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The Chicago Coliseum The Doors first riot

The Doors are known as an L.A. band, they were founded in Los Angeles and of course The Doors lived there, but there is also a strong Chicago connection the obvious is that Ray Manzarek was born and raised in Chicago, but there’s one the eludes people and that is the mention of Chicago in the song ‘Peace Frog’ “Blood in the streets of the town of Chicago.” Most people think this refers to the police riot at the Democratic National Convention. But Morrison didn’t witness it and the rest of the song has very autobiographical references in it. So, why would he include the reference in ‘Peace Frog’? The answer may be that on May 10, 1968 Jim Morrison may have consciously provoked the first riot at a Doors concert.

The Chicago Coliseum as it appeared in May 1968 it has since been razed.
Photo by South Loop

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 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.’ 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.

Note: This article has been updated and appears in The Doors Examined.

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