45 Years Ago: The Doors Banned from the Ed Sullivan Show
It was a clash of mainstream culture vs. the counterculture when the Doors were booked to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in September of 1967. Things did not go as smoothly as the producers may have hoped.
Fronted by charismatic-but-unpredictable singer Jim Morrison, the group had recently scored its first No. 1 hit with ‘Light My Fire,’ and the Sullivan show — which had made instant superstars of Elvis Presley and the Beatles — was a choice booking. The Doors’ performance on the night of Sept. 17, 1967 would live on in a very different way, resulting in the group being banned from the show in perpetuity.
According to the official Ed Sullivan web site, rehearsals for the show went well, and with 15 minutes to air time, Ed Sullivan himself came to see the band in their dressing room, telling them, “You boys look great, [but] you ought to smile a little more.” Shortly after that a producer from the show came by to inform the band that they needed to change the line “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better,” when performing ‘Light My Fire,’ ostensibly because the line might be construed as referring to drugs.
Band members have given varying accounts of whether they ever agreed to change the line or not, but there’s no denying what happened live on the air: after a strong, but unremarkable performance of ‘People Are Strange,’ the band launched into ‘Light My Fire,’ and as a grainy YouTube video shows, Jim Morrison sang the original lyric instead of making the suggested change. After the show, producers informed the Doors that they had hoped to book the band six more times, but had decided instead to ban the group from the show in the future - to which Morrison reportedly replied, “Hey, man, we just did the Sullivan show.”
The Doors would go on to other television appearances, and a career that encompassed hit albums like ‘Strange Days’ and ‘L.A. Woman,’ but they never played the Sullivan show again. Morrison’s increasing volatility and unreliability due to drinking and drugs slowly ate at the group, and the Doors performed their last concert together on Dec. 12, 1970. Jim Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27. Since no autopsy was conducted, no cause of death was ever officially determined.