Who Was the First Rock Star to Be Arrested Onstage?
Who was the first rock star to be arrested onstage?
It's not often that officials will storm a stage and arrest a musician in the middle of a performance, but it has happened. The Doors' legendary (and often controversial) frontman Jim Morrison was the very first rock star to be arrested onstage in the midst of a performance. The arrest took place on Dec. 9, 1967 during one of the band's performances in New Haven, Connecticut, and it wouldn't be the singer's final run-in with the law.
Robby Krieger, guitarist for The Doors, wrote about the evening in his memoir Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying and Playing Guitar With the Doors. In an excerpt [via Literary Hub], the rocker noted that Italian singer Carlo Albani was the very first musician to ever have been arrested onstage in Boston in 1908, which is documented in an issue of the New-York newspaper. However, Krieger noted that Albani was able to finish his performance before the arrest took place — Morrison was not.
Why Was Morrison Arrested in New Haven?
According to Krieger's explanation of the circumstances, Morrison was making out with a woman in a shower stall backstage, and the police didn't realize he was a performer when they found him backstage. They asked the couple to exit the area, and the singer mouthed off to them, so an officer sprayed him in the face with mace. Krieger heard him screaming from their dressing room, but said he seemed fine once he washed his eyes out.
Later in the night, as the band played the song "Back Door Man," Morrison ranted about "a little blue man, in a little blue hat, a little blue pig" that had maced him backstage, and warned the crowd that if it happened to him, it could happen to any of them. A group of officers then made their way toward the stage.
"Suddenly we were surrounded. A police lieutenant marched onto the stage and Jim offered him the microphone, 'Say your thing, man.' Even at that point I wasn’t really nervous. What were they going to do, arrest him? Onstage? In the middle of a show? For telling a completely true story?" Krieger wrote. "As it turned out, yes. The police grabbed Jim and the crowd went wild. Ray, John, and I stood there in shock."
Thus, he was the first rock star to be arrested onstage.
What Was Morrison Charged With?
The vocalist was taken to the New Haven Police Department and charged with indecent and immoral exhibition, breach of peace and resisting an officer, according to an issue of The Day. CT Insider notes that the charges were dropped, though he had to pay a fine for disturbing the peace.
"A few weeks later the entire incident was detailed in a feature story in Life magazine, with beautiful play-by-play photography," Krieger recalled. "We were thrilled with the article and the photos. Jim came across as a righteous rebel and the police came across as uptight buffoons. And you didn’t have to be a defiant teenager to see it that way: even my parents were on our side when they read the story."