Posts Tagged ‘Ray Manzarek’

Doors fans will have a belated opportunity to revisit one of the later chapters in the band’s history with singer Jim Morrison in early 2018, with the release of an audio and video package capturing the group’s performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

Scheduled for a February. 23rd release , the sensibly titled The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 will be available on CD/DVD, CD/Blu-ray or digital format, and offers “completely recut and remixed” footage from what turned out to be the band’s final filmed show with Morrison. Held on August. 30th, 1970, in the midst of Morrison’s obscenity trial, it found the Doors falling back on the music that brought them together at a time when outside factors were on the verge of tearing them apart.

“Our set was subdued but very intense,” recalled organist Ray Manzarek. “We played with a controlled fury and Jim was in fine vocal form. He sang for all he was worth, but moved nary a muscle. Dionysus had been shackled.”

In addition to a new 5.1 Dolby mix supervised by longtime Doors associate Bruce Botnick, The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 boasts a new 17-minute documentary, titled This Is the End,

This is the last known unseen performance of The Doors in existence. The show has been completely remixed and recut and restored using the latest technology, from grain-reduction to color-correction techniques from the original footage. The DVD includes a bonus featurette “This Is The End” 17 minutes of interviews conducted by the film’s original director, Academy Award-winning Murray Lerner with Krieger, Densmore, and original Doors manager Bill Siddons. Additional archival interview footage with Manzarek from 2002 is also included in the featurette.

On the inside of the original gatefold is the following statement: “This album was compiled from live performances recorded in cities throughout the United States between August 1969 and June 1970. Aside from the editing necessary to assemble the music into album form, the recording is an organic documentary and absolutely live!”

However according to Paul Rothchild, the band’s long time producer, the album had to be virtually stitched together from numerous performances, simply because he couldn’t get complete takes of any of the songs, and therefore had to do a lot of splicing and editing to create a necessary master. Yet when the surviving band members eventually began opening the vaults, releasing these shows in far more complete form, they would prove to utterly contradict Rothchild’s claim that “There must have been 2000 edits on that album”. In fact it turns out that not only was each performance left relatively intact, but that the majority of songs selected were recorded over two nights at The Felt Forum, in January 1970.

We begin with the emcee imploring the crowd, who are chanting “we want The Doors”, to “sit down and go back to your seats”, lest the local fire authorities decide to cancel the show. It’s a terrific way to draw the listener in, creating a sense of actually being in the audience, capturing that sense of excitement and anticipation which must have been rippling through those in attendance.

Instead of “Roadhouse Blues” or some other popular number, they choose to open the set with a powerful and particularly psychedelic cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”, thanks mainly to Robby Krieger’s hallucinatory slide guitar and Manzarek’s acid-Baroque keyboards. Next is a tune that I’m sure was close to Jim Morrison’s heart, “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)”, before seamlessly segueing into a raw and dirty “Back Door Man”, during which Morrison slips in a few verses of “Love Hides”, a song the band never recorded much less attempted to complete based on what we have here. The medley concludes with an urgent, almost primordial reading of “Five to One”, a call to arms if there ever was, although something tells me that by 1970 Jim had become weary of the whole ‘rock prophet’ phenomenon.

The bluesy “Build Me A Woman” portends the sort of style of song writing the band would go on to explore further with L.A. Woman, the band’s final LP with Morrison. Now if you need to go to the toilet, I recommend that the listener do so immediately before the epic, majestically dark and twisted “When the Music’s Over” kicks off. Through headphones one can discern the odd subtle edit here and there, no doubt due to the limits of vinyl. Well, either that or Rothchild made an executive decision in cutting out a minute or two of music he felt was superfluous to a piece that already runs for nearly fifteen minutes.

The band perform a rather perfunctory rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Close to You”, with Ray Manzarek on lead vocals (for better or worse), followed by “Universal Mind”, a sort of pop-jazz number, on which Morrison expresses the lyrics in seemingly half-interested fashion. Jim manages to offend half the Catholic diocese with his introduction to “Break On Through (to the Other Side)”, and while the band are playing at full tilt, apart from the poetry and theatrics, I somehow get the feeling Jim just wasn’t into it anywhere near as much as he was a couple years earlier. Still, it remains an exciting example of rock at its atavistic best.

Whether the listener can sit through the entirety of “Celebration of the Lizard” obviously depends on the extent of one’s devotion to all things Doors, not to mention level of tolerance, because at more than fourteen minutes in length, you’re going to need a lot of it (either that or a lot of drugs). A studio version was attempted though discarded during the making of Waiting For The Sun, and probably for good reason. Most of it is little more than poetry as performance art, and the sort of ‘poetry-meets-music’ experimentation that would ultimately inspire Patti Smith, another rebel poet of rock. Manzarek himself put it rather pointedly in his autobiography: “(Jim) loved his confrontational theatre. And then the idea struck him. He was going to confront his audiences with these cries for freedom.”

Morrison’s vocals are a touch shaky (disinterested?) on “Soul Kitchen”, the album’s final song, although no less engaging for it. Obviously the scotch and ciggies had by then begun to take their toll, or maybe it was a symptom of Jim’s very soul, or overall state of mind.

Apart from the odd dodgy bootleg, until the 1990’s live albums by the Doors were something of a rarity. There was The Hollywood Bowl (all fifteen minutes of it), and the excellent Alive She Cried, released in 1983, but that was about it – meaning that Absolutely Live was for many years the most authoritative document of what it was like to be at one of their concerts, and about the closest someone of my generation was ever going to get.

Released in 1983 on Elektra/Asylum Records Produced by Paul Rothchild
Recorded 1968-1969-1970, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Boston and Copenhagen.

Now one of the first things that impressed me about this record was how clean and modern it sounded, because music recorded in 1960’s/early ‘70s had never sounded so good. Initially I put this down to mastering. It wasn’t until many years later I learnt that the band had re-recorded their instruments on several songs, in order to give them a clearer and crisper edge. Mind you, the LP was released in 1983, a time when sanitised production was the norm, and where every instrument was practically dripping with disinfectant. Not so this album, despite the overdubs.

Opening with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria”, a song the band had been performing since their days at the Whiskey A Go Go, before they were famous. This recording was captured at a rehearsal made in July 1969 at the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, Its an absolute revelation. Here we have Jim Morrison at some of his sensual best, hamming it up mid-stream with a sleazy intensity. “Light My Fire” is a composite of different performances preserved over several nights, not that anyone would notice, thanks to the masterful editing of Paul A. Rothchild, who was obviously wanting to create an ‘ultimate’ experience for the listener, even inserting Morrison’s “Graveyard Poem”, a performance which had nothing to do with the tune at all.

Side one ends with an exciting as well as vigorous “You Make Me Real”, again from the Aquarius Theatre, only with new guitar overdubs by Robby Krieger.

Turn the record over and we have a rare rendition of “Texas Radio and the Big Beat”, along with “Love Me Two Times”, both of which originate from a T.V. show the band performed for in Copenhagen Denmark in late 1968. Apparently it was the discovery of these tapes in a Los Angeles warehouse that prompted the group to initiate a search to see if there might be other live tapes in existence which had gone missing during the Seventies, hence the release of this LP, on which can also be heard a particularly convincing rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster”, replete with John Sebastian (who had to re-record his harmonica due to a faulty microphone) and some great slide guitar by Krieger. “Moonlight Drive” is another notable highlight (even if the band did record a new instrumental track), where Morrison’s recitation of “Horse Latitudes” is especially haunting.

Alive She Cried was no doubt a quality release, even if the title was in itself a tad misleading and not quite genuine. Krieger himself admitted at the time that they had made a few “improvements”, as he put them, to the original, tapes and corrected the odd minor mistake as required. Yet if the listener is prepared to overlook such musical misdemeanours, Alive was in its day an important and vital reminder of The Doors potency as a living entity in a world that was becoming increasingly synthetic. The Doors who were kicking into the establishment, challenging the status quo, and who would prove to make a far more profound and everlasting impact. Not to mention the romantic allure of the band’s mysterious front man, Jim Morrison, who seems just as much alive in death as he was when he walked the earth.

“Alive She Cried” was the first official live release since 1970’s “Absolutely Live”. With the 1980 release of the Morrison bio “No One Here Get’s Out Alive” along with a new “Greatest Hits”, the fans were hungry for new material. This was it. Although this is all live material, each song was heavily edited by Paul Rothchild, with new overdubs added to some of the songs. The source material comes from the Aquarius Theater, Felt Forum, Detroit and Boston shows. Fans would later get to hear the original source material when Bright Midnight Records (and later Bright Midnight Archives) released all of the original concerts unedited. They would also discover that although the version of “Little Red Rooster” on ‘Alive She Cried’ was credited to being from the Detroit show, it was actually from one of the New York Felt Forum shows.

Rhino

Earlier this year, the self-titled 1967 debut album by The Doors arrived in a 50th anniversary box set presenting the original album on CD in both mono and stereo plus the mono version on vinyl.  Much as The Doors followed that debut months later with Strange Days, Rhino is following up the reissue of The Doors with a 50th anniversary presentation of that sophomore album, due on November 17th.  Strange Days: 50th Anniversary Edition will be released in two configurations: a 2-CD set with the mono and stereo versions of the album, each on its own CD; and a 1-LP vinyl reissue of the original mono album only.  Digital streaming and download versions will also be released.

Strange Days, originally issued on Elektra in September 1967, reached No. 3 on the American  chart, and yielded two hit singles with “People Are Strange”  and “Love Me Two Times” . Strange Days arrived in stores a little more than eight months after the Doors’ self-titled debut in January 1967, and was a more experimental record – due in part to a bigger budget allotted to the band for its second record.
Recorded like The Doors debut album at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound, the LP was the band’s first to be recorded on eight tracks, allowing for a more expansive and experimental sound than its predecessor.  Its songs were a mix of both current tunes and older ones tested onstage; the band performed “Strange Days” during its 1966 residency at the London Fog in L.A., and “My Eyes Have Seen You” dates back to 1965.  “Moonlight Drive” was a similarly early composition, and one of the first songs Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore ever rehearsed together.

The Strange Days: 50th Anniversary Edition has been produced by the album’s original engineer Bruce Botnick and restores the original stereo mix to CD for the first time in over a decade, fully remastering it for the first time in 30 years.   The second disc features the album’s original mono mix, which has been remastered for this set and is making its CD debut. No additional audio material has been included.  Liner notes have been provided by David Fricke, and his notes are accompanied in the booklet by rare and previously unseen photographs.

Strange Days: 50th Anniversary Edition will be available from Rhino Records on November 17th

<em>Strange Days</em> (1967)

On the 21st August in 1967: The Doors began recording their second album, ‘Strange Days’, at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, California; its commercial success was middling, along with a series of under performing singles the album contains some of the group’s most psychedelic songs – “Strange Days,” “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times” and “When the Music’s Over” are now all considered classics within The Doors‘ canon; the chorus from single “People Are Strange” inspired the name of the 2010 Doors documentary, ‘When You’re Strange’…

The Doors started their career with an overabundance of riches. Strange Days followed their self-titled debut later in 1967, and was made up of a bunch of stuff that hadn’t made it onto its predecessor. While “Love Me Two Times” and “People Are Strange” are two of the lesser tracks you’d find on any Doors compilation.

Strange Days is packed with album cuts that are stunning. This is where they committed to a more psychedelic sound in a more thorough and sustained way than at any other point. Tracks like “Strange Days,” “Unhappy Girl,” and “Moonlight Drive” are lush, but that lushness — like the synthesizers in the title track or Krieger’s slide work on “Moonlight Drive” is ever so off-kilter, a little sea-sick. It sounds like some kind of underwater nightclub. But even as Strange Days is loaded with great textures, it’s also a punchy and efficient album; aside from the titan closer “When The Music’s Over,” no song on the album reached the three and a half minute mark. Overall, it’s also their least bluesy album (though it may be equal with Waiting For The Sun in that regard).

The Doors perfect their brand of psychedelic pop, a brand that has their trademark muscularity but trades in relentless hooks rather than the blues sprawl of some of their later work. That’s the case for “Moonlight Drive,” but also for a hidden gem like “My Eyes Have Seen You,” where Morrison delivers the infectious chorus in that awesomely ragged yell he could just leap right into. The Doors came out swinging with the self-titled and Strange Days back to back, and while this wound up being a semi-outlier in their catalogue, it deserves its reputation as one of the finest documents of ’60s rock.

Light My Fire

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Doors releasing their iconic single, “Light My Fire,” which put them on the map in a big, big way. Like, we’re talking seriously big. We’re talking about a level of awareness that ultimately involved the song being covered by people like Johnny Mathis and Boots Randolph. That’s right: the guy who played “Yakety Sax,” a.k.a. the theme to The Benny Hill Show, covered “Light My Fire.” While that would be plenty enough proof for most people as to how big a deal the song and, in turn, the band had become,It was recorded in August 1966 and then released in January 1967 on their self titled debut album . Released as an edited single on April 24th, 1967. A live version was released in 1983 on their album Alive She Cried, the first of several live albums released in subsequent decades to include the song. “Light My Fire” . Ray Manzarek played the song’s bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, while performing the other keyboard parts on a Vox Continental using his right hand. For the recording session, producer Paul A. Rothchild brought in session musician Larry Knechtel to play a Fender Bass guitar to double the keyboard bass line.

“The jam in the middle was too much for the radio edit, but each solo’s a note-for-note classic Ray Manzarek’s fierce and melodic organ improvisation, followed by Robby Krieger’s smoking, macho-in-his-own-mind fretwork, build the song to a back-clawing climax before Morrison waltzes in for the close.”on “Light My Fire”,

This became The Doors‘ signature song. Released on their first album, it was a huge hit and launched them to stardom. Before this was released, The Doors were an underground band popular in the Los Angeles area, but this got the attention of a mass audience. Most of the lyrics were written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. He wanted to write about one of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. Jim Morrison wrote some of the second verse, and Ray Manzarek came up with the organ intro.

 “Light My Fire” was performed live by the Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast on September 17th, 1967. The Doors were asked by producer Bob Precht, Sullivan’s son-in-law, to change the line “girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, as the sponsors were uncomfortable with the possible reference to drugs. The band agreed to do so, and did a rehearsal using the amended lyrics, “girl, we couldn’t get much better”; however, during the live performance, the band’s lead singer Jim Morrison sang the original, unaltered lyrics. Ed Sullivan did not shake Jim Morrison’s hand as he left the stage. The band had been negotiating a multi-episode deal with the producers; however, after violating the agreement not to perform the offending line, they were informed they would never do the Sullivan show again. Morrison’s response was “We just ‘did’ Sullivan.”

The Doors 1967 self-titled debut would soon make the band immortal, thanks to songs like “Break on Through (to the Other Side),” “The End” and the immortal “Light My Fire.”

With the new ‘London Fog 1966’ box set out, Robby Krieger and John Densmore look back at their debut release.

Fresh from their gig as the house band at the Sunset Strip’s Whisky a Go Go – where they were fired for performing a profanity-laced riff on Oedipus Rex during “The End” – poet/vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore spent a week at Sunset Sound Recorders documenting the act that had vaulted them to the top of the Los Angeles scene in less than a year. “The first album is basically the Doors live,” Manzarek says in the documentary Classic Albums: The Doors. “There are very few overdubs. It’s ‘The Doors: Live from the Whisky a Go Go’ … except in a recording studio.”

The Doors captured for eternity the raw, vital, hypnotic excitement of four fearless artists. In honor of the album’s 50th anniversary, here are 10 little-known facts about the record’s conception and reception.

“Light My Fire” was the first song Robby Krieger ever wrote.

The Doors‘ guitarist may have had the greatest beginner’s luck in rock history. Having never completed a song, the 20-year-old composed “Light My Fire,” the Number One smash that continues to evoke the Summer of Love’s sensual heat.
“That was the first one I wrote, because up until then Jim had been writing the songs,” he told Reverb Magazine in 2016. “But we realized we didn’t have enough originals, so Jim said, ‘Why don’t you write some? Why do I have to do all the work!?’ So I said, ‘OK, what should I write about?’ And he goes, ‘Write about something universal. Write about something that will last, not just about today.’ So I decided I’d write about [either] earth, air, fire or water.” Citing “Play With Fire” as one of his favorite Rolling Stones songs, he settled on fire.
Krieger labored over the song for several days, determined to conjure up something more than a standard rock progression. “Up until then the Doors were doing three-chord type songs that were pretty simple, like ‘I Looked at You’ or ‘End of the Night.'” he told Clash Music. “I wanted to write something more adventurous. I decided I was going to put every chord I knew into this song – and I did! There’s about 14 different chords in there.” For a melody, he looked to “Hey Joe,” then a recent hit for Los Angeles band the Leaves.
With a verse and chorus under his belt, he brought the work-in-progress before his bandmates. The song had a folk-rock flair in this early state, leading some in the group to derisively compare it to a Sonny and Cher number. But Morrison saw its potential and offered to contribute some extra lyrics. “Jim came up with the second verse about the funeral pyre,” Kreiger remembered in Classic Albums. “I said, ‘Jim, why is it always about death? Why do you always have to do that?’ And he said, ‘No man, it’ll be perfect. You’ll have the love part of it and then you’ll have that death part of it.’ And he was right.”
Manzarek added the cartwheeling Bach-like introduction and bass line (borrowed from Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”) while Densmore lent the Latin rhythm. When it was released the following year, the song would be jointly credited to the Doors.

The Doors [Explicit]
Before recording their debut, the Doors provided backing music to a Ford Motor Company training film.

In the early spring of 1966, the Doors‘ were dropped from a preliminary Columbia Records contract with little warning – and little to show for it. Lacking representation and struggling financially, the band took an unglamorous gig at Parthenon Pictures providing incidental music for a Ford Motor Company customer service training film titled Love Thy Customer.

The Doors piled into a cramped screening room at Los Angeles’ Rampart Studios, where they viewed the 25-minute clip on a small monitor. They composed a soundtrack largely on the spot, jamming live as the scenes flickered past. Fragments of what later became “I Looked at You,” “Build Me a Woman,” and “The Soft Parade” can be heard in the finished product. Though they played only instrumental passages, Morrison is said to have contributed percussion and additional sound effects. The day of work earned them $200.

Believed to be lost for decades, Love Thy Customer was discovered in the UCLA film vaults in 2002 and released on the 2014 Doors rarities DVD R-Evolution. However, the original soundtrack session tapes have yet to be located.

“Break on Through (to the Other Side)” owes a large debt to a Paul Butterfield Blues Band song, and Ray Charles’ song “What’d I Say.”

“If it hadn’t been for Butterfield going electric, I probably wouldn’t have gone into rock & roll,” Robby Krieger recently admitted on his website. The Doors guitarist spent his early years emulating flamenco masters like Mario Escudero, Carlos Montoya, and Sabicas before moving into the blues. From there he discovered the raw Chicago sound of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, bolstered by the searing twin guitars of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. Their work would have a marked influence on his playing style, particularly on the track “Break on Through (to the Other Side).”
When the Doors began arranging the Morrison composition, Krieger found a familiar line falling out of his guitar. “I got the idea for the riff from the Paul Butterfield song ‘Shake Your Money-Maker,’ which was one of my favorites,” he says in Classic Albums. “We just changed the beat around.” The Butterfield version of the song – first recorded by Elmore James in 1961 – was a track off their self-titled 1965 debut, produced by future Doors collaborator Paul Rothchild.
In the same documentary Manzarek also demonstrates how he lifted the keyboard bass line from Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” as well as elements of his organ solo. “We’d steal from anybody!”
The first two songs they recorded were shelved, but alternate versions surfaced on future Doors albums.

“Moonlight Drive” is the quintessential Doors song: bluesy, nocturnal and dripping with doomed romanticism. The bewitching combination provided the spark that led to the band’s creation in July 1965, when Morrison and Manzarek, former classmates at UCLA’s film school, bumped into each other on the sands of Venice Beach.
The friends hadn’t seen each other since graduating that spring, and it was a welcome reunion. “I said, ‘Well, what have you been up to?'” Manzarek told NPR’s Fresh Air in 1998. “And he said, ‘Well, I’ve been living up on Dennis Jacobs’ rooftop, consuming a bit of LSD and writing songs.'” After some convincing, he persuaded the then shy Morrison to sing him one.
“He sat down on the beach, dug his hands into the sand, and the sand started streaming out in little rivulets. He kind of closed his eyes, and began to sing in a Chet Baker, haunted whisper kind of voice. He began to sing ‘Moonlight Drive,‘ and when I heard that first stanza ‘Let’s swim to the moon, let’s climb through the tide, penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide’  I thought ‘Ooh, spooky and cool, man.'” At that moment, together they decided to start a rock band.
The song featured prominently in the nascent Doors’ early sets, and was even included on a demo recorded that September at Trans World Pacific Studios. Krieger had yet to join the band Manzarek’s brothers Jim and Rick handled guitar and harmonica parts. When the four Doors finally members came together, rehearsing at a friend’s garage behind a Santa Monica bus depot, “Moonlight Drive” was the first number they played.
“I knew instantly we had found ‘it,’ that indefinable, transcendent something that Kerouac refers to,” Manzarek told Gibson.com in 2011. “We all looked at each other and went, ‘Man, what have we just done? Oh, my. Are we allowed to do that on this planet?’ That was it. ‘Moonlight Drive.’ At that point, everybody knew. We all just sort of nodded our heads and that was it. That was the birth of the Doors. Right there.”
When the band convened in Sunset Sound studios to record the The Doors in August 1966, “Moonlight Drive” seemed like an appropriate starting point. “When we went to record the first album, the first one we did was ‘Moonlight Drive,'” Krieger told People in 2016. But inhibited by the unfamiliar studio setting, they were unable to recapture the magic of their first rehearsal. “It just sounded too mysterious and kind of dark. So we rearranged it for the second album [1967’s Strange Days] and made it a little more wild.” The original version, which Krieger dubs “the very first recording we ever did as the Doors,” was shelved and lost for a time, before surfacing on a box set in 1997.

The second song they worked on that day, “Indian Summer,” also failed to make the cut. “It wasn’t that we thought they weren’t good enough for the first album, but we had to pick and choose,” says Krieger. “A lot of good ones didn’t make it.” A re-recorded version would be included on 1970’s Morrison Hotel.

After recording “The End,” Jim Morrison returned to the studio on LSD and hosed the band’s equipment with a fire extinguisher.

“The End” was the Doors’ showstopper, an extended tour de force that blurred the lines between music and theater. The piece was especially exhausting for Morrison, who delivered a lengthy mid-song poem inspired by the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. Performing “The End” before a live audience was enough of a challenge, but summoning the energy in a sterile recording studio took considerable effort on the part of the band, producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick.

“The lights had been dimmed and the candles were burning right next to Jim, whose back was to the control room,” Rothchild remembers in Stephen Davis’ Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend. “The only other illumination came from the lights on the VU meters. The studio was very dark.” To further set the mood, Morrison apparently took a tab of LSD.

At first the hallucinogen had an overall positive effect on the performance, but during the playback it became apparent that Morrison was, by Krieger’s estimation, “too high to continue the session.” Three of the Doors decided to continue work the following day. Morrison had a different idea.

“He trashed the studio after we did ‘The End,'” Krieger told author Mick Houghton. “Jim was on a lot of acid, and when we finished recording, he didn’t want to go home. The rest of us left, but he snuck back into the studio and got pissed off that there was no one else around, so he sprayed the place down with a foaming fire extinguisher.”

Botnick elaborates on the episode in Mick Wall’s Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre. “[Jim had] gone across the street to the Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic Church, and he had an epiphany over there. He came back to the studio and the gate was locked. He climbed over the gate, got in, but he couldn’t get into the control room. That was locked. But the studio was open and the red lights were on.” The red-hued work lights seemingly registered as a fire in Morrison’s psychedelicized brain. “He thought it was on fire, so he grabbed a fire extinguisher and knocked over the ashtrays that were full of sand and tried to put out the fire.”

Manzarek recalled the story slightly differently. In his memoir, Light My Fire, he claims that Morrison began ranting about a fire while being driven home from the studio by his girlfriend, Pamela Courson. He was so persistent that Courson reluctantly returned to the studio, and Morrison immediately bounded over the fence. “He took the fire extinguisher and hosed the whole place down,” Manzarek told Houghton. “Not in the control room, thank God, just in the area where the band was … just blasted the whole place man, just to cool it down.” Much of the band’s equipment was ruined, including a full sized harpsichord.

The following day, a single boot, belonging to Morrison, was found among the destruction. “The studio people just absolutely freaked,” says Manzarek. “Paul [Rothchild] said, ‘Uh, don’t worry, don’t worry, Elektra will pay for it. No reason to call the police.’ He knew right away who did it, you know. We all knew right away what had happened.” The only one who claimed ignorance was, predictably, Morrison himself. “I did that? Come on, really?” Densmore recalls him saying over breakfast the next day.

Elektra head Jac Holzman immediately cut a very large check to studio owner Tutti Camarata. “I rushed over and said, ‘I agree, it’s out of control. I’ll pay for the damages,” he told Mojo. The incident was smoothed over, but Krieger felt the moment marked a turning point in Morrison’s psyche. “I thought Jim [felt], ‘Well, I got away with that, I can get away with anything.”

The Doors used a secret bass player in the studio – Wrecking Crew session legend and future Bread member Larry Knetchel.

Instead of a bassist, the Doors famously relied on Ray Manzarek’s left hand to hold down the low end with a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass keyboard. The role originally fell to him out of necessity when the band first began to coalesce. “We auditioned quite a few bass players,” he recalled in the Classic Albums documentary. “We auditioned one bass player and we sounded like the Rolling Stones. Then we auditioned another bass player and we sounded like the Animals.” Unwilling to come across as imitators – or, worse yet, traditional – the Doors simply did without. “Adding a bass made us sound like every other rock & roll band,” Densmore wrote in his memoir, Riders on the Storm. “We were determined to do almost anything to sound different.”

The absence of a bassist became a crucial element of the Doors live sound, but Rothchild felt that the recordings needed a stronger bass attack than the occasionally “mushy” Rhodes could provide. He quietly hired Larry Knechtel, of the ubiquitous gang of Los Angeles session players known as the Wrecking Crew, to thicken the sound. Knechtel had already appeared on hits by the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and the Byrds by the time he was booked to overdub bass lines on six of the record’s 11 tracks, including “Light My Fire” and the swaggering “Soul Kitchen.”

Knechtel’s work on The Doors went uncredited at the time, and it was years before the extent of his contributions were known. Some criticized the band for seemingly airbrushing the player out of the Doors‘ story, but Densmore clarifed the decision in a 2015 Facebook post. “Larry Knechtel wasn’t credited because he duplicated Ray’s left hand bass lines exactly. He didn’t record with us on the tracks, he overdubbed later. This was a time before Moog synthesizers, and Rothchild felt (correctly) that Ray’s lines needed more sonic punch from a string plucked in addition to a keyboard.”

Knechtel would not play on any future Doors sessions, but he did reportedly record bass on Jose Feliciano’s flamenco version of “Light My Fire,” which became a Number Three hit in the United States in 1968.

To promote the album, Elektra Records purchased the first “rock billboard” in history.
Sessions for The Doors were complete by the end of the summer, but Holzman decided to hold the album’s release until the following January to avoid the crush of albums earmarked for the Christmas market. If the band were disappointed by the delay, they were soothed by Holzman’s ingenious promotional scheme: a massive billboard looming over the Sunset Strip. The medium had traditionally been used to push films, food, cigarettes and a host of other products, and this was the first time a rock band would appear on one.

“BREAK ON THROUGH WITH AN ELECTRIFYING NEW ALBUM,” proclaimed the ad, complete with Joel Brodsky’s arresting image of the group that graced the sleeve’s back cover. Located next to the Chateau Marmont, a short distance from the club scene where the Doors cut their teeth just a year earlier, the prime location cost a whopping $1,200 a month. The venture was, according to Holzman, “a calling card for the artist, but it was a very large calling card.” He believed the ad would catch the attention of Los Angeles DJs on their way to work and piqué their interest. He was right, giving birth to a whole new field of artist promotion. Rock billboards would soon dot the Strip and beyond.

According to Densmore, the extravagance earned the band some good-natured ribbing. “Radio broadcaster Bill Erwin had interviewed us at the new billboard, and was teasing us about the ad,” he writes in Riders on the Storm. “‘This is kind of a strange way of using a billboard, guys. I mean, you really can’t hear a billboard. And nobody’s heard of the Doors yet.'”

Jim Morrison falsely claimed that his parents were dead in the press bio that accompanied the album.

The infamous “Father, I want to kill you,” passage from “The End” was inspired by Oedipus, but the theme had a personal resonance for Morrison. His complex relationship with authoritarian parents precipitated the inner turmoil that characterized his adult life, inspiring both his finest music and his madness.

On the rare occasions that Morrison spoke of his childhood, he described it as “an open sore” – painful and best kept under wraps. His father, George Stephen Morrison, was a high-ranking career naval officer. It was he who gave Morrison the middle name “Douglas” after General Douglas MacArthur, in hopes that his son would follow in his footsteps. On that score, he would be severely disappointed.

The family moved often, and Morrison’s father was frequently absent on tours of duty. When he was home, he had little patience for youthful disobedience. Though Morrison’s younger brother Andy tells author Jerry Hopkins that he, Jim and sister Anne rarely received physical discipline, he says they were routinely subjected to the military punishment known as “dressing down,” wherein the culprit would be berated into submissive tears.

Ultimately promoted to Rear Admiral, Morrison’s father was something of a military Zelig. In 1941 he witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Two decades later, aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard aircraft carrier, he commanded American naval forces during the Gulf of Tonkin incident, a military clash that led to a dramatic escalation of the war in Vietnam. He was a familiar face around Cape Canaveral, the Pentagon and the Naval Golf Course.

After learning of his son’s desire to become a rock singer, the elder Morrison wrote a letter urging him “to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.” Morrison effectively severed all contact with his father thereafter, and they never saw one another again. “His reluctance to communicate with me again is to me quite understandable,” Admiral Morrison admitted privately in 1970.

When Elektra approached the Doors to pen press bios for their debut album, Jim took the opportunity to edit his own history. Asked to name his parents and siblings, he simply wrote, “Deceased.” For a time, even his close friends believed him to be an orphan.

Morrison’s split from him family was total; they didn’t even realize he was in a band. His brother Andy only found out when a classmate showed him the Doors album cover and pointed out his resemblance to the lead singer. “A friend of mine brought me the album,” he told Hopkins. “I’d been listening to ‘Light My Fire’ for months and didn’t know. That’s how we found out. We hadn’t seen Jim or heard from him in two years. I played the album for my parents the day I got it, the day after my friend told me about it. Dad knows music. He plays piano and clarinet. Dad likes strong melody. He hates electric guitars. He likes the old ballads. He doesn’t like rock. He listened to the album and afterwards he didn’t say a thing. Not a thing.”

Morrison’s mother Clara made attempts to contact him through Elektra Records, but the newly minted rock star kept her at arms length. He barred her from visiting him backstage during a gig in Washington, D.C., but did give her a front row seat for the concert. Those in attendance later said that the Oedipal section in “The End” packed an extra strong punch that night.

Throughout the band’s travels, Morrison managed to keep in touch with Andy, who was just 19 in 1967. “I told him that mom felt really bad when he refused to see her. He told me if he called once, they’d expect calls every month or so. He said, ‘Either you break it, or you’re part of the family – there’s no halfway point. Either you talk all the time, or not at all.'” Morrison chose not at all.

Admiral Morrison declined to speak publicly about his son until the end of his life. “We look back on him with great delight,” he said in Tom DiCillo’s documentary When You’re Strange, taped just before his death in 2008. “I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career. He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.”

Densmore proposed another reason in his memoir. “Personally, I think the opposite is true, that Jim did it to proclaim independence and cut the umbilical cord once and for all.”

The word “high” caused several headaches for the band.

The Doors’ September 17th, 1967, appearance on the The Ed Sullivan Show infamously resulted in a lifetime ban after Morrison disobeyed the CBS Standards and Practices department and sang the original lyric to “Light My Fire” – “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” – instead of their decidedly lackluster suggestion/demand: “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.” Producers and network executives were infuriated, and a stone-faced Sullivan denied Morrison the traditional post-performance handshake, instead cutting straight to a commercial for Purina Dog Chow.

The band was unbothered by the incident. “They said, ‘You’ll never do this show again!'” recalled Densmore in the Classic Albums documentary. “And we said, ‘Well, we just did it. We only wanted to do it once. Cheers!'”

An earlier attempt at censorship had been more successful. “Break on Through (to the Other Side),” the opening track on The Doors, seemed like an obvious choice for the band’s first single. But Rothchild was concerned that the song’s “She get high” refrain would limit its airplay potential. “He said, ‘You know, we’re not going to be able to get this played, so we really should cut that out,'” Densmore told Forbes in 2015. “We reluctantly agreed.” The offending line was edited down to a repeated “She get!” followed by Morrison’s guttural wail.

Though lyrically meaningless, the abrupt passage became a familiar part of the song. When Botnick restored the missing “high” as part of the 1999 remaster of The Doors, some rock purists were outraged.

The Doors minus Morrison agreed to license “Light My Fire” for a Buick ad. When Morrison found out, he threatened to smash a Buick during every Doors concert.
After the band’s 1968 European tour concluded in Sweden on September 20th, Morrison decided to stay in London with girlfriend Pamela Courson and work on his poetry under the encouraging guidance of writer Michael McClure. It seemed like a great plan, except for the fact that his bandmates knew next to nothing about it. This proved problematic when representatives from Buick contacted the Doors, offering them $75,000 to license “Light My Fire” for an ad campaign featuring the memorable slogan, “Come on Buick, light my fire!”

“I thought it was an interesting idea,” Manzarek later told Patricia Butler and Jerry Hopkins in their book Angels Dance and Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison. “The car they wanted to use it for was the Opel, a small little ecologically correct car, a little four-cylinder, two-seater automobile they worked on with the German Opel company. It wasn’t obviously a big Buick or anything like that.” (Some reports claim the vehicle in question was the less-than-eco-friendly Gran Sports GS455.)

The Doors had always vowed to split both profits and decisions equally, but Morrison was out of contact and Buick needed an answer. “Jim left town and didn’t show any of us the respect to tell us that he was leaving, how long he would be gone, when he was coming home – he just disappeared,” the band’s road manager, Bill Siddons, told Butler and Hopkins. “So Buick came up, offered us a bunch of money, unheard-of money, to do something with a song that Robby wrote, and they all kind of went, ‘Well, gee. We’d really like to have have Jim’s vote here, but it’s a lot of money and it’s really big and could be important, so fuck it, let’s go!” Lawyer Max Fink held Morrison’s power of attorney, and inked the deal along with the three other Doors.

Morrison was apoplectic when he learned of the decision after returning home that November. “Jim told us he couldn’t trust us anymore,” Densmore told Rolling Stone in 2013. “We had agreed that we would never use our music in any commercial, but the money Buick offered us had been hard to refuse. Jim accused us of making a deal with the devil and said he would smash a Buick with a sledgehammer onstage if we let them [change the lyrics].”

One apocryphal story has Morrison angrily ramming 16 Buicks parked on the Sunset Strip, totaling his own Porsche in the process. True or not, he vociferously expressed his frustrations to Siddons, Holzman and others in the band’s management, demanding that the contract be rescinded. “They couldn’t take it back, they’d already agreed to it,” says Siddons. An elaborate radio, television and print campaign was already underway, including a billboard within sight of the Doors‘ offices.

But it came to nothing. In the end, Buick scrapped the concept. They claimed that they merely decided to go in a different creative direction, but perhaps a few words with an enraged Lizard King set them off the idea. Whatever the reason, the Buick incident irreparably damaged the brotherhood of the Doors. “That was the end of the dream,” says Siddons. “That was the end of that era of Jim’s relationship with the other members of the band; from then on it was business. That was the day Jim said, ‘I don’t have partners anymore; I have associates.'”

 

Rhino

It has been called one of the defining albums of a generation. It was released on January. 4th, 1967 that The Doors released their debut album, “The Doors.” The LP was recorded in August 1966 and it was originally released in different stereo and mono mixes. It features the breakthrough single “Light My Fire”, extended with an instrumental section mostly omitted on the single release, and the lengthy song featured the band with Jim Morrison, The Doors, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger.

When the Doors’ debut album came out during the first week of 1967, it sounded little like the other pop music that was getting airplay alongside its breakthrough single, “Light My Fire.” No bassist, an organ player who pretty much dominated every song and a singer who often came off like he was a drunken poet in search of an open mic and a drink – who would have thought they’d become of rock’s most significant bands? Featuring a mix of blues, cabaret and originals that were a little bit of both plus a dash of the emerging psychedelic scene, ‘The Doors’ – one of the best debut albums ever made – still resonates as deftly played and arranged art-rock disguised as classic rock ‘n’ roll.

The Doors self-titled debut album, which was released 50 years ago today, will mark its golden anniversary with a three-disc deluxe edition.

The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition will be released by Rhino on March 31st and will include remastered stereo and mono mixes of the original album plus a disc of live recordings from a concert at San Francisco’s Matrix on March 7, 1967.

The package will also include an LP version of the original album in the newly remastered mono mix. You can see the full track listing for the set below. (The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition will also be available digitally.)

This will be the first time the album’s original mono mix appears on CD. The album’s original stereo mix also gets an upgrade for the first time in 30 years. The eight live tracks – all originally from the debut album – appear in new forms too. The songs were first released in 2008, but the new versions come from the original tapes, which were thought to be lost. The earlier tracks were taken from a third-generation tape.

The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition‘s announcement comes on the Day Of The Doors. Los Angeles will honor the band today with a public event at the intersection of Pacific and Windward avenues, the site of the “Venice” sign. Surviving Doors members John Densmore and Robbie Kreiger will be on hand at the event with members of the late Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison’s families.

The liner notes to the 40th Anniversary edition of The Doors’ debut has an introduction by Bruce Botnick, who engineered the original sessions back in 1966, where he states: “When the album was mixed at Elektra studios in New York, either the 4-track playback recorder was running slow, or the stereo 2-track was running fast. So now with the new mixes, you will hear the entire album at the correct speed and the correct pitch.

The newly released set is unquestionably the best sounding version I have ever heard.

Break On Through (To the Other Side)” is the intense first track, and after nearly fifty years the song has incredibly lost none of its edge. And in only two and a half minutes it packs a serious punch the likes of which many rock bands today can only dream of. Fresh and edgy, there is an almost controlled element of violence and danger contained within its grooves, as well as a certain degree of urgency in the band’s delivery. Forget about “Good Vibrations”, now there was a new, more malevolent force in town.

Next is “Soul Kitchen”, which was maybe an attempt by The Doors at writing a pop song. The 60’s were strange times, and when you had tunes such as Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” doing well in the charts a song like this doesn’t seem so weird after all. Manzarek’s keyboard introduction foreshadows “When the Music’s Over”, from their second album, while guitarist Robby Krieger weaves his spidery webs, as Morrison croons in his usual hazardous and foreboding manner.

“The Crystal Ship” would serve as a mature template for the sort of ballads Morrison was to compose in future. Although extremely short in length (by today’s standards), in those days less was more, and if you couldn’t say everything you wanted in under three minutes, then it probably wasn’t worth recording. “Twentieth Century Fox” is another fine tune and a worthy if somewhat cynical commentary by Morrison on the fashion scene back then, a time when people put a little more effort into how they looked. And just to spice things up, we have some German Cabaret, in the form of a cover of Brecht and Weill’s “Alabama Song”, here titled “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)”. It’s an unusual choice for a rock group, but then The Doors were certainly not your ordinary rock band.

Ending side one is the song everybody knows. “Light My Fire” was actually written by Robbie Krieger, although Morrison did also  contribute some of the lyrics, and Ray Manzarek certainly added a little magic of his own. When they released “Break On Through” as their first single it failed to find an audience. However all that would change with their next single, which proved to be a monumental hit, and would help to propel the album into the American charts.

“Light My Fire” was a grandiose statement, of The Doors at their very peak as a creative unit. Manzarek’s Baroque inspired keyboard solo is absolutely glorious, as is Krieger’s guitar playing. And form 1967, there was nothing else like it.

Side two kicks off with the Willie Dixon classic “Backdoor Man”, just to prove that the blues was just as integral to their sound as Bach. Morrison snarls his way through the lyrics, while the other members whack away on their instruments, as if to punish them for some alleged sin they may or may not have committed.

“I Looked at You” is your typical mid 60’s jangly pop song. The moody “End of the Night” is at least atmospheric, while “Take It as It Comes” reminds me of Jefferson Airplane for some reason, which means that it’s a decent album track, but not much more than that.

Finally we come to “The End”, what is undoubtedly the band’s magnum opus, and a grandiloquent musical statement if there ever was, at least from a rock band. Producer Paul A. Rothchild described the song’s recording as “the most awe-inspiring thing I’d ever witnessed in a studio”. And when one sees footage of them performing it live, much of the audience looked fairly ‘awe-inspired’ too. The track itself is part existential journey than anything else, something which can either hypnotize you, terrify you, or both simultaneously. With Manzarek’s spooky organ, Krieger’s woozy spaced out guitar and John Densmore’s sharp as knives drumming, all provide a thrilling, near cinematic backdrop for Morrison’s dystopian lyrics. Certainly nothing like this had ever before been attempted in popular music.

When released in January 1967, The Doors was a landmark LP , A band who were as innovative as they were dangerous.

‘The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’ Track Listing
Disc One (Original Stereo Mix)
Disc Two (Original Mono Mix)
1. “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”
2. “Soul Kitchen”
3. “The Crystal Ship”
4. “Twentieth Century Fox”
5. “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)”
6. “Light My Fire”
7. “Back Door Man”
8. “I Looked At You”
9. “End Of The Night”
10. “Take It As It Comes”
11. “The End”

Disc Three: Live At The Matrix, March 7th, 1967
1. “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”
2. “Soul Kitchen”
3. “The Crystal Ship”
4. “Twentieth Century Fox”
5. “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)”
6. “Light My Fire”
7. “Back Door Man”
8. “The End”

 

The rock world was still staggering from the back-to-back deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin when they were suddenly and mysteriously joined in pop star heaven by Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors.

Hendrix’s aura has been kept financially floating by virtue of many posthumous live albums and filmed tributes, and Joplin is famed by her biopic, as a result of two recent biographies and a court dispute over the nature of her death. Morrison is barely mentioned but with recent live albums released a plenty and now the newly released London Fog Box Set of the Doors early live set at the infamous tiny venue, The near future, we are told, Jerry Hopkin’s book on Morrison will appear in print .

The Doors peaked early, with one remarkably strong year or so, By the time of his death, Morrison was definitely seemed to be losing interest. Yet for a while he and his group were one of rock’s premier attractions and in many ways, some fortunate and some not, one of the most influential. In early 1967 the word on The Doors came from two sources: Crawdaddy! and Murray the K’s WOR-FM show, where Buffalo Springfield proclaimed The Doors their favorite L.A. band. And The Doors‘ debut album was a singularly special event on a year that was brimming with stellar first efforts (Moby Grape, Country Joe, Buffalo Springfield). There was something foreboding about The Doors, something candlelit about the lyrical imagery and entirely sensual about the instrumental interplay. One is tempted to describe them as, from the very first lines of their very first album (“You know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day”), the original dialectical rock band. Morrison the writer, self-consciously poetic, dealt in contradiction: light/dark, death/life, water/fire, to a greater extent than any other rock lyricist. In that winter, The Doors was an underground experience of mystery and intrigue.

By summer, of course, it was impossible to avoid the song Light My Fire, an ever present invocation that marks its time as precisely as Sgt. Pepper and that became part of the general vocabulary. Around the same time, The Doors began appearing in concert on the east coast.

The initial live Doors shows were hardly satisfactory. Ray Manzarek supplied the bass line on organ, More crucial, however, were Morrison’s shortcomings. He had yet to accommodate his live approach from what he used in clubs to one suited to the concert hall. The sets were short, 30-45 minutes, and consisted of rehashed album material that was neither effectively staged nor good-naturedly spontaneous.

As it happens, they still had some reserve life in them. In March 1968, Bill Graham opened the Fillmore East and on the second weekend, following the Janis Joplin opening night , The Band played one of the most mesmerizing performances you could have hoped to witness. After dismal sets by Ars Nova and Chrome Syrcus, The Doors came out and spellbound an audience with a show of intensive drama and uncommonly well-played music. Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore locked into a wholly cohesive, responsive unit fronted by a man who appeared possessed.

Rock theatre was what it was on that practically virginal Fillmore stage, and there had been nothing quite like it before in those days before showman like Alice, David and Iggy. Lit by a single spot and accompanied by a subtle light show, Morrison dove head on into When the Music’s Over , plunging into a two-hour set that included the full-length version of Celebration of the Lizard, a bizarre mixture of erotic rock and neo-beat poetics. What was remarkable was the absolute control that Morrison held over his material and over the audience. Over the previous summer a mess of marvelous rock was played in New York City by The Who, The Yardbirds, The Dead and many more groups who obviously surpassed The Doors in terms of rock kinetics and energy, but this was different. That was brilliant rock for dancing, shouting and destroying; this was Performance

At that concert, The Doors screened a short film cued to promote their newest single, The Unknown Soldier. It was a crude work, influenced, I know now, by Godard and Bunuel, and filled with Morrison-as-martyr iconography, simulated vomiting and political montage. And yet it worked. Morrison the U.C.L.A. film student knew how to use Morrison the performer in an effective manner and, as should be evident from his interviews and his book of poetry, he was both highly intuitive and intellectually curious about the theories and possibilities of cinema. It would have been no surprise had he became a competent, if heavy-handed, filmmaker. “The Unknown Soldier” brought the crowd to its feet and for an encore The Doors did a new, extended The End.

Jim Morrison and The Doors were, at that moment, superstars. It was a very short moment. The follow-up single to “Soldier” was Hello, I Love You, and the third album, Waiting for the Sun, was a little uninspired. “Celebration of the Lizard” was printed on the inside of the uni-pack, but a mere four minutes of it was on the record . In black and white, moreover, it seemed silly, an unstructured tour-de-forceby a mediocre poet.

There were some memorable television appearances on Ed Sullivan and Jonathan Winters (on which Morrison tore apart some scenery) and on a PBS special devoted to them that had Richard Goldstein and Al Aronowitz debating their worth as well as the premiere of ‘The Soft Parade’, an epic work with all of the pretense and none of the style of their earlier attempts at this form .

The Morrison legacy is one remarkable album that fuses for all time his concern with blues and theatre (Willie Dixon and Brecht/Weill) and a dynamic on-stage persona that he could not sustain. He is also the ancestor of all those rockers, with theatrical pretensions that revolve around death, mysticism and evil sexuality.

8. The Doors, 'L.A. Woman'

The Doors had crammed several lifetimes into just five years as band, and by late 1970, the psychic toll of Jim Morrison’s addiction and legal hassles threatened to overwhelm the group. Any attempts at making an album under these conditions should have met with unmitigated disaster, but on L.A. Woman – the final Doors LP released during Jim Morrison’s lifetime – the band succeeded almost in spite of themselves. Self-produced and recorded in their private rehearsal space, the album was a homecoming in both a musical and spiritual sense. “Our last record turned out like our first album: raw and simple,” drummer John Densmore reflected in his autobiography. “It was as if we had come full circle. Once again we were a garage band, which is where rock & roll started.”

The Doors’ longtime producer quit the sessions, dismissing the songs as “cocktail music.”
L. A. Woman
got off to an inauspicious start in November 1970, when the band played their new material for producer Paul Rothchild. They possessed only a handful of semi-complete tunes, and Rothchild was less than impressed. He dismissed “Riders on the Storm” as “cocktail music,” but reserved particular scorn for “Love Her Madly,” which he cited as the song that drove him out of the studio. “The material was bad, the attitude was bad, the performance was bad,” he said in the Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive. “After three days of listening I said, ‘That’s it!’ on the talk-back and cancelled the session.”

They convened for an emergency meeting at a nearby Chinese restaurant, and Rothchild laid his cards on the table. “I said, ‘Look, I think it sucks. I don’t think the world wants to hear it. It’s the first time I’ve ever been bored in a recording studio in my life. I want to go to sleep.'” With that, the so-called “Fifth Door,” who had produced the band since their debut, walked out. Once the shock had worn off, the Doors turned to engineer Bruce Botnick, whose credits included all of their previous albums, as well as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed. With his help, the reinvigorated band vowed to coproduce their new album. Gone were the days of Rothchild’s studio strictness, where it was normal to record 30 takes or spend hours on perfecting a drum sound. “Rothchild was gone, which is one reason why we had so much fun,” Robbie Krieger “The warden was gone.”

Jim Morrison recorded his vocal parts in a bathroom.
Eschewing the high tech luxury of Sunset Sound, the Doors decided to record in their unassuming “workshop” at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard. “It was the room we had rehearsed in forever,” recalled John Densmore in the documentary Mr. Mojo Risin. “Our music was seeped into the walls. We were very comfortable. It was home.” Like a fraternity common room, the cramped space was littered with empty beer bottles, dog-eared magazines, an endless tangle of cables and assorted instruments – plus a jukebox and pinball machine. “It was tight,” says Botnick, who was ensconced in the upstairs office behind a portable mixing board. “It was like sardines.”

During takes, Morrison would grab his gold Electrovoice 676-G stage mic and sing in the adjoining bathroom, which served as a provisional vocal booth. The room’s tile provided impressive natural acoustics, and he ripped the door off its hinges to better commune with his bandmates.

The band called upon Elvis Presley’s bass player to add some extra funk.
The Doors
famously lacked a bassist during live sets, instead relying on Ray Manzarek’s Fender Rhodes’ keyboard bass to lock into the rhythm with Densmore. For their studio albums, the band quietly supplemented their core lineup with session pros handling the low end. Some of these contributions were overdubbed separately from the band, but for L.A. Woman, they wanted the live sound of musicians playing together. Botnick suggested Jerry Scheff, fresh from backing Elvis Presley at Las Vegas’ International Hotel. Morrison, was a massive Presley fan, was thrilled. So was Densmore. “Jerry was incredible; an in-the-pocket man,,  He allowed me to communicate rhythmically with Morrison, and he slowed Ray down, when his right hand on the keyboards got too darn fast.”

The band also called upon guitarist Marc Benno, who was making a name for himself playing with Leon Russell. He contributed the percussive James Brown-like rhythm guitar stabs on the title track, as well as “Been Down So Long,” “Cars Hiss By My Window,” and “Crawling King Snake.” Scheff played on all songs except “L’America.”

“L’America” was originally recorded for a Michelangelo Antonioni soundtrack.
The cartwheeling “L’America” predates the L.A. Woman sessions by more than a year. The track had been intended for inclusion in Antonioni’s 1970 psychedelic drama, Zabriskie Point. The Italian auteur had notably tapped the Yardbirds for 1966’s Blow-Up, and it appeared he might do the same this time around with the Doors. He visited the band in the recording studio, but their intensity – not to mention volume – proved too much for him to handle at close range. “We played it for him, and it was so loud, it pinned him up against the wall,” said Manzarek “When it was over, he thanked us and fled.” Predictably, the song was not included in the film. The Doors were in good company – Jerry Garcia, John Fahey and Pink Floyd also had work rejected from the soundtrack.

“Riders on the Storm” was inspired by an old cowboy song – and a real-life serial killer.
During one of the early rehearsal jams that fueled L.A. Woman, the Doors began riffing on Stan Jones’ galloping 1948 country-western hit “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend,” made famous by Vaughn Monroe. “Robbie was playing his twang guitar,”And Jim went, ‘I got lyrics for that!’ And he had ‘Riders on the Storm.’” The moody words fit the equally foreboding music, and Manzarek’s driving keyboard figure shifted the melody from a Morricone-esque “yippee ki-yay” to a lonely desert highway.

Characteristically, Morrison’s lyrics drew from a myriad of sources. The title was adapted from a passage in “Praise for an Urn” by poet Hart Crane, and other lines were inspired by his tumultuous relationship with long-term partner Pamela Courson. But the most memorable verse is culled from a self-penned screenplay inspires by the serial killer Billy Cook , who murdered six people – including a family – while hitchhiking to California in 1950. Though executed for his crimes, he is immortalized as the “killer on the road.”

“Love Her Madly” takes its title from a Duke Ellington catchphrase.
The lyrics for L.A. Woman’s lead single – the Doors‘ first to crack the Top 40 since “Touch Me” two years earlier – were born out of a particularly noisy fight between Robbie Krieger and his future wife, Lynne. “Every time we had an argument, she used to get pissed off and go out the door and slam the door so loud the house would shake,” he said in Mr. Mojo Risin. But the title borrows a signature phrase from Duke Ellington, who would end every concert with the sign-off, “We love you madly.”

The album was recorded in less than a week.
Aside from “L’America,” which was already in the can, the basic tracks for L.A. Woman came together in just six days spread between December 1970 and January 1971. Mixing took an additional week, but that’s still a blink of an eye compared to the nine months it took to complete the Doors‘ cumbersome 1969 work, The Soft Parade. The rapid pace ensured that the mercurial Jim Morrison, whose short attention span often led him towards destructive tendencies, remained focused and on his best behavior. During a single session, which the singer dubbed “blues day,” they enthusiastically tackled “Cars Hiss By My Window,” “Been Down So Long,” “Crawling King Snake” and several other loose jams.

“We just did a couple takes, on everything,”  said Densmore. “There were some mistakes, and I would say, ‘Remember on Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall … there’s this horrible trumpet error? Miles said he didn’t care, because of the feeling.’ That’s what L.A. Woman is. Just passion – in our rehearsal room, not in a fancy studio. It was the first punk album!”

Jim Morrison used the L.A. Woman cover to get revenge on his record company.
Morrison
was always contemptuous of his rock Adonis image, and by 1970 he had ditched his trademark leather pants, gained considerable weight, and obscured his handsome features with a bushy beard in an effort to direct fans away from his appearance and towards his art. But rock is built around image, and Elektra Records preferred the svelte Lizard King of yore. They used a much earlier photo of Morrison on the cover of 1970’s compilation 13, even after he consented to shaving his beard for photo sessions. The message was even more blunt on the cover of that year’s Absolutely Live, which superimposed an older photo of the singer over a contemporary shot of the rest of the band. Morrison was furious.

For L.A. Woman, he would do it his way – beard and all. Fed up with having his image emphasized on album covers, he insisted on a group shot, and crouched to appear even smaller alongside his bandmates. What you can’t see is a bottle of Irish whiskey just out of frame. “In that photo you can see the impending demise of Jim Morrison,

“Riders on the Storm” contains Jim Morrison’s last recorded contribution to the Doors.
When the band gathered at Poppi Studios early January 1971 to mix L.A. Woman with Bruce Botnick, they made some last minute embroideries to their epic album closer. Thunderstorm sound effects were added to “Riders on the Storm,” but Morrison had a more subtle contribution: two ghostly whispers of the song’s title on the fadeout. The eerie send-off is even more haunting in retrospect. “That’s the last thing he ever did,” said Ray Manzarek  “An ephemeral, whispered overdub.” The song was released as the album’s second single,

Additional songs were recorded during the L.A. Woman sessions – and one remains unissued.
In addition to the 10 tracks that made up the final album, several additional songs were considered for L.A. Woman. “Orange County Suite,” which Morrison had recorded as a piano demo in early 1969, was ultimately rejected, as it had been from their previous album, 1970’s Morrison Hotel. It eventually was completed by the band posthumously and included in a 1997 box set.

A primitive bluesy medley called ““She Smells So Nice/Rock Me,” recorded early in the sessions and long forgotten, was rediscovered in the tape vault and issued on the expanded 40th Anniversary Edition in 2012. But perhaps most intriguing is the song “Paris Blues,” which remains unheard. The only known copy is a badly damaged cassette, on which portions have been accidentally erased. Lyrical fragments hint at a deeply personal song. “Goin’ to the city of love, gonna start my life over again,” Morrison sings. “Once I was young, now I’m gettin’ old/Once I was warm, now I feel cold/Well, I’m goin’ overseas, gonna grab me some of that gold.”