the thing I just wanna know is, aehm, I'm gonna
sit down here and you just look at me and
thing I wanna know is, aehm
some things about the last Doors concert in New
Orleans, if you could say something about that
should talk about the last time you saw Jim, when
you said good-bye
story. Then the story of the phone call in the
middle of the night you've got from Bill
how you, John and Robby got the message and knew
that Jim would never come back
fixing the camera zoom) Well, let me fix this
camera, wait a second, that's great, I think it's
. one more minute ...
||Now that's fine, that's
his hand at the camera) Hello everybody! (laughs)
be shown in Germany.
his hand at the camera again) Hello Germany!
can you tell us about the last Doors concert?
let's see. The last performance The Doors ever
gave in public was in New Orleans in 1971 and,
ah, Jim was very tired. I think
small plane is flying right over Ray's house, he
stops for a few seconds until the plane has
performance we ever gave as a band, all four of
us, John, Ray, Jim and Robby, was in New Orleans
in 1971, and it was perhaps
not the best concert we've ever played
night before however we had just played in Texas,
I forget Dallas or Houston, one or the
other, and it was absolutely brilliant. We played
'Riders on the Storm' for the first time,
and he was absolutely amazing. And I remember
after the concert, Vince Treanor, our roadie,
came up to us and said, What was that
song? I've never heard that song before!
And I said, That is the new one we're
working on for the album and it's called 'Riders
on the Storm'. And he said, I
piece, Ray. That is absolutely incredible!
So the fact that we've got to play that one song,
'Riders on the Storm', one time was one of
the great joys of my life and unfortunately we
never got to do it again with Jim. He decided to
leave the planet on July 3rd. And the
night the concert in New Orleans was less than
one of our best concerts, and I've never seen Jim
get so tired so quickly. He was great in,
ah, great in Texas, and in the next night or the
night after, there might have been a day in
between, I don't even think so, he was extremely
tired, and I've never seen him that tired before
because he always had a great energy about him
and a great excitement about him. And he
would always feel the energy coming off of him,
but that night it was as if his energy had just
left him, and there was a point in one of the
pieces where we were playing
and most of
the times I would play with my head down and
listening to John, listening to Robby on the
far end, Jim in the middle and I would
concentrate with my head down. And I heard
we were in the middle of one of our solos, and I
forget what it was exactly, but I thought Jim had
left the stage. And I thought, That is odd,
he shouldn't be leaving the stage!
he would leave the stage in 'Light my Fire',
because the song would go on so long and it would
be a nice chance for him to go offstage,
get a beer, relax, come back, sit down, shake a
maraca and wait until it was time for Jim to sing
again. But this time he
ah, he had left
the stage in a song that he shouldn't have left
the stage. And I thought, What's that?
Jim is gone! And I looked up, and he
standing. Center stage, holding on to the
microphone. It was as if the essence of Jim
Morrison, the spirit of Jim Morrison had left his
The body was there, but the spirit of the man had
gone. And that was the last concert we've ever
tell me about the last time you saw Jim?
time I saw Jim was probably in the recording
well, at The Doors' Office that we
were using as a recording studio, and
we were working on L. A. Woman of
course and nearing completion. He had done all
his vocals and everything was pretty
much done except we had mixes yet to do. And Jim
said, Why don't you guys go ahead and
finish up the mixes? You could do it
without me, I've done all my parts, everything is
sounding great! We have maybe two or
three songs left to go, we have been
working on 'Riders on the Storm' with the
thunderclaps and the thunder, the lightning and
the rain and the thunder and played it for Jim
and he said, It sounds fabulous, sounds
fabulous! You guys are doing a great job! Go
ahead and finish the album, there are only
two or three songs left to go. We said,
Wait a minute, where are you going?
I'm going on a vacation.
Ah! Interesting idea!
Where are you gonna go? Paris!
Ah, Paris! How long are you gonna be
gone? He said, Well, I don't
know. I'm gonna
let's think of
. an aditus extended
sabbatical, as a teacher would say,
sabbatical. Well, we have
finished our contract with
Elektra, all seven albums have been delivered and
we were absolutely free to do anything we wanted,
once we were done with L. A.
Woman we were no longer tied to Elektra Records
and could either renegotiate with Elektra or sign
up with a new record company.
We could do anything we wanted, we were
completely free at that point. And Jim decided to
take an extended vacation. And when he
said 'Paris' I thought that was the best thing he
could possibly do, unbeknownst then to me what
would happen to him. I thought, 'An
American in Paris', Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Henry
Miller, all the great American writers who had
gone to Paris and I thought this was
absolutely perfect. Get away from Los Angeles,
get away from Rock'n'Roll, get away from America,
and recapture the muse, seduce
the lady, seduce the muse to come back and bless
you with her inspiration so that Jim could regain
his round as
not as a rock star
but as a poet that was the important
thing. The Jim Morrison - for me, for John and
for Robby was always a poet. The rock star thing
was incidental to us, that came only later. The
Doors were never set up to be rock stars. We of
course wanted to play big venues, and
play for lots of people, but as a rock star then,
Rock'nRoll stars in a rock band
kings of acid rock, and Jim as the
'Lizard King', kings of orgasmic rock we
never wanted any of that. We wanted Jim to be
accepted as a poet, The Doors to be
accepted as musicians, jazz-rock musicians. And
Jim had, because of all the pressure and all the
problems with his life and with Rock 'n'
Roll and Miami and everything that was going on
with his life
I thought the best thing in
the world for him was to get away, go to
Paris, capture the muse and stay there as long as
you want. When I asked him, How long do
you wanna stay?, he said, I
know, three months, six months, I don't know.
I said, Good! Six months? Fine! You
know, the album's gonna be coming out,
we don't have anything to do, go ahead and do
that, you know. And that was the last I
ever saw of Jim Morrison. He was off to
Paris to begin writing poetry again, to compile
his notes from Miami he said he was going
to finally write that book of all the notes
that he had written in Miami
just a moment please! Hello? Hello?
my camera until Ray has finished answering the
call I don't want to record Ray's private
report yet, although I've got something very
exciting to report
call me in about two
certainly do that.
have something interesting to talk about! About
our new video project
Anything new coming out?
Yeah, concerning our favorite band! (laughs)
And our favorite lead singer! So anyway, aemmm,
Jim had decided to go to
Paris to take a long vacation, three months, six
months, however long it took for him to relax, to
begin to write again, to work on his
poetry, to work on the notes that he took in
Miami, to compile a novel
I was very
excited about that. It was a novel like
was a French writer in 1830, 1835 who came to
America, Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote
'Democracy in America', but Jim was
going to write 'Observations on America while on
Trial in Miami for Obscenity', and I thought,
Perfect!, because Jim would
just a great book about his observations about
America, what it meant to be an American. And
that's what he was going to do in
Paris, and to the best of my knowledge I don't
think he ever got started on the 'Observations on
America' but he did write a lot of
poetry while he was in Paris, and some of that
poetry has surfaced in a sealed box, '127
Fascination', as it was written on the edge
of the box, and I know the fellows in San
Francisco who purchased the box, and I saw the
poetry. And it's Jim Morrison's poetry
that he wrote in Paris, it's some very good
stuff. Some of it has been subsequently
published. Ah, Frank and Corky put a book
together, and, ah, couple of books together, and,
ah, using bits and pieces of the poetry, but it
would have been nice just to see the
poetry just as it is, just ... don't edit it, it
doesn't need to be edited, or if it does need to
be edited, just a very slight amount of editing,
but just put the poetry together just the way I
saw it in this box ... and I opened this box and
I saw all of his poetry, I was flabbergasted,
I thought it was wonderful. Jim was writing in
Paris, Jim was working in Paris, and that was the
best thing. He was trying to ... he was
being a poet again which is something I don't
think he really had that much of an opportunity
to do in the last year here in Los Angeles,
although he was able to come over with songs for
L. A. Woman. But as far as his actual writing
poetry I don't know how much poetry
he worked on here in L. A. ... and he got to
Paris and he got started all over again, and the
tragedy of the whole story is that Jim died
on July 3rd 1971 in Paris, and that
Pam died not long after that, a few years later,
and Pam was dead, too. A Romeo & Juliet
and, ah, two very lovely American people dead, a
tell me the story of the phone call ...
Alright. On July 3rd 1971 Jim Morrison
passed into the ether, left upward into the loam.
On July 4th or perhaps the 5th,
I can't be sure which day it was ... Dorothy and
I were having breakfast, and a phone call came
from Bill Siddons saying, I have
some bad news Jim is dead! I
said, Well, wait a minute, I've heard
the story before! Paul is dead was a
that was going on at that time, Paul McCartney of
The Beatles. Jim, I've heard, had died three or
four times. We were at a party,
someone came into the party and said, Oh
my God, Jim Morrison is dead! And we
said, What, what, what, what?
minutes later in walked Jim. We said, Hey,
man, I thought you were ... you're supposed to be
dead! And as Mark Twain said,
Jim said, No, the stories of my death
have been greatly exaggerated. And we
all laughed, ah, it happened a couple of other
times, too, in which Jim was dead and of course
he wasn't dead. So this is the same sort of
story, Jim is dead, and I said, Bill,
come on, you know, I've heard that story before!
And he said, No, no, no, this time I
think it's serious. I said, What?
He said, I've talked to Pam and
she was all broken up! I said, Well,
good Lord! What happened? He said,
I don't know!
Was it an accident? Hit by a car? What
happened? He said, I don't
know what happened, she wouldn't say. I
why don't you go? He said, I
am. I'll get over there. I have a flight, twelve
o'clock. Or something like that. It
been eight, nine, ten o'clock in the morning.
I have a twelve o'clock flight booked,
non-stop, from Los Angeles to Paris. I
Good. Get over there, find out what's
going on and call me as soon as you get over
there. Well, I didn't hear from him for
two days. He called me back and he said, Ray,
this is Bill. I said, Where
are you? He said, I'm in
Paris. I said, Well, what
happened? He said, We buried
Jim this morning. What?
We buried Jim this morning! I
said - and he mentioned Père
Lachaise cemetery which I wasn't aware of at that
time, and I said, Who was there?
Just a few people, Pam was there ...,
and I said, Oh my God, what happened?
He said, Well, I guess it was a heart
attack or something. I said, Well,
he look, what ...? He said, I
don't know. I said, What do
you mean you don't know how he looked? I mean,
did you bury
Jim? How did he look? Bill said, I
never saw the body. Jim was in a sealed coffin.
I said, Wait a minute. Youre
me you put Jim in a sealed coffin in the ground
in a cemetery in Paris and Jim Morrison is
supposed to be in there? He said,
He is in there. I know he is in there.
I sat there and thought that doesnt make
any sense. Quite frankly, it doesnt make
sense. Thats not what youre
supposed to do. Youre supposed to find out
what happened. Jim died of a heart attack?
27 years old. 27-year-old men dont die of a
heart attack. Granted, he was not in the best of
shape, but 27-year-olds dont
die of a heart attack and how do you know
hes in the coffin? He said,
Well, Pam was so upset - I couldnt
ask to open the
coffin and see the body and that to this day is
all I know of what happened to Jim Morrison in
The Doors continued recording
working on some songs. How did the other Doors
accept the news?
all got a phone call. Bill called everybody and
we all talked to each other and said, Why
dont we all get together and
go to the office. What did you hear? What did you
hear? John and Robby heard the same
story that I heard - a sealed coffin
was put into the ground July 5th , I
guess on a Monday. Monday morning. July 6th
we talked to the record company. A statement
would have to be made. All that sort of thing.
After all that legal stuff was taken care of, the
accountant was informed. The lawyer
was informed, the press release was going to be
released. After all of that stuff happened ...
waiting a few seconds while another plane goes
overhead. Loud sound of jet plane can be heard in
all of that technical and legal nonsense was
taken care of, the three of us just sort of
flopped back in our chairs in the office,
opened a beer and said, Holy cow, God,
what happened to Jim? What a loss. What a
tragedy. Now what? What do we do?
At the time we had been rehearsing, working on
songs. Robby was bringing in songs. I was
beginning to write some songs. Gosh,
Robby had Ships With Sails. We had
been working on the song Ships With
Sails. It would have been wonderful to hear
Ships With Sails and I think Robby
also had Wandering Musician, so we
were doing while Jim was writing his poetry,
he did, we were doing what we do, working on some
new material two to three times a week, getting
together in the afternoon,
waiting for Jim to come back, just working on a
batch of new songs and we just decided, What
can we do? Lets just continue
doing what we do, making music. Jim was writing
songs as we have since we found out and we were
working on our own
music, so lets just continue making music.
What should we do? Should we get a new singer?
We thought about getting a new
singer, but at this time, the idea sounded absurd
to bring someone in, someone to replace
Jim Morrison was a ridiculous idea. We
cant. The Doors are the four of us. Even
without Jim, we are still The Doors, so we will
continue as The Doors. To bring in
someone else would be totally absurd.
Consequently, we never did bring in a lead singer
and we made two albums as The Doors.
After Other Voices and Full
Circle we decided to close The Doors. It
was time for that part of our lives to come to an
end. I miss
him very much and I know John and Robby miss him
very, very much. He was a great friend and even
better, he was a great artist and
a great poet. Thats what I remember Jim as
a great poet, great artist and a very good
answer. Just a very private little question from
myself. Were not using this for the TV
show. There are a lot of rumors about
how Jim died.
infamous one of all seems to be that Pam was
giving him some stash and let him die in the
bathtub. What do you believe?
What do you think?
heard the one about Alan Graham being there?
heard this yesterday. (At this point, Ray
gestures with his hands to stop. Time out.) I
said, Wait, wait, wait a minute!
Time out, as we say in basketball and
football. But yes, someone did tell me that
Graham was in Paris. I said, I
that, but thats another rumor.(Both
me and Ray are laughing at this point.) I
said, Whats Graham doing in Paris?
I said, No, no, no. Jim was in Paris.
Pam was in Paris. And I think what
might have happened is Alain Ronay was in Paris
and someone said Alan. You know
people in the States refer to Alain as Alan. Alan
Ronay and this person probably thought that
Alain was Alan Graham. No, no. There was an Alan
there, but it was Alain Ronay and thats how
rumors get started. Thats how
things happen. Whats the story of
Jims death? Gosh, I really dont know.
I did hear the story of some extra strong heroin
around. Some very, very pure heroin.
once said that he found a bunch of
things that were in Pams
know that Pam died of an overdose. You know
thats not news to anybody that Pam was
indulging. Whether she was
indulging there in the white powder, I really
dont know, but obviously here in America
she died of a heroin overdose. I dont know.
If Jim did take any heroin, I imagine he snorted
some heroin and since it was extra pure, and
perhaps extra strong, I really dont
know if that - I really dont know anything
about heroin, but I have heard there was a rash
of overdoses. Junkies were dying in Paris.
A very strong shipment of China White
had come in. Now I can perceive of perhaps
I can construct a story of Jim snorting
some lines of heroin white, and the way Jim did
(Ray lightheartedly chuckles)
I shouldnt laugh, but the way Jim
do things, he would always do more than he should
of anything. Thats what he did. Well
lets just see what this stuff does!
Boom! I can just see a couple of lines being laid
out and Ive heard about this!
Bam bam! And he did probably
and had it been - if this is what happened, he
snorted some extra strong, extra pure heroin and
a huge amount. He probably started
feeling sick, had been drinking and decided to
take a bath, to lie down in a bathtub and maybe
he was breaking out in a sweat.
Sweating hot or cold or whatever happens. So if
this is the situation, a bath is a relaxant,
alcohol is a relaxant, heroin is a relaxant.
So if you add one on top of another and another,
and you know what? Its very possible that
the autopsy said that Jims heart had
stopped. He just stopped breathing in Paris and
died. (Spoken very quietly. Almost a whisper.)
And if he did, it was probably the
sweetest death anyone has ever had in a very,
very long time and he deserved a sweet death.
rings. Ray answers.) Hello?
(That must have been the important call
mentioned above, because Ray got up and
said he had to leave soon. So I stopped the tape
The Doors interviewed by Robin Denselow at the
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, November
© Rainer Moddemann.