December 9: Rocker Jim Morrison Arrested in New Haven


On this night in 1967, The Doors, a psychedelic rock band, were scheduled to headline a show at the New Haven Arena. What should have been an ordinary night of music and revelry turned into something more memorable for everyone who attended, thanks to the antics of Doors’ lead singer and frontman Jim Morrison.

While the opening acts played onstage, Morrison decided to pass the time by making out with an enthusiastic fan in a backstage shower stall. A New Haven police officer, who had been hired to provide security backstage but failed to recognize Morrison as the Doors’ lead singer, spotted the couple and told them to stop and move along. According to the Doors’ keyboardist, Morrison told the cop to “eat it,” and after the officer brandished a can of Mace and gave the singer one more chance to comply, Morrison emphatically repeated his earlier reply, earning a face full of pepper spray for his defiance.

When the Doors took the stage later that night, Morrison, still visibly angry about the earlier pepper spray altercation, launched into a profanity-laced rant in the middle of the song “Back Door Man.” Morrison, whom eyewitnesses later described as appearing “very intoxicated,” reportedly yelled “the whole [expletive] world hates me!” and then, spotting some police officers in the back of the concert hall, started hurling insults at them from the stage. He began describing his earlier run-in with the police to the crowd, calling the officer who harassed him “a little blue man in a little blue hat” and “a little blue pig.” Nearby officers promptly walked onto the stage and proceeded to arrest Morrison in the midst of his tirade, earning him the dubious distinction of being the first rock musician to be arrested while performing onstage.

Jim Morrison’s famous New Haven mugshot, snapped in the early hours of December 10, 1967.

The incident caused the crowd inside the New Haven Arena to grow unruly and spill onto the street outside, although initial descriptions of the scene as a “riot” were overblown, since no violence or injuries were reported. New Haven police took Morrison to the downtown station, where they snapped a now-famous mugshot of the singer just after midnight and charged him with indecency, obscenity, and inciting a riot. After posting bail with a large amount of cash he happened to have on him, and later paying a fine, Morrison was sent on his way. It wouldn’t be the last time the rebellious frontman was arrested, but it was certainly one of his more memorable run-ins with the law. Two years later, the Doors included the line “Blood on the streets in the town of New Haven” in their song “Peace Frog,” which some believe is a reference to Morrison’s infamous 1967 arrest. A memorable evening which certainly lit Jim Morrison’s fire — today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Sterling Whitaker, “How Jim Morrison Got Arrested Onstage in New Haven,” Ultimate Classic Rock

Kent Pierce, “Fifty Years Later, Untold Stories of Jim Morrison’s Arrest,” WTNH News 8