Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York was built in 1923 to host the U.S. Open tennis tournament. In the 1960s, as America was being gripped by rock ‘n’ roll, the stadium turned to concerts to fill seats and coffers during fallow times for tennis. Forest Hills saw performances by a lot of the big name rock acts of the day. The Beatles played there in 1964, arriving by helicopter that landed on the grass courts, and Bob Dylan played a notorious show there in August 1965, so it was natural that The Doors would play there as well, on August 12, 1967. And naturally, it turned out that Forest Hills wasn’t the best venue for The Doors.
Just a couple of weeks before the Forest Hills show, “Light My Fire” had become the number one selling record in the U.S. With The Doors at the height of their musical prowess, riding the high a number one record will give a band, Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman lobbied Paul Simon to have The Doors open for Simon & Garfunkel. Simon assented after Holzman played a tape of The Doors telling Simon they were going to be the biggest group in America.
The Doors opening for Simon & Garfunkel? Maybe that should have been seen as an omen, or maybe somebody should have realized that the soft folk rock of Simon & Garfunkel and the harder edge of The Doors weren’t compatible. Things didn’t go well right from the start, as the crowd jeered The Doors and laughed at Morrison’s histrionics. Ray Manzarek later quipped, “I didn’t know whether I was playing Forest Hills or Forest Lawn Cemetery. We were in hell. That was one of the all-time lows.” Morrison later told people, “I hated them (referring to the audience). I wanted to kill them.”
Maybe it was Morrison’s aloof manner that put the audience off, but the Forest Hills crowd had a reputation for being contentious. When Bob Dylan played there the audience reportedly gave him a harder time than the audience at the Newport Jazz Festival when he went electric. Later a Forest Hills audience would boo Jimi Hendrix offstage.
After The Doors left the stage, Simon, who still believed in The Doors, went onstage and reprimanded the audience. Forest Hills was an outdoor venue, and the experience seeded the belief among The Doors that their sound was diluted by outdoor venues.
Note: The source for this article is “Break On Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison” by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky.
Originally published August 12, 2015.