You’d think it would have been a dream pairing—two legends, both lost to us young, turning up on stage together, and by sheer stroke of fate, it was recorded. Had those two legends been Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, or hell, even Jimi Hendrix and Mama Cass, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. But no, it was Jimi Hendrix and the drunken clod Jim Morrison. The result was eventually dubbed “Morrison’s Lament,” an apt title if by “lament” one means “drunken, formless discharge of inane profanities.”
The story of how it went down is hazy, accounts are contradictory, and some of the people who could clarify things are dead. What’s certain is that Jimi Hendrix jammed with some folks at the Scene Club in NYC in March of 1968, and a recording—likely made by Hendrix himself—of that night has been widely bootlegged, usually under the title Woke Up this Morning and Found Myself Dead. Some bootleg liners credit Morrison with vocals and harmonica, while online sources say Lester Chambers played harmonica. Some of the drumming is credited to future Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles, some to “Randy Z,” a nom de rock of the McCoys’ Randy Zehringer, who was accustomed to playing with sweet guitarists, as he’s the brother of Rick Derringer. Johnny Winter is credited as rhythm guitarist, which is not implausible, as Zehringer later served Winter as drummer on a couple of albums and the club was owned by Winter’s manager, but many sources hold that Winter not only denies having been present, he claims to never have even met Morrison. Some lore about the night holds that the second guitarist was Rick Derringer. What is certain is that Morrison was on the East Coast in advance of some Doors performances in New York later in the week, and drunkenly grabbed a mic and commenced howling. (You can hear Hendrix telling him to “use the recording mic” at about 0:30.)
The liner notes on a 1980 UK edition of the LP were written by Hendrix biographer Tony Brown (Jimi Hendrix: Concert Files, Jimi Hendrix: The Final Days), who offered no help as to who played, but DID shed some light on the provenance of the tapes.
This recording stems from 1968 in the Scene Club, owned incidentally by Steve Paul, Johnny Winter’s manager. Jimi was a frequent visitor here because he loved the atmosphere and also loved to jam and as he always had a tape machine on hand, that night was captured forever, giving an insight into Jimi’s blues side, which he always reverted to when playing without any commercial pressures.
The tapes of this jam became the property of Michael Cox, who was founder member of the Irish group Eire Apparent, a band Jimi managed and produced. Peter Shertser from Red Lightnin’ Records had been offered the tapes by Cox and as he liked what he heard, an agreement was made in December 1970. However, another record company famed for issuing country and western records had previously heard the tapes and had surreptitiously made a copy. The tapes soon hit the market as a bootleg under the name “Sky High,” action was taken and an injunction issued to the other record company, whereupon the album strangely disappeared from the market!
So with multiple accounts circulating, few of which line up with each other on the details, who the hell knows? It’s a trainspotter’s nightmare that even hardcore Jimi connoisseurs argue about. But when you get over that, some of the tracks kinda kick ass. Check out this Morrison-free version of “Red House” with the sweet “Crossroads” quote at the beginning.
There isn’t much else I can play for you, as a lot of this bootlegged material has been yanked from YouTube. According to Viva Les Bootlegs, Experience Hendrix now has these tapes. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll ever get an official release—really, if you were going to keep anything locked down tight, wouldn’t it be “FUCK HER IN THE ASS / POPULAR FAAAAAVORIIIITE / FUCK YEAH BABY?” But if you’re keen to have this, the boots are out there. In addition to Woke Up…, it’s around under the titles Red House and Live At the Scene Club: New York 1968. Caveat: some widely available recordings with “Scene Club” in the title are from a year earlier, and verifiably had the Experience playing on it. Accept no substitutes for your hammered Jim Morrison needs!
And speaking of hammered Jim Morrison…
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Before he was Jimi: Jimmy Hendrix with Curtis Knight and the Squires
Other voices: The Doors without Jim Morrison, 1972