Of all The Doors albums fans are probably most familiar the creation of “L.A. Woman.” “L.A. Woman” was released April 19, 1971 and in the 43 years since its release fans have learned the stories behind the album.
The most famous story of the creation of “L.A. Woman” is that during the rehearsal for the album, producer Paul Rothchild told the band that he wasn’t going to produce the album. In a 1981 interview with BAM magazine Rothchild described a lackluster recording session and The Doors seemed “drugged on their own boredom.” Rothchild tried to continue the sessions but he became with The Doors lack of enthusiasm and told them “this isn‘t rock ‘n‘ roll, it‘s cocktail lounge music.” Most people assume the song Rothchild was talking about was “Riders on the Storm” because it’s the song on “LA. Woman” that sounds like it could qualify as ‘cocktail lounge music’ but it was actually an early version of “Love Her Madly,” in that BAM interview the interviewer (Blair Jackson) off-handedly mentions “Love Her Madly” and Rothchild jumped in with “That’s exactly the song I was talking about that I said sounded like cocktail lounge music.”
The finishing of “L.A. Woman” was important to The Doors, especially Jim Morrison because the album was the last album The Doors were contractually bound to make for Elektra Records and Jim Morrison wanted to go on to other things. The Doors decided they would produce the album themselves along with long time engineer Bruce Botnick. Botnick besides being engineer for The Doors he’d already had a producers credit under his belt, producing Love’s “Forever Changes.” They decided the best place to record was in their offices at 8512 Santa Monica boulevard, a building the still exists and for the last few years has been host to a series of restaurants. Botnick brought in the recording equipment from Elektra put in the upstairs part where the offices were and ran cables down to the basement where The Doors would record. The bathroom was famously utilized as a vocal booth. The idea to produce the album themselves seemed to revitalize The Doors again, especially Morrison. Morrison had been wanting to record a blues album and “L.A. Woman” was that, going so far as to cover John Lee Hooker‘s “Crawling King Snake” the first cover of a blues song since their first album. The Doors also brought in Jerry Scheff to play bass, Scheff played bass for Elvis Presley in his Las Vegas shows (Marc Benno was brought in to play rhythm guitar).
“Love Her Madly” was released as the single with a B side of “You Need Meat (Don’t Go No Further) and reached number 11 on the Billboard charts. Contrary to Ray Manzarek’s assertion in the 80’s that he wished he could have played songs from “L.A. Woman” with Morrison in concert, The Doors did in fact play songs from “L.A. Woman” in concert with Morrison for two shows. The first was in Dallas on December 11, 1970 and the next night in New Orleans at The Warehouse, the Warehouse show would prove to be the last time Jim Morrison appeared onstage.
The 2012 release of “L.A. Woman: The 40th anniversary Edition” contains a disc of alternate takes of songs off the album (all except “L’America”) that gives an interesting insight into The Doors recording process and Jim Morrison’s state of mind. On “The Changeling” alternate version you can hear Morrison telling the band this is favorite song. You can also hear the first inclusion of the refrain “Mr. Mojo Risin’” on a cover of “Rock Me” and on the outtake of “Riders on the Storm” Morrison suggesting they should send someone out to the desert to record sounds of a thunderstorm for the introduction to the song.
“L.A. Woman” both popular and critical success selling over 14.5 million albums in 43 years, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as number 364 in rocks top 500 greatest albums. Critics still hail “L.A. Woman” film critic Elvis Mitchell called it one of rocks most “cinematic” albums, and novelist Thomas Pynchon cited it as a source of inspiration for his novel “Inherent Vice.”
Sources: BAM 1981 interview, “Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love” by John Einarson
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