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That Time Ray Manzarek Filled in for a Passed-Out Jim Morrison

Central Press, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jim Morrison made a career of nodding off at inopportune moments. He passed out when the rest of the Doors were expecting him in the studio. He passed out in the studio. He passed out before concerts and after concerts. And sometimes, like on Sept. 15, 1968, he passed out during concerts — onstage as the audience and his bandmates watched him collapse into an unwashed mound of rock-star excess.

The Doors were touring Europe in the summer of 1968 with Jefferson Airplane. On Sept. 15, they were scheduled to play the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Before the show, both bands strolled the streets, taking in the sights.

As things seem to go in Amsterdam, friendly fans started handing band members various forms of narcotics — joints, pills, hash. In the DVD documentary The Doors: Live in Europe 1968, the Airplane’s Grace Slick and Paul Kantner recall that while everyone else took maybe a hit of a joint and passed it on (or pocketed the stash for later), Morrison smoked and ingested everything handed to him that afternoon.


When it was time for the concert to start, Morrison was backstage, bleary-eyed and checking out Jefferson Airplane’s set. As the band launched into “Fantastic Plastic Lover,” Morrison walked onstage and began dancing to the music. It wasn’t long before the drugs, the dancing, everything, hit him, and he toppled over.

He was carried backstage and then hauled off to a local hospital. The remaining Doors were left with a dilemma: Do they cancel their concert, or do they go on without their singer? For three guys used to Morrison’s unreliability, it was an easy choice.

Following an announcement by the band’s road manager that Morrison wouldn’t be performing, drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek walked onstage and played their usual set, with Manzarek on vocals. And if you believe the recollections of people who were there, he sounded an awful lot like Morrison that night, but without the drugged-out mumbles and slurs. The next night the tour continued as planned, with Morrison center stage and relatively conscious.

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