bunch of slaves! BUNCH OF SLAVES!
This talk went on for a while, mostly due to Morrison yelling "WHATAYA GON' DO ABOUT IT!?!" over and over again. The madness was far from over, unfortunately: During one of Robby Krieger's guitar solos, Morrison fell to his knees right in front of him, some say to praise his guitar during the solo, others say to, shall we say, imply a certain act of pleasure. Then, later in the night, a fan ran onstage and poured champagne all over Morrison, so he took off his shirt and said, "Let's see a little skin, let's get naked." What followed is what remains the centerpiece of the controversial night, and the moment everyone talks about that might not have even have happened. "You didn't come here for music, did you?" Morrison asked the riled-up crowd, "You came for something more, didn't you...You didn't come for rock n' roll, you came for something else, didn't you? WHAT IS IT?" After cheers and incoherent screams from the crowd, Morrison continued, "You wanna see my cock, don't you? THAT'S what ya came here for!"
Morrison then put his champagne-soaked shirt in front of his crotch, and no one is sure whether or not Jim actually pulled out his privates (there are no pictures of such an event taking place), the audience at least saw wanted they wanted to see, and the whole venue exploded into a frenzy. The old stage almost collapsed as people rushed past security to touch the Lizard King, even though he was thrown into the audience during the scuffle. For some reason, the band apparently kept playing "Light My Fire" at ear-shattering volumes through the whole thing, only adding to the frantic madness of the entire night.
After the band left the stage for their own safety and Morrison was scooped out of the audience, police eventually forced out the crowd, and contrary to what many believe, no effort was made to arrest Morrison that night. In fact, the band flew off to vacation as planned the following day. The consequences of Morrison's actions weren't felt until March 5, 1969, after a few days of media coverage morphed the story so that the indecent exposure sounded like proven fact rather than rumor. The stories received enough negative reactions from people across Florida that the police stepped in and charged Morrison with six arrest warrants. The FBI even issued a report investigating "Morrison's effort to provoke chaos among a huge crowd of young people."
After turning down a plea deal that included putting on a free "make-up" concert in Miami, Morrison was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail, alone with hard labor and a $500 fine. The bands legal team filed an appeal, which allowed Morrison to walk free during the time the appeal was pending. In the meantime, the band retired from the road, Morrison cleaned up his act enough to get back into the studio for two more albums, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman, but even then, his vices still relapsed and persisted. On July 3, 1970, while still waiting for the appeals process, Jim Morrison was found dead in a bathtub while on vacation in Paris. He was 27.
The legend of the Miami Incident has lived on long after Morrison and the band, and throughout the decades, all the surviving Doors have denied Morrison pulled out his junk, citing the clear lack of photo evidence to prove such a crime actually took place. In 2010, the State of Florida seemed to agree with the band, as Morrison was pardoned from all charges due to lack of evidence. Still, fans love to speculate what happened that night, if Morrison did indeed get away with the crimes he was accused of. But that's the thing with Morrison: even in death, he remains as unpredictable and mystifying as he was in 1967. He truly left as strange as he came.