Vincent Treanor III
Road Manager for The Doors,
December 26 1967-January 19 1972
THE ECCENTRIC ORGAN BUILDER
©2006 Vincent Treanor III
In the spring of 1967, an obscure person named Vincent Treanor III, was then 33 years old and living a quiet life in the town of Andover, Massachusetts. He had little knowledge of, or interest in, the world of Rock and Roll. Of course, everyone knew of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, and those strange, longhaired Beatles. But awareness and interest are not the same thing. Vince was an organ builder. His family was musical and he had inherited that love of Music. But it was a far cry from the new sounds sweeping the world. He liked classical music and, what was worse, the majestic sounds of the King of Instruments, the Pipe Organ, the first synthesizer, the largest, most complex and expensive of all mans’ musical instruments.
His teachers considered Vince somewhat of an eccentric genius. In another time he probably would have been in advanced classes for the gifted. As it was, he was so far advanced in science studies that he was often called upon to act as substitute teacher when the instructors of chemistry and physics classes were not present. Through high school he was a student instructor of physics and chemistry classes under the supervision of a gifted teacher, Arthur Danforth. He and George Reed, his youthful friend and companion of many years, built a small tracker organ in his cellar in his home. In 1955, he and George set the organ up as a science project in the high school chemistry lab. For this, and his somewhat brilliant performance during his years in high school, he was nominated for, and awarded, the Bosch & Lomb National Science Award. As a result of the organ project, several newspaper articles were written about this and his other exploits. Vince and George Reed were already famous in their area.
While George, who was 4 years younger than Vince, remained in school, Vince began formal training in organ design and construction after he graduated in 1955. He worked with Roy Carlson of Somerville and maintained some of the most famous organs in the greater Boston area. He studied for more than eight months with one of America’s most famous organ builders, G. Donald Harrison of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, then in Dorchester, Mass. In 1957, Vince and George established their own business. By 1967, they had built six organs, rebuilt several others and were maintaining them ins some 65 churches in Maine, New Hampshire and in the area around Boston, Lawrence and Lowell.
It was their practice, as with others in the same business, to do the major cleaning and repair jobs during the summer when church attendance was lower and use of the organ was not so important. They would hire kids from school to do all sorts of low skilled labor. It was inevitable that, with 16 to 18 year old kids working in an organ factory, there would be a culture clash – and so there was.
The radio in the factory, previously a stranger to the thump and twang of drums and guitars, was now tuned to the more “popular” music stations. One day, the DJ decided, at just the right time, to play “Light My Fire”, the song which had brought an obscure club band from Los Angeles to national attention. Vince was hearing, but as the music progressed through those three incredible minutes, he realized that he was hearing something that was unique. He began to listen and what he discovered was interesting. The first impact was hardly passed when the other side was played – “The Crystal Ship”
It struck this devotee of Classical music that this was no ordinary Rock and Roll. In fact, when one dissected the structure of the arrangements, it was based on classical divisions of melody, harmony and bass lines, weaving and interchanging as the music of no other group did. Vince became fascinated. He bought the first album and greatly offended his stereo by playing the new music as often as the many tracks of classical music. An event was to happen that was to lead to some drastic changes in his life: The Doors came to Hampton Beach Casino.
Hampton beach is a summer beachside resort town on the short seaside coast of New Hampshire. In winter, it is shuttered and boarded up. Only a few hundred people lived there year round and it was almost deserted from Labor day, through the winter, until May 30th when the summer tourist season opened in New England. At the height of the season, thousands of people came for vacation and crowded the modest hotels and rustic bungalows that lined the narrow streets.
In this small coastal community was a place of entertainment called the Hampton Beach Casino. This was a huge building, originally built in 1890 as a Victorian style dance hall and entertainment center. It had a matched strip hardwood floor which, at the start of the season at least, shone like a sheet of glass. It has survived the years and changes in activities of the summer visitors. Recently, it was used as a place where rock concerts could be held.
Now it happened that on August 2, 1967, one of the boys, Andre, had suggested that he and Vince go to the casino to hear the Turtles play. This was a group that was definitely not rock and roll. They just used the new instruments to sing a sort of melodic gentle music. And they had fun on stage, which was infectious to the audience who also enjoyed the performance. So did Vince. Having one very pleasant experience and becoming more deeply involved with the music of The Doors, it was inevitable that something was going to happen.
The Doors arrived Hampton Beach on August 9, of 1967 and were to play at the Casino. Plans were immediately made to go to the performance. We were to hear, in live performance, these people from California who had suddenly crashed into the music scene. This was an opportunity too good to miss.
We arrived at the Casino early and were able, in a standing room only crowd, to get near the stage. The first group played and took their equipment of stage. More equipment was brought on stage and when things settled down the lights went OFF!! What was this? But then, in the dusky gloom created by lights from the street and nearby buildings, people could be vaguely seen coming on stage. Suddenly the rumbling murmurs of the crowd were overwhelmed by the first sounds of The Doors. The performance continued for more than an hour. It was stunning. It was an experience that could not be described. On the way back to the car, I commented: “This is the biggest group in the United States. This is the American Beatles.” How prophetic that was to be.
Two things happened isn the next four months. Two of the boys that worked in the factory were “rock” musicians. There was an established band in Lawrence, the neighboring city, called “HERE WE ARE”. That name was based on the announcement of their arrival, usually late, to their performances. One young man in this group was well known for his skill at the keyboards. His name was Tony Parisi. I met Tony and other members of this band and he was to play a part in the story of The Doors.
THE ORGAN FACTORY:
The boys in the factory wanted to start a group. I agreed, but with some strict rules. A search for musicians ensued and finally five people, none of them the original instigators of the project, were selected. Brian Gidley was the drummer. At 14, was the youngest member of the group by several years. His size belied his age, however as he was fully grown and very well trained. He was, in fact, recognized as one of the best drummers in the area. Dennis Daigle was an accomplished player of the bass guitar and Steve was rhythm guitarist. He also had an unusual capacity to sing a certain style of music. There were also the two brothers, a lead guitarist and a singer. The group even had a manager, Mark Visconti.
They came together and found that they were agreeable to my conditions and could work together quite well.. They would come to my organ factory and rehearse as often as possible. As were most other small groups of the time, they were considered a copycat band. But together they had extraordinary skill in reproducing the precise performance of music made by the most popular bands of the times. The restrictions were simple: there was to be no romantic music played. Select pieces by The Doors, the Yardbirds, the Airplane and similar genre, were to be the repertoire. The style was called “head music” or acid rock, which was the type of song that had provocative imagery and concepts. The band, after about a month of careful rehearsals, was ready to go on the road.
They got their first job was in the St. Patrick’s Parish hall in Lawrence for the Friday night dances held there every week throughout the school year. This hall was big, with room for plenty of kids to come and have fun. It was well organized and supervised and t he refreshments were plentiful and inexpensive. It was a place for the kids to go and stay off the streets and out of trouble. Remember, that in those days, kids were not glued to video games and computer screens. Those distractions were at least fifteen years in the future.
The usual format was to have one live band, and one person who would play records. The doors of the Hall would open about forty-five minutes before the dance was to start. During this time an aspiring DJ, usually a member of the school noted for his selection of music and ability to communicate with the crowd, would play several 45 records. At this time the band that was to play would be setting up their equipment and generally preparing to play. When they were done, they would go off stage to change into their “stage clothes” and rest.
When the official starting time for the dance arrived, usually 19:30, the DJ would introduce the band, and sometimes the individual members as they came on stage. The usual program was for the band to play a first set and then take a break for fifteen or twenty minutes. During this period, the DJ would return to his equipment and play records to keep the dance going and the kids entertained. Following this, the group would return and play a second set.
When you look at this format, you can see how closely it followed live performances by professional groups. First groups came to get the crowd warmed up, and then there was an intermission in which recorded music was played; finally, the starring group would appear for the climax of the show.
The DJ put on his little show as usual, and kids who had come in early for refreshments or extra dance time made the most of the opportunity. But when the Organ factory came on stage and started playing, things changed. They did what no other band in the area could do – stopped the dancing. They played a very special style of music with such dynamics and skill that, instead of dancing, the kids stood transfixed. Instead of being a dance, the affair became a concert. Their success was immediate, their reputation spread like fire and they actually began to make some money.
It is a funny incident that points out how adults of those days misinterpreted the appeal that the most popular music had for the youth of that time. For the older generation, dancing was a big social event, a major form of entertainment that sponsored by churches and civic organizations. The new rock music that swept the country had shifted from music for dancing, to a concert format. It was the younger generation’s form of classical music. They went to a performance to hear the group play, just as people listened to classic orchestral performances.
The effect of seeing the kids standing still, listening with rapt attention to the Organ Factory, left the people who managed the dances at a loss to explain this occurrence. Their first impression was that the Organ Factory was not a good group. After two weeks of having dances come to a stand still they told Mark they would not be asked to play there any more. When Mark asked why, the response was that the kids didn’t like them; they didn’t dance. That misconception lasted for just one week. When the kids came to the next dance the Organ Factory was not there and there was a near riot when they found that their favorite group would not be back. You can imagine that on Monday, Mark received a call and apology from the chairman of the dance committee. They were further pleased to learn that they were to become the permanent band for the St. Patrick’s dances.
It was not so long thereafter that they became more important, more popular than the famous Here We Are. Maybe that was because they were always on time. On one of my trips back home, I found it amusing that the adult chaperones of these dances thought that the Organ Factory were not good because whenever they played, the kids didn’t dance until they took a break, and someone played records to fill in.
But this is not the story of this little band called The Organ Factory, though they will play more than one part in the conduct of this tale. It is a commentary on the instincts I had for what type of music had popular appeal and how a performance should be presented. It also gave me the opportunity to observe other groups, minor and major, leading to the awareness that the situation regarding the use and condition of stage equipment, had to change. I also learned that any group whose performance was based on theatrics and professionalism would succeed, where groups with better talent or music, would fail.
As I attended more concerts by both professional and amateur groups, I began to realize that each instrument was one entity that produced a specific part of the overall music and had a specific location on stage. No instrument should have the output of another instrument imposed on it, or share the same stage space. Last, that it was of greatest importance that the vocal component of the groups should remain clear and independent of every other component.
I also learned that, left to themselves, group members would compete with each other, increasing volume without regard to instrument balance to each other or to the singer. Control for the instruments, both volume and tone, had to be taken out of the hands of the group. The equipment they used had to be adequate and in perfect operating condition at all times. That concept brought screams of protest from group members who insisted that their “artistic performance”, whatever that meant, would be taken out of their control.
To that end I designed and began to build a very impressive set of amplifiers for the group. This design and the equipment that was developed was to bring me into direct contact with The Doors.
While the activities of the FACTORY were growing, The Doors were once more on the road. News came that they were to appear in late September in one of the towns on the South Shore of Boston. Two carloads of the band members and I attended.
Once again, The Doors performance started with the lights out producing a dramatic effect, a very high impact on the audience with this signature opening. They played for more than one hour. From end to end, the show was absolutely fascinating, incredible, overwhelming. Again, I listened with great interest to the absolute classic lines along which the music was arranged. The structure of the music was radically different than anything being written or arranged at that time. More important, the quality of Robbie Krieger’s playing was so far superior to the training and ability of any other guitarist, lead or rhythm, as to be incomparable. The impact of this second performance pushed me further into the mystique of the group and closer to a radical change in my life.
October 12th is a national holiday in the U.S. and word had it that The Doors were to perform about 400 miles south of Boston, in the Lyric Theater in Baltimore, Maryland. I had completed the design, and was building, a sound system, not unlike that which is so common today, centrally controlled through a mixing board. However, in my system, each instrument had individual amps and speakers. The vocals had a completely separate set of amps and speakers and no instruments used any of the vocal amps or speakers. It was so far ahead of the times that even today, a discrete system is still not in use.
I was determined to show the plans for this new radically different system to The Doors and see if I could build a system for them. We already knew about large performances in large halls and outdoor locations. These required a lot of speakers and a lot of power to project the sound throughout the building. Companies were forming to provide that through the use of the Altec Voice of the Theater systems. But, they were bulky and took as much as an entire day, to set up and test. And, they were not always successful. I knew of the difficulties that every group was having with equipment during performances: bad sound, broken cords, hums, howls and crackles. Certainly, not professional. I had the answer in my master control system.
I left a note indicating my hope that I would work with The Doors and suggesting that I might not return, I got into my car, a custom designed, extremely fast, powerful 1960 Pontiac Bonneville, and headed south for Baltimore. I had a hard time finding the place. It was a big theater with velvet seats, ceiling paintings, ornate wall murals, and all the glory of a 1920 movie palace.
After driving for ten hours, I arrived in time for the last piece – The End. (In hindsight, somewhat appropriate.) It was well rehearsed by this time and, with use of creative stage lighting, was quite a performance.
After the show, I made my way to the stage and introduced myself to a guy we had seen before in. While we talked, I helped him pack up and load things into the rented truck. It was to be a valuable education. I learned his name was Bill Siddons, he lived in Hermosa Beach in California (where ever that was) and had been with the group since the spring. (He also gave me his home phone number.)
He looked at the drawings of my newly developed system and was surprised at the concept and setup. He also dashed my hopes by telling me that when they returned to Los Angeles, the Acoustic Amplifier Company, a new and innovative amp builder in Los Angeles, had agreed to provide The Doors with a complete set of amps on an endorsement arrangement. That meant that the group got the amps without cost and gave the company the right to use The Doors’ endorsement of their product in advertisements. Why buy my system when they were going to get one free? (I didn’t know then that I would have a second chance.)
It was nearly 01:00 by the time we finished the process of packing and I was exhausted. Certainly, it was too late to start on the return trip to Andover. I stayed in a Motel, the same as Bill (Who had picked up his usual groupie sometime during the night) and after a nights rest headed back to Andover.
Another month passed. The skill, fame and activities of the Organ Factory grew. The popularity and activities of The Doors was growing as well, but much faster. As I listened and studied, my fascination with their music became greater.
The Organ Factory, naturally, played several of The Doors pieces. It was with the utmost concern that every subtle sound that could be brought out by the Organ Factory would be accurate. The most obscure inner lines were carefully picked out and practiced until perfect. I might even say that their records were played much more than the usual fare of classic organ or orchestral concerto’s.
Toward the early part of December, with a great deal of fanfare, the commercial DJ’s calmly announced that The Doors were to play in New Haven, Connecticut in Mid December. In the game of life, the pieces were now all in place. It was up to Jim to make the last important move. Of course, he did. All it took was for the players to gather in that one place for this one colossal event.
MEETING THE DOORS
News of the upcoming Doors concert in New Haven was broadcast every time their newly released single was played on the radio. Prepared for the event, the five of us piled into my car late Saturday afternoon on December 9, 1967 and headed for New Haven. The performance was to be held in the sports Arena. An older, cavernous building, it had tiers of seats around a central oval area. The ends were circular, following a track configuration, and it could be flooded and used for Hockey games. Rows of seats had been set on the main floor up facing one end of the hall specifically for the performance. A large platform was set up at one end of the arena, directly in front of the passage through the tiers of concrete seats. This opening gave access onto the playing area for the teams playing whatever sports to run. At the back of this were a few stairs for the groups to rise up to the platform. The stairs were about five feet high and could not be see from the front.
A dark blue curtain was hung across this opening to give some separation between the platform and “backstage” area. Under the seating area was a circular passage that ran all around the Arena and connected with various maintenance, storage and locker rooms. There were openings through the seating tiers that ran out onto the main floor as well, and two locker rooms were being used as “dressing” rooms for the groups. If you were standing in the Arena and f acing the stage, the two rooms assigned to the performing groups would be to your right. The front entrance to the Arena would be behind you.
We immediately got inside and headed for the rear area behind the stage. Bill was there still unpacking and I introduced the others to him. We all pitched in to help line the amps up and everything was set out in line as it would be on stage. Bill kept busy getting out the cords and putting them through the handles of the amps to which they belonged. That way, all he had to do was pull the cords out and plug them into the correct amp when the equipment was set up. At least he did that much planning. Next, we got the organ standing and the mikes were put on the mike cords. Unpacking John’s drums was Brian’s job and he went through that like a tornado! Bill was surprised at how fast the drums were set.
A red shag rug was always placed under the drums to keep them from slipping on the wood surface of the platforms. We hung this over the drum seat ready to go. We had about completed all of this when John and Robbie came wandering along. Brian had set the drums about where he liked them. John pulled the rug off the seat and sat down, picked up the sticks and began to tap and rap on the drums. (I was later to learn that John was extremely fussy about where his drums were set. I got one or two raps with a drumstick for not having it perfect.) Somehow, Brian had got it right. “Takes one to know one” seems true. I would like to mention that in most cases, Bill had no help. He did all this, including unloading the truck, alone. I suppose, if he had any sense, he would encourage a couple of kids to give him a hand with the heavy stuff and then let them stay for the concert. That was payment enough for any kid at that time.
However, in this case, he was alone until we came in. At that time he did not have the concept of setting the Doors up first and making others set up in front. The cold logic of this was frightening. The groups that played had only 4, maybe 6 members. It is true there were some exceptions to this, but stages can be made to fit any situation. There was never a lot of equipment so there was plenty of room. Having the first groups set up in front meant that the changeover could be accomplished very quickly. All we had to do was move the organ in place and set up Jim’s mike, which was already sitting on a stand, out front. The whole operation took less than five minutes and reduced the time between sets. That kept the crowd happy and less restless or prone to cause trouble. Setting up for both groups prevented the rush to get everything connected and the inevitable tugging and pulling on cords that were too short and had to be changed for something longer. The Doors’ equipment was already set up, powered up, tested and ready to go. If you took the time to test your equipment, there was less chance of having trouble with mike cords, instrument cords, or the equipment. Everything would run smoother. Bill never identified his cords by either length or purpose But Bill was a surfer boy and could not think too much past the end of a surfboard.
John and Robbie looked at the stage. The first group had set up and the crowd was now moving in. The place was filling up pretty fast. As it turned out, it was pretty much a sell out. Since everything was done, we decided to go around to the auditorium and watch the first group. We walked around the curve of the corridor and when we got to the first access opening, we went through to the main floor. We stayed about 20 or 25 feet from the passage so we could get back easily when the changeover came.
The first group played their set and the crowd was enthusiastic. Everyone was enjoying themselves. The set was about an hour long and in those days it was pretty plain. There were no big amplifiers doing their best to deafen you in one performance, no flashing lights, laser shows or distractions. It was up to the band to put on a good show and keep the audience happy. With the audience completely focused on the performance, the group had to be good. It is much different now. What with all the dancing, lights and horribly loud sound any “Performer” can get up there and use this elaborate set up to distract from the absolute lack of talent. Performances, if they can be called that, are now so complex, that some groups need prerecorded vocals and effects to put on a pretense of actually singing.
About half way through their set, which, for us, was not all that inspiring, we moved off the main floor and walked back through the corridor to the rear area and stood by the equipment. Ray was there talking with Bill, John and Robbie. John was still sitting on his drum seat twirling his drumsticks through his fingers. We could look up through the chute and see the group performing on stage.
Suddenly a kid rushed up to us and breathlessly called out “Your lead singer has just been maced. You better come quick”. There was a moment of confusion. Bill and Ray started asking questions.
“Where is he?”
At that time no one had any answers, least of all this messenger. Within seconds they headed off toward the left of the chute (facing the main floor) to where the dressing rooms were. Our group stayed right with the equipment. There was one trouble, no need for another.
The promoter rushed up the stairs and went to the drummer “Keep Playing… Don’t stop till we tell you”
“What, we only have a….”
“KEEP PLAYING – Understand!”
Even we could hear that desperate command. The Lead guitarist came over to see what was going on, got the message and wandered over to tell the bass player, who told the rhythm guitarist. Naturally the Singer (husband) was the last to know. Evidently, the promoter made a good impression because they continued on…. and on… and on.
THE FIRE IS LIT
What had happened? It took some time to get the answers to that question. As usual, Jim was the source of the trouble. Well, that is not fair. The trouble came to Jim and he took the opportunity to make it worse. Before they came to the performance, the boys had gone to dinner. Jim had been drinking, as usual, but this time he had just a little too much. When the boys arrived at the Arena, they went to the improvised dressing room where there was additional food and some drinks provided by the promoter. It seems that somewhere along the line, some girl got to Jim and came to the dressing room with him.
At some point, John and Robbie left and came to where we were. Ray, getting tired of watching Jim play with this girl, also left. This meant that Jim and the girl were alone. Enter one person who was to change the lives of many people – a young black cop. He observed these two, doing whatever they were doing at the time, alone in the dressing room. He ordered Jim and the girl to get out. Jim protested telling this aggressive cop that he was the lead singer for the group and this was his dressing room. The cop decided to exercise the power of his badge and responded, “I don’t care who you are, get out of here.”
Jim again stated that he was the singer for the Doors, this was his dressing room, and he was not going to leave. It may be that he used some language that was offensive. That is not known. What followed was the classic case of the clash between “Immovable Object and Irresistible Force.” The cop stepped close to Jim. At the same time, he quickly reached back, pulled his mace can from his utility belt, extended his arm and sprayed Jim in the face. Jim cried out in immediate pain and shock.
No one could say that Jim was physically aggressive. He never, in the four years I knew him, ever once tried to do any bodily harm to any person except his girl friends and then only when he was pretty drunk and in the heat of passion – that is, sex. The cop had no excuse to say that Jim had attacked him. He was bigger, stronger and taller than Jim. Even if Jim had gotten physical, he did not stand a chance. Remember that the police carried a nightstick as well.
When Bill, Ray, John and Robbie, among others, arrived in the dressing room, Jim was still there. So was the cop. Jim’s face was red, his eyes were closed, and tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Mace is a chemical that is designed to make an aggressive person think about something other than aggression. It does not always work but in most cases it has the effect of causing the person to stop all movement and deal only with the extreme pain to the eyes and burning of the skin. Jim was in very bad shape and he had about ten minutes to prepare for a stage performance. Phone calls started to fly. The cop called his station, the Musicians Union representative called their attorney, and t he promoter called the Police Chief, who was relaxing at home. Then he called his Lawyer. Just a 19-year-old kid, Bill was in the middle of it all.
No one has recorded the thoughts of the cop either before or after the incident. It was obviously a case of abuse of authority and that he had acted far beyond what the situation called for. He could have confirmed with other people that Jim was, indeed, the singer for the group, that he was in the dressing room assigned to the group, exactly where and when he should have been. But he did not. Instead of taking a more reasonable approach, he used chemical weapons.
The first concern was Jim. He was in bad shape and there is little you can do about the short-term effects of mace. They flushed Jim’s eyes as best they could. Someone found some kind of ointments to try to relieve the intense burning of his skin. It took about 20 minutes before they could get him anywhere near stable condition. In the mean time, the band played on. The Police Chief and others arrived and the dressing room got crowded with all sorts of people. (Not the least of which were reporters from Life Magazine and the Yale University newspaper.) Everyone was now yelling about the incident, asking who had caused it and why. Of course, when Jim was asked, he pointed out the hapless, and rather stupid, black cop.
Jim was almost abandoned by the sudden turning of almost everyone’s attention to screaming at this idiot who had demonstrated neither common sense nor restraint. He had created a situation that was out of control far beyond his wildest imagination. And it was not over yet. When the bedlam calmed down, the attention returned to Jim and the inevitable question: Could he perform? You can almost bet that he could. Oh, Yes. Jim was an injured party. But, oh, did he want to perform. What he wanted was a microphone. I have no doubt he was already planning his revenge. His eyes had stopped tearing, though his face, quite red from the chemical burns, was still causing some discomfort. But he felt he was ready. The Police Chief made it a point to apologize to Jim, with regrets, hoping that he understood what a terrible mistake had been made and disciplinary action would follow. He also made the black cop apologize. The cop, knowing he was in serious trouble stepped forward and gave his apologies. It is likely that part of his statement “…I didn’t know who you were.” only made Jim angrier.
When he had finished, the cop extended his hand. Jim just smiled “Okay, man” and turned away and would not shake his hand. The boys suspected that things were not well. The Chief again spoke to Jim, expressing his regret and hoping that the situation was resolved without hard feelings. Jim was almost pleasant with his assent to that. Knowing that there was going to be further delay during the changeover, the promoter told Bill that he should prepare for the Doors. The first group was about running out of things to play and the crowd was getting a bit worried. The Doors did have a reputation for missing performances. Bill came rushing back and breathlessly told us to get ready. He did not wait on formalities, as he rushed on stage and told the first group to stop and get off – fast! Bill was never subtle about much of anything and this was no time to be subtle in any case.
The group abruptly stopped playing and we helped Bill get everything up the stairs and in place. This was a real challenge since the first group was, at the same time, trying to get their stuff disconnected and out of the way. It was the Doors turn now. Like it or not, even with Bill’s lack of forcefulness, they knew they had to keep clear. It was like ants, some going up the stairs with equipment and another trail going down. With all the manpower, the changeover was completed in record time. Once again, Brian stepped in and expertly set John’s drums on the red carpet. There was an additional wait while everyone got their wits together and the group came to the stage. And the stage was set for disaster.
The lights went out and the boys made their way on stage through the gloom. Bill got everything going and the music began. Surprisingly, the show went fairly well considering that the skin on Jim’s face was still red, and no doubt, quite painful. In spite of Jim’s condition he did quite well and carried on with no hint of trouble. There is no doubt that he was suffering. Still, they went through several numbers and the crowd had a good time. Ray, John and Robbie were probably quite apprehensive. They knew Jim had been drinking before the show, and they knew he was angry. Still, all went very well. Until they started in on Light My Fire.
In the mean time, my friends and I, knowing we had nothing to do until the show was over, decided to go out front and watch. It is always more of an experience to see as well as hear. Being in the crowd brought a sort of infectious heightening of the feeling the excitement that a Doors performance brought on.
We hurried down the long corridor to the side of the Arena and came to the first passage out onto the main floor. When we came onto the floor, we noticed that there were 3 or so uniformed police standing there as well. There were also some people who did not belong: older adults in dress overcoats and hats. Detectives? Who they were, we never knew. But, from their reaction to the upcoming incident, the suspicion was that they were police.
Anyone who knows the Doors’ music is aware that there are two versions of that famous piece, Light My Fire. The radio version fitted the standard format of that time: the play time could be no less than 2:45, but no more than 3:00 minutes. But the performance version of the same piece has a center section where Ray and Robbie each have a sort of solo opportunity. LMF can go for 10 or 12 minutes with careful grooming. Likely as not, Jim would have something else to say. On this night, he surely did.
There is a point in LMF where Jim can cut in. It is at or near the end of the solo center section. This night, Jim came up with some new lyrics.
“Hey, you want to hear a story? It’s a true story. It happened right here right…” Without finishing, he pulled back a bit from the mike, looked around and asked, “Where is this?”
The crowd roared out “New Haven!”
“Yeah, right here in New Haven…” and he told the story of the event in the dressing room. Then he came to the part where the cop sprayed him. “…And his hand came up and SHHHT, right in my face, man, and I went blind.”
With this statement, the police standing near us immediately became agitated. This included these mysterious well-dressed people. There was a sort of roar from the crowd and some people shouted. But that was not the end of it. Jim began to speak again, “The whole world hates me. Nobody loves me, the whole fucking world hates me.”
If someone had exploded a bomb in that room, I do not think the shock effect could have been greater. This was a New England audience and they did not hear language like that anywhere in public. In those days, the F-word was used sparingly, and only in the most private of conversations as appropriate for the activity that went with it. It was not a word that rolled off the tongue without thought, as it does today. The crowd was stunned into silence for a moment. Then, all hell broke loose. First was the reaction of the police in our immediate vicinity. They became very agitated and angry and made vocal their feelings of disbelief of what they had heard but worse, what he had made public.
As we watched, an older sergeant came rushing up the stairs and came up to Jim, two other regular policemen following him. He put his hand over the mike, “Mr. Morrison, you are under arrest. The show is over.” As he said this, the two cops grabbed Jim, one by each arm, and took him across the stage and down the stairs. For a moment, the other three guys just sat there before they got up and headed for the stairs.
As the police led Jim off the stage, I called to the guys to come and we ran through the chute, into the passage that seemed to get longer at that moment. As we rounded the curve, we ran into a line of police who refused to let us go further. I called out, “We are with the group. We’re the equipment crew”. By some freak of fate, they let all five of us go through.
The Fates were sitting back and smiling as they watched this drama unfold. They had, over years of planning and through the strangest of accidents and co-incidental events, brought all the players in this game together on this one night, in this one place. Into the series of moves that had happened over more than 8 months, they introduced that hapless black cop and he Lit the Fire that was to forge a new life for many people.
We got to the rear of the stage. The two cops that had taken Jim from the stage were holding him between them. Standing in front of him, one big cop was punching him in the face. Another, standing behind him, was pounding his back with the full force of his fist and forearm. Jim, held by the other two goons was bobbing back and forth as the blows fell on him. I don’t know why they stopped. I think one of them spotted us standing there, and with five witnesses; there was little they could do. We were about twenty feet away, and all the other cops were barricading the corridors on both sides. No one else was there. I have no idea of where Bill was.
With the pounding ended the two bully-boys dragged Jim, who was in pretty bad shape, off toward the dressing rooms. There were entry doors for the athletes on that side of the building. These door went directly out to the parking lot. As we heard later, they took him outside, across the crowded parking lot to a police car. There, in the struggle to get him inside, he fell on the ground and at least two of the cops kicked him more than once. But there were other players in this game.
The reporter from Life was there with a camera as was the reporter from the Yale University newspaper. He was also taking photos of the drama in the parking lot. When the police realized that their athletic exploits were being recorded for posterity, they rushed over, grabbed both of them, and arrested them for “Disturbing the Peace.” It is obvious that the camera shutters were making so much noise it was disturbing the neighbors. There was a parade of cars to the police station.
That left us all standing in disbelief at what we had just seen. Of course, everyone heard rumors of “police brutality,” but that was something that never happened in small towns. If a kid was disorderly, the cops took them home and let their parents deal with it. An obnoxious drunk spent the night in jail to cool off and dry out ,and the next morning went home or to work. Police beating people was just a rumor spread by Communists or other people trying to undermine the American Way Of Life. I do not believe that at that moment any of us realized the importance and the effect of what we had seen. All we knew was, we had seen it.
Bill came on the scene looking for the group. They were nowhere to be seen. All we knew was that they had left the stage just a few minutes before. The fact was that they had gone to the dressing room to get coats and things. Robbie always carried his guitar with him and the case was in the dressing room. Though I cannot say with certainty, it is likely they made arrangements to get to the hotel. One can only speculate on the conversations that went on when they arrived and went over the totally incredible events of this evening.
THE FIRST BAND BOYS:
At this point, I was in about the same position that, in later times, several other young men found themselves: a casual involvement had turned into a serious responsibility,
Bill was afraid that the equipment would be damaged or stolen; yet he felt compelled to get to the police station where they had taken Jim. There was a veritable traffic jam of cars heading in that direction. I urged him to go with the crowd. His job was to take care of Jim. I assured him we would get the equipment put away safely and that it would be in the truck when he returned. The only flaw in that plan was that Bill, in his confusion and concern, forgot to give me keys to the truck.
The police were sweeping down the length of the Arena, driving the crowd before them and out into the cold night. A forklift operator was taking the platform down while The Doors equipment was still on it. Someone had come and taken the mike off the stand and dropped it on the floor. The mike stand was nowhere to be seen.
W realized that the platform could be dismantled faster than we could pack equipment in an orderly fashion. We rushed to get everything unplugged and off the stage into the rear area where we could put everything in order and in proper place. All during this operation, all we could think of and talk about was what we had seen. We simply could not believe that police could take the singer from a famous rock group and beat him up without someone knowing about it. What we didn’t know was that we were the only ones who did know about it. There had been no other witnesses.
One of the promoter’s assistants came along to see what was happening to the equipment. He was a little late as by this time the platform was gone. Had we not been there, who knows what might have happened. Bill certainly would not have gone to the police station.
We informed this fellow of the problem of the missing truck keys. Evidently either he or someone went to the police station, got the truck keys and brought them back to us. We got the truck started, backed it into the passage and loaded the fifteen or so amplifier, drum and equipment cases into it and locked the door. Then we waited for Bill and for what news he would bring.
It was about an hour later when he arrived. He had some girl on his arm indicating that he had plans for the evening that did not involve talking to us. I gave him the truck keys and he thanked everyone for the help before, during, and after this disastrous show. This had been the last show of a tour and they were heading back to Los Angeles the next day. He told us what had gone on in the dressing room and how the whole unhappy affair had come to pass. It was about the same story that Jim had told on stage. At least everyone agreed on the cause. All that had to be done now was deal with the effect. He mentioned the incident in the parking lot that had been witnessed by the two reporters, resulting in their arrest. No one mentioned the beating and Jim was out on bail. They had arrested him and charged him with public drunkenness and lewd behavior. The promoter had posted bail and the promoter had taken Jim to the hotel.
The story that was not immediately told was the fate of the Life magazine photographer and the reporter from the Yale newspaper. They were taken to the station in separate police cars. Their cameras were taken from them. It is not known for certain whether the film was taken from the Yale photographer. It has been accepted that his film was lost. They did attempt to take it from the Life photographer. She informed them that if they touched the film or the camera she would have them in the Supreme Court. That gave them enough pause to begin to think of the consequences. She called the Life office in New York and they got a lawyer on the phone fast. In the end the charges were dropped against the two of them. It was agreed that Life would not tell about their arrest and they would not be charged with anything. At least one roll of film was saved from that incident. The photos of the performance were eventually published. The photos taken in the parking lot were never made public, but the incident in the Arena certainly was.
We piled back in the car and headed north on the long trip back to Andover. The events of the night were widely discussed. It was in the small hours of Sunday morning when we arrived back in Andover and everyone was at home. I was bothered greatly by what I had seen. Some kind of justice had to be done. Nothing that had happened that night could justify what the police had done to Jim, including to the kicking incident in the parking lot. My thinking was that if this could be brought out in court it might prove enough of an embarrassment to the New Haven police that Jim might be able to avoid prosecution.
The news on the radio and in the New York and Boston papers carried the story about the event. They did not tell about the macing incident, which lead to the event on stage. The religious wrong started screaming about morals and the bad influence of rock music on their precious children, who were buying Doors records. Everyone with the opportunity and the ability to flap their mouth in the breeze had something to say about this, and other incidents involving other groups. But with all the brouhaha about the incident, no one, in any story, told the whole truth: that Jim had been seriously provoked by an irresponsible intruder in his dressing room.
My parents knew we had planned to go to the concert and were curious about what happened. I told the story as I knew it then, and expressed my righteous indignation of police beating unresisting people. My Mother was shocked and unbelieving. That did not happen in the United States. My Father simply said that Morrison must have done something to cause the cop to spray him. If we put the blame in the right place and ignore the facts, maybe it will go away.
Sunday afternoon, December 10, 1967, one by one the entire membership of the Organ Factory assembled at the factory. Very little practice was conducted. The topic was still what we had seen and what could be done about it. I had already made up my mind to call Siddons and tell him that we had seen the cops and watched while four of them beat on Jim. Each of the guys who had been there agreed that if it came to court they would be willing to testify. I told everyone that I had Bill’s number and would call and all agreed that was the best thing to do.
That night, I called Bill Siddons in California. I suppose I had timed it right as he was at home. I explained in great detail what we had seen and made it very clear that we were all ready to testify if this would help. Bill was surprised that we had been able to get through the police line. I learned that they had prevented him from coming around to the rear. In any case, he told me that he would tell their managers about it and let them decide what to do.
He thanked me again for all the help. He said that he would never have been able to handle all the chaos without some help. He was surprised that when he returned to Los Angeles and checked all the equipment he found everything, except for one special cord, was all in the right place. The equipment had all arrived without damage. We had done a really good job of getting the equipment put away. He said he was surprised that it was all there. He figured that they would be lucky if half of it was returned. I have always reflected on that statement. Was he inferring that he thought we would steal the equipment, or that we would not be able to prevent others from getting at it for souvenirs?
Bill then told me something extraordinary. He was having trouble staying in school because he was missing classes and he was afraid the he would lose his draft deferment if this continued. He was thinking of leaving the group to return to school full time and asked if I might consider the possibility of taking the job. I didn’t say much. You have an opportunity like that come once in a lifetime. The impact of the possibility doesn’t always hit all at once. I said goodbye and hung up. The final moves in this incredible game were now in motion.
I went to bed that night thinking about what Bill had told me. I was in turmoil. I had my family, friends, car and business here. I had lived my entire life in Andover. I had traveled by plane only one other time to a reunion at Annapolis for my father’s 25th reunion. What of my organ business and all the things of my life? Yet, I had dreamed of this opportunity since I first saw the Doors.
Monday night we all got together again. I told the group about what Bill had said. The group was quite somber. They looked to me for guidance for their direction and growth. They were unsure of themselves, though they had by this time, established a firm reputation and were in great demand by several schools for their weekend dances. They had, by this time, all but put the Here We Are’s out of business. They could only get a few jobs each month, where before they had been booked every night of every weekend. The new system was almost complete and they were just learning to handle it.
Well, no decisions had been made and it was just a suggestion. I did not really expect it to go much further. Why me, when there were other people much closer to Los Angeles than I was? I thought about it, but I really did not think too much more… until Thursday Night.
THE FINAL MOVE
Bill had a problem. Since he had started his fall semester he had missed several classes as a result of The Doors’ schedule. At this time he had been dropped from some of them because of attendance. He had another problem as well: between the poor attendance and his preference for surfing over studying, he was getting very low grades. This could lead to only one thing: loss of his S-1 deferment and being drafted into a shooting war. Bill was not really interested in waiting for that to happen. He had to make some hard choices. The first was how to stay in school. The second was to find a suitable replacement to take care of the group. He had an idea.
On the following Thursday night, December 14, 1967, I was in bed sleeping and was awakened by my mother calling up the back stairs that someone was on the phone for me. It was 01:30 AM in Andover when the call came. No one had any idea who would be calling me at such an hour. I got up and rushed downstairs to the phone. Much to my surprise, it was Bill Siddons. He explained his situation to me. He especially suggested that he had no interest in going to war. Though he wanted to stay with the group, he could not do it and stay in school. He reminded me that he was very surprised at the efficient way in which we had handled the equipment in New Haven. He felt that, with my interest in amplifiers, skills in electronics, musical background and the experience I had demonstrated, I would be the best choice to replace him. He suggested that if I was interested in the job I should call Asher Dann, the Doors Manager, in California and make arrangements. He gave me the number, we said our good byes and that was that.
The momentous decision was now entirely in my hands, and the Fates waited to see what would the last move be? Perhaps they, like you, already knew.Of course, this is an academic question that has already been answered. But, that night was a very long, sleepless time of delving into the past, the present, and thoughts of what the future might bring. It was a long night, indeed. Sleep finally came as the sun began to shine through the branches of the barren Birch and Maple trees which populated the forest on the East side of the house and into my room. As I finally drifted away to sleep, no answer had come. I woke up after only two or three hours of sleep. It is said that often a new day brings a new view of a problem, and answers that which were not so clear in the dark of night.. I waited until 13:00 before I went to the phone and with shaking fingers and pounding heart and dialed that number. There was a friendly voice on the other end. It was Asher Dann. I told him who I was, and he said that Bill had spoken to him about me. He thanked me for the help we had given Bill in New Haven. He said that Bill had made a decision to stay in school and had recommended me highly as his replacement. As I listened to all this. I had a growing feeling that I was sinking into something that was getting beyond my control. He finally asked for a decision. I suppose it had already been made just by my calling, but this was show business and conversations in a phone call constitute the basis for a contract, though I did not know that in that time. I said that I would accept, and the issue of compensation was brought up. I always hated discussions about money. I also almost inevitably sold myself short. I considered what I though would be fair and suggested $100.00 per week. Asher Dann was a very successful businessman who knew a bargain when he heard one. He immediately agreed and the deal was done. Well, almost. He then told me that The Doors had two scheduled appearances after Christmas. I was to fly to San Francisco on December 26th.
They would provide me with First Class tickets on American Airlines. When I got there I was to check into the Jack Tar hotel and make sure that reservations for The Doors and Bill were in place. I should then rent a truck; go to the Airport, from when I had recently come, and meet the plane. Bill and the group would be coming in with the equipment. I was to get the equipment, bring it the Winterland auditorium and get set up for the first performance at 19:00 on that night. I copied all this down and read it back, point by point. I began right then to fear the unknown. By the time the conversation was over I felt weak and my hands were shaking. I waited until about 16:00 and called the manager for the group, Mark Visconti. I told him to get the guys together for a special meeting that night. It was near to Christmas and none of the schools were having dances so the group was free to have this important meeting.
It was done. I had now to get my affairs in order and prepare for the trip. There was a lot to do and only eleven days to do it. There was no going back now.
DECEMBER 25 – LAST DAYS IN ANDOVER
Christmas day came. There was the usual opening of gifts and dinner in the afternoon. Late, everyone gathered together at the Factory and we had a long talk about the band’s future. I impressed upon Mark that he had serious responsibilities. He had to make sure the money was collected at every show and see to it that the guys always got some money for each performance. He must also keep a cash reserve for replacements items like drum heads, guitar stings, and transportation money. Detailed and accurate records had to be kept of everything. My words for the kids in the band were simple. I told them to practice seriously and don’t waste time. Always stick to the style that made them popular, and always behave well so they would be welcome back where ever they had performed.
When I got home, my father was waiting for me. He asked if he could take me into the airport on the next day. I explained that some of the kids in the band were going to drive me. Years later, I realized that he wanted so much to spend those last hours with me. I suppose it was to give fatherly advice, but maybe to say things he had never said before. Unfortunately for us both, he never had the chance to say again.
He told me about his distant Uncle who lived in San Francisco. He gave me a phone number and address and suggested that if I had trouble I could call for help. (I later found out that he had called this man and told him of my adventure, advising that I would probably call when I was in San Francisco.)
I said good night to him and I went off to sleep. I had an experience of emptiness, of great sadness, of fear and loneliness. My father and I had not been close for several years, as he did not approve of my interest or involvement in pipe organs. He wanted me to be his right hand man, his companion, as he had been with his father, but he could not say it. He was not a communicative person through his whole life. Only once did he express his love for me. I could not find a way to relate to his silent pleas for a close relationship. And so we parted that night. Little did either of us know that his time was fast running out.
DECEMBER 26 – LEAVING HOME
The next morning brought gloomy skies and a damp mild wind. It was cold, but not a harsh cold. I had prepared about as much as I could the day before. There was little left to do but gather those last items, have breakfast and wait for the boys to come and pick me up.
I slowly climbed the back stairs to my room and closed the door. My little room had seen the dawn for more than 150 years. But for that day, there was nothing but darkness and gloom as I left my sanctuary. I went to my father’s room to say good-bye. When I opened his door, I saw a most unusual sight. Normally, he slept on his back, as a result of an injury received in a car accident many years before. This morning he lay on his left side facing away from the door. I spoke few words. I could hardly speak at all. He replied with just one, “Good-bye” and it was over.
As I closed the door, I realized that it was closing on my life, as I had then known it. I know not what my father was thinking on that morning, as surely he was. I know that from that time our relationship changed. I went downstairs and waited by the door for the car full of kids that would take me away from my home forever. Never again would I live at Hobby Horse Farm, though it remained in the family for another thirty-six years.
DECEMBER 26 – SAN FRANCISCO – A New Life Begins
With a suitcase in hand and $80.00 in pocket, I left my somewhat sheltered life as an organ builder and began life anew in the strange world of rock and roll. For the next 8 Hours I had one thought – Can I do it?
As an appendix – Over the years I have lost contact with the Boys in the Band and the many Band Boys across the Nation. Despite the fact they are probably all married, fat and balding, I would like to renew contact with any or all. If any of the readers of this, or other stories that might appear here, know of, or can find or actually are, members of this exclusive club, please make contact. I have forgotten some names, but never the faces and fun times. Though we have little in common between then and now – it was still wonderful. How are you all and where have you got to?
Edited by Psychic Linda Lauren