A hot, frenzied night in Miami changed life for Jim Morrison and The Doors. That’s something the late singer’s pardon on indecent exposure and profanity charges can’t correct.
“It made him realize he was no longer in the graces of the gods, that things could go wrong,” said Ray Manzarek, the band’s keyboard player. “Jim had a great line — in that year we had a great visitation of energy. We had the mandate of heaven. And I think at that moment, he lost the mandate of heaven.”
An arrest warrant was issued for Morrison four days after a March 1, 1969, concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium. He turned himself in, was tried the next year and convicted on two charges. Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida’s Cabinet members pardoned Morrison of those convictions Thursday.
But forgiveness can’t change history. Morrison, worried about prison time, was distracted. Other cities, worried about The Doors, canceled concerts. Morrison ended up dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971 while appealing the convictions. Would he have died if the Miami incident never happened?
“It was one of the many things that contributed to his death. I don’t give it any more credence than any of 10 other things,” guitarist Robby Krieger said. “If it had never happened, would he never have died at that time? Maybe not. It didn’t help.”
The Doors were in the middle of recording their fourth album “The Soft Parade” during the arrest. Krieger said he ended up doing more songwriting than usual.
“With a prison sentence looking at you, it’s not too much fun,” said Krieger. “He wasn’t coming up with much right at that time. It made him more prone to going out and getting drunk and just forgetting about everything.”
While Morrison had a reputation for using drugs, Krieger said it was mostly liquor the singer was abusing at the time.
Manzarek said the muses abandoned The Doors for a bit after the Miami concert, but they came back in the studio, especially during the “L.A. Woman” sessions.
“It was a magical session. In the recording studio, the magic stayed, but I think at that moment in Miami, the magic left for a little while and then came back intermittently,” Manzarek said.
The arrest caught the band by surprise.
“Nothing that out of the ordinary happened that night. It was pretty much an ordinary Doors show. In fact, the cops were having fun with us. We were having drinks with the cops after the show up in the dressing room,” Krieger said, admitting that Morrison was drunk and it showed in his performance. “Nobody got arrested, nothing happened, except the show was horrible. If I was one of the people that came, I would have wanted my money back.”
The band member say Morrison was just teasing the crowd with threats of exposing himself, but it never happened. Some who attended, though, still swear Morrison pulled his pants down enough to see what they shouldn’t have.
And the band’s concert schedule was never the same.
“City after city after city canceled. They said, `Do not bring The Doors into our city,’” Manzarek said. “The only places we could play in America were New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
But among the “What ifs?” Krieger finds a positive.
“Who knows? If we had been just slogging out the tour dates, who knows if we would have ended up doing `L.A. Woman’ and `Morrison Hotel?’” he pondered.
The music has endured. And that’s one of the reasons why Florida pardoned Morrison.
“It’s hard not to be a fan of The Doors,” said Crist, who asked the Cabinet members to support the pardon effort before they all leave office in January.
The decision to pardon wasn’t just a matter of innocence and guilt, said Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
“I think we would have been right in here granting the pardon in recognition of his incredible talent and the fact that he grew up in Florida,” Sink said.
Morrison was born in Melbourne and later attended Crist’s alma mater, Florida State University. His father was a naval aviator and rear admiral in the Navy and the family moved frequently.
Sink said her 23-year-old son told her she should support the pardon and admonished her for even giving it a second thought. “He said `Mom, what were you thinking? Of course.’ It’s because his music has lived across generations.”
Still, Krieger finds some irony in the decision. He believes prosecutors and the judge who tried the case had political motivations to bring Morrison to trial, and there were similar motivations in the pardon.
“The whole arrest was politically motivated, you know what I mean?” Krieger said. “This whole thing about being pardoned, it’s the same thing — it’s political again. This guy he wants to get some publicity because he’s leaving office so he wants to get his name in the paper. It’s full circle.”
Crist was elected governor as a Republican in 2006 and recently lost his independent bid for U.S. Senate to Republican Marco Rubio. His term ends Jan. 4.
That said, Krieger agrees with the decision.
“It’s a good thing,” he said.
The case, 41 years later, has received an incredible amount of attention. Manzarek said he knows why.
“It just goes to show the staying power of the fascination with Jim Morrison’s penis,” he said with a laugh.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press