As I foreshadowed a few days ago, the “Curse of 27” was about to take another victim in 1971. Just a few short months after finishing today’s album, “L.A. Woman” by The Doors, Jim Morrison died under mysterious circumstances in a Paris hotel room. No autopsy was ever performed, and he was buried before much, if any verification, could be achieved by his management or friends and family. Prior to this sad ending, some people felt that The Doors were losing their touch. Perhaps their last days as a touring act were mostly a disaster due to Morrison’s constant turmoil and substance abuse, but I think this album has some of their finest moments ever, and is probably is as good as any album they ever released, excluding their debut album.
The sound of this record is a bit more expanded and less in line with their roots in organ and simple guitar. There is more depth, complimented by great production and excellent session work on bass which was always a missing link with their four-piece act. Side one includes the hit “Love Her Madly”, one of their best up-tempo songs. No matter his issues, Morrison is great on this song. A hidden gem on the first side is the slow blues ballad, “Cars Hiss By My Window”. You can almost feel the isolation and desperation of a man running out of options. You will never hear this song on classic rock radio, but it is one of their best. Side one ends with the title track, “L.A. Woman”, the ode to their beloved and troubled home city, featuring none other than Mr. Mojo Rising himself.
Side two opens with “L’America”, a song I recognize if for no other reason than it was clearly a song my high school rock band borrowed from in both lyric and riff. Next comes the melancholy and oddly hopeful “Hyacinth House”. “Crawling King Snake”, a John Lee Hooker blues cover follows, which is an appropriate and similar-sounding sequel to Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man” from their first album. This then leads into “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”, one last shining moment for the poet himself to preach to his people, always backed by the consistent excellence of Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore.
The album, and the journey of Jim Morrison and The Doors, ends with “Riders On The Storm”. Revisiting one last time some of the scarring imagery of his youth, not only is this one of the best Doors songs ever, it is the last recorded work ever from “The Lizard King”. The song’s lyrics have a double-tracked whisper vocal on the song, it is the last thing Jim recorded before he left for Paris. Aside from magnificent vocals and some really haunting lyrics, the instrumental interlude featuring the hypnotic drum beat from Densmore and a phenomenal back and forth between Manzarek and Krieger ends this album with power and passion.
The Doors were a huge component of my teen years. After reading the book “No One Here Gets Out Alive”, by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, I was fairly well obsessed with the legend of Jim Morrison. His lyrical genius and literary affinity, his lack of concern for standard convention, his deep, throwback crooner voice with a hint of southern drawl, and his commanding and stunning good looks made Jim Morrison the person I wanted to become, and the rock star most girls dreamed of finding. I so desperately wanted to hope and believe the myth, as Ray Manzarek shared his own suspicions that Jim could be alive out there somewhere, playing a huge joke on all of us. Sadly, we are just days from the 50th anniversary of Jim’s death, Ray is now also gone, and even so, the legend of Jim Morrison remains a potent aspect of my aspirational identity, and always will.
Riders on the storm, Riders on the Storm, Into this house we’re born, Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone, An actor out alone, Riders on the Storm.