Why did Led Zeppelin describe Jim Morrison as “sickening”?

Led Zeppelin

As two of the world’s most successful rock bands, Led Zeppelin and The Doors were bound to clash. During their respective eras, they fostered a cross-Atlantic version of The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones rivalry. The musical landscape of the time pitted the perceived gentleness of Led Zeppelin against the American grit of The Doors. Perhaps feeling threatened, Led Zeppelin attempted to attend one of The Doors’ live concerts. However, upon seeing this supposedly legendary band, Jim Morrison’s treatment of his fans astounded them. They described the frontman as an “embarrassment” in a later interview.

Led Zeppelin and The Doors never toured together, but they did perform at the Seattle Pop Festival in July 1969. At that time, Zeppelin was working on their second album, and The Doors had just released their fourth, The Soft Parade. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones decided to see what all the fuss was about. They made their way to the crowd of fans swirling around the stage. “We got a lot of advance publicity in England about how sexy Jim Morrison was,” Page said, recalling the concert in 1970. His static stance on stage defied their anticipation of a dynamic performance from the raven-haired charmer.

Morrison’s songwriting and vocals may have impressed Page, but his live performance left him cold. “He [didn’t] come across in any way that I’d like to see,” Page added, disappointed by Morrison’s hostility against his followers. “Being dressed in black leather… standing there like my father would on stage doesn’t come across for me,” Page continued”. As far as I can tell, the Morrison situation is simply an embarrassment to the audience. “He would insult and swear at them.”

Robert Plant was much more horrified by Morrison’s actions. Robert Plant was a man who would famously pour himself one glass of white wine at a party and make it last all night. He couldn’t make head or tail of the chaotic energy. This energy exuded from Morrison during that Seattle concert. “It seemed like [Morrison] was screwed up,” he later said, recalling how “Morrison went on stage and said ‘Fuck you all,’ which didn’t do anything except make a few girls scream. Then he dangled from the side of the stage, almost falling into the audience. “He performed all those things that were probably sexy at first, but as he got larger, dirtier, and more screwed up, they became odd,” Plant added. “So it was sickening to watch“.

Led Zeppelin’s critique of The Doors’ frontman suggests a significant contrast in how both bands approached their profession. Morrison’s behavior suggests hatred for his audience; Led Zeppelin created the impression of caring and respecting their followers. “We’re over here to have a good time,” Plant stated of Led Zeppelin’s 1970 American tour. “People pay money to have a good time as well.”

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