James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 Melbourne, Florida-July 3, 1971 Paris, France)
For nearly half a century I’ve conducted numerous interviews with keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer/percussionist John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger of the Doors along with intimate associates of the band for published magazine articles since 1974 and in my books this century.
I’ve discussed poet/singer/lyricist Jim Morrison with friends, writers, deejays and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees about the Doors’ enduring catalog, live performances and their legacy.
My focus on the Doors has always been on the recordings and music and the sonic mission of the band, not Morrison’s well-documented legal problems and his 1971 death in Paris coverage.
The below 1974-2021 interviews I’ve done are culled from previously published and never exhibited dialogues coupled with 2021 reflections on the Doors and Jim Morrison.
During June for Record Store Day the Rhino label released the Doors’ Morrison Hotel Sessions, a 2-LP-180-gram black vinyl limited edition of 16,000 numbered copies. Scheduled for fall is a 50th anniversary edition of L.A. Woman.
It’s now 50 years since James Douglas Morrison left the physical world. In June 2021, Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, has published The Collected Works Of Jim Morrison-an almost 600-page anthology of his writings.
Executive Editor is Elizabeth Sullivan. Created in collaboration with Morrison’s estate and inspired by a posthumously discovered list entitled “Plan for Book,” this landmark publication is the definitive opus of his creative output—and the book he intended to publish.
An announcement detailed the product.
“A compelling mix of 160 visual components accompanies the text throughout: an abundance of previously unpublished material, including excerpts from his 28privately held notebooks, with numerous examples written in his hand. An array of personal images and commentary on the work by Morrison himself rounds out this highly collectible volume, which includes a foreword by Tom Robbins, introduction and notes by Morrison’s close friend Frank Lisciandro, and a prologue by Morrison’s sister, Anne Morrison Chewning.
“This collector’s item includes: • Complete self-published poems and writings such as “The New Creatures”; “The Lords: Notes on Vision”; “An American Prayer”; “Ode to LA while thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased” • Published and unpublished song lyrics, with numerous examples in Morrison’s hand• Published and unpublished work and a vast array of notebook writings such as “The Anatomy of Rock,” “The Celebration of the Lizard,” “Dry Water,” “The American Night,” and “Tape Noon” • The Paris notebook, believed to be Morrison’s final journal, reproduced at full reading size, as well as excerpts from the journal he kept during his infamous Miami trial in 1970. “This beautifully produced, oversized hardcover, designed by Michael Bierut and Jonny Sikov of Pentagram, is not only the most comprehensive book of Morrison’s work ever published, it is immersive, giving readers insight to the creative process of and offering access to the musings and observations of an artist whom the poet Michael McClure called ‘one of the finest, clearest spirits of our times.’
“The accompanying audiobook makes available for the first time the full recording of Morrison’s last poetry recording session at the Village Recorder on his twenty-seventh birthday in 1970. A complete transcript of the poems Jim read during the session is in the book as well. ‘This is a historic moment,’ Sullivan says.
“The full digital audio book will not only include Jim’s reading, but readings of his work by other artists, including Patti Smith and Oliver Ray.”
An American Prayer, the ninth and final studio album by the Doors, was initially released November 1978. Seven years after Jim Morrison died, and five years after the rest of the band broke up, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore reunited and provided backing tracks over Morrison’s poetry recorded during 1969-1970.”
During early 1966 I was at my friend David Wolfe’s house in Culver City California on Selmarine Drive when Jim Morrison of a new band called the Doors appeared on 90 minute 10:00 pm talk television The Joe Pyne Show on KTTV channel 11. We both remember the confrontational host in a heated argument with Morrison in Pyne’s Beef Box.
I first heard the Doors at Fairfax High School in West Hollywood on Burbank-based AM radio station KBLA during deejay Dave Diamond’s Diamond Mine shift. He constantly spun the acetate of their debut long player in late December 1966 before the official January ’67 album retail release.
The erudite radio broadcaster explained the origin of their name from the title of a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, derived from a line in William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
I loved Diamond seguing from “Soul Kitchen” to “Twentieth Century Fox.” Some of it sounded like music they had on KGFJ-AM, my R&B channel, and KBCA-FM, the jazz station. “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” reminded me of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” from the 1963 Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith jazz arrangement recording of his tune on the Verve label.
I purchased The Doors in monaural on the Elektra label that January of 1967 at The Frigate record shop on Crescent Heights and Third Street. I had no idea as a teenager that The Frigate was literally right near the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi-founded Third Street Meditation Center where Ray Manzarek initially met John Densmore and Robby Krieger in 1965, then introducing the duo to his buddy Jim Morrison.
I then saw the Doors in January 1967 on the Casey Kasem-hosted afternoon television show Shebang! In July I caught the Doors on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. I danced occasionally on both Hollywood-based programs 1966-1967.
On April 9, 1967 my cousin Sheila Kubernik telephoned me very late at night. She had just returned from The Cheetah club in Venice and witnessed the Doors in person. Sheila, a Cher-lookalike at the time, was still in a trance, courtesy of Jim Morrison. Shelia later drove my brother Kenny and I to the Valley Music Center for a concert by the Seeds still reminiscing about the Doors.
I went to the Doors concert at the Forum in Inglewood, California on December 14, 1968. On the show were Jerry Lee Lewis, Sweetwater, and Tzon Yen Luie, who performed with a Chinese stringed instrument the Pi pa.
I remember as a teenager watching Lewis’ Forum set opening for the Doors where he received a mixed response. I recall The Killer jumping on top of his piano and kissing off the crowd. “For those of you who liked me, God love ya. For the rest of you, I hope you have a heart attack!”
Years later John Densmore told me that the Doors initially wanted Johnny Cash for their Forum booking but the promoter said no because “Cash was a felon.”
In 1972 I coordinated two accredited upper division English and music curriculum courses conducted by Dr. James L. Wheeler, assistant professor in the School of Literature at California State University San Diego. A story in the April 14, 1973 issue of Billboard magazine hailed the department’s academic aim as “the world’s first university level rock studies program.” I placed Jim Morrison’s The Lords & New Creatures on the required book list.
Ray Manzarek heard about our classes and was very complimentary about students seriously studying Jim as a poet, along with the musical works of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, the Beatles, Neil Young, and the Doors. Ray and trusted associate Danny Sugerman made arrangements for me to screen the existing print of Morrison’s Feast of Friends movie on campus.
I first met Ray in 1974 and interviewed him at Mercury Records on Hollywood Boulevard. I must have interviewed Manzarek a couple of dozen times over 40 years.
In 1978 Doors advocate Danny Sugerman was a guest on my television program 50/50, broadcast on Z Channel, Public Access and Manhattan Cable promoting his book with Jerry Hopkins No One Here gets Out Alive the first biography of Jim Morrison. Our half hour interview was utilized in the electronic Press Kit by Warner Books advancing Sugerman’s book tour.
Record producer Michael Lloyd, musician/songwriter/producer Todd Rundgren and deejay Murray the K were guests on other episodes. I unearthed from Murray’s archives a video copy of the Doors’ “People Are Strange” from his 1967 Murray The K in New York TV Special and aired it.
All during the eighties, Manzarek played piano and organ on a few albums I produced and spoken word and keyboard collaborations I presented in Santa Monica at McCabe’s Guitar Shop with Michael C Ford, Michael McClure and Allen Ginsberg. Ray lauded my literary work and productions in Westwood on the grounds of UCLA at The Cooperage, Kerckhoff Coffee House and Schoenberg Hall.
In 1990 I served as the project coordinator of The Jack Kerouac Collection box and asked Manzarek, Jerry Garcia and Michael McClure to contribute to the package booklet liner notes.
In July 1995 in East Hollywood at the MET Theatre on Oxford Ave I produced and co-curated with director Darrell Larson a month-long Rock and Roll in Literature series at the venue.
One evening, Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger reunited and played “Peace Frog,” “Love Me Two Times” and “Little Red Rooster” on July 8th. Kirk Silsbee read from Art Pepper’s Straight Life, John Densmore did an entry from his new novel, and Michael Ontkean recited Ode to L.A. by Jim Morrison. Densmore on another night with Paul Lacques, Barbara Williams, Billy Mernit and Andy Kirkun performed the work of Bob Dylan with selections from The Basement Tapes and Tarantula.
Mick Farren, Don Waller, Tim Curry, David Ritz, Roger Steffens, Lewis MacAdams, David Leaf, Bill Pullman, Paul Body, associate producer Daniel Weizmann and I did stage readings on Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Marley, Motown and The Band.
I’m cited in the dedication page of Ray’s autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors.
In addition, Manzarek penned the introduction to my 2009 coffee table book, Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. He graciously joined me for California book event signing events in Oakland and San Francisco.
In 2011, Ray, Doors’ engineer/producer, Bruce Botnick, Elliott Lefko of the AEG/Golden Voice company and I anchored a discussion in the second annual Pollstar Live! Conference, The Doors-An L.A. Legacy, held at the Marriot Hotel at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, California.
In early 2013 Ray emailed me comments for a book my brother Kenneth and I did with photographer Guy Webster, The Photography of Guy Webster Big Shots Rock Legends and Hollywood Icons. Guy took the photos of The Doors LP. John and Robby also provided memories to our Webster text.
My 2014 book Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 is dedicated to Ray Manzarek who died in 2014.
On January 28, 2018 I attended the memorial tribute and service to Rabbi Isaiah “Shy” Zeldin at the Stephen Wise Temple in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Southern California.
Rabbi Eli Herscher praised Zeldin’s spiritual and visionary leadership in 1964 where he established an open-minded religious and musical community in the region, just a mile from the UCLA campus in Westwood where Manzarek and Morrison were then enrolled as students at the university’s School of Film. From the Bima, Herscher politely encouraged the congregation of mourners “that today, memory is the only agenda.”
I had dinner with Ray Manzarek in 1995 where my only journalistic agenda was specifically asking him about UCLA’s heralded basketball team. Ray mentioned Morrison swam regularly in 1964-65 at a campus pool while he played basketball in the men’s gym around their film studies.
Ray happily confessed that the only down side of being in the Doors during 1966-1971 was when the Bruins’ team were winning NCAA basketball championships he’d miss seeing entire televised games because it conflicted with some of the Doors’ concerts.
“When it was time to perform, I’d only get to see the first half of the basketball game,” Manzarek lamented, “and find out what the score was after the show. ‘What do you mean we have to go on stage? UCLA is on a run…’”
In 1995, Ray and I attended a UCLA basketball game where I introduced him to the legendary UCLA basketball coach John R. Wooden, the icon who helmed 10 titles in 12 years during 1963-1975. I had worked with Wooden in the nineties producing a recording and visited his Encino home on occasion. As we walked back to our seats, Wooden leaned over the guard rail and whispered to me, “Nice to see you music fellows sill tuck in your shirts.”
I watched the UCLA squad on TV win the NCAA crown in 1995 at Lanny Waggoner’s house, along with Ray, Burton Cummings, my brother Ken, and our dad Marshall, who like Manzarek, was born in Chicago. They connected, spending 20 minutes remembering Comiskey Park, and describing Maxwell Street’s tasty hot dogs and polish sandwiches.
Burton shared his remarkable story about encountering Jim Morrison at a party in the Hollywood Hills the first time the Guess Who came to Los Angeles in 1969, later driving tipsy Jim to Ventura Blvd. in Morrison’s Pontiac GTO after they talked about music and writers for hours. Ray grinned, “Hey man, you spent more time with Jim than almost anybody.”
When the basketball match was over, Manzarek exclaimed, “This is like the sixties! The Doors are recording again and the UCLA Bruins won!”
On July 10, 2017 I was at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Library & Archives where I was invited to be a guest speaker in their Author Series in Cleveland, Ohio.
Before my appearance, one of the curatorial assistants took me into the private air-conditioned storage locker room not open to the viewing public. “We knew you were coming today and pulled out some specific items we wanted you to see.”
I was handed an envelope containing Jim Morrison’s diploma from UCLA.
Raymond Daniel Manzarek (born Raymond Daniel Manczarek) was born in Chicago, Ill. Ray resided with his family on the South side of Chicago and graduated DePaul University with a B.A. degree in economics. In the early 1960s the Manzarek clan relocated to the South Bay Redondo Beach community in Southern California. It was in Westwood, California in the campus of UCLA in 1964-1965 where Manzarek first met James Douglas Morrison, a transfer student from Florida State University. At the UCLA Film School, Ray earned a master’s degree in Cinematography and Jim a B.S. degree in the Theatre Arts department of the College of Fine Arts. While performing with Ray and the Ravens in the summer of 1965, Manzarek saw Morrison again at Venice Beach and they discussed forming a band together.
In 1965 Ray was introduced to Richard Bock, owner of the monumental World Pacific Records. The label was home to Chet Baker, Les McCann, Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, Shorty Rogers, Jim Hall, Don Ellis, Joe Pass, Gerry Mulligan, Russ Freeman, Art Pepper and Ravi Shankar. Bock introduced the practice of Transcendental Meditation to Manzarek and gave him two LP’s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Rick and the Ravens cut a few promotional singles for World Pacific’s Aura Records, the rock subdivision. On March 26, 1965 the group appeared on the Marvin Miller-hosted Screen Test on KCOP-TV channel 13 at 10 p.m. I tuned in for Eddie Cano, April and Nino, Jackie De Shannon and Cannibal and Head Hunters but faintly recall Rick and the Ravens performing “Henrietta.” Contestants were paired with celebrities to identify old movie clips-a perfect way for a film student to make some extra money.
Bock further touted mantra meditation and spirituality to Ray who then steered him to a 30 person-class inside the Third Street Meditation Center in Los Angeles where he met Densmore and Krieger.
Densmore, a graduate of University High School went to Santa Monica City College and San Fernando Valley State College. Krieger, from Pacific Palisades High School attended U.C. Santa Barbara and then UCLA. Densmore and Krieger had briefly been in a group called the Psychedelic Rangers in 1965.
In early September ’65, Ray Manzarek, his brothers Jim and Rick, Jim Morrison, John Densmore and a bass player named Patricia Sullivan recorded a demo in lieu of another single session date at Bock’s World Pacific studio on Third Street in West Hollywood.
Their acetate results were “Moonlight Drive,” “My Eyes Have Seen You,” “Summer’s Almost Gone,” “Hello, I Love You,” “End of the Night” and “Go Insane.”
In October Ray revamped the Rick and the Ravens lineup, added Robby Krieger and along with Morrison and Densmore, they became the Doors.
Determined band members dropped off the acetate to record labels in town: RCA, Capitol, Liberty, Decca, Dunhill and Warner/Reprise all rejected them.
Eventually it caught the attentive ears of Billy James at Columbia Records, where the Doors had a short-lived stay before finding permanent residence at Elektra Records, the home of the brotherhood 1966 until 1971.
Q: Ray, both Jim Morrison and you went to the UCLA School of Film and students in the motion picture division. You had a class with the French director Jean Renoir.
A: Jim came from Florida, I came from Chicago. We smoked pot together, we talked philosophy together. We had a class with the German director Josef von Sternberg. This was in 1965. Von Sternberg, the great German director of Marlena Dietrich, who did The Blue Angel, Marocco and Shanghi Express.
In my student film Evergreen I used as music the opening strain of ‘The Young Rabbits’ by the Jazz Crusaders. The best 20 UCLA films by students were shown at Royce Hall to the public. And Von Sternberg came up to me after I screened Evergreen and said, ‘Very good Manzarek. Very good.’ One of the greatest moments of my life. So he’s the guy who really kind of gave a real sense of darkness to the Doors, not that we wouldn’t have been there anyway.
But having Von Sternberg seeing the deep psychology of his movies, and the pace at which he paced his films, really influenced Doors’ songs and Doors’ music. The sheer psychological weight of his movies on what we tried to do with our music. The film school is always there. Our song structure was based on the cinema. Loud. Soft. Gentle. Violent. A Doors’ song is again, aural, and aural cinema. We always tried to make pictures in your mind. Your mind ear. You hear pictures with the music itself.
In 1965 we graduated. Jim got his Bachelor’s degree, I got my Master’s degree – and we were hopefully going to do something together. But Jim said he was going to New York City. I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. I’ll never see Jim again.’
Q: The Doors have a song, “Soul Kitchen”, on the soundtrack to Forrest Gump, and piece of five Doors songs appear in that movie. The Doors have always had a relationship with film and movies. I would imagine that the inclusion of “The End” in Apocalypse Now sort of revved up the Doors soundtrack possibilities.
A: The original version of “The End”, with the word “fuck” from the original four-track recording, was mixed in San Francisco for Apocalypse Now. We went to UCLA film school with Francis Ford Coppola. “Break On Through” was in Gardens Of Stone. “Light My Fire” was used in Altered States. “Light My Fire” was used in Taps.
Q: Original Doors recordings were the soundtrack to the film The Doors. “People Are Strange” by Echo and The Bunnymen was in Lost Boys. “Hello, I Love You” was also placed in the Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi movie Neighbors. PBS-TV has utilized a few songs over the years, especially with Vietnam documentaries. “Peace Frog” is heard in The Water Boy. Do you work closely with, or are you involved with, soundtrack or publishing requests to place your songs in films or movies?
A: We are actively involved in saying yes or no is what it amounts to. There is something called a sync license. And it probably started in the 1940’s through the musician’s union or through ASCAP or BMI. But thank God, they have. Because you are not allowed to synchronize picture and sound, picture and song, without an OK from the publisher. And we own our own publishing. Tire companies and gas companies have called for some of our songs, like “Riders On The Storm.” We’ve declined.
Q: Besides the supplemental exposure a movie and subsequent soundtrack collection brings to one of your recordings and the economic gain, what kind of feelings to you get when you hear and see one of your songs taken out of the original context it was written and recorded i
A: Here’s what it is from my prospective. This is my relationship to it. It always becomes the matter of the art. The art is the important thing. What is being communicated to the people who are listening to or watching and listening to the art form. You are taking the Doors songs, and the Doors always tried to make those songs as artistic as they possibly could. It was never a commercial attempt, it was an artistic attempt.
When it works, like in Apocalypse Now, at the beginning, it works like a champ. And it’s absolutely delightful. To sit back in an audience and hear “The End” come on in the beginning of Apocalypse Now, and see the jungle go up in napalm where Jim says, “This is the end,” it’s absolutely thrilling from an artistic standpoint. Film school guys founded The Doors. When he made the music, each song had to have a dramatic structure.
Each song, whether it was two and a half minutes or an epic like “The End” or “When The Music’s Over, you had to have dramatic peaks and valleys., and that’s the sense of drama within the Doors’ songs which comes right from the theatre. The point of art is to blow minds.
Q: Let’s talk about Forrest Gump. Were you aware of the movie being made and that some of your tunes were going to end up on the screen and soundtrack compilation? Excerpts of “Soul Kitchen” are on the soundtrack double-CD. “Break On Through”, “Hello, I Love You”, “People Are Strange”, “Love Her Madly” are in the movie along with “Soul Kitchen”.
A: We got the initial request from the production company that wanted to use five Doors songs in the movie Forrest Gump.. And immediately everyone said, “Time out, what do you mean, five Doors songs? We don’t give five Doors songs to anybody.” Maybe one, or two, if you have a really good movie. Like Francis could have used a couple of more songs if he wanted to. That would have been fine with us, it’s a great film.
Five songs? Forrest Gump? Impossible, man. Then they said, “Look, come down, see the film. We’ll show you a preview of the film, of what we want to do.” We went to see it, and I saw the movie, and I thought the use was so tasty, so tastefully done, and as we used to say in the 60’s, so right on, that we said, “Hey, five songs, man.” It’s just little excerpts and little bits and pieces that are just so skillfully used in the source of the film, we gave them okay to use all five of them.
Robert Zemeckis, the director of the film, did such a wonderful job. And, there’s a sequence where Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump, is playing ping-pong, and becomes a ping-pong expert, and the click-click-click of the Ping-Pong ball against the paddle and the table corresponds with the drumbeats of “Break On Through,” the fast Bossa Nova. So John Densmore is playing the sidestick on his snare and the click-click of the Ping-Pong balls are working counterpuntually to what Densmore is doing. I saw that and said, “Brilliant.” This is good. That’s the use of music and picture. That’s art. So we gave them the okay for all five songs.
Q: I know Jim played tambourine one evening with Rick and the Ravens when you were booked with Sonny & Cher at a high school event, the duo never showed up. Jim said that was “the easiest $25.00 he ever made.” And then he went into a garage rehearsal room with the Doors. Was Jim a natural front man at the Turkey Joint West?
A: No. (laughs). It took a while and later to work it out on stage at The London Fog and Whisky A Go Go. But by God, he sure did scream a lot and sure had a willing injection of energy into rock ‘n’ roll.
Q: Before the Doors inked a record deal in 1966 with Jac Holzman and his Elektra Records, in December of 1965 the Doors had a six month provisional contract with Columbia Records. Billy James, the former publicist for Columbia became the manager of Talent acquisition and Development for Columbia. The label never assigned a producer or even committed to a recording session. Billy James eventually joined Elektra Records in 1966.
A: Without Billy James the Doors would have never made it. On my God! I got my Vox Continental courtesy of Billy James. He heard the original rough Doors’ demo and said, ‘you guys got something. You’re going all the way.’ Jim dropped off the acetate at Columbia. Billy said, ‘Welcome to Columbia Records. Is there anything we can do for you guys?’ And we said, ‘Yeah. You can give us some front money. Do we get paid for signing?’ ‘No, we don’t do that. Do you need any equipment?’ At the time I was playing my brother Jim’s Wurlitzer keyboard. On the demo it was a piano. Columbia had just bought up Vox. Billy offered, ‘You want a Vox Continental Ray?’ ‘Yes!’ Every English group plays one. The Animals, the Dave Clark 5, Manfred Mann. ‘Go out to the Vox Plant in the San Fernando Valley. It’s right across the street from the Budweiser Plant.’ We jump in John’s van and see what we pick up. Robby gets an extra guitar. And we got two amps with 14 inch speakers. We went around to the loading dock and picked up the stuff and got out of there like bandits.
Q: Talk to me about your early encounters with Jim Morrison and his singing voice. I walked with you on Venice Beach recently, you pointed at the sand and said, ‘This is where Jim sang to me in a Chet Baker-like voice. His voice had a softness to it.’ Morrison got better as a singer with the Doors
A: When I first heard Jim sing in Venice I thought he had it. There was no doubt
that he would not have any problems ‘cause the microphone is no problem. Pitch is the problem with a singer. Can you sing in the same key on pitch? And I worked with a lot of singers who can’t do that. Finding the notes. But Morrison had a good sense of pitch. So, if it was in the key of G, he would sing ‘Moonlight Drive’ in the key of G. And he would be there right on pitch. That was the important thing. The rest of it was all acquired expertise in your practice of your instrument.
“Interestingly, on ‘Moonlight Drive’ is that it’s a really a seminal, or a signpost song. It’s the first song Jim Morrison sang to me on the beach. It had been after we graduated UCLA and I ran into him on the beach. ‘What have you been doing?’ ‘I’ve been writing songs.’ ‘Sing me a song.’ ‘I’m shy.’ ‘You’re not shy. Stop it. There’s nobody here, just you and me. I’m not judging your voice. I just want to hear the song.’ Besides, you used to sing with Rick and The Ravens at the Turkey Joint West and did ‘Louie Louie’ until you could not talk.’
Q: Let’s discuss your debut LP The Doors. It was done at Sunset Sound with producer Paul A. Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick.
A: Sunset Sound was a very hip recording studio on Sunset Blvd. The Beach Boys had been there. Herb Alpert, Love. It was owned by a trumpet player, (Salvador) Tutti Camarata and he had the Camarata Strings, I believe.
A: It was an excellent recording studio, four tracks. Rothchild and Botnick. Never had met engineer Bruce before. Paul was the producer.
“Rothchild and Botnick are Door number 5 and Door number 6. There’s four Doors in the band and two Doors in the control room. So, they were always there, always twisting the knobs and really on top of it. A couple of high IQ very intelligent guys. We couldn’t have done it without them.
“Paul Rothchild was the guy who had produced The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and also Love, along with Botnick. The two of them did those albums together. So, Robby was a big fan of the Butterfield Blues Band and he was very excited that Paul Rothchild was gonna produce for us. I didn’t know either one of them and not familiar with their work outside of Love. I had heard Paul Butterfield and thought it was good. Chicago blues by Chicago white boys. Being a Chicago white boy myself I could identify with Chicago white boys playing the blues. So it was a great combination of six guys. That first album was basically the four Doors and the two other Doors in the control room making the sound. We made the music. They made the sound. And they did an absolutely brilliant job. And it was a real joy and a great learning experience.
“I had been in a fabulous recording studio before at World Pacific on 3rd Street in L.A. with Rock and The Ravens for Dick Bock. And that’s where we cut The Doors’ demo, along with some Rick and The Ravens songs.
“Rothchild and Botnick were two alchemists with sound. We were the alchemical music makers but they were alchemists with sound-adding a bit of this-a bit of that. Some reverb. Some high end. Let’s hit it at 20k or 10k. Let’s dial in a bit of bass in there. They were making this evil witches brew concoction as we went along. And the sound just got better and better.
Q: And on this album, and subsequent sessions you were joined by a studio bassist who followed and copied your bass lines done on the Fender Rhodes.
A: I was the bass player of the Doors. When it came to recording I played a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass. The instrument was great in person because it had a deep rich sound and moved a lot of air. But in the recording studio it lacked a pluck. It did not have the attack that a bass guitar would have-especially if you played a bass guitar with a pick. You had plenty of attack. So, on some of the songs we brought in an actual bass player, one of the Los Angeles cats, Larry Knechtel. Who played the same bass line that I played on ‘Light My Fire,’ who doubled my bass line. They could then get rid of my bass part and use the nice sound that Larry Knechtel could get. The click and the bottom.
Q: And, in the sound mix the keyboard was treated equally. Not a second thought overdub or hidden below in the collaboration.
A: Well it had to be. We were the Modern Jazz Quartet!
Q: You then start Strange Days LP.
A: Album two is recorded on an eight-track. The first album was four-track. We now had four more tracks. That meant everything that we could do on the first album We would still have four more tracks left over for overdubs. For experimentation. So we experimented in and out of the universe.
I actually played one of the songs backwards. The song was played to me backwards and I had each bar written out with the chord change that went along with it and I started reading the music on the lower right hand side and read right to left across the bottom line. And then jumped to the next line, when I got to the end of the previous line, jumped to the next line up on the right hand side, reading everything backwards, bottom to top, getting closer and closer, finally to the top line and hoping that I end when the song begins. ‘Cause it’s all going along and it’s backwards. I’m following (John) Densmore’s beat on the bass drum not knowing what’s going to happen. And sure enough, I get to the last measure here are four more beats! I stopped and the music stopped. It was a miracle. And everyone went, ‘You did it Ray!’ And I went to the guys and said to them in the control room. And I said, ‘Please, whatever you do, help me here, never let me do his ever again.’ And they collectively said, ‘That’s a deal, Ray.’
Q: You saw the studio becoming a laboratory.
A: Exactly. It was a place where we could really experiment. We could put on our lab tech coats rather than coming in with our ‘Mod’ outfits. It’s almost as if we put on our glasses. I felt like I was in a 1932 German Science Fiction movie, Woman In The Moon, something along that line. Some Fritz Lang. It was like Metropolis and we were wearing those glasses that you wear so you don’t get sparks in your eyes and we had lab coats on. And we were preparing this strange concoction called Strange Days.
Q: You had already had some of the songs for it like ‘Moonlight Drive’ from 1965, ’66, and now in 1967, it’s coming to fruition in the studio. Plus, Jim Morrison’s voice really went further and deeper on the Strange Days expedition.
A: Well, the man had his chops as they say. Jim got his chops together. He had a
thick bull neck resembling a large engorged male organ. (laughs). And by then, he
could sing, man. That throat had opened up and that man was singing.
Q: Water elements are a re-occurring theme in the music of the Doors.
A: Yeah, the water element is always there: the Manzareks living in Redondo Beach, the
Doors in Venice, California.
Always the water. The water is the unconscious, and that’s what the Doors drove into.
That’s where LSD takes you: it takes you into the sun, into the light.
The fire is the sun, our father in the sky. The watery element is our mother, returning
into the womb, diving into the unconscious, swimming around down there to find out
what’s lurking below our regular level of consciousness.
That’s what opening the doors of perception does.
Q: Why do Jim Morrison’s lyrics work so well in recordings and the printed page?
Well, you know, lyrics are poetry. The words were well edited. Jim
was good that way when it came to songs. When you are doing this written poetry you can really stretch out and you can really expand. And, no one so far has done an ‘Ezra Pound’ on Jim Morrison. With his poetry, he’d throw this out, take this line, or two lines, but when it comes to music you gotta be very choosy because you only have a short period of time. Songs in a way, outside of like ‘The End,’ and ‘When The Music’s Over,’ are sort of like haikus. The fit has to be very tight. I saw Jim’s words before he started writing songs. So, when you see his words on the page that’s poetry. I always thought of Jim as a good poet. But when he started writing songs, then everything became verse, chorus, verse chorus. Really tight, and it was a whole other ball game. He put his words into an entirely different context. A musical context. A hit single in a three-minute context. I thought ‘Moonlight Drive’ was brilliant.
Q: As you are hearing Jim’s lyrics to “When The Music’s Over,” late 1967, this is a timeline pre-Earth Day that began in 1970. Those lyrics are detailing ecological concerns and environmental chaos. Psychological territory away from ‘The End’ song. You and the band are a new soundtrack to global warnings and the continual destruction of our planet.
A: I knew Jim was a great poet. There’s no doubt about that. See that’s why we put the band together in the first place. It was going to be poetry together with rock ‘n’ roll. Not like poetry and jazz. Or like it, it was poetry and jazz from the ‘50s, except we were doing poetry and rock ‘n’ roll. And our version of rock ‘n’ roll was whatever you could bring to the table. Robby bring your Flamenco guitar, Robby bring that bottle neck guitar, bring that sitar tuning. John bring your marching drums and your snares and your four on the floor. Ray bring your classical training and your blues training and your jazz training. Jim, bring your Southern gothic poetry, your Arthur Rimbaud poetry. It all works in rock ‘n’ roll. So Jim was a magnificent poet. I loved his poetry and the fact that he was doing ecological poetry. ‘What have they done to the earth?’
Q: Like poet Gary Snyder and his writings and prose on nature.
A: Sure, absolutely man. But don’t forget that’s late 1967, and the potheads were aware. That’s what was so great about marijuana opening the doors of perception along of course with LSD. Marijuana makes you aware that you are on a planet.
“It’s God’s good green earth and you’ve got to take care of God’s good clean earth. The pot heads were the first mass ecological movement. And I hope they continue on and continue it into future because it’s our obligation to save the planet.
“My God, Strange Days, what an album cover. We told the art director from
Elektra Records, Bill Harvey, ‘Make something ‘Fellini-esque.’ And he did that on
his own. That’s all we told him. We saw the photos and said, ‘Bill this is
fabulous. You’ve outdone yourself.’ And Bill said, before he died, ‘That’s the best
album cover I ever did.’
Q: Jim Morrison was the best man at your wedding to Dorothy Fujikawa at Los Angeles City Hall.
A: Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson and the two of us went down to City Hall to get married. And the bridesmaid was Pam and the best man was Jim. And we had our celebratory luncheon on Olvera Street where we had enchiladas and margaritas. And the next night we played the Shrine Auditorium with the Grateful Dead. Psychedelic, man.
Q: Talk to me more about record producer Paul Rothchild.
A: Paul Rothchild was a stone cold intellectual. A fan of Bach. Out of New York City. One of the most intelligent guys I ever met in rock and roll. Great ears.
By the third album, ‘Waiting For The Sun,’ Paul Rothchild was becoming a real Laurel Canyon connoisseur of veteran potent marijuana that was being crossbred by the Northern California growers. All those guys up in Humbolt County. For recording sessions, Rothchild had two types of marijuana: Work dope and also playback dope, which was a little stronger for listening later. One of the benefits of being a known rock ‘n’ roll band
Rothchild had two types of marijuana. Paul had these little vials. One was called ‘work dope’ and the other was ‘playback dope.’ ‘WD’ was not too strong, you could get a little buzz, a little mellow and enter into a proper space and you had your wits about you and had your energy, and could play your instrument. And then after the evening’s recording you could sit back and have something a little bit stronger. This is the listening dope. Light up a joint, have a couple of puffs. Doors weren’t pot heads or dope addicts or anything.
All it took was a couple of tokes and you were stoned. ‘Now let’s hear what we’ve done.’ And we would give it the pot test. The takes that passed the pot test are the ones that stuck around. They are still on the albums. We mixed ‘Your Lost Little Girl’ on some hash.
Jim Morrison rolled the best joints. I rolled one that was flat and crushed, semi-round and loose. It was impossible to smoke a Ray Manzarek joint. That’s why I had to have a pipe I could smoke it on my own.
Morrison had the ability to take a single sheet of rolling paper and he rolled a joint that was absolutely perfect. Like a thin cigarette. ‘How did you do that?’ Ray…It’s one of my God-given talents.’ ‘You are amazing, man.’ The tightest, amazing and cleanest joint, like a half size cigarette. The length of cigarette and the diameter was half the size of a regular cigarette. How he did it I’ll never know but it was always a pleasure to smoke a Jim Morrison joint.
Q: In 1963, you were in the U.S. Army stationed at a Southeast Asia military base in Korat, Thailand. It was there where you tried marijuana for the first time.
A: The first time I smoked pot was back in Thailand. When I was in the Army we lived in these little quanset huts, these little shacks. There was an air base that we were connected with. You would have little house boys from the nearby village in Korat who would shine your shoes, take care of your clothes for you, help clean the barracks. You would pay them a couple a bucks a months and they were more than happy. One day, I asked one of the boys, maybe age 12 or 13, ‘Can you get me ganja?’ And the kid just froze for a second. ‘You smoke ganja?’ ‘Yes. I would like some ganja.’
“What happened was that earlier I had gotten a joint from one of my black brothers. So I said, ‘I will trade you cigarettes for marijuana.’ I exchanged a carton of American cigarettes that cost me around two dollars on the PX base and he brought me some Thai sticks stuffed into a can of Saltine crackers. To him that was like the greatest deal he could have ever imagined. The pot cost him nothing, he cut it off at the bottom of a stalk and put into a foot long can with a lid on it. I swear. You open the can and there is this folded over stalk of marijuana. Now he would normally buy one of those cartons from one of the GI’s for four dollars. I got it for him at two dollars. And he would take that thing and sell it and make like eight to ten dollars on a carton.
“It was a Saturday night, nothing to do, so we decided to smoke this stuff. I had a couple of hits and came on. The first trip was when I realized what the word stoned was. I could not move. I sat there and looked into outer space stoned out of my mind. It wasn’t a giggling thing. It was a profound awakening. ‘Oh my God.’ And every five minutes I would have to stick my tongue back into my mouth. Little by little. Sort of choking and realizing my tongue was all the way out of my mouth and I had to push it back in. I was sitting there like a moron, stoned and just in a complete state of absolute joy. Not giggly or silly, just amazed at the profundity of being alive on planet earth. This went on for four hours while we drank some Cokes and ate pound cake from a nearby snack stand.
Q: The Waiting For The Sun album. Some songs already existed in raw form but
a lot of new material was written for this endeavor.
A: You know it’s time to do a record when you have 10 or 12 songs together. I mean, when we would get together in the rehearsal studio they were polished. They were changed. They were adapted. Somebody, invariably Robby or Jim who would come up with the original idea. But boy, the four of us would get together, change and modify and polish the songs.
Q: “Hello, I Love You” from Waiting For The Sun had been around for
A: Yes. It was a song Jim wrote on the beach when we used to live down in Venice. Dorothy would go off to work and Jim and I would go off to the beach around the rings on the sand at Muscle Beach and work out around the bars, rings and swings and get ourselves into physical shape. He was gorgeous. Man, he was perfect. He was a guy who had opened the doors of perception and made a blend of the American Indian and the American Cowboy. He was the white Anglo Saxon Protestant. The WASP who had taken on the mantle of the American Indian. He now was no longer a fighter of Indians. He was a lover of American Indians. Like John F. Kennedy, that guy would have been a great President. Pre-alcohol, would have been a great President. The alcohol unfortunately destroyed Jim Morrison.
Q: On The Soft Parade you had Harvey Brooks as well as Doug Lubahn
on bass, saxophonist Curtis Amy and George Bohanan the trombonist.
A: Wasn’t that great. Curtis Amy, who was married to Merry Clayton. Curtis was a
big nationally known jazz horn player who lived in Los Angeles. He takes the solo
on ‘Touch Me.’ It might have been the first time a real jazz saxophone solo went
to number one on pop charts. And, we brought the strings and horn players to
some shows and TV appearances.
It was a great deal of fun for me to bring them on stage.
Q: And by The Soft Parade Jim Morrison started to indulge and really drink.
A: Jimbo came out. They call it the demon rum. There’s a demon in the bottle.
And there’s a demon in that white powder, too. A demon on the blade. You know
what those things do? They open the trap door of the subconscious and allow
some creature to come out. And the alcohol for Jim, a genetic pre-disposition
to alcohol, something came out, man. Some kind of combination.
He went from being the poet to a shooter. Shooter Morrison. I was flabbergasted.
While you can see that Jim Morrison is undergoing a transformation.
Right before our very eyes. And I hoped that this transformation was short
lived. But it wasn’t. ‘This can’t last. This is not Jim.’
“We started experimenting in the studio. I wouldn’t allow anything to get out of
the recording studio without my approval. If I didn’t think it was right it did not go
a record. Nothing happened without my OK. We did some composite vocals. You
do what you have to do. If Jim sings one line great. Fine. Then let’s get the next
line. Let’s get the words, man. Whatever it takes to get the best possible
performance. The Soft Parade’ song is an unusual piece of music. It’s a suite
Q: Then we have Morrison Hotel.
A: Well, we had done out horns and strings experimentation.
We had had a great time. I had a great time.
Critically it was our least acclaimed album. However, it has stood
the test of time and there are many great songs on there. So, you know what?
We’ve done that experimentation. Let’s go back to the blues. Let’s get dark and
funky. Let’s go downtown for the album cover. We went to the Hard Rock Café on
skid row with (photographer) Henry Diltz. And we went to a flophouse called
The Morrison Hotel. Rooms A sign read $2.50 and up. It was definitely supposed o
be a funky album and you can see that on the inside photo and the front and back.
Album covers were always important. We were involved heavily in that process.
You could never just turn it over to the record company. Everything that the Doors
turned out had to be stamped by the Doors. We approve of this.
Q: There’s a song called ‘Waiting For The Sun’ on Morrison Hotel.
A: We loved the title. But the song had not come together earlier. We finally got it
beautiful piece of music. It needed to cook more. Sometimes Doors’ songs came
out of the collective conscious whole. ‘Bam. That’s it.’
Others needed to cook and they needed be worked on.
And ‘Waiting For The Sun’ one of those songs with a great title.
Q: It’s a hard mean album. Morrison’s voice lends itself to this specific material.
A: It was a barrelhouse album and barrelhouse singing. He’s smoking cigarettes.
‘Jesus Christ, Jim. Do you have to smoke cigarettes and drink booze?’ He didn’t
say it but it was like, ‘This is what a blues man does.’ Oh fuck. That’s right.
Q: How could Jim Morrison with his Dionysian demeanor write and suggest instruction or guidance lyrically in that song, “Keep your eyes on the road your hands upon the wheel,” when most of the time he certainly didn’t operate or drive a car like this himself?
A: Well that was the better Angel. That’s Jim Morrison. Not Jimbo. Jimbo was the guy who took Jim to Paris and said, “let’s go and die in Paris.’ We’re going to have a death in Paris. Like Thomas Mann’s novella Death In Paris. That was Jimbo.
Q: In addition, the album brings us as into the water and film noir aspect of
Los Angeles. Water is a principal theme explored.
“Ship of Fools.” The “River of Sadness” cited in “Peace Frog,” and
the salvation of the ocean and the destination charted in “Land Ho!”
A: Water, ships. It clicks big time. The water images and that beach down in
Venice. And that ocean side. ‘Moonlight Drive’ again. And the water
always entered into Morrison’s life. And where does his life expire? In the water
in the bathtub in Paris. From the amniotic fluid of his birth to the bathtub in Paris. .
“The album was definitely blues, ‘Raymond Chandler.’ Downtown
Los Angeles. Dalton Trumbo. ‘John Fante.’ ‘City of Night’ John Rechy.
Q: Then there is the tune “Peace Frog.” In 1995 you told me for Goldmine magazine, “Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago” is obviously about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was written after the young people rioted against the war, in Vietnam.”
A: Those are great lines. Morrison goes further to say, ‘Blood is the rose of mysterious union/blood will be born in the birth of a nation.’ So it’s the idea that blood is the cleansing property, and from blood will come the healing and the enlightenment of the nation. America is what Jim is singing about. ‘Birth of a Nation.’ Another cinematic reference.
Q: In 2007 for Goldmine magazine we talked again about Doors’ catalog utilized in movies and soundtracks. The film school influence is obvious again, especially on ‘L’America’ on Morrison Hotel.
A: It was written for the director Michaelangelo Antonioni for his film Zabreskie Point. And we played it for him at the rehearsal studio and backed him up against the wall with the volume. We played it the way we normally play and too loud for this elderly Italian gentleman. I could see him pressed up against the door trying to get out of the place. We finish the song, he slides the door open and steps outside and it was almost like he was saying, ‘Goodbye boys. Goodbye Hollywood.’ And then he goes with Pink Floyd. It was all too much for him. He just couldn’t do it.
Q: Just before the album L.A. Woman formally began, producer Paul A. Rothchild leaves the project.
A: Yes. He did a great service to us. We played the songs in the studio so Paul could hear what the songs were. First at the rehearsal studio and then over to Elektra. I think we went back to Sunset Sound, too. We were bored. He was bored. We played badly. And Paul said, ‘you know what guys? There’s nothing here I can do. I’m done. You’re are gonna have to do it yourselves.’ And he walked out the door. We looked at each other and said, ‘Shit. Bummer.’ And Bruce (Botnick) said, ‘Hey, I’ll do it! I’ll be the producer.’ John (Densmore) said, ‘We’ll co-produce with you.’ Bruce said, ‘That’s a deal. Let’s all do it together.’ And then Jim said, ‘Can we record at our rehearsal studio?’ And we all said, ‘Hey, we play great at our rehearsal studio. Let’s do it..Can it be done?’ And Bruce said, ‘Of course I can do it there. I’ll set the board up and a studio upstairs. You guys record downstairs. That’s where we make the album and it will be virtually live. ‘Yea!’ And we got excited like that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland ‘Let’s put on a show!’
Q: Jerry Scheff plays bass on L.A. Woman.
A: Botnick brings in a guy who is going to be playing with Elvis Presley. ‘I got Elvis Preesley’s bass player.’ ‘Shit, man.’ He came in. A very cool guy who is playing with Elvis Presley.
Q: And, you and Jim just earlier had watched the “Elvis Presley ‘68 Comeback Special on television. I wrote the liner notes in 2008 for the CD reissue. Elvis is wearing leather on that program. And I believe Jim had his leather pants made on Sunset Blvd. in 1967 or in ’68.
A: Yes. We watched it. Elvis puts on his Morrison outfit. (laughs). He had seen Morrison. He knew what he was doing. Imitating Jim.
Q: L.A. Woman is a logical step from Morrison Hotel.
A: I think it’s the same Doors but a continual growth, continual evolution of The Doors. Continual revolution of The Doors.
Q: The title track “L.A. Woman” embodies movement, freedom, lust and dust.
A: ‘L.A. Woman’ is just a fast L.A. kick arse freeway driving song in the key of A with barely any chord changes at all. And it just goes. It’s like Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg heading from L.A. up to Bakersfield on the 5 Freeway. Let’s go, man.
Q: The haunting “Riders On The Storm.” In 1995 you ran down the song to me commenting on that highway and freeway chase depicted. “The storm is an unresolved psyche. We are moving into the Jungian collective unconscious. And those motivations in the collective unconscious are the same in 1976, 1968, 1969 as they are in 1994, 1995. There are needs that we all have on the human planet, and we must satisfy those needs and come to grips with the darkness and the interior of the human psyche.”
A: It’s the final classic, man. Interestingly, Robby and Jim come in and were working on ‘Riders On The Storm.’ And then they start to play it and it sounded like ‘An old cow poke riding out one dark and misty day.’ It was like ‘Ghost Riders in The Sky.’ No. We don’t do anything like ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ as much as I like it by Vaughn Monroe. And Jim likes it. What’s next? A version of Frankie Laine’s ‘Mule Train?’ Doors don’t do that. Let’s make this hip. The idea is good. We’re going to go out on the desert. ‘There’s a killer on the road.’ This has got to be dark, strange and moody. Let me see what I can do here. It was like ‘Light My Fire.’ It just came to me. I got it. The bass line. It became this dark, moody Sunset Strip 1948 jazz joint.
Q: And, only Morrison could inject a Hollywood movie studio system reference in the lyric ‘an actor out on loan.’
A: Yeah. How ‘bout that, man.
Q: Jim’s poetry album An American Prayer.
A: I don't think anybody was actually ready for the record. It was the first full-length rock 'n 'roll poetry record and it was 15 years ahead of its time. I think people are going to be surprised, because they think of Jim Morrison as this screaming, hell-bent-for-leather maniac, a wild lizard king. When they hear him read his poetry they're finally gonna know the sensitive Jim Morrison I knew when I first met him. You can hear the vulnerability.”
Q: Every Doors concert was unique. Some specific songs in the set but lots
of improv and no set order.
A: The concerts were an extension of the audio document. It was not yin and yang.
One was an extension of the other. There were improvisations in the recording
studio but within their soloing sections. And quite frankly, I never knew what
I was going to play. I knew the chord changes. I didn’t know how I was going
to structure my A minor 7h chord. That would vary from take to take.
It would always be an A minor 7th and in the groove. So there was improvisation
in the studio but here was major improvisation live.
“The whole Doors’ organ sound, what makes that work, that’s my whole Slavic upbringing. That’s being a ‘Polish Pianist.’ That’s that dark Slavic Stravinsky, Chopin, that great mournful Bartok type thing. Dark, mournful Slavic soul married so perfectly with the Carson McCullers American Florida southern gothic words ‘Tennessee Williams’ poetry, that the two of us went ‘Crunch!’ and the whole thing came right together perfectly. Playing with Jim, Robby and John was falling off a log. Writing those songs and inventing things.
“The Doors…Each song and album has its own place. I still play the albums and
can live the emotion. A lot of beautiful times went down. I think of going to UCLA, meeting Jim, meeting Dorothy Fujikawa who’s now my wife and a lot of great times.
“That was such a fecund time as Jim said, in that year we had a great visitation of energy. That year with the Doors lasted from 1965-1971. We were just composing fools. So that was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Q: Who is buying Doors albums these days? It took a long time after his death for the band to become hip again.
A: There was a period right through the '70s when everything was either country rock or glitter rock, and you couldn't hear The Doors anywhere. Then Danny Sugerman and I said, "Wait a minute, we're not going to allow this to disappear..." Little by little, we just started beating the drum for Jim and the band. That culminated in The Best Of The Doors, which we put together for people who knew of The Doors but didn't know what to buy.
Jim was a big influence on Patti Smith. Punk rockers loved the fact that his songs and poetry were so dark and ominous.
Q: You caught a lot of jazz in Hollywood in the very early sixties
A: I saw Coltrane many times. I noticed with Elvin Jones and John Coltrane there was communication. So, I thought, ‘I’m gonna keep the beat. That’s our job as drummers. But, I’m gonna try and talk to Jim during the music.’ Like, ‘When the Music’s Over.’ “What have they done to the earth….” That’s Elvin [Jones]. I knew I wasn’t playing jazz.
“I saw Sonny Payne with Count Basie at The Crescendo. Chico Hamilton at the Light House club. There was this ride cymbal riff that Chico did on a song. The ride cymbal on ‘The End’ once I get to the kit I’m playing the tambourine. It’s Chico Hamilton. That’s where it came from. Chico was direct, and going into the bridge on ‘Wild Child.’ That’s the press roll from Art Blakeley. That was direct from the records on Pacific Jazz and World Pacific.
Q: Tell me about 1965 and The Transcendental Meditation Center in Los Angeles.
A: Well, Robby and I went because LSD was legal and we were quite interested in our nervous systems, and knew we had to do this TM thing slowly. We go over there and I meet this little guy, Maharishi, and the ‘Love Vibe’ is very palpable. This is 30 people in a room. Then, a year or two later, I read that the Beatles are onto TM and our little secret is being spread worldwide. Great. I still meditate. The whole Eastern Indian thing, Ravi Shankar, via George Harrison and the Beatles saturated everything with paisley bedspreads sound wise. ‘The End’ was a raga tune.
“Ray had a previous relationship with World Pacific Records in 1965 when he was on the label with Rick and the Ravens and recorded for Dick Bock who owned the label, and released Ravi Shankar albums in the US.
“We got a couple hours of free studio time at World Pacific recording studios, and that’s when we got to make a demo in 1965. On the way into the studio Ravi Shankar is leaving with Alla Rakha, my idol, who I didn’t know was going to be my idol yet, was on the way out with these little tabla drums, which I soon find out by studying at the Kinnara School of Indian Music, are the most sophisticated drums in the world. I’m in awe of them. It’s the East! And, I’m just a surfer. Not literally, but from West LA. The very first TM class was with Clint Eastwood and Paul Horn the year before me. Paul later was in India with the Beatles.
“I don’t know if you know this story. Jim didn’t meditate, Robby and I went and Ray was there. That’s where we met. One time Jim came and he wanted to look into Maharishi’s eyes…and Jim later said, ‘Well, he’s got something. I’m not gonna meditate but he’s got something.’ This was the first class in the country. We were two years ahead of the Beatles, thank you (laughs).
I find it interesting that across the pond, the fab four were exploring the same thing as us... and there was no internet back then. Both groups were experimenting with then legal LSD, then drifted towards a less shattering route on the nervous system -- Maharishi and meditation.
“So maybe, 1966, 1967, I was noticing in the traditional Indian ragas you gotta wait for your climax. It’s not a quickie, you know. So that was the influence. Frankly, TM is the reason the Doors are together. TM. You could buy instant nirvana for $35.00 then. Now it’s thousands of dollars. And TM glued together myself, Ray, Robby and Jim.
“Robby and I went to Ravi Shankar’s Kinnara School of Indian Music. When you’re students at the Kinnara School of Music, you get to sit on stage with the master at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Later Robby and I go see Ravi play at the Hollywood Bowl, and George is on stage. Ravi didn’t teach at the school, but he’d drop in and give a little lecture on Sublimating Your Sexual Drive Into Your Instrument. Harrison was doing it in England. Later, George Harrison came to one of our recording sessions for The Soft Parade. You hear the Indian thing in techno stuff now. That came in and it was deep and it’s still around. We need the East.
Q: Laurel Canyon during 1966, ’67.
A: I shared a house with Robby on Lookout. I had cruised Laurel Canyon many times previously over the years looking for a place because it was the coolest spot in Hollywood. We knew that Frank Zappa was there having jam sessions that we went, me and Robby. Frank didn’t get that. That was interesting. He didn’t smoke or drink. He was wild enough to not need it. (laughs). He sort of wanted to produce us. Terry Melcher wanted to produce us. We were the house band at the Whisky A Go Go and everyone was trying to figure out what to do with ‘Light My Fire,’ because it was so long.
Robby and I are in Laurel Canyon in 1965, ’66, and a block from Appian Way at the top where you can see the whole city. Where later I bought a house where Carole King lived and the actor I heard James Coburn was just down the street playing his gongs. Jim and Pamela were in the Canyon later. Well, Jim in 1965 was in Venice and didn’t have a telephone. He was on a rooftop. So, Robby and I thought if we could find a place with him nearby it would help us track him down. So then we moved to Briar, which was a stucco two story and Jim was next door. Ray is not in Laurel Canyon. Arthur Lee was down the road a little off Briar.
When the Doors were at the London Fog. We used to take breaks and I’d walk down and stand next to Mario at the Whisky and listen to Love. And Elmer Valentine the other owner of the Whisky, he was such a great guy. And Elmer loved Jim so much even with all of his antics. Elmer loved music and was very cool. Mario, too. Phil fired us for some of the words in ‘The End,’ but Elmer hung on and never lost faith in us. Sweet guy. So, I’d be standing with Mario, ‘Damn, I can play as good as that drummer.’ ‘Shit…I wish I was in that band…’
Then Ronnie Haran, who was the booker at the Whisky caught us on our last night, when we were fired, there was a fight and they blamed it on us, and so she booked us into the Whisky as the house band. We were good and Jim was attractive. Ronnie and Jim ended up together later for a while. Then, when we were the house band, Arthur told Jac Holzman of Elektra Records to check us out which was very generous. Arthur was very generous but very introverted. Frankly,
smoked so much herb that he was paranoid but very creative and generous. Mamas & Papas’ Denny Doherty was around.
I lived on Utica before I had my own house on Appian Way where I’d see Carole King on walks and was very friendly. She was married to Charlie Larkey. They were working with Lou Adler then and his Ode Records label, and Robby and I produced an album called The Comfortable Chair for Ode Records. I knew John Locke the keyboardist of Spirit, they were on Ode, and John lived in Laurel Canyon. I knew him from 1964, ’65 from a club in Westwood, Ledbetter’s, the Rising Sons would play, David Crosby, John Locke used to jam there. I saw Spirit’s drummer, Ed Cassidy, play there a lot. And all this was before the Doors. I saw John a little bit in Laurel Canyon. I liked Spirit very much. I knew Bob Hite of Canned Heat. The Spirit members later were Topanga Canyon based. Topanga is sort of the western extension of Laurel Canyon. I jammed with Lowell George of Little Feat at his place. Just me and him. It was fun.
When I lived on Utica, 1967, Neil Young was my next door neighbor. The landlord was Keiki. She had this rambling ‘Hobbit’ like place with two or three guest houses and Neil was in one and I was in the other. I can remember when Neil said, ‘come on over. I want to play you something.’ And he plays me ‘Expecting To Fly…’ And so then I remember, ‘I bought a house in Topanga.’ He had just quit the Buffalo Springfield and was moving out. And he said, ‘Well, I got forty grand, that’s what I got out of the Buffalo Springfield and bought this house. I’m out of here,’ and bought this house. And I have very fond memories of those times with him.
Q: Talk to me about 1967.
A: On May 20, 1967 on the same day we played the Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood, and the next night as well where we played with either the Byrds or Buffalo Springfield. “Break On Through” had got to number 11 when we played the Whisky, partially due to our phone calls. People were coming to the Whisky, like Sonny & Cher’s management. Greene & Stone, the Turtles, Sunshine Company, the White Whale label people.
It was Greene & Stone [managers of Sonny & Cher and Buffalo Springfield] who made the initial suggestion to cut down “Light My Fire” for radio since it was 6:50. Their suggestion was to put one half of the song on one side of a 45 and rest on the flip side. That was cute.
Subsequently, Robby and I went over to a local DJ’s apartment, Dave Diamond from KBLA-AM, and he said it was a hit but mentioned “you have to edit this down (for airplay).” So, we pressed (producer) Paul Rothchild, and he just whacked at it, and all of us felt the cut was kinda brutal. But then, we became the darlings of the FM radio stations who played the long version. And, that jump started the whole FM underground “We’re cooler” scene. Which was very cool.
“Light My Fire” hit number one in July, our album went gold in September, and we did more gigs in Las Vegas, and the Cheetah on the Santa Monica Pier in Venice.
Jim had an astounding baritone. Un-schooled. Never got nodes like Grace Slick and had to have surgery. God, if you don’t have that bottom… It was luck. It was fate. He never sang before I saw him in the garage. It was kinda squeaky in the early days. He just was afraid to open up. How audacious. “OK. I’ve never sung and I’m gonna be the lead singer of a rock band.”
I had to work harder on the tempo because Ray’s left hand was the bass. And when he took a solo he’d get excited and speed up. “Hold it back. Hold it back.” But, without a separate guy doing bass line runs and grooves there are holes. “OK. I’m going in.” Sometimes I didn’t do anything. That was my territory between the beats.
During band rehearsals or just before we recorded, mainly I heard Jim’s words live and by himself in the garage, or Ray would hand me a slip of paper and they were pulsating rhythms of words. Because Jim was a poet they were edited. Like, “Break On Through” was so percussive. When we were recording and locked in, I was in it. We were just so in it. We were lost. Playing live there were big sections on “The End” or “When The Music’s Over” when we would vamp, and Jim would throw in anything. And then, “Oh yeah? I’ll throw that back at you. Check this out.”
“With the Doors I had to work harder on the tempo because Ray’s left hand was the bass. And when he took a solo he’d get excited and speed up. ‘Hold it back. Hold it back.’ But, without a separate guy doing bass line runs and grooves there are holes. ‘OK. I’m going in.’ Sometimes I didn’t do anything. That was my territory between the beats.
“You know, we wrote the first two Doors albums before we made any records. Jim had just written ‘People are Strange’ on a matchbook. He then did ‘Love Street’ about the Laurel Canyon store and living next door to it. I know it’s kind of light to the dark Doors, but melody is paramount to me. I’m a drummer. Jim was great. This was early. Young, energetic, curious, a smart guy who knew nothing about music and was real interested in how it all worked. He was cool.
A: Sunset Sound had a real echo chamber like the famous echo chamber at Capitol and it had a pocket that was fat. Just a warm fat echo chamber. You can’t buy that kind of shit. First of all when I went into Sunset Sound in the very beginning I had no clue what a good drum sound was. And I couldn’t believe you had to change the sound and kind of muffle it. Which Rothchild taught me. I loved Paul Rothchild but he got so perfectionist. He was tough but taught us so much. And mid-period, Waiting For The Son and The Soft Parade, he had me doing a s drum sound to tap on each drum and I’d have to do it for a fuckin’ hour. And I was exhausted. We did a 100 takes for ‘The Unknown Soldier.’
Elektra was a good studio. My thing was that I taped my wallet to my snare drum. And then we’d go to eat and I’d leave my wallet and I didn’t have to pay for drinks. (laughs). Not on purpose. Like in the 1950’s drummers used to do that before mufflers.
By the time we started working with Bruce Botnick at the Doors’ Workshop and in 15-20 minutes, ‘Great. Let’s go. You’ve made a lot of records and you know what a good drum sound is. I don’t have to flog you like Paul used to do.’ We did L.A. Woman there and it was more live. And Jim was in the bathroom which was our vocal booth. We did no more than a couple of takes on everything. Just pure passion and no perfection. Strip it down to the bare raw roots.
“The concept of L.A. Woman was like the first punk album. Just a few takes, go for the feeling, fuck the mistakes. During the sessions I told Ray that Miles's engineer said there was a trumpet mistake on the opening of ‘So What’ on Miles Davis Live at Carnegie Hall, and Miles said, ‘leave it in... It feels good!’"
Q: The Strange Days LP
A: The last song we did on the Strange Days album was ‘When the Music’s Over.’ We had been doing it live a lot, and it was fun because it was different every night, kind of like ‘The End.’ Lots of improvising.
So the night before we were to record, the phone rings about 4 am. I knew who it was. Jim says, ‘Robby, Pam and I took too much acid, man, you gotta come over. You gotta help us.’ I got out of bed and drove over there, fearing the worst. They were like harmless babies, not on a bummer, but more just bored, I immediately knew what to do. When on acid, always seek nature! They wanted me to take some but I refused, I said, ‘Let’s go across the street to Griffith Park. It’ll be great.’ ‘Yeah, yeah,’ they were excited. As they started out the door I said, ‘Shouldn’t you get dressed first?’ They agreed and out we went. They were freaking out, having a great time, so I figured they were okay.
“I said, ‘Jim, remember we’re recording tomorrow.’ ‘I’ll be there.’ “Of course, he wasn’t. Probably asleep we assumed. What to do? Ray said, ‘let’s do the track, and leave spaces where Jim does his thing.’ We decided it was worth a try, so we laid it down, trying to imagine where Jim would come in, and other such improvisations that were different every time we played it. Finally Jim shows up eight hours late, pretending to have forgotten the 2 p.m. start…He got it in one take. Amazing!”
Q: In 1968 the Doors headlined at the Hollywood Bowl.
A: As far as the Hollywood Bowl: It was amazing to be asked to play the bowl. Growing up in Los Angeles and playing the bowl must be like playing baseball in New York and playing Yankee stadium. We were really psyched! So much so that we actually rehearsed! [first time ever just for a gig] and we decided to capture the whole thing on film [and 8 track tape] normally, we would just wing it at gigs...we might discuss what to start with, 2 or three songs and then just go with the flow. Looking back, the rehearsal may have been a mistake. I think it may have made things a bit unspontaneous, not a good thing when the Doors were supposed to be so wild and free, never knowing what might happen next.....also the fact that Jim was peaking on acid was not in line with such a tightly controlled show,,, check out the Granada film, Doors Are Open...that was more of a spontaneous Doors show...luckily, the footage from the Hollywood Bowl looks great and we fixed up the missing songs, so we now have the complete show.
Q: The Doors began recording The Soft Parade in November 1968 and completed it in July 1969.
A: When we started The Soft Parade it was after the Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers.
The Soft Parade was recorded in West Hollywood at Elektra Sound Records on La Cienega Blvd produced by Paul Rothchild who brought in arranger Paul Harris to do the string and horn overdubs on The Soft Parade.
“I never liked the idea myself of strings and horns. It was an experiment. But once we decided to do it we did it. In fact we knew going in that the arrangements were made for the songs were actually tailored to have strings and horns. I would work with Paul Harris ‘cause I knew very little about orchestration. I would give him ideas for a horn line here and there and hope for the best. But he really did most of the work.
Q: Paul A. Rothchild produced albums by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Love.
A: Paul Rothchild was great. He was just what we needed, a very strong personality and real smart which Jim looked up to. And he knew a lot about recording, you know, which we knew nothing about. There are very few guys that Jim would look up to actually and the same with us. He would make us do 50 takes. Bruce Botnick our engineer for all the albums and the producer of L.A. Woman is a little bit overlooked. He is a perfectionist. So is Paul. Bruce is the guy who actually turned the knobs and you can’t argue with the sound he got. He was very young but had produced the Supremes and a lot of stuff.
“It was a blast to have Curtis Amy in the studio. That was the most fun part. You got to meet all these great musicians and hang out. They were our heroes. Like on ‘Touch Me,’ Curtis took the solo. That was the first time that happened. It served the song. That was another example of egos not getting in the way for the sake of the song. Leroy Vinegar was on our Waiting For The Son album. In fact he played on ‘Spanish Caravan,’ which was pretty silly ‘cause it wasn’t his type of forte.
The only reason we wanted a stand up bassist was that it was right for the sound and Leroy was a good reader, and it was a written part. Probably any guy could have done it. Doug Lubahn and Harvey Brooks were the bass players on The Soft Parade. Leroy was a bit taken back when he saw what we wanted to do. ‘This isn’t really my thing.’ ‘Come on, Leroy, you can do it.’ (laughs). On stage we didn’t have a bass player just the three musicians. Ray covered it. There were a couple of other groups who did that, the Seeds and Lonnie Mack. I loved Lonnie. He played on ‘Roadhouse Blues.’
Q: How was the material on The Soft Parade developed and constructed?
A: I came in with some songs and it was not like I had not done that before like ‘Love Me, Two Times.’ It was more like coming up with stuff on my own. Jim was getting more and more hard to work with as far as songwriting goes. It wasn’t the Jim who was writing ‘Your Lost Little Girl.’
Q: Let’s discuss the songs on the disc. “Tell All The People.”
A: I had never written anything political and I heard this song by Leadbelly called ‘Fannin Street’ about a street in New Orleans. And he had this line in there, ‘Follow me down.’ I really liked that line.
Q: Then the hit “‘Touch Me.”
A: It was originally called ‘Hit Me, Babe’ and Jim thought people might take it literally on that. (laughs).
Q: “Runnin’ Blue.”
A: I remember seeing Otis at the Whisky. I was standing right in front of the stage for the whole show. I never heard of Otis Redding before and I was amazed at the energy that he created on stage. I would stand right there on the dance floor, stage right.
“I wrote the song 'Runnin' Blue' but when Jim [Morrison] started to sing it, he just came up with that Otis dead gone part right on the spot. Seemed to fit pretty good. So we left it in. I guess the horn parts reminded him of Otis.
Jim and I had a telepathic relationship. It was a perfect combo. That’s how you make a great group. You have three, four or five guys who come together and have that perfect intuitive relationship and stuff comes out.
When we did the first Doors’ album Jim was totally un-experienced in the studio as far as recording his vocals. He had a year with his voice playing live every night. He had never done anything in the studio. And I think by the time The Soft Parade came around his voice had matured a lot as far as low notes and range. Stuff like that. I don’t think he could have sung ‘Touch Me’ nearly as good if that was on our first album.
Q: “Do It.”
A: It started off with a lick that I had and we needed words for it. And I didn’t have anything. And so we would go to Jim’s poetry book. A lot of times that’s what happened. Like with ‘Peace Frog.’
That was different. It was a crazy little song that I had and when I sang it to the guys they really liked how I sang it. ‘You sound a little like Bob Dylan. Maybe you should sing that song. And then Jim added the part about Otis Redding. That’s an example on how Jim would make my songs better. We had an ethic that we wanted to make the song better. Jim was amazing in that way. Possibly the least ego-bound songwriter I have ever worked with, no question. As far as, ‘Hey…That’s my line…’ It wasn’t like that at all. He was always open to discussion and for things I told him to sing. He wasn’t really a musician but usually what would happen is that he would come up with something better.
Q: “Wishful Sinful.”
A: It’s definitely one of my favorites on the album. The orchestration is really good. I love the chords and stuff I came up with on that song. I wish I knew how I did it. (laughs).
Q: “Wild Child.”
A: It’s one of my favorites because it’s live. That one didn’t need strings or horns. The title song ‘The Soft Parade’ was quite a work. It was actually three songs in one.
“We didn’t tour the The Soft Parade album. We only did it twice. It was another step for the Doors to try something different. The reason I didn’t like it was that I felt we were kind of doing the album for somebody else. But I definitely like how it came out, you know. A couple of years later we tried re-mixing some stuff without the strings and horns but it didn’t quite work. We had actually tailored the arrangements to horns and strings and to put that out again would be a lot of work, or alter the arrangements.
Bruce Botnick Engineer/Producer
Los Angeles native Bruce Botnick, is a sound engineer and record producer. At age 18 he talked his way into a job at Liberty Records in Hollywood where he subsequently recorded Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Jackie DeShannon, Leon Russell, David Gates and with arranger Jack Nitzsche.
Botnick then moved to Sunset Sound, hired as a mixer initially to do children’s albums for Disney.
Then the Doors walked in off the street into the fabled Sunset Sound facility with their producer, Paul A. Rothchild, an A&R signing courtesy of Elektra Records’ founder and owner, Jac Holzman.
Botnick is acclaimed for engineering the entire Doors’ recording catalogue as well as engineering Love’s first two albums. He also produced their epic Forever Changes LP. in 1967. He co-produced the Doors’ L.A. Woman.
Bruce was at the dials at several epic rock ‘n’ roll special moments: “Here Today” from Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds, Buffalo Springfield’s “Blue Bird” and “Expecting To Fly,” and a credit as an assistant engineer to Glyn Johns on the “Gimme Shelter” session on the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed.
Q: So many incredible albums were recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. Love, Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones mixed Beggar’s Banquet, and Exile On Main Street in the facility.
Tell me about the studio and the magic of the atmosphere.
A: It was built by a man named Alan Emig, who had come from Columbia Records. He was a well-known mixer there and designed a custom built 14 in put tune console for Sunset Sound.
Salvador “Tutti” Camarata, a trumpet player originally and an arranger, and did big band stuff in the 1940s and ‘50s had a friendship with Disney and decided to build a recording studio to handle the Disney records and all the movies, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” On a normal day we’d go from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM with commercials.
Q: You worked a bit earlier with arranger and musician, Jack Nitzsche on records by Bobby Vee and Jackie De Shannon.
A: He came into the picture early on when I was doing work for Liberty Records, which is where I came from. Jack was the arranger on a Bobby Vee date. Jack was the arranger and liked what he heard. He had been working over at RCA and at Gold Star doing a lot of recording. He started bringing tons of stuff in.
“And right in the middle of that relationship with Jack, the Doors walked through the door. I had already done Love before that. And the Doors came in the door with (producer) Paul (Rothchild. Knowing that in between the first Love album and the first Doors album was the first Tim Buckley album. And that was the first album that Paul Rothchild had done since he had gotten out of jail for a trumped up government charge on marijuana, where they had sent him stuff in the mail. And he opened the box. ‘My goodness. Look at this. Where did this come from?’ And the next thing was the doorbell rang and there was the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Q: At Sunset Sound, what did the room bring to the recordings you engineered or produced?
A: Well, the room was very unique. Tuti Camarata did something that nobody had done in this country. He built an isolation booth for the vocals. And later on I convinced him to take the mono disc mastering system and move it into the back behind what became studio 2. And we turned that into a very large isolation booth which we used to put stings in. That’s one of the things that worked so well for Jack Nitzsche because we were able to put six strings in there and get full isolation live. It was great.
“With the stings being in the large isolation booth the drums didn’t suffer so we were able to make tighter and punchier rhythm tracks than any of the other studios in town were able to do. ‘Cause everybody did everything live in those days. You did your vocals live. You did your strings and your brass live. And the rhythm section. And this was a big deal. And then add to it the amazing echo chamber that Alan Emig designed. Still phenomenal and having survived a fire. It still sounds incredible.
“Microphones and placement. All different microphones have different coloration and different sounds. And, if you have a good selection, like we did at Sunset Sound, it was all tubes, except for some Ribbon, RCA’s and a few Dynamics, they were all tube microphones. U-47’s, Sony.
“And we picked the microphone depending on the sound we were trying to get. And that was part of the palate. I still take that approach to this day. And by choosing the right microphone and putting it in the right place, a lot of times you can avoid having to EQ it.
Q: Did you ever employ windscreens, foam items or a pop filer to for vocal performances?
A: I did not do that. I could hear the change in the vocal quality and I didn’t like it. So what I did is I got a couple of singers stoned by making my own windscreens out of stockings and gluing them on to frames that I built, so they would be smelling the vapors of the model glue. But that worked great as a pop filter and did not affect the quality of vocals very much. I built things that went around the microphones and I have seen photographs from Capitol and they did the same thing.
Q: Do you feel you obtained a different or even better sound recording in your initial ‘60s sessions partially to the restrictions of 3 and 4 track machines and not 8, 16 or 24 tracks for basic recording? Although by the album Strange Days the Doors were using 8-track.
A: Yes, I believe that by making those decisions and getting that sound and printing it. The great thing about it if you wind up working on it and overdubbing vocals or whatever, the other stuff never changes. It stays in that same place. What you heard that first time when you locked it in it’s there. Now, can that be done with modern technology and I do it all the time when I do movie scores. Where we shoot everything live. I print all the automation, all the EQ, reverbs. It’s all done. So when I have to come in and do a mix or a re-mix, by adding electronics to it, or melding all the other stuff that I work against is still locked. Even though I have full breakout capabilities. So I still maintain that same process to this day.
Q: What kind of recording tape did you generally use on sessions?
A: It was Scotch 111. The Scotch tape, first off, you could kill it, and today it still plays. The oxide is still on the backing. A lot of the later low noise tapes that happened, especially with Ampex and some Scotch 207, the oxide turned to mush due to the backing and the glue. And we always had a problem with Ampex tape until to near the end. With the bottom end that it almost sounded grainy. You couldn’t get a good, clear bass note. On some basses that was good because it made it sound a little crunchier. But generally the favored tape was Scotch.
L.A. had a lot of great studios at one time. United Recording Studios, Western Recorders, Gold Star, Sunset Sound, RCA. They were terrific rooms. There was a commonality between them. They all had the same loud speakers, which were Altec Lansing 604’s. So you could walk from studio to studio and know what the hell you were hearing. Some rooms had more bottoms than others. But still the general, overall sound was the same. So you could take your tape and go to another room.
Q: What is it like birthing a recording, then following it over the decades in the transfer process from vinyl, to cassette, to the digital world, CD, and now blu-Ray.
A: I can tell you something. The machines we had then to record on recorded better than they played back. And we are able today, much better playback, electronics better, and much better matching of the electronics to the heads. And I have been able to pull off the tapes much better sound than I had ever heard. More bottom end. More openness in the air. Then work on it in that space and then mix it down to whatever it is we are putting out. If we’re putting out a new blu-Ray that’s what it becomes. Or even stereo. It starts better at the higher sampling rates and if you can keep it there all the better.
“Like, when I mastered the Doors albums for vinyl. Because some of the tapes were in fragile condition that I very carefully transferred them over, did any clean up that needed to be done, and then we mastered right from that to vinyl. And those discs sound better to me than the originals we did back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They are just more open. We’re not doing some of the bad things we used to do in those days. More frequency crossover so that you could put more level on the disc. We were more concerned and more interested today in capturing on what was on the tape and putting it on the record than going for a level, because we’re not playing it on the radio anymore.
Q: What astounds you many decades later listening to your collaboration with Paul Rothchild and the Doors?
A: The thing that still works for me is, first and foremost, the music. The musicianship. The performance. And all of those when these guys connected as a unit and became unconscious is good or better than anything I’ve ever heard. I was just working on a score that I had recorded with Jerry Goldsmith on a movie called First Night. And it’s extraordinary because a good half of the album the 110 musicians were totally un-conscious and the performances spectacular. And that’s one of the things I have to hand to my friend producer Paul Rothchild. That we went for performance and tried to stay out of it not to become too technically in the front of the albums that were manufactured.
“In the case of the Doors, Paul was the man who drove the train and kept it on the tracks. But the reality is that there were six of us in the studio making these records together. And it wasn’t a matter of one person “being the person.” Paul never took that point. At some point during the relationship and especially when Jim got busted in Miami, where Paul had to step up and take more control. Because somebody had too or otherwise it would have never got done. But generally his approach was to get the performance. And we weren’t afraid of editing between takes. You get an amazing first verse and second verse and a chorus and verse into the bridge and it would sort of fall apart and we would grab another take that had it and edited it all together. And it was about the performance. It wasn’t about overdubbing. Because in the majority of what the Doors played on their records was played live.
“You have to realize that when Buffalo Springfield came into the studio they were rehearsed. They had played their music live. Double sets at night clubs. Same thing as the Doors. That’s one of the reasons we were able to get good performances.
Dave Diamond: KBLA Deejay
I saw the Doors at The London Fog and the Whisky a Go Go. I played The Doors LP acetate on my KBLA Diamond Mine show. The Doors did a couple of high school gigs for me. I spun selections from their album along with numerous tracks from Love. In early 1966 I had telephoned Jac Holzman and mentioned the Doors to him.
“Break on Through” their first single, really didn’t make it. Robby [Krieger] and John [Densmore] come over to my Los Feliz place, checking my fan mail and reading all the letters [that said,] ‘Play the Doors!’ I’d get fifty or sixty letters a day, ’cause I was spinning this new stuff. People were just going nuts. They never had heard this kind of music.
One day, they come over, and they are both all sullen and gloom. ‘Break on Through’ stiffed. We don’t know what to do, and the record company won’t do this and that.’ I said, ‘Have them put out ‘Light My Fire.’’ They replied, ‘They won’t do it because it’s too long. No one will play that long a record.’
So I took them over to KBLA and showed them how to edit it down, removing the long instrumental passage. ‘Take that to Jac Holzman, and you’ll have a number-one hit.’ And that’s what they did.
Billy James: Writer
In January 1964 I was Manager of Information Services for Columbia Records.
I developed a crossover marketing and A&R job. My secretary Joan Wilson, who previously worked for Albert Grossman and John Court Management, touted the unsigned band to me. I came back from lunch and they were in the waiting room in my office on Sunset Blvd.
They were taking around the acetate of their songs, which I thought were terrific. They were the first rock ‘n’ roll musicians I had met who were highly educated. I eventually gave notice to Columbia that I was leaving to join Elektra Records. Jac was in a class by himself because of his technical sense, his knowledge of engineering and acoustical properties, which was something he had been interested in as a child. He was steering the world to Los Angeles in a way.
Oh yeah: I think them recording The Alabama Song was my idea...and I was attracted to his sly, seductive insouciance...
I was angry I was to see the damage Jim caused late one night with a fire extinguisher at Sunset Sound, spraying it around the control room and the studio -- what really got me pissed was seeing he'd sprayed it on a harpsichord...
I appreciated his giving me an inscribed copy of a chapbook he gave me of his poetry. I donated it to a charity, Music Against AIDS -- it sold for $500, as I recall...
Jac Holzman: Founder Elektra Records
As for the debut Doors’ album, [producer] Paul Rothchild and I discussed how far we should take ‘em. He said, ‘Well, why don’t we take them to 80 per cent of concert pitch and let them come in the studio.’ ‘That sounds great to me.’ So that’s what we did.
Jim and Arthur Lee were interesting characters. Jim Morrison died young. Jimmy Dean. That’s part of it. But Jim lived his life as full and he lived his life without any attention to convention, or what anybody else thought and a flame that bright usually does not burn long.
Arthur admired the Doors. And he was the one who said you ought to stay around for their Whisky a Go Go show. ‘That band is pretty good.’
Now I stay around for the Doors’ show in March of 1966. When I saw them I heard a lot of blues and I didn’t need any more white blues singers. And the band did not feel that comfortable. The Doors could do the blues but it was later when I heard the adventurous of their approach of taking something like ‘The Alabama Song’ and converting it so it could be done as a rock-infused song. That told me a lot.
I was more impressed by Ray Manzarek at the beginning than I was by Jim. Jim had the vocal chops but that personae crept out once he knew he had a safe home or a safe perch to work from.
Remember: The Doors were a band that had been signed to Columbia [Records] and they couldn’t even get to make a single. And the reason I offered them a three-album guarantee was that I never wanted them to feel that they would get booted out the door if the first LP didn’t sell. So that was the genesis of that. ‘What can I do that nobody else is crazy enough to do?’
There were two Doors albums out in 1967. Which was unusual but it was done on purpose to get them really established as an act and not as a one album wonder. So we had the first album that came out in January and then we had Strange Days which came out in October, and recorded in summer.”
My part of the creative process is to be involved but not buried in the middle to the extent that I lost my perception or position to be able to look at it from slightly afar. So as to determine what we got was what I thought was going to work. And album covers were important to the sale of music.
I saw myself as a mid-wife to their music. They recorded it. I helped supervise how it was going to be taken in and what I hoped would be willing ears. That’s my job. And it’s my job to talk tough when I need too. But I never had that kind of problem with the Doors.
The only time was when there was much screaming about Miami. I said, ‘if your shows are being cancelled we will figure something out about how we’re going to bring you back live. In the meantime, go into the studio and start writing another album.’ And that was Morrison Hotel.
And then we did two evenings of Doors’ concerts at the Aquarius Theater on Sunset Blvd. and those tickets were two dollars. We underwrote the rest. We picked up the tab. But it was there where we launched them. And that idea came from us. That’s kind of what you do when you live your artists anguish and you try and help them and you over the tough spots.”
Guy Webster: Photographer
On my first shooting with the Doors they were very easy to work with. Because it was their first real formal photo session for their album and they didn’t know what to expect.
I didn’t recognize any of them particularly. Until Jim (Morrison) said something. Jim and I sat near each other in class in philosophy at UCLA. We recognized each other every day and would nod. But I did not recognize him when he came into my photo studio for the very first session in 1966 the day after I saw the Doors perform at the Whisky A Go Go.
His appearance has changed a lot from UCLA. He must have lost at least 30 pounds and grew his hair longer since 1965. He’s the one who said to me when I first greeted him at my studio. “Hey Guy. We were in class together at UCLA.” Oh my God! Then I realized who he was. At UCLA we talked very little. It was a quarter system and really hard. It was just reviewing the stuff we read the night before by the professor. Nobody really talked in the class to one another.
Morrison had the ability to project larger on stage and in photos. It wasn’t a thing where his persona made him bigger in photos or on the concert stage. He might have been five foot nine but was trim and his body was in very good shape. That’s why I had him take his shirt off for one of the shots. And his hair looked nice. I knew very early in working with him on that initial shoot he had a sense of photography and visuals. I think what really happened was that he trusted me and then when I did that shot of him that made him esoteric and ethereal. He went with it. I wanted something ethereal and he gave it to me. The other members of the Doors never took their shirts off and stayed in character as musicians.
Here’s the deal on Jim taking his shirt off for the photo session. Once we realized that we were in school together and that I was already famous with my album covers, I said, “Look Jim. You’re wearing this shirt and it’s embarrassing because it has ribbons on it. I know it’s a hippie shirt but you can buy it in Venice Beach and you can buy it anywhere.” And it would have dated him. “I’m gonna take your shirt off. You’ll be alright. Trust me. And I’m gonna make you look like Jesus Christ.” And that’s what it was.
I put Jim’s face forward and I designed the front cover of their debut LP and put the other three guys as his eyes and part of his brain. But I made Jim the star on purpose ’cause I knew it could sell the album.
Jac Holzman liked it and put that on the cover. He always let me do what I wanted for the cover.
But I never thought of Jim as a great singer. He had the emotion. He got into it. I met every great singer years before I heard the Doors. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. Jim could get the emotion across and convey everything. Absolutely. He had the ability to tap into the meaning of things he was singing. I thought he was brilliant. But remember-there were a lot of detractors, you know. Everyone didn’t like the Doors initially. There was a split group in L.A. But I loved them.
Once the Doors hit it big, we really didn’t do a whole lot of talking or communicating. We’d go out on location and get it done. I shot the back cover photo on a hill where I did silhouettes of them for their Waiting For The Sun album. That was fun.
And the 1968 session around ‘Unknown Soldier” at the Westwood cemetery. By then Jim had changed. He didn’t look as healthy and his hair was groomed properly. I didn’t really look at the photo of Jim in the cemetery again until after he died. I realized it was kind of a requiem for Jim himself.
It was raining and very hard to take pictures without getting ugly buildings in the background. The one image on my website has Jim on the side. I was worried about putting it out there because it was too macabre so I didn’t push that photo. I loved the Vietnam commentary being done in front of me. Anything that was political+. Jim Morrison had a sense of fashion. He understood. He was super educated, even though he educated himself, going to UCLA at that time in the mid-sixties after transferring from a university in Florida.
In 1971 I was taking pictures of Natalie Wood. She was like a friend of ours, because my first wife and I were very close to Natalie and her husband, Richard Gregson. And I was friends with her. And she said, “Will you do some pictures for me.” “Absolutely.”
So we went up to Malibu, to Serra Retreat, and we were shooting there. Not too many cars and she wouldn’t be bothered. And this limousine pulled up and the window came down. And this burly 250 pound man with a full beard and hair said, “Guy.” “Who is it?” “Jim.” “Jim Morrison?” I didn’t recognize him. He asked, “What are you doing?” “Well, I’m just finishing up some work and then I’m moving to Spain and I’ll be there for quite a while.” And he said he was moving to France in the next week.” And I said, “Well, shit, we gotta get in touch.” And that was the last time I saw him…I moved to Spain and he moved to France and he died a couple of months later.
Kim Fowley: Record Producer/Songwriter
I saw the Doors at Ciro’s on Sunset Blvd. and everywhere. I introduced them at the Devonshire Downs Meadows Raceway in Northridge at Valley State College in July1967. It was the Fantasy Faire & Magic Music Festival. Astounding. They had magic. In 1969 I introduced them on stage in Canada at the Toronto Pop Festival where John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band appeared.
Jim could sing in pitch. He had the image and the poetry. He understood theater. Ray’s organ was a music box to a volcano. Manzarek supplied a pulse, and Robby the guitarist is never given credit what he brought to the table in 1967. John Densmore was a jazz drummer. You also had a jazz keyboardist and a jazz guitarist all playing the blues with a real great poet and actor fronting it. It was tremendous. It was theater.
Jim Morrison was the best white person performer. Better than Elvis. Better than Jagger. Because he did what Howlin’ Wolf and Lawrence Olivier did. Morrison did it all at the same time. He did William Shakespeare and gut bucket together. And only PJ Proby rivaled him and David Bowie came in third.
The Doors were not a rock ‘n’ roll band but gave you a rock ‘n’ roll feeling. And the only band that did that was the original King Crimson. ‘Cause they weren’t a rock ‘n’ roll band, either. But when you heard Court of the Crimson King, and Pink Floyd ’67, they were the only bands who had some Wagner with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude.
Steven Van Zandt: Deejay/Musician/record producer/Author
I didn't like the Doors as a kid. I didn't get it. I was a total Anglophile on top of being prejudiced against most things from the West Coast. Any guitar player not from the Eric Clapton school was irrelevant, Mike Bloomfield being the only exception, so I didn't appreciate Robbie Krieger's Ravi Shankar influenced guitar style.
Poetry was beyond me, the only exception being Bob Dylan, so Jim Morrison's Rimbaud meets Dionysius routine went right over my head.
John Desmore's drum craft gently weaving the guitar and keys together was too subtle in my world of Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and B.J. Wison.
Ray Manzarek was the exception, being obviously impressive with every keyboard player tested by his ‘Light My Fire’ riff. But I wouldn't appreciate keyboardists playing with one hand until much later (he played bass with the left).
Nobody in my neighborhood took the band seriously. And while we're on the subject, we let the Rascals get away it but we weren't so forgiving with the Doors' weird ass no-bass-thing either.
As it turned out, of course, I couldn't have been more wrong. It's obvious to me now they were fantastic. They would be one of the defining bands of the Psychedelic Era.
They were a brilliant combination of extremely cinematic Rock, Pop, and Art that featured Existential philosophy, Beat Poet influenced lyrics, Eastern-style Indian scales, Western-style self-psychoanalysis, and Native American primal, ritual performance.
Awesomely original, they were an unpredictable exciting visionary energy for a new world that never quite came to be.
Peter Lewis: Co-Founder of Moby Grape
Before they got famous, the Doors had come in for an audition at Gazzarri's on the Strip. This would have been ‘65' or ‘66 when I was playing there in Peter and the Wolves, trading sets with Pat and Lolly Vegas. It was a Sunday afternoon as I sat there with Pat Vegas and Bill Gazzarri watching.
None of us had seen anything like this before. Jim stalking the stage and growling over the mic was all it took to freak Bill out. So the Doors didn't get the gig on the Strip.
But when another less conservative Gazzarri's opened down on La Cienega, the Doors became the house band.
In the meantime I had gotten in Moby Grape. The Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Blvd. next to Barney's Beanery where all the rock groups stayed in L.A. Jim was wandering around out by the pool when I ran into him. We ended up talking in his room for a couple of hours.
I left with a sense of him having revealed to me a great truth about life and death. It would take years to figure this out the way I described it to my friend. But I always remembered the heart of Jim's message was about music and how using it as a vehicle to keep life in front of you and death behind is a good example.
Anyway my friend liked the Doors. So he lightened up on me when I told him, "When you get older and lose control of your dreams, it's just death catching up to you. But don't worry man. It's all right. Just don't let it catch you looking backwards.
Marty Balin: Jefferson Airplane
Q: In 1965, you opened the Matrix club in San Francisco. The Doors played the Matrix club in very early 1967. I know in ’67 and 1968 you toured the US and Europe together.
A: I didn’t see the Doors at the Matrix Club but saw them many times. We worked and played with them many times in 1967 and ’68. We did some high school and college shows together and toured Europe.
“I loved the Doors. Oh my God! I thought Jim Morrison was fantastic. I fortunately became a friend and hung out and got to drink with him. He’d read me his poems all the time. I thought that was funny. I thought Jim was great as an artist. Who knows? He would have probably gone into film and done movies. The guy was a good lookin’ dude, man. I’d go out with him and try and pick up chicks and I was like invisible.
Paul Kantner: Jefferson Airplane
By the time Jefferson Airplane did the Monterey International Pop festival we had a record deal with RCA and an album out that we recorded in Hollywood. As far as San Francisco being suspect of L.A. and Hollywood people, we always tried to get above that if possible as a general rule. People didn’t like the Doors. ‘Cause they were from L.A. (laughs). So there’s an immediate antipathy and I liked the Doors a lot and toured with them. I created that lack of that antipathy in myself. I rejected the suspicions of L.A. as a general rule. I thoroughly enjoyed L.A. and New York. I could make myself comfortable in either one of those cities. I liked San Francisco a lot.
Chris Darrow: Multi-instrumentalist
After the English Invasion, I started a group called the Floggs, an all-electric band in the Yardbirds, Them, Animals, Stones mold. I was the writer and lead singer and became the bass player by default. We were guitar, bass, organ and drums. We did gigs with groups like The Rising Sons, with Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, who were friends from the Ash Grove scene. We were very good and recorded a 7-song demo to shop.
My wife and I went to see the first U.S. gig by Them on a Thursday night at the Whiskey A Go Go. They were great but there was an opening act that I just hated. A guy wearing leather and posturing who seemed to sing out of tune led them. The keyboard player was good and looked a little like John Sebastian. I went up to the owner, Elmer Valentine, and said, “I got a band better than this! Can I give you a tape?” We never got the gig; the band was the Doors.
In the winter of 1967 I was playing with Kaleidoscope in New York City and staying at a friend’s pad, on 111th and Broadway in Spanish Harlem. His name is Charlie Zetterberg and he was going to Columbia Law School at the time. He is a great banjo player and we were in a bluegrass band when I first met my Kaleidoscope band mate, David Lindley.
We had known each other in L.A. and we hung out a bit at our producer Barry Friedman’s house on Fountain Ave. where Jim was hustling Nico at the time. She, incidentally, was co-billed with Kaleidoscope at Steve Paul’s The Scene.
I was just leaving the Kaleidoscope and was being courted by Jeff Hanna and John McEwen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band about joining their band. I saw them play in November 1967 at Hunter College co-billed with the Doors. Later as a group member I encountered Morrison and the Doors a number of times.
We did gigs together but the most memorable of the meetings was in in New York City. While backstage, I saw Jim and he called me into his dressing room. He had a rather detached look on his face and flatly asked me, ‘Have you ever tried ether?’ I said, ‘No man, never did’, and he just stared at me until I walked out of the room.
Alex Del Zoppo Co-Founder of Sweetwater
1967 was a culturally transformative year, to say the least. San Francisco was the throbbing heart of rock music. But L.A. supplied the blood, as that’s where the music business was. And L.A. was about to take the steering wheel again.
By 1967 I was back home in L. A. again, six months out of my active duty stint with the United States Air Force Reserves, renewing my acquaintance with the real world and soaking in every fragment of the changes that had happened since I was gone, especially the revolutionary transformation that was taking place in the local music world.
A year earlier, I had come home on leave for ten days, and was astounded by how much had changed in such a short period, but now, it was in a constant state of flux, shifting by the minute.
I found myself back at Los Angeles City College, studying music again, and playing nightly at the Scarab, a club/hang near the Jr. college with a jazz/Latin/classical jam band consisting of friends from school, which would soon morph into Sweetwater. We had different players each night, whichever JC instrumentalists would choose to show up on any given night, keeping things interesting, and keeping us on our toes, despite being swacked to the eyeballs. Life was mostly good . . . again.
In that era, we informed ourselves by word-of-mouth or by reading The Los Angeles Free Press. Glancing through that venerable rag, I began to become aware of a new band called The Doors, seeing their name pop up fairly often. And driving along the Sunset Strip to see one of my favorite acts, the Byrds, I also noticed the Doors on the Whisky’s marquee. I thought to myself “they must be a hard-working local band, ‘cause they’re always playing somewhere,” piquing my curiosity.
But it wasn’t until I was driving one sunny afternoon and the radio played “Light My Fire” that I first paid serious attention to them.
It had an undeniable groove, a palpable eerie sense that pervaded it in an inexplicable way, and an enthralling voice that was somehow both inviting and frightening, melding perfectly with the bizarre lyrics.
Moreover, barely a minute into it, they began a wild long-form jam, which held my attention from beginning to end. It was irresistible. The organ solo found its way through this frightening modal landscape, slowly building to a series of triplets, seemingly teasing the drummer with them, and him teasing back with his own, leading to an all-but-visible climax, followed by a respite that I fully expected to be the vocal coming back in again. But, they weren’t done yet –then the guitar comes in with those brilliant jazz-blues hybrid licks and reached his own climax before that spooky voice comes back in, with a different, more intense melody no less! Absolutely audacious! These guys could play!
In an understatement, they had my fucking attention.
When the FM DJ enthusiastically said, “That was a brand new cut from the Doors”, it was an “Aha!” moment for me! They had played all 7 glorious minutes of it! I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “So that’s what they sound like!” They were at once, whimsical, musically astute, mysterious and with just enough darkness to intrigue me!
These “expanded solo sections” were what seemed to be in the air at the time, but not on the air. Bands in San Francisco had begun to explore lengthy instrumental excursions into uncharted musical waters when they played live, this during the end of the era of standard-issue 2:45 minute radio-ready singles.
And by the nature of what our band was, we had been doing that sort of free-form modal thing in our instrumental jam band every night at the Scarab. We had to: we had no singers, little material that any of those temporary band members could join in on, and many hours to fill nightly, so everything became fairly elastic. Amazingly, in the ensuing months, and in some totally unexpected ways, our two band’s paths would begin to cross.
One night, some months before that, while going about our instrumental jams, Albert Moore, playing his flute over a microphone, saw a young girl among the crowd. Oddly, she was singing while we played a minor key jam based on a series of chords that I had come up with. She was singing out loud, loud enough for us to hear her, and it was something which seemed to fit what we were playing. While we continued to play, Albert beckoned her to the stage, and she came up and continued to sing, but now over his mic.
It turned out to be “Motherless Child”, an old gospel standard, but it sounded completely different than any of us had ever heard it before. She sang a few verses with power, grace and confidence, and then jumped off of the stage amid rousing applause from the audience, and disappeared into the crowd. It was a surprise to everyone in the place, including her! We, of course, continued to play that same jam for another twenty minutes or so, but when we took a break, we looked for her, and she was nowhere to be found.
A month or so later, after much searching and consternation, we finally got a lead on her. It turned out that she was not a LACC student after all, but a 17 year-old high school girl from Glendale, who’d snuck out of her mom’s house and hung around these kinds of places on occasion. Swallowing hard, we decided to think toward a positive future, and asked her to join us.
I had a fairly different vision of what we could become with this new unexpected and powerful element, and soon pared down the band to keep some of the unique flavor, but add some balls to it, becoming a little less eclectic and a lot more electric.
We began rehearsals with a general goal in mind: Be so damn good before we ever play in public, that we won’t be denied. Businesswise, we were all fledglings, but we had a guru (and infrequent guitarist), Harvey Gerst, who had been in the music business all his life, in one capacity or another, and had co-written a couple of songs with Roger McGuinn for the Byrds.
He was also designing and developing a new music instrument amplifier company called Accoustic Control, with Steve Marks, and promised each of us would have one when the time was right. Besides being the nicest human we’d met in the music business, he helped and encouraged us tremendously, and instilled in us the vague notion that since the Doors had played the Whisky, and won a recording contract, that we might follow their path. But this was 1967, and things were changing.
During months of rehearsals, we began hearing about this odd thing called a “pop festival” – it was to be held in Monterey, California. As the time for it grew near, we convinced ourselves that we needed to go there, to see what it was all about. We drove up in two cars, and slept in them too, but awoke to experience the most glorious phenomenon that we could’ve ever imagined: live rock music, played outdoors among thousands of peaceful fans.
We came back to L.A. with a different goal . . . to be a part of that, and play those kinds of gigs! We told Harvey our new goal, and in his loveable way, he immediately said, “OK, No problem!” Through his connections, he got us an audition to play at a love-in, which was essentially, a Pop Fest without pay.
It must sound like a joke to read that we had to audition for a free gig, but we were virtually unknown, and this was a special one, with some major names on the bill, Iron Butterfly and Phil Ochs. Additionally, it was sponsored by an LA radio station and MC’d by Elliot Mintz. Here, we played our very first gig before thousands of young people, but we were more than ready. After we played, Elliot asked us if we had representation. Sensing that we didn’t know what that meant, he continued, “a manager or agent. If not, there’s a fellow here that would like to talk to you about that.”
And eventually, through this connection and a series of happy accidents, we were led to Bruce Glatman, who became our manager. Bruce began to get us gigs that same week – fun and prestigious ones too, like The Artists and Model’s Ball. We began to play regularly in and around California.
Soon, we were playing the Whisky, often for weeks at a time, routinely opening for major acts, and ironically, we eventually got signed by Warner Bros, after Mo Ostin saw us there while opening for Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company.
He was fairly new to the business, but seemed to know nearly everyone in it, and amazingly, one of them was Asher Dan, who was involved with the Doors management team. So, we began to open for the Doors too, but at increasingly larger venues, such as The Shrine Auditorium, and The Forum. This seemed to be a good fit, as both acts’ sound was heavily dependent on keyboards (we had no guitarist for 95% of our 3 ½ year run).
The Shrine Concert Hall in downtown L. A. was a massive box, and the stage was built higher off the floor than at most venues. After we had done our set, and it was time for the Doors to play, Ray, Robby and John assembled on stage. The stage remained dark, as always, between acts. After waiting for what seemed like fifteen minutes, while the band was already on stage, adjusting their settings, Jim was not to be seen. At the time, it began to feel as if he may not come up at all and the audience grew restless. An envoy from back stage came up and told the instrumentalists to begin to play.
Eventually, a couple of their roadies had to practically carry Jim up from the dressing room back stage to his mic, where he grasped onto the stand, holding on for dear life as if it were a walker. While the instrumentalists continued to comp that rhythmic groove, he stood still and silent in his dark leather pants, for an interminable amount of time before he began to sing.
When he finally sang, it was barely sufficient, not nearly as good as we knew it could be. The stage lights were still not turned on until a while after that, for some reason. The audience didn’t seem to know the difference, about any of that, or didn’t care. They seemed to get wound up when he began to sing. But it took several songs for him to actually be an equal part of that great band.
As I watched, mesmerized, from stage right, standing just feet behind Manzarek, I began to pay less attention to Jim, and more to Ray. He played not only his incredibly demanding organ parts, but the bass parts as well, on a Fender Rhodes Bass keyboard. His hands seemed to each have a distinct mission, the left holding the bass groove tightly together while doing mind-blowing things on the organ with his right.
Of course, many traditional organ players play a bass part with a slightly different organ sound, but to his credit, he played this instrument with the feel that an actual bass player would, and with his impeccable touch, we didn’t miss having an electric bass guitar at all. Together with the rock-steady Robby & John, they tore up that giant hall, smokin’ musicians that they were. And I know that it’s not my imagination that they did “Light Fire” way longer than the record! Just gorgeous.
Having grown familiar with their recordings by then, I already thought highly of them as a band. They were uniquely inventive, solid instrumentalists who played with feeling and excitement and Jim’s voice was mesmerizing. But, while watching them perform live that night, especially from so close a vantage point, I noticed that while the instrumentalists were always uncannily attuned to one another, Morrison seemed detached, nearly feral at times.
Being the cynical bastard that I was, I wondered if this was a cultivated act, a ruse of sorts? Word from the road managers was that it was assuredly not fake, and in fact, that he was fortunate to be standing (mostly) upright that night. Being aware of the available drugs of that era, I could only guess what would render him so distant.
When we played with them at the Forum in Inglewood, CA, a much more massive and elegant venue, things were a lot different. The bill was the Doors, Sweetwater, and Jerry Lee Lewis – in that order. Again, all keyboard-heavy acts. However, someone decided that another solo act should also be on the bill – well after all the advertising, posters & billboards had it locked in. Additionally, being a special gig for them, they added orchestral players and an electric bass guitar to accompany them. Consequently, when we arrived, our roadies told us that “everything is going to have to happen quicker tonight – that means you’ll be going on soon, and possibly do a shorter set because they’ll need time to set up these extra players.”
As it turns out, a solo Asian-string instrumentalist was now to play as well. That meant that our set definitely was going to be cut shorter, after Jerry’s. But even that was not how things turned out.
We got word that Jerry Lee was “stuck in traffic”, and that Sweetwater would have to go on before him – out of order. But this was an important gig for us too! We didn’t want to relinquish that choice spot on the bill. We waited as long as we could, until it was a choice of playing as the opening band, or not at all. Bruce was not in town to fight this particular boondoggle for us . . . so we eventually gave in and went on before Jerry – at first, with the fucking lights on! Jerry Lee conveniently showed up after we were through. We’d been had – he skunked us. We had become road veterans by then, and most things didn’t bother us, but that didn’t go down well. Jim seemed a lot more settled down at this gig, and it sounded much more like the records, especially with the string players, but we were too pissed to hang around for very long.
Shortly following that, we stopped by the Doors office, upstairs on Santa Monica Blvd. and La Cienega in WeHo for some business as we had begun to share roadies. While there, I asked if they had any posters left from the Forum gig. They were sparse and iconic with a graphic of a large lizard in the center. Vince Traynor, their road manager, said they were all out, but that there was one on a telephone pole out on the street nearly at the bottom of their stairs. As it turned out, it was a large, single “printer’s proof sheet”, combining several Doors/Sweetwater Forum flyers and a few Chambers Bros ones. I took it, because I wanted to have a souvenir of that gig. Ironically, after many decades, that turned out to be quite valuable, being the exceedingly rare item that it was.
I marvel now, looking back after all those years, at how heady and wacky those days were, and also how people we met continued to intersect with one another, often in bizarrely unexpected ways. One afternoon while we were between gigs, our old guru, Harvey Gerst, calls to tell us that Vince Traynor called him, asking to “round up as many Acoustic Control amplifiers that were in L. A. for a Doors show at the Hollywood Bowl.”
We, along with several L. A. acts (because nearly every major act were addicted to the great sound projection those amps had) readily agreed to let them use our amps on loan. I went up to the Bowl with our roadie, Steve Doyle, who used to work for the Doors under Vince, and checked out the amazing spectacle. A virtual wall of sound!
In that setting, their performance seemed spectacular, and it wasn’t just the wall of amps or the setting. From the beginning, despite some mic problems, everyone was at their best.
The band was amazing for that gig, and Jim seemed relaxed and was really spot-on for those performances.
From the slowly-building excitement for the opening of “When the Music’s Over,” they rocked the hills!
Their unique version of “Back Door Man” was hard-hitting as always and completely satisfying. “Moonlight Drive” felt positively right with the audience being under the stars. I was back stage, but it felt magical, even from the wings. They built their way to a couple of encores. The inevitable “Light My Fire” certainly did just that to the audience, and was different than on record or any of the other times I’d witnessed them live. The jam part was still spellbinding, just a bit unique. When they reached those massive climaxes, everyone got off! The entire audience was in-synch with them! Jim sang it a bit differently too – his melody was more tame, yet somehow more exaggerated, yet with the same spookiness that got me hooked the first time I’d heard it. And “The End” was positively explosive! A perfect way to end any set!
Jim seemed comfortable there, as if they were casually playing just another gig at the Whisky. More importantly, he was attentive to the band members throughout the night, adding occasional, obviously-rehearsed theatrics, even dancing vigorously at times, and the crowd loved every minute of it. I did too!
Bless his troubled soul. And bless Ray Manzarek. They will live forever.
Michael Simmons: Musician and Writer:
I was almost 14-years old on Friday, January 24th, 1969 when I saw the Doors perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore were consummate musicians and the songs were perfect, but mostly I remember lead singer Jim Morrison standing stock-still in the center of the round stage. A fever drove me up out of my seat and I took off on a clean sprint towards The Doors.
Morrison had pipes that combined Sinatra and Howlin’ Wolf, as well as a movie star mug -- but there was more. Despite getting whacked in the belly with a cop’s billy club for the crime of being young, I couldn’t return to my seat. I staggered around until I was within a few feet of Jim. He was glowing – literally emitting heat – and I wasn’t on drugs and it wasn’t the dramatic light show.
Morrison sang lines from William Blake. I’d been reading Blake and Rimbaud and this young god before me embodied and projected the dead poets’ ancient desire to transcend the ordinary and become divine. He was the single most charismatic human being I’ve ever seen and anything ordinary would remain my bête noire forevermore.
Michael C Ford: Poet
Here's the true story: Ray and I informally started a funk band in 1964 we named The White Trash Quintet (a name, incidentally, picked up and used by 1970s bands on more than one occasion) and we were playing at Mother Neptune's, a Beat Generation coffee house on Melrose Ave.
I saw the Doors, once at the London Fog and twice when they were the house band at The Whisky.
A few months later, returning this time from Weber College in Utah, looking up at a billboard on the Sunset Strip which stated THE DOORS BREAK ON THROUGH WITH AN ELECTRIFYING NEW ALBUM with 4 familiar faces emblazoned on the sign. And I do remember thinking, with the mote of a sentimental look in my eye, Wait a minute, I know those guys.
I remember being in an Elektra recording booth with Jim, during one of the Waiting For The Sun sessions. I was eyeballing this enlarged studio space with streamlined state-of-the-art sound equipment which looked (in retrospect) like something out of a Star Wars dash board. Mentioning this vastly enlarged version of earlier remembered Elektra studio surroundings, Morrison responded: ‘Yeah, twelve acid trips built this room!’
The very 1st time I read out loud in front of a live audience was a fundraiser for Norman Mailer's Mayoral campaign in June of 1969 at the Cinematheque Theatre on Sunset Blvd. And reciting my fledgling work alongside of Michael McClure, Jack Hirschman, 3 or 4 Andy Warhol experimental film luminaries, Jim Morrison with Robby chording and single string improvising on a Stratocaster. That was the night when Morrison recited the ENTIRE text of American Prayer.
Jack Larson Actor Playwright
I was invited by Jim Morrison to Universal Studios to a projection room to see footage shot of their 1968 tour. Jimmy had invited me and Jim Bridges in ’68 to see the Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. He got us great seats but during ‘Light My Fire’ the audience started throwing firecrackers and books of matches. I liked it but I knew by that time that he was unhappy with the whole scene.
The guy I saw in the projection room and at USC was totally different than the one in front of 18,000 people at the Bowl. By that time I knew him and realized why he was so disgruntled. He would talk about Rimbaud. He had a beard then, gained weight, and quiet.
In February 1969 I saw the Living Theater on the campus of USC at Bovard Auditorium with Jimmy. Le Living. We went together. They all exposed themselves. I found Jimmy to be very genuine and I liked him very much. I had a play at the Mark Taper Forum. A group of one acts with playwright Harvey Perr. He wrote for The Los Angeles Free Press and he knew Jimmy Morrison. And Harvey had this play and we were on the same bill at the Mark Taper and Morrison came down with Harvey and I got to know him. He was enormously friendly to me.
The irony about Jimmy Morrison is that I’m part of an award that is given out, the James Bridges award, that is given out to a filmmaker and I go to this awards ceremony and about five years ago there is a James and Pamela Morrison award. I then ask the development woman, ‘what is this? I knew Jim went to UCLA and the film school.’ Pam’s family have established a film award for 5 or 10 thousand dollars, or something, UCLA, James and Pamela Morrison.
Tony Funches: Jim Morrison’s Bodyguard and Confident
Q: You were with Jim and the Doors for eleven months during 1970-1971.
A: Jim had his scene down. An apartment on West Norton Ave., the Doors’ office, the Alta-Cienega motel, and Elektra Records on Santa Monica Blvd. and La Cienega Blvd. All stumbling distance from each other. [Laughs]. All within two or three blocks.
Q: You were at the Doors’ office in April 1970 and saw Jim Morrison’s The Lords and New Creatures when a box of poetry books arrived.
A: I had a copy Jim autographed and gave to me but I lost it. Yeah…That was so cool. That was so fuckin’ cool. On that particular day I had no specific real duties to perform other than I just happened to be there. Jim was really excited. Everybody was. All of his band mates and all of the Doors family as it were just really happy for him. An incredible festive moment that wasn’t real done in a formal sense. The cases of the books arrived and everybody went, ‘Hey Jim. Your books are here.’ Low key. Jim was like real shy about opening it up and he was trying to hide how proud he was because this was a step to legitimacy as a poet and after we opened the first case of books, everyday said, ‘Fuck it, man, let’s party.’ I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion of seeing him that happy. Unbridled pure happiness. Not with sticking his chest out getting all stupid, the quiet happiness of seeing oneself validated. So that was so fuckin’ special.
I know that there was some drama in Simon & Shuster finally winding up as the publisher. There intense drama associated with that. Jim was really as humble guy and almost apologetically so. He cared about such things that others would recognize if not his talent his efforts to be an artist. That’s why the Lizard King, bull shit teeny bopper shit that drove him up the wall.
Q: The Doors and Albert King played the Long Beach Arena in 1970.
A: I went to get Jim for the show. He was staying at the Alta Cienega. When I knocked on the door he said he was working on a poem and he would be at the concert…I believed him, and a few minutes before the concert up pulls a cab and Jim is in it.
Jim had the artistic bent that allowed him given his rebelliousness and the idiom he was expressing himself threw to do that improvisation in live performances or on records. He did that in his artistic expressions because that capability was resident within his personality. While at the same time he drew comfort in knowing that others had been doing similar things as with Cab Calloway doing scat singing with the Zoot suit or Bobby Darin when he did ‘Mack the Knife.’ So he knew of those things but he did not do them as they did but he was aware that others had improvised similarly and since they had, he figured, ‘I’m gonna give it a try. But I can’t do what they do.’ So he did what he did according to what made him tick which made it separate but not equal. But separate.
It wasn’t up to me to be Jim’s nanny. You could influence him as best you can. If Jim decided to get stoned or stinkin’ drunk before a gig sometimes I could head that off and other times...I didn’t live with the cat for 24 7, ya know. I was at home in Venice. He’s gonna do what he was gonna do. We did a little bit of telephone, had meals. We both ate meat and potatoes. Jim had a house as well on Kings Road. I went there once or twice, the mysterious house that he got into for tax purposes. He had a few crates and boxes.
One time I went with Jim to see his accountant, Bob Greene. The Doors were protected. They completely managed themselves. But they had extra advice from excellent people. Jim really didn’t see himself as a participatory mogul in the business of the Doors. But since he had come up with the idea of it being a through democracy at certain times he had to show up and participate. It was his idea and he couldn’t very well just say, ‘you guys go ahead I’ll sit it out.’ And they’d remind him of that. ‘You gotta show up.’ As soon as he could weasel out of the official duties, he’d say, ‘come on, man, let’s go get a drink over at the Phone Booth. He never carried cash. The accountant always made sure I had five grand. Jim could be so comical. Kind of like a kid. He had his Diner’s Club card. He had two or three credit cards and he got in the habit of remembering to carry them. And he used them exclusively. All of those transactions went straight to his accountant’s office who took care of them. Jim never knew how much money he had. He was a millionaire and didn’t know it.
Q: You were in Dade County, Miami in 1970 for Morrison’s trial where he was charged with a felony count of lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure when the guilty verdict was read. In 2011, the outgoing Governor Charlie Crist pardoned Jim Morrison in the indecent-exposure case against him.
A: I didn’t agree with the original verdict, for a crime that he didn’t commit. In spite of the fact that they knew constitutionally that he was innocent. And that they knew that he never actually did what he was charged with. Even if it was theatrical expression he still never did it. But it was expedient to the powers that be in the oligarchy to prosecute and persecute because he was already then an icon available to folks who might care to think freely and independently outside of the media noise. So he was aware of ludicrous comicality of that.
The whole thing was a ludicrous kangaroo court. And the US press were compliant with the government and giving any credibility to the trial and the charges. When the same thing happens to other artists in other countries the press chimes in that it’s a kangaroo court and a monkey trial…But they chose not too where Jimmy was concerned. And thus gave the trial judicial legitimacy. I was under orders from Leon [Barnard], Bill Siddons and Ray and everybody else to keep my comments private. But they and the band Jim all knew my opinions.
Q: Was he scared?
A: Not really scared but thoroughly concerned, yes. Doing time in the slam was something I had to consider.
Q: You knew that Jim was planning to go to Paris.
A: Jim asked me many times if he should go to Paris. As he said he was just looking forward to the whole European vibe and sincerely as a friend he said, ‘It’s OK, Tony. I’ll be fine. It’s different there.’ Then I got the news. I got a little groggy. I feel good when I hear a Doors’ song. Their place in history at least thus far is assured.
Henry Diltz: Photographer
Q: You knew the Doors and did the album cover photo for their Morrison Hotel LP. What attracted you to them?
A: They were interesting and weren’t a guitar band. They came from a different place. It was that keyboard thing. They didn’t have a bass. Ray Manzarek played bass on a keyboard with his left hand. It was a little more classical and jazz-oriented. And then you had (Jim) Morrison singing those words with that baritone voice. It was poetic and more like a beatnik thing. It was different. And Jim wrote all those deep lyrics. I took photos of them at The Hollywood Bowl in 1968 when they did a concert.
“Jim lived in Laurel Canyon. So did Robby (Krieger) and John Densmore. We were all friends in the area. I knew him as a musician just as I was first really taking photos. I did one day with the Doors in downtown L.A. for Morrison Hotel and got that picture. Then two days later they needed some black and white publicity pictures and we walked around the beach in Venice.
Q: Your Venice beach photos have become the image for their recent When You’re Strange film.
A: Here’s the thing. I shot about 8 rolls of film that day of them in Venice. Over the years, 6 or 8 of them have become the ones we printed and offered for sales in our gallery. ‘Here’s the beautiful one. Here’s the great one. Everyone looks good in this shot.’ You might look at 6 or 8 in a row and you pick the best one. Someone’s eyes are closed in this one. One guy is not looking at the camera. And you pick the one that is great. And that becomes the famous one. Well, somebody at Rhino and the Doors’ outfit looked at the proof sheets and found one that did not fit that category. Sort of an outtake.
I never printed it because Jim is not looking at the camera. They are walking and it’s not real sharp. But they picked that one and there is something about it. It’s random, see. I always picked the ones that look iconic. But really, maybe those random ones in between are kind of more interesting now.
Q: Do you have a theory why the music of The Doors and Laurel Canyon, a region where you lived in 1965-1975 became popular and why the music from that area still resonates?
A: It was the flowering and the renaissance of the singer/songwriter. I think it had a lot to do with that change that it came from folk music. And then they started putting their own lyrics into it. And, smoking grass had a hell of a lot to do with it. Smoking grass had everything to do with the whole ‘60s thing. Long hair, hippies, peace and love, because that’s the way it makes you feel. And love beads and the music. Smoking a little grass makes you very thoughtful and increases your feeling and focus on things. You start thinking about trying to put thoughts into words and songs.
Heather Harris: Photographer and Writer
On December 23, 1967 I saw and took a photo of the Doors at Shrine Exposition Hall, Downtown L.A., having begged a ride to same (then under-aged with no car, me, blasphemy for SoCal.) I know because it says so on my envelope with the negatives of the crap camera of my teens. Aforementioned crap camera meant I had to position myself right next to the stage to capture anything usable. The leather trousers must have ripened without the benefit of much cleansing: he smelled bad. And that's all that is recalled. It was that sort of night in the '60s.
What was far more indelibly imprinted in the brain cells were Doors tales at UCLA when I matriculated, still freshly told from a mere few years' space. The film department knew exactly which lockers held the Doors' weed, and exactly which cheap Mexican restaurant was most frequented by Jim and Ray Manzarek (Pancho's Family Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd. in West L.A., a bit of a misnomer. It was mainly a dive bar with a single table and two chairs, presumably for the titular family. Bonus feature: next door to Papa Bach (geddit?) Bookstore for après dining literary browsing. Both establishments long gone in the Paisley Corridors of Time...)
Lastly were the three degrees of separation at my UCLA student dormitory Weyburn Hall. My writer friend Suzanne R. and Jim Morrison, hot from their get together at the 1970 Isle of Wight music festival, were frequently spotted together at the dorm, often playing pool in the rec room. Ah, the memories of college days and nights!
Kurt Ingham: Photographer
I met Jim Morrison 1970 when I was taking pictures in conjunction with a Salli Stevenson interview for Circus magazine. We got along quite well - both similar in age, former UCLA film students, generally artsy types.
The Doors office on Santa Monica Blvd. was pretty close to where I lived in Laurel Canyon so it was easy to drop by to watch rehearsals or look at proof sheets.
At one point after a short rehearsal and perusal, Jim suggested we adjourn to the Phone Booth, a topless bar conveniently across the street. I don't recall who went with us, but I don't think it was members of the band.
Jim was quite popular with the waitresses, and it was an amusing contrast to see one table filled with laughing boisterous long hairs while the others were occupied by slightly furtive besuited businessmen.
At that time I was more a smoker than a drinker, and we got pretty silly, pretty fast. Jim was planning to go to Italy. Since I had lived in Rome for a few months, he insisted I give him travel tips.
This evolved into Italian language lesson, which consisted of us shouting any Italian word we could think of, with an an exaggerated accent "Pizza!-Lambretta!-Spaghetti!-Ferrari!-Macaroni! etc. We both found this quite hilarious!
When I left the darkened club I was in for a shock! Outside was still daylight - and I had never before been inebriated when the sun was out! I crawled into my 1965 Mustang Fastback and managed to get home sans incident.
Dr. James Cushing: Poet and Deejay
It’s sometime in 1995, and I’m hosting a Saturday night / Sunday morning mixed-bag eclectic music program called Toward the One on San Luis Obispo’s otherwise rigidly formatted NPR station. I’m running with a Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes organ-guitar-drums arrangement of ‘Song to My Father’ and trying to think up the perfect segue when, in an intuitive flash, it comes to me: cue up ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’ from Strange Days and see what happens. No, John Densmore’s beat doesn’t swing the way the Holmes track swings, and Robby Krieger's beautiful guitar filigrees are more about flamenco than gutbucket. And yet -- the tempo’s similar, the Ray Manzarek organ registration’s sweetly close, and there’s something intangibly…I dunno…recognizable there, some similarity that seems for that midnight moment so obviously right…
And today, as I notice that fifty blessed years have somehow passed since the Doors’ first Elektra recording sessions, I look back at that moment and wonder: was I only imagining that connection, maybe wishing it into being? Or, is one part of the Doors’ lasting power their music’s tantalizing proximity to the organ-guitar-drums ‘soul jazz’ that swept the nation between 1956 and 66?
We all know there were secrets to the Doors. One of them was that a poet, a real poet in the visionary tradition of Percy Shelley and Arthur Rimbaud, lived behind the hunky lead singer's perfect face.
What is it about the Doors that we still talk and love their music? And the answer is, if there were an answer to that question, we would all know it. We are trying to define the mystery of art and the essence of the essence of the mystery of art is its resistance to definition. The Doors set something into motion in the air and it comes into peoples’ minds and heads through their ears and something else is set into motion. And that’s just about the most accurate description I can make.
Thinking about the Doors. There is something in their music that is always pointing towards something else that is evoked but never named. Whether it’s theater, or poetry or jazz or the darkly complex sexual desires or the sense of the ongoing presence of the native American nations or the sense that somehow is living in a world in which one’s parents had been always dead and buried even before you were alive.
The Doors evoked this in a way that ‘no other rock band’ ever has. And I don’t how they do that. I don’t know if anyone else needs too. But it makes their accomplishment unique and whenever I listen to the Doors I am never aware that I am listening to music from the sixties or from any other period. I feel like I’m listening to something that is contemporary. And the same is true with Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis of the same period.
So the Doors always had a jazz influence and in the 50 years since they ended the jazz influence has swallowed them in the sense that they are a jazz group now. In the same way that the young Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie and now he is Woody Guthrie.
The Doors radiated a sexual heat that evoked ancient blood rituals. Morrison’s poetry formed one part of a larger theatre-music-performance that climaxed when tragic heroism blossomed up out of his intimate Freudian night-garden.
The Doors’ first two records almost captured that dark bloom, and they retain great power to disturb us with their shadowy images of private life palpably heightened to the realm of myth. When the band performed they also had a jazz flexibility in their set lists.
BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH THE LIZARD KING
Jan Alan Henderson: Writer/Author
“Growing up in the 60s above the Sunset Strip was an experience that defies description. In those days, everything was possible; the world of music had just turned the real world upside down.
From 1965 to 1970, the Sunset Strip was my nocturnal home. I remember seeing Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore, and the late Jim Morrison at the Whisky A Go-Go before their first record came out. At that time, music was basically tribal dance music, but that night my fifteen-year-old world was turned inside out, and I was led to the Doors of Perception. The band I saw in my head from the sidewalk that night had a depth and presence that had never been seen in Rock & Roll.
I remember walking into Gazzarri’s midway through one of the Doors’ sets, and then a year later witnessed the phenomenon that the band had become one magical evening at the Hollywood Bowl. But none of this prepared me for my next encounter with The Doors - or I should say, A Door.
The summer of 1969 I walked into Sunset Sound looking for a job. The first person I saw at the studio was a guy named Brad Pinkstaff. He was an apprentice engineer, the job I had hoped to get. We became fast friends, and I became his unpaid assistant, and worked on projects with him –Lord Sutch and His Heavy Friends, to name one.
One day I walked into the Sunset Sound complex and someone said to me, “We need a vocal mike in Studio #2.” So I went in and set up the mike, and walked out to the open air foyer. There waiting for his call to put vocal tracks down was Jim Morrison, with a gallon bottle of Red Mountain wine; a vocal overdub for Morrison Hotel. Now, I had heard of Jim’s antics, but this afternoon the Lizard King was nowhere to be found. Instead, I sat with Jim, had a Styrofoam glass of his wine, and talked about everyday things. He wanted to know about where I went to school and what my plans were. When I left the studio a short time later and walked down Sunset Boulevard, my feet weren’t touching the ground, let alone the earth.
Somewhere in the span of the next twelve months, I was once again car-less. I was standing at the intersection of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon with my thumb outstretched over the curb, below the traffic light. An American built muscle car pulled up at the red light. “Get in,” were the magic words as I slid in the passenger side and the light turned green. The driver was full-bearded and resembled a Northern California mountain man. I didn’t know this guy from Adam, but it was his voice that caught my ear.
Then it hit me. I was sitting next to Jim Morrison. Not the Jim Morrison who mesmerized us at the Hollywood Bowl in July of 1968, then we pulled our usual admission stunt. (We’d walk to the end of Primrose Avenue off Outpost Drive, and crawl down the hillside and drop down to the back rows of the Bowl, blending in and taking whatever empty seats were available, steadily moving forward in the historic venue.) As he drove toward Mulholland Drive,
I wondered what the future held for both of us. Little did we know that the Lizard King’s time on the third stone from the sun was limited!
Daniel Weizmann: Writer/Author
Motel Money Murder Madness: Jim Morrison and the Noir Tradition
Some like to make fun of Jim Morrison for his poetic ambitions -- he was young, ultra-serious, and at times he had the somber college student's yen for Hamlet-like navel-gazing. What's more, like Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, the force of Morrison's stardom at times threatens to overshadow his artistic gifts. Patti Smith recently wrote that she felt "both kinship and contempt" watching Morrison perform. But Jim Morrison's lyrics did introduce a whole new and highly literary sensibility to pop music -- the southern California noir of Raymond Chandler and the southern gothic tradition of William Faulkner. And pop music has never really been the same since.
Of course, new things were already happening to the song lyric before Morrison made his move: Dylan shocked the airwaves with Biblical passion and Whitmanesque frenzy. The Beatles followed with colorful utopian imagery that had roots in James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, and Edward Lear's nonsense verse. But nobody brought the gravity, the hard realism, and the psychological pressure of noir to the popular song before Jim. He represented a major leap toward adulthood in '67 and the boomers flipped for it. After a youth saturated with sunshine and goody goody gumdrops consumerism, they had secretly been craving just such a counter-move.
The first album's shadowy album cover and billboard, shot by Guy Webster, was a knowing nod to noir film posters like Out of the Past and In a Lonely Place. And Jim's crooner voice and movie-star good looks defied the rock template, as well. But most of all, the words, their impressionistic, nightmare-like alienation, were strange and yet instantly recognizable.
We can't know exactly what inspired Morrison to fuse the noir dreamscape to the popular song... but he was a military brat, raised in Florida and New Mexico. The south, with its backwoods quiet, its open highways, its malevolence, and its anti-culture, was in his bones. Throw a UCLA dose of Nietzsche, Rimbaud, the exotica of eastern philosophy, Jungian psych, and the Native American tragedy into the mix, and you've got a potion powerful enough to challenge the lyrical norms as deeply as the sound of Hendrix's guitar did.
One of the last of the Venice Beach beatniks, Morrison self-published slim volumes of verse, even at the height of his rock stardom. He certainly had a hard time straddling his roles as shaman, youth leader, pop icon, and serious artist. But he struggled in earnest, and it's impossible to talk about the Los Angeles tradition that stretches from Chandler, West and Fante to Didion herself, Bukowski and beyond, without seeing Morrison's part.
What's more, for better or worse, whole music genres have Morrison to thank for forging darkness to the pop song. Bowie's Berlin Trilogy, post-punk, and even grunge couldn't have happened without him. Some, like the Cult, seemed only to get the histrionics; others, like Jane's Addiction, reached harder for poetry but lacked the warmth of Morrison's highly intimate voice. Because, in the end, despite the shaman poses, the billboards, and the spotlights, Morrison really portrayed himself as a lone human, in true noir fashion, struggling through the night. He wrote from the personal inner space that is poetry.
When Morrison stepped away from the image and photos of the first few albums grew a beard, gained weight, he wanted to documented in that way. The same way that Dylan tried to step aside from being the spokesman of the generation. Morrison didn’t want to be limited or defined by his initial role he created that was successful. That was gonna happen whether he lived or not.
Dennis Loren: Graphics artist
Two friends and I arrived in San Francisco, California on the 4th of March, 1967, after a four day road trip from Detroit, Michigan in my 1965 Falcon. We had taken turns driving and made pretty good time crossing the Country, stopping only for gas, meals and one flat tire – ha!!! One of us would sleep in the back seat, while one drove and the other rode “shotgun.” Once we reached San Francisco, the three of us went our separate ways. Each of us had our own destinations and places to stay. The next day – after getting a good night’s sleep – I began exploring the City. One of my main goals was tracking down all of the great music venues that I had heard about. One of the first places I found was The Matrix.
Over the next few years, The Matrix would become one of my favorite venues. Marty Balin and three partners had opened the club in 1965 to showcase Marty’s band Jefferson Airplane. The Matrix was located in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco – not far from Lombard Street and the Marina district – at 3138 Fillmore Street.
In those days, posters, handbills, flyers and word of mouth were how a person found out about the different concerts around town. You would have to get the venue early and stand in line to get a ticket. There were no ticket agencies or internet.
The very first concert I saw at The Matrix featured the Doors. This was kind of ironic, because in February just before I left, a Detroit friend had played me the group’s debut album which I found had a unique and extremely intriguing sound. The Doors were booked for a five day stand at The Matrix, beginning on March 7th and ending on March 11th, 1967. I attended the show on Thursday evening, March 9th. There was already a fairly long line outside the club, but I managed to get inside. I shared a table with 3 other people that I had met in the line. Everyone seemed to be excited about seeing and hearing the Doors. The place was buzzing with anticipation as the group hit the stage.
The sound of the Doors was immediately mesmerizing. They began with the song “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” followed by “Soul Kitchen.” In the course of the two sets I was there for, they played an interesting mix of original songs from the first album (“Alabama Song,” “The End” and others) and a few cover songs that included, “Money,” “Who Do You Love,” I’m A King Bee,” “Gloria” and most surprisingly “Summertime.” Of course my favorite songs were “Crystal Ship” and “Light My Fire.”
Watching and listening to the magical interplay of keyboard player Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, drummer John Densmore and singer Jim Morrison was nothing short of amazing. Especially considering that I was only about 15 feet from the stage. The ambiance of the room and sound was – in my opinion – was always great. You had to be there – ha!!! As I recall the Doors also played the song “People Are Strange,” before its release on their second album.
While the group was in San Francisco that March, the Doors would also perform at the Family Dog’s Avalon Ballroom. During this stage of their career the group seemed to frequent venues and festival events in the San Francisco Bay area numerous times. On what now seems like, an almost monthly basis. I would get to see the Doors several more times during 1967, including their set at the Magic Mountain Music Festival across the Golden Gate Bridge on Mount Tamalpias in Marin County.
By July, the Doors’ “Light My Fire” would be a big hit and join other songs, such as Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit,” The Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade Of Pale” and Scott MacKenzie’s “San Francisco,” as anthems for “The Summer Of Love.”
As a postscript, I should mention that Peter Abrams would record The Doors’ Matrix shows on March 7th and 10th.
As an interesting aside, the central image of the winged statue that artist Stanley Mouse used on the CD cover had been previously been used by Mouse on one of five posters created for San Francisco light show pioneer Bill Ham’s 40th Anniversary performance. The other 4 posters were designed by Alton Kelley, David Singer, the team of Chuck Sperry & Ron Donovan and myself.
Paul Body: Drummer/writer
I saw the Doors at my former high school, Monrovia. The Merry-Go-Round opened. I didn’t have a ticket since I wasn’t a student. So after talking to their guitarist Robby Krieger, he had me carry his guitar into the auditorium. I think they only did three songs, ‘Break on Through’ they did twice.”
Jim Roup Drummer/Photographer
I lived across the way from the Densmore family on Wilkins Ave. in Westwood. I was a friend of Jim Densmore, younger brother of John. I would hear John playing drums in 1962. I always loved seeing John’s bass drum sitting by the door with a logo of his high school dance band that his mother Margaret designed. Before John went to Valley State College.
In the summer of 1965 as the Doors were just developing their stage repertoire my friend Steve Gordon, who was also a good friend of Jim Densmore, would lend albums to Jim for his brother’s rock band of the time. Including the Rolling Stones’ Out of Their Heads.
In 1966 the Whisky a Go Go would have Sunday matinees and I would see on the marquee Love and Doors. In early 1967 I was inside Wallichs Music City and spotted the new Doors’ album with my John Densmore, my old Westwood neighbor. A short while later I was on Sunset Strip one night and I recognized John Densmore wearing hippie garb with a gas can in his hand. So I went up to him. ‘Hi. I’m Jim Roup.’ ‘Oh, yes! My little brother’s friend.’ He asked me, ‘do you want to meet my band?’ ‘Sure!’
We strolled down to the Whisky to Clark Street where a nice car was waiting. Inside in the back seat were the three Doors crunched together. John introduced me to Ray, Robby and Jim. Ray and Robby were friendly. Jim kind of looked up, arms folded and nodded.
On May 20 1967, I was attending North Hollywood High School, and went with some friends to nearby Birmingham High School in Encino to see the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Merry-Go-Round, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy were all on the football field. And a Mexican group called the Distortions participating in a Pepsi Battle of the Bands.
In September 1967, on the night the Doors were scheduled to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show I was in Westwood and ran into Ray and Margaret Densmore taking a stroll.
I was at the Whisky on April 7, 1968 and saw Traffic at the Whisky. In line with us hippies was Peter Tork of the Monkees, looking very cool, but taking shit from some of the crowd about the Monkees not playing all the instruments on their first couple of albums. Buddy Miles was on stage with Traffic but didn’t jam with them. The show ended, the crowd filed out, and I look around and notice Jim Morrison and Davy Jones of the Monkees having a friendly conversation on the corner of Clark and Sunset. Sugar Bear, a Sunset Blvd. fixture, was present, and Jim comically kicked him with his boot.
I was waiting for my dad to pick me up because it was a school night. And Jim was waiting for his ride. Out of the blue a Mustang car pulled up with four or five girls and they proceed to yell obscenities at Jim and toss trash paper at him. In my seventeen year old mind I was a bit confused, ‘is this how a rock star is treated?’ Jim’s driver arrived and so did mine.
On July 5, 1968 I bought a cheap seat and went to see the Doors, Chambers Brothers, Steppenwolf and Sweetwater at the Hollywood Bowl and sat with my pal Marty. Happy to see the Doors headline this legendary venue. ‘Unknown Soldier’ was very theatrical.
During 1968-1970 I saw Jim at the Whisky several times. One night he was acting goofy with some friends and taunting Mario who ran the place holding a can of beer. Mario said, ‘Jim, you gotta knock this drinking.’ Another time Jim was in front of me on the street with a woman on his arm slightly drunk, and then an hour later Jim was very sober speaking with doorman Albert.
In the very early seventies I once sang backup with Gene Vincent and playing drums around the Southern California area backing up the likes of Big Joe Turner, Dorsey Burnette, Ray Campi, Johnny Legend, and Davey Allen and the Arrows. I had a gig in Westlake Village at an Italian restaurant and guitarist Dennis Coffey came by one night and jammed with us for an hour. Sometime in 1971 I was in Westwood one evening and went to the Glendon Theater for a midnight screening of The T.A.M.I. Show but without the Beach Boys segment. I was in line and there was Ray, Robby and John right in front of us.
Gene Aguilera: Writer and Author
As an inquisitive teenager with a wandering mind, I used to love to look through The Los Angeles Free Press, the infamous, radical, underground newspaper of the 60s.
“One day, there it was . . . a small ad saying the Doors were coming to the Aquarius Theater on July 21, 1969! Elektra Records, the Doors label, had begun a policy of renting the venue on Monday nights (this being the dark night of the play, Hair) to showcase their roster. Naturally, I had to go, but was without wheels at that point; so after much begging (my 16th birthday was coming soon), my aunt, Julie Gillis, agreed to take myself and my two cousins to see one of my favorite bands.
“As we departed East L.A., making our way towards the Sunset Strip, my aunt Julie began to worry about taking her 11-year old daughter, Debbie, with us. Just a few months earlier in Miami, the Doors lead singer Jim Morrison had been arrested for indecent exposure on stage. She said, ‘What if he takes it out again? I don't want Debbie to see any of this.’ But it didn't matter to me, there was no other place in the world I would rather be.
“With a painted psychedelic exterior and an exquisite art-deco interior, we had arrived at the Aquarius Theater and sat about halfway up from the stage. With the band still reeling from the Miami bust, an aura of danger lurked thick in the air; when suddenly to the stage strolls a dwarf (adding to the circus-like atmosphere), named Sugar Bear, to announce the band, "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Doors!" We were now ready for The Lizard King.
“Jim Morrison looked so much different in person than the album covers I had studied; he arrived with sunglasses, a thick beard, and a paunch around his waist. But for this hometown ‘live’ recording (resulting in some tracks for the Alive, She Cried Live LP), Morrison introduced an edgy new trick to his usual theatrical drama. With the spotlight on, Morrison appeared incredulously high-up in the rafters, grabbed a rope and swung to the stage, Tarzan-style, leaving the entire crowd gasping at what they saw.
“My aunt Julie had her coat ready to cover Debbie's eyes (if Jim was going to whip-it-out, as he allegedly did in Miami), but that never happened, thank God; Morrison instead throwing Styrofoam balls out to crowd. In my youthful excitement, I ran towards the stage and caught a few. A pretty hippie-girl next to me was disappointed at not catching anything, so I gave her one, and in turn, she gave me a great, big kiss; witnessed by all my group. This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”
Bill Mumy: Actor musician
“The day before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, I was at the Aquarius theater with my Barnes and Barnes partner, Robert Haimer, seeing the Doors. We attended the early show and we got there early and secured seats in the very front row. The gig was great. Morrison was focused and low key but he was a mighty force. I thought he looked great. Thick beard, Mexican peasant shirt and orange Aviator sunglasses. Ray wore a white t shirt. I took several photographs during the gig and have one of the few pics of Morrison onstage looking directly into a camera lens.
‘“Celebration of the Lizard,’ ‘You Make Me Real’ and ‘Soul Kitchen’ were highlights for me. The Doors were such a unique band. To this day, I appreciate Morrison's poetry and lyrics. He was a genuine artist. They all were great and had musical styles that were/are instantly recognizable.
“I consider myself fortunate to have been there.”
Stephen J. Kalinich Poet Songwriter
Jim Morrison was a guy I loved. He loved Brian Wilson’s music.
We were not great friends but we knew each other and he was always receptive, kind and loved it when I recited for him and Pam.
Pam was his girlfriend. She had a little Green VW Bug. It must have been 1966, ‘67 or ‘68. My memory is not clear. I had just signed with The Beach Boys Brother Records.
I did not yet have a car. I was hitchhiking on Santa Monica Blvd, in the early afternoon and a little green Bug pulled over and picked me up and a sweet young girl, young woman picked me up. It was Pam. The Doors were not huge yet. The myth and the legend had not been formed. They were playing at the Whisky on Sunset almost every night. A few records out and they were hot to me but not like a world-wide phenomenon. We started talking and I recited to her and we spent a couple of hours together. She pulled the car over. I thought she was hot cute, but I did not flirt with her out of respect for Jim who I had not even met yet. She loved the poem and said Jim would love them.
She really liked the words to “Leaves of Grass” the one based on the Walt Whitman poem my version of it. Everyone thought it was about marijuana but it was not.
Carl Wilson produced this song. Anyway a few days later she called and we got together with Jim. He was very kind appreciative really enjoyed the poems and the way I did them. He loved “The Magic Hand” and “If You Knew.” Anyway I had just signed with the Beach Boys and Brother Music as a writer and was getting very busy.
Rodney Bingenheimer SiriusXM Deejay
I was writing a music column for GO! magazine and was invited to the festival. I knew the Doors. I saw them play in 1967 in Northridge at the Fantasy Faire in July of 1967. Jefferson Airplane were there along with the Iron Butterfly, Fraternity of Man, Grass Roots, and the Kaleidoscope. A bunch of acts. I also went to see the Doors in San Jose. I hung out a bit with them at Elektra studios one time on La Cienega when Kim Fowley was producing an album on Gene Vincent. Skip Battyn was there. And the Doors were in the next studio and popped in to say hello. The Doors were really nice people. In 1968 when I was first writing for GO! I covered the opening of the rock ‘n’ roll movie Privilege that starred Paul Jones who had been the lead singer of Manfred Mann. Jean Shrimpton was in the film, too. Jim Morrison was at the premier. Also in the room were Mick Jagger, Arthur Lee and Sky Saxon. And some of the Iron Butterfly. All the lead singers sitting together in a couple of rows checking out this rock ‘n’ roll movie where the lead singer is like a religious figure. I’d see Jim around town, ran into him at the Copper Penny restaurant in Hollywood, which is now Denny’s. One night Jim was drunk outside the Whisky a Go Go and sitting on the curb. A friend and I drove him up to where Eric Burdon was staying in Bel-Air. In 1969 I saw Jim do his poetry reading on Sunset Strip. Other poets were on the event. Kim Fowley was there. His driver at the time was Warren Zevon. I also saw a couple of the Aquarius Theater shows by the Doors in 1969. They were great. Same place where the play HAIR was booked. The MC for one evening was Sugar Bear. In 1969 the Doors arrived in Canada first and escorted into Varsity Stadium. It was produced by Walker and Brower Productions. Kim Fowley was the emcee. When John & Yoko and the band showed up I got in the limo with John Brower along with Klaus Voorman and headed for the show. The Doors came in first and met by the Vagabonds, a bike club in Toronto who gave them a 30 bike escort into the Varsity Stadium. We were driving and all along the way fans followed us. John told the driver of the limo to slow down because Yoko was six months pregnant. She was very friendly to me. John and I talked all about Gene Vincent and he said he couldn’t wait to see him. He talked about times they used to play pool together 10 years ago in England. “In the car I played a tape of Elvis Presley singing the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Hey Jude’ from the 1969 show I saw Elvis do in Las Vegas at the International Hotel. I saw it weeks before and got a cassette of the show. John was amazed and could not believe it. He was really excited he was gonna see Gene Vincent. He wanted to be on the stage with Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. So when we met up with Gene, he and Gene exchanged autographs. Eric Clapton was in another limo. We pulled in front of the stadium and a young girl yelled out ‘It’s John Lennon of the Beatles!’ And all of a sudden there were bodies everywhere on top of the limo that we couldn’t see out of it. We headed straight to the dressing room so that John could lie down for a while. We were greeted by Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Lord Sutch. I stayed in a hotel and shared a room with Gene. I was in the room when Jerry Lee Lewis called Gene and I answered the telephone. ‘Hello. Is Gene there?’ ‘Who is this? ‘Just tell him it’s ‘The Killer’ calling…’ Alice Cooper’s band backed Gene and it was amazing. No rehearsals for anyone. All the Doors and myself were onstage. I watched the Plastic Ono Band with Jim Morrison right at the side of the stage. And we really couldn’t believe it. It sounded like music from the year 1992. Jim said after they left the stage, ‘You expect us to follow that?’ Lots of people cheering. It worked in a big stadium. Jim got a little snotty when Yoko started doing her whole thing. I don’t think he was into that Bagism trip. Jim had cut his hair and shaved off his beard and looked really good. The Doors went on next and rocked that night. I had seen them in 1969 at the Aquarius Theater in Hollywood and at Toronto they were pretty amazing All the local papers in Los Angeles bad rapped the show and said they were booed off the stage. Well, let me tell you it’s a big lie because they weren’t even attending. And I was.
I was Master of Ceremonies in Toronto, Canada for the Toronto Pop 1969 festival at The Varsity Stadium. Bo Diddley, Junior Walker and The All Stars, Tony Joe White, Alice Cooper, Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, Lord Sutch, Chicago Transit Authority, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, I was his record producer at the time, Little Richard, Doug Kershaw and The Doors. Kim Fowley was M.C. and compare on the poster.
I got the Toronto job because I was the voice of the Love-Ins in L.A. 1966, ’67, ’68 and ’69. I did some pop festival shows with the Doors, the Seeds, Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane. I did all those shows and knew what to do with a large audience like 100,000 people.
Ritchie Yorke, Billboard editor in Canada, and a contributor to Rolling Stone and NME at the time he knew about me and persuaded the promoters to hire me, $4,000.00 and a plane ticket. I also got a hotel room a week before the gig. My job was not only to announce the date but also be a consultant and tell them how things were going.
After Plastic Ono Band departed, I then said ‘Get ready for The Doors who are coming on next!’
“The Doors started doing their thing. Around the third song of the set, out comes Chuck Berry, who saw the movie cameras wanted to walk on stage and approached Jim Morrison on stage and Jim Morrison stopped the show and said, ‘Chuck, you never let kids jam with you. You can’t jam with us. Be nicer to kids and maybe someday we’ll let you jam with us.’ And he was ordered off the stage by Jim Morrison. Next time some guys want to jam with you, remember. Get off our stage.’ The place went wild.
They were the Doors. This was the year of the Miami Doors incident. So they did the Doors. This was going down in real time. It was music of the moment. It was the Arctic Monkeys playing. Current bands. Whoever was on the radio was suddenly in front of you. Or, what you remember from the radio years before in front of you. No passing of the baton or the end of the decade. Any of that. This is fun. Wow. I just saw a Beatle. I saw the Doors…
I remember a while afterwards, Ray Manzarek, who I knew from L.A., felt Lennon’s appearance was some sort of psychic release from the pressures of being a Beatle.
In a non-paparazzi time of 1969, no one had the brains to photograph John Lennon and Jim Morrison together. Nobody has the picture, because no one thought of taking one because there wasn’t a paparazzi culture there to document it. They did speak because they had to because one followed the other.
“We came to Canada and at the airport we all got into two black Cadillacs, then all of a sudden several hundred bikers started zooming along beside us, they were in a club called the Vagabonds. A hundred ‘Hell’s Angels’ types, and we’re going, ‘Hey, this is kind of cool.’ And we come into the stadium, a football stadium, and they drive the limos all the way around the entire circle of the track with these 150-200 bikers leading us. So it’s real profound. Like, ‘Oh my God. Here comes Lucifer,’ you know. It was really great.
So, I go backstage and Eric Clapton says to me, ‘Isn’t this a crazy life?’ I didn’t get to see John. And we have to follow John and Yoko, and it’s a monster band. Eric, Klaus, Alan. Ridiculous. They start and then we hear this noise coming out of the speakers. Everyone on the stage is saying, ‘what the fuck is going on here? Some feedback with their set?. And then everyone notices a bag on the floor of the stage with a wire leading from it. Yoko is in the bag with a microphone warbling. It was great. We didn’t know what the fuck was going on. ‘Oh, wait a minute, she’s in there.’ Really outrageous.
“I mean, you know, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band walked out on stage and it was the biggest roar of the century and we’re supposed to follow this group?
“Kim Fowley introduced us and we played the best we could. In my opinion we were fine. We weren’t great. We weren’t lousy. We were fine. But everyone was so in awe of the Mop Top…It was great.”
WHEN MORRISON MET LENNON
Rob Hill Writer
The Doors arrived at the Toronto International airpot mid-morning on September 13th where they were met by hundreds of bikers, a D.A. Pennabaker film crew, and two limos who were to escort the band to Varsity Stadium. What the band didn’t know, though, was that this was a”dry run”for when John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, including Eric clapton, who would be arriving later in the day. Promoter John Brower had pulled off a coup by calling Lennon at Apple Records a few days earlier asking if he wanted to MC the gig; Lennon said no…but he would like to play! “We went from selling a couple thousand seats to selling 25-thousand tickets when it was announced Lennon would play,” said Brower.
While Morrison and the rest of the band watched the show by the edge of the stage though much of the day, Lennon was rushed into a make-shift VIP room: a spare smelly locker room full of socks, clothes, and sports equipment. Morrison, just 7 months from his Miami bust, had cut his hair a few days earlier; he took his shoulder length hair into a pony tail himself and scissored it off, leaving him with an awkward and messy bob. He had also shaved his grizzly man beard he had been sporting for months, traded in his leathers for railroad stripped trousers, and eschewed his snakeskin jacket for a shabby denim bomber. He looked more like a Northern California beatnik than an international rock ’n’ roll star. As word finally made its way to a sullen Morrison that John Lennon was now going to play, he asked Bill Siddons to set up a meeting to discuss who would headline the show. Brower recounts:
“There was a knock on the locker room door and it was Bill [Siddons] and Morrison asking if they could talk to John and I. I grabbed John and we met in the hallway. The two singers didn’t acknowledge each other or shake hands but Siddons wanted to ask Lennon if The Doors could go on before Lennon. John’s eyes opened wide and he said, ‘No, you guys are the headliners, that means you go on last, that’s the way it works.’ John was not about to upstaged by Morrison and whatever antics he might pull off. Just then, Chuck Berry appeared, and said to us, ‘Hey, I will headline. I will headline.’ I then told Morrison, ‘Look, I have already paid you guys so if you don’t want to play you can go back to your hotel room and relax, no problem.’ Morrison nodded at Siddons and they agreed to go on after Lennon. Then Morrison said, ‘One thing: We want to be on the side of the stage so we can watch the set.’
And, according to Kim Fowley, who was standing next to Morrison during the Plastic Ono Band’s bizarre, impromptu set, the Lizard King said as Lennon was leaving the stage: “We have to follow that!”
Murray Lerner: Filmmaker Documentarian:
I met and knew (Jim) Morrison earlier at the Atlanta Film Festival. I was showing Festival! It won an award and they had a film they had made played. We talked at the party afterwards, we had both won awards but they were bullshit awards. Mine was for the best music. What does that mean? At the party and I really gave it to the organizer out loud a hard time, told him what I felt about him, and they came up to me and said, ‘We agree with you.’ I got friendly and tried to help them distribute their Feast of Friends film.
“I’ve tried to put out the Doors’ [1970 Isle of Wight] full set. “It was dark but that was the mood. And the darkness is interesting, I think. (Jim) Morrison said to me, ‘you can film but you’re not gonna get an image. But we’re not gonna change our lighting.’ ‘I’ll get an image.’ I did.
“I shot color for the Doors, Leonard Cohen and the Isle of Wight performers. It was high-speed Ectochrome reversal. And I’m glad I did it because the color lasts a lot better in reversal. The camera people I had were with their own cameras for the most part but they used Arriflexes, and Auricon. The main camera man used was an Aaton, a kind of avant garde camera at the time.
“For the most part, in the planning stages, I picked positions to shoot. And I told people, ‘You concentrate on the close up and you concentrate on something else.’”
At the L.A. Woman sessions they were having fun.
“It was a whole different vibe than the informal formality of being at the Elektra Studio or Sunset Sound because they were so at home there downstairs, which was essentially their rehearsal room.
“When they decided to do the album there, Vince Traynor [Doors’ road manager] wasn’t really elated to have them record there because nobody knows where Vince got the knowledge.
“Vince Traynor who did the Doors’ equipment, he built it and took it all apart and you’ll never see the likes of again. Amps, speakers, more than the task of driving crystal clear studio sound through the biggest venues they played and Jim with his sense of humor, knowing how idiosyncratic Vince was about that equipment.
“Jim quite often would tape his vocal microphone and stick it in the PA so the defect was cracking windows and people’s ear drums just to watch Vince get demonized of daggers because Vince was fucking with his talents. HHow glamourous is it to have an article about a tech freak mad scientist that built a sound system the likes of which no one will ever see again. And nobody knew how it worked! How he’d do it? He didn’t tell nobody what he did.
“Some people are idiot savants. But the idea of the Doors recording there doing L.A, Woman allowed him and them to fully employ all those things that he knew he could do and of course of them recording. All the equipment that he had taken apart and modified was in the same room with the Doors downstairs and now he’s gonna configure the room to work with the equipment that he built. So he stepped into his own element in the process of them recording there, Vince, I think, in that current was able to do his master work expression as it were. And I think the sound of L.A. Woman reflects Vince’s contribution.
As I remember it the Isle of Wight gig was difficult. Late at night, delays, cold weather, 2:00 a.m. and they were not using their P.A. system. They used the [Grateful] Dead’s P.A. So they had a hard time getting the sound right on the monitors and stuff, and they soldiered on through it. It was pretty miserable in terms of personal comfort. Not that they wanted to be pampered or anything. It was just dreadful conditions. I was on the stage. When the Doors are on stage Uncle Tony was there. [Bill] Siddons had one side of the stage and I had the other. They did the gig and I got to say the Isle of Wight security was really up to the task and there wasn’t really much concern about nitwits come flying out of the audience. Miles Davis stretched out backstage during the set and we all talked later.”
Sandy Robertson Writer:
I date my transition to real rock music from my purchase of the sublime Morrison Hotel by the Doors, and my subsequent solo trip all the way from Scotland to the Isle of Wight Festival to see them live, age 17.
“I had a glamorous older cousin named Linda Gamble (later a music and movie publicist) and she seemed the height of sophistication to me because she took a chance on Love and the Doors when no one else I knew had their records.
“None of my buddies cared about Jim Morrison and company, so I fetched up alone amid crowds of 1970 hippies in scorching summer weather with not even a blanket to my name. I saw the Who, John Sebastian, Kris Kristofferson (who was booed for 'Blame It On The Stones' by irony-free dolts), and Tiny Tim, who sang 'There'll Always Be An England' to the delight of the mob because he wasn't being ironic at all.
“Night and cold descended and the Doors didn't appear until the early hours of the morning - Morrison a distant, gleaming blue-black leather figure, his feral growl on ‘Break On Through’ introduced by Ray Manzarek's sparkling, icy electric piano.
“As Kim Fowley rightly has it, in many ways they were like a jazz group, John Densmore's drum flourishes and Robbie Krieger's nimble guitar being just as capable of entrancing the ears as kicking ass.
“The critical consensus seems to be that this was not one of their great shows, Jim having his fragile eggshell mind on legal troubles looming, and indeed, looking at footage of ‘Ship Of Fools,’ Morrison seems like he can hardly be bothered to get the lyrics out.
“Nevertheless, at 17 I came to worship, not to deconstruct, and it was only with age I realized how tough it can be for bands to play the same songs every night while trying to deliver an hour for magic.
“Salvation from the cold was at hand in the form of a cute young girl who let me snuggle under her sleeping bag, alas however under the watchful eye of her glowering bro so there was no chance of romance.
“I left pre-Hendrix as a certain thuggishness was in the air. I arrived home with some dreadful flu type virus. Never mind - I had seen the Doors open. To this day, when some kid is playing a Doors album in a record store and I mention I'm so old I actually saw Jim Morrison onstage, it's great to feel the excitement bridge the generations to that mystical place where people down there like to get it on, get it on.”
Gary Pig Gold Writer:
In that old-fangled get-back-to-where-you-once-belonged Spirit of the Day, Messrs. Krieger, Densmore, Manzarek and Morrison wisely entered 1971 solidly stripped down ...and I don't just mean Miami.
"The songs rooted to 4-bar, the board 8-track, and the number of takes only somewhere in between, L.A. Woman demonstrated as undeniably as unfailingly that beneath all their recent hoopla, hedonism and headlines The Doors were, once again, A BAND. Nothing less, and needing little more; save for the expert, direct-from-Elvis bass of Jerry Scheff that is.
"Yes, expertly applying the meager-is-always-more approach that is – or at least should be Requirement One in rock, the four-piece Doors' swan songs spun off a couple'a bona fide hit singles, while at the same time maintaining all-important hep-y factor via heavy (man) FM airplay for its over-four-minute tracks; a quite rare feat indeed which only their Creedence Clearwater rivals seemed concurrently capable of. Throw in a John Lee Hooker-claimed classic, throw out much of the pretension, musical and otherwise, which even found room or two in the Morrison Hotel and we can still point to this long-player as one of L.A.'s absolute finest and frankest of the era. Not to mention, as it turned out, an ideal time for Jim to exit on its high notes, leaving the remainder of the seventies to struggle with, for starters, Other Voices."
Wendy Bachman: Writer:
Thanks to the revival of vinyl LPs, we are transported to a bygone era before streaming services pushed music into intangible data.
“Rock bands were often judged by album cover art because it told us about the music inside. The Doors’ were no different and as their music evolved, so did the art for their LP covers.
“Jim Morrison had undergone no less than a dramatic change in both his appearance and the way in which he wanted to be perceived by fans both new and old.
“He was no longer the ‘Young Lion’ as brilliantly captured by photographer Joel Brodsky on the Doors’ self-titled effort released in January 1967. In 1971 the band would complete their contractual obligation to Jac Holzman and Electra Records with L.A. Woman which provided a sense of liberation and freedom to Morrison.
“On prior LP’s the band was not much involved in the artwork. The ideas were ideas of others in the industry, deemed best to be handled by those whose job it was to do so. They were fortunate to have benefit of great talent for studio releases, Guy Webster, Joel Brodsky, Paul Ferrara and Henry Diltz.
“The band had not previously been involved in the creative process of album cover art and saw proofs after completed by Elektra’s art department in New York.
“Contrary to what the talking heads on the East Coast may have stated, Morrison was in fact furious when he viewed the completed art for 13 (1970), a compilation album. His head as photographed by Brodsky years earlier was prominently featured with photos of the others, barely visible at the bottom.
“Morrison was so enraged that he took on the art for L.A. Woman for himself without notifying the art department, an unprecedented action. Once completed, it was sent to New York with implicit instructions from Morrison to leave everything exactly as is. It should be noted that Jac Holzman retained the photos as he felt they might be the final taken of the four together.
“Morrison enlisted photographer Wendell Hamick to see his vision through, much as the Doors took charge of the creation of the L.A. Woman LP following the fiasco in Miami, Morrison’s meltdown in New Orleans and lastly the departure of producer Paul Rothchild put them on the outs with the public and with Elektra.
“The photos of the band were taken at night in a dimly lit Hollywood recording studio off Melrose Avenue in a mood that might best be described as eerie with music recorded for the LP playing in the background. The mood was relaxed, Jim drinking from a bottle of the cognac he had come to favor.
“To counter the image projected of Morrison on the 13 LP, cutouts from the photo shoot were placed to make it appear as if Morrison was sitting down, below the rest of the band standing beside him. The inspiration for the placement of the cutout heads was Mt. Rushmore. Familiar to Americans, this is a National Park in South Dakota featuring stone sculptures of US Presidents.
“There has been speculation on the crucifix. So let's clear that up. No, it is not Cher! It was an unnamed nude model, not present at the Doors’ photoshoot, but rather had posed at another time in Hamick’s studio.
“Lastly, the crucifix had great significance to Morrison and the use of it was his brainchild. He had been raised as a Protestant, but had explored other views and beliefs. He was interested in the ornate architecture often used in church buildings and had requested use of a church for a solitary photo shoot in 1968 while The Doors were touring in Europe. He was fascinated by religious symbolism. He often wore a crucifix, and stated that it was merely jewelry when asked. He kept is spiritual beliefs private for the most part.
“He did have a passing interest in astrology. He had his personal chart done which for a time he displayed above his desk at the office. In his final months before departing to France, Morrison was attending Blessed Sacrament Catholic church in Hollywood on a daily basis, even slipping out of the studio during recording of L.A. Woman to attend church.”
"He's hot! He's sexy! And he's dead!" trumpeted the September 17, 1981 cover of Rolling Stone magazine about the resurgence of interest in Jim Morrison a decade after his demise.
“Visual icons of history who we know to be young and doomed ring true, which adds to the glamour for some. Egon Shiele contorts and stares out from his deliberately brutal self-portraits. He was a beloved protegè of Viennese art immortal Gustav Klimt, he was a true master of landscapes and seascapes for those in the know, and he was nothing but a coarse grotesquery to others.
“At least later generations embraced him down through the ages, despite the boorish visuals bequeathed to us. He'd be dead by age 28 of the 1918 influenza which has been marginalized in these politicized Covid times, despite its killing an estimated, horrific 50 to 100 million people (1/5 of earth's then population) to Covid's two and a half million poor souls.
“We have contemporary likenesses of Alexander the Great from coinage minted in his lifetime, a Roman copy of his in-person sculpted portrait by Lysippus, and an astonishing mosaic of him astride his horse Bucephalus in the Battle of Issus, copied from a 4th century B.C. Hellenistic commemorative painting. Thus, there is consensus that Alexander was a beardless young man with a layered, flowing locks hairstyle that continues to look fashionable on any entertainment type male of the last sixty years. Alexander the Great would be dead by age 33.
“Jay Sebring to customer self-readying for album cover photo sessions: ‘What do you want to look like?’ Jim Morrison: ‘I want to look like this’ (showing a photograph of one the aforementioned portraits of Alexander the Great.)
“That's my Quentin Tarantino-ization of an apocryphal conversation, but one that rings true from its results. This look seen through superb photography helped cement an icon whom we remember for his Doors' music legacy, his headline-making performances, and his staring at us down through the ages, handsome and doomed. Everyone in the world remembers exactly what he looked like, mirroring Alexander the Great's own visual legacy, just as he wished.
“By the time of L.A. Woman, Morrison's candle burning at both ends was beginning to sputter and his looks, bearded for anonymity as much as the early 1970s style, were getting terminally bleary. He'd be dead by age 27.
“In my Hollywood environs that I inhabit, folks would fixate on his in-person buffoonery and boorishness, a side effect of living where an artist on a downslide is acting out. At least we have the equivalent of Shiele's paintings, his last studio recorded, serious work L.A. Woman, to temper the Morrison image, and we have the Doors' enduring triumphs lasting for posterity. Like Shiele and Alexander the Great, despite the short time allotted, Jim Morrison beat the clock. We will always remember the endearingly personal additional aspect of how each looked, in addition to what each accomplished.”
Michael Macdonald Writer:
In four short years the Doors released six studio albums that all had something to offer including the oft-maligned The Soft Parade, however it was their final offering L.A. Woman that registered with me more than the others.
“I had just turned 15 when L.A. Woman was released and beginning to appreciate music way beyond radio fare which may explain why the album still resonates with me. That and Jim Morrison’s death shortly after its release probably make L.A. Woman even more poignant.
“Had Morrison lived, the album would have been regarded as transitional as the Doors were reaching back into the blues and had severed their connection with regular producer Paul Rothchild. Virtually self-produced, L.A. Woman was housed in a rather non-descript cover with a standard band photo revealing a portly and bearded Morrison almost unrecognizable from the lithe Rock god of the late 60s. Sound wise, it was mostly lean and bluesy while Morrison’s lyricism, particularly on the title track and the closing ‘Riders On The Storm,’ seemed much closer to Ross Macdonald than Rimbaud.
“Australia embraced L.A. Woman as they had the Doors previous albums and gave ‘Love Her Madly’ (a song almost tailor made for Tom Jones or Chris Farlowe) and the brooding ‘Riders On The Storm’ heavy radio rotation. Fifty years on both songs are regularly played on Aussie Classic Rock stations and on any Saturday night at any suburban beer barn, the resident cover band, more often than not, will be cranking out ‘Roadhouse Blues’ (from the equally fine Morrison Hotel) or taking collective requests for it. Australia’s love for the Doors has never diminished.
“Where the Doors would have gone after L.A. Woman is purely academic- Morrison may ventured into spoken word recordings or become an independent film maker. He might have kept the Doors going well into the late seventies or maybe ennui would have set in. Whatever the direction, it would have been nice if he’d stuck around a lot longer.”
David N. Pepperell Musician/Writer
From the moment we heard Ray Manzarek’s whirling dervish calliope organ and Jim’s opening statement powering out of our radios, Australia fell in love with the Doors.
‘Light My Fire’ was all over the airwaves, Jim’s face adorned the front cover of numerous, and not just music, magazines and the first, eponymous album was being played and discussed all around the country. Here, out of the vortex that the late 60’s were, was a new sound, a new message and a shamanic call in their record ‘Break On Through.’
I can recall no other album that inspired listeners in this country so much as 1967’s The Doors. Its bleak darkness and strange invocations seemed to point to a new direction, not so much peace and love as blood and fire. We were trying to understand the revolutionary rock of American bands - like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service - and the Doors, far more so than those groups, seemed to sketch out a path to the future.
Mostly self-composed, with a couple of tunes by Weill and Wolf, the album’s songs bristled with energy and ecstasy. ‘Soul Kitchen,’ ‘Break On Through’ and ‘Take it As It Comes’ were declamatory orations balanced by cool reflections like ‘The Crystal Ship,’ ‘I Looked at You’ and ‘End of the Night’ followed by the climactic Oedipal horror show of ‘The End,’ a strange choice to close a debut album but an aural experience that was totally new to us.
This was bigger than pop music perhaps the beginning of what was to be called Rock Music and was obviously meant to be listened to closely, not just to be used as a background for dancing. ‘Light My Fire’ was the catalyst to their breakthrough, changing them from a literary, existential musical force to a teenage sensation and making Jim Morrison a Rock ‘n’ Roll icon right from the beginning.
Sadly the Doors never played Australia so we never had the great good fortune to see them perform their music on stage but we had the concert films and the Absolutely Live LP to give us some idea of what that would be like. Not as good as the real thing of course but those mediums did let us see that the Doors were so much more than a musical group but a major cultural force that would have huge impact on not only the U.S.A. but the whole world.
We bought all the classic ensuing albums, embraced the later hit singles and then cried when Jim died, far too young, at the dawning of a new decade, as if only the majesty of the 60’s could contain him.
Seven albums in five years, all of them of a wonderful nature and of the highest quality, is one hell of an effort!
Even their Absolutely Live album, usually an excuse for a greatest hits compilation, contained the only recorded version of their greatest theatrical tour-de-force ‘The Celebration Of The Lizard.’
The Doors are still one of the most played groups on Australian radio and sells albums by the thousands here every year. Add to that the fact our local group The Australian Doors Show played for seven years, did 1,200 shows all over the world and was regarded as the best Doors cover band in the world in their time and you can see how much Australia loved the Doors and always will.
Jesus we wish they had come out here and played for us.
Ken Kubernik: Musician Author:
My first and most abiding memory of the Doors was seeing them on one of those TV dance party shows that sprang up like mushrooms following the spring rains of the English Invasion,” “It was, I believe, 9th Street West, built around the 'Boss Radio’ brand of L.A.'s reigning Top Forty AM station, KHJ.
“Lip-syncing to 'Break On Through,' their first single from their debut album, it caught me up short, like a quick slant from Namath to Maynard: that back door bossa nova beat, the churning, left-hand keyboard bass continuo (more felt than heard), the insolent baritone command from the lead singer. It felt more like a shiv to the throat than a song, a menacing undertow you could dance to. Tommy James, bless his heart, this wasn't.
“I was young enough (12) to be both bewitched and bewildered by their impertinence; there was a palpable interiority to their presence, as if they were privileging us squealy teenyboppers with their pastiche of jazz and blues, Blake and Huxley. They didn't crave our approval; rather, they took a road never traveled and dared us to hitch a ride. 'Light My Fire' was riding shotgun, waiting its turn to transform the impending summer of '67 with its baroque pageantry.
“I never totally succumbed to the band's cultish allure; Morrison's personal mishegas seemed to sap them of any real creative momentum. Much of their music remains knotted to a very particular time and (psychic) space that occludes its continuing vitality (why, for instance, did Ray persist with that rinky-dink Gibson organ). There were moments: L.A. Woman was a great leap forward, the production doing justice to a raft of great songs that showcased the group's strengths. And then the sun, suddenly, heartlessly, goes dark. But not before offering a tantalizing glimpse of what lay magically, mystically, on the other side."
Lonn M. Friend Writer Author: After graduating UCLA in the spring of ’79 with a less than lucrative Sociology Bachelor of Arts degree in hand, I found a job on campus in the Registrar’s Office, Murphy Hall. Window A, to be specific. Students that required copies of their transcripts, grades, etc., lined up daily at my portal. I soon discovered that downstairs, there were files containing the scholastic records of every single student whoever attended classes at the storied Westwood campus going back decades.
One afternoon, during my lunch break, I decide to investigate the archive myself; row after row of grey steel cabinets. It was like the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but not quite as endless or massive. I had done some research, scribbled down a short list of famous former Bruins and began my search. I found slightly worn and yellowed cards bearing the scholastic performances of Francis Ford Coppola, Carol Burnett, Carlos Castaneda and last, but far from least, James Douglas Morrison. I stared in awe at them all, meticulously reading through the data, smiling, vibrating. Oh if Don Juan Matus could see me now! Never that mischievous a youth, I managed to muster the nerve to clandestinely Xerox only one of the sacred documents. I snuck back upstairs to my post clutching the collegiate curricula vitae of the Lizard King. Welcome to the Soft Parade…
Roger Steffens Author/Deejay
In early November 1967, I was a recent draftee passing through Berkeley, and after seeing Janis Joplin and Ike & Tina Turner at Winterland, I was off to Vietnam. I landed in Saigon and within three weeks I realized the whole dismal affair was a fraud, corrupt from top to bottom, just a way to make money off young kid’s lives.
One of our only ointments against the depravities was music. This was the time of an impressive increase in headphone advertising and listeners were discovering this new audio stereo world. Exposure and sales made a difference. So one of the most popular areas of the Vietnam PXs was their music section. The PX sold a variety of Japanese headphones. Everyone wanted them. Stereo was really coming into its own at that point.
During the entire 26 months I was in Vietnam a poet friend, Jerry Burns, who had published my first two poetry anthologies, taped eight hours of KSAN-FM every week. It had quickly morphed from KMPX into the quintessential FM underground radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area. You could hear it as you walked the streets of Berkeley in the summertime and not even need a radio because KSAN blared from every open window and park bench. Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service and, of course, the Doors.
Jerry sent four-track reel-to-reel eight hour tapes from the Oakland Army Base every Monday afternoon and I would then dub cassettes off my big TEAC reel-to-reel. I made hundreds of cassettes to give to guys out in the field and they, in turn, would copy them and circulate them among their buddies.
So we had a very up to the minute soundtrack to Vietnam, thanks especially to Scoop Nisker’s phenomenal stream-of-consciousness sound-collage newscasts that told us what was really going on back in the world from a very left-centered perspective. And guys got tapes from home. In the barracks we all had stereo systems: TEAC or Akai tape recorders, a Kenmore or Macintosh amp. Fisher Stereo, Toshiba. Those companies all had local offices. Gorgeous girls in mini-skirts at the PXs were selling sports cars with life insurance attached. If you didn’t make it through the war, your family or your girlfriend would still get your car. What did you have to spend money on? You were housed and fed.
There was also Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. On May 12th it was released on the Reprise label. Jimi and the Doors were popular in the barracks. Hendrix opened an aural door that I didn’t know existed before. (I wrote a whole chapter about the quintessential importance of Jimi for us, trapped there in the midst of an unjust war, called Nine Meditations on Jimi and Nam, assigned as part of a major coffee table book, The Ultimate Hendrix.)
I heard the debut Doors’ album in January 1967, Strange Days and in 1968, Waiting for the Sun. You can only imagine how much ‘Unknown Soldier” resonated with me. I loved ‘Touch Me’ on The Soft Parade. Morrison’s poetry got to me the same way I was later attracted to the poetry of Bob Marley. I liked Jim’s wildness, the revelation aspect. We played Doors’ music a lot in Vietnam.
In 1967 I hardly saw any marijuana around America. And when I went to Vietnam maybe 10 percent of the soldiers smoked, although it was available on any street corner in Saigon. But within two years, I’d say 70 per cent of everybody, up to and including Lieutenants and Captains, smoked. My apartment became a safe haven for soldiers in their off-duty hours to share a spliff away from the shatter of bombs and mortars.
Saigon Sally was a Vietnamese woman who rode on the back of a motorcycle with her boyfriend looking for GIs sitting in sidewalk cafes at whom she could toss grenades. What I’m saying in effect is that there were no front lines in Vietnam. There were some kick-ass battles, but then the enemy would go back down their tunnels or caves in the mountains where they were hiding. You could lose your life anywhere at any time, on the street or in the boonies. That puts a 24/7 strain on you psychologically, and you needed something to cut that.
For most of the older guys, the lifers, there was alcohol. But if you are drunk and suddenly come under attack, you’re still gonna be blind drunk. But if you’re stoned, I found you could straighten out very quickly from the adrenalin. And I certainly needed something to cut the tension.
So I taught myself how to smoke pot in order to do that. It leveled things out and enhanced what was going on. You were in a totally foreign environment, even the air was different. It was yellow and tactile. And you knew the other off-duty soldiers were just as hazy as you were.
I can’t begin to tell you how terrific it was to hear Phil Ochs, the Doors, Mamas and the Papas, Donovan singing “The War Drags On.” Creedence Clearwater Revival “Run Through the Jungle,” “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” Buffalo Springfield. Dr. John, Crosby, Stills and Nash’s soothing the nerves debut LP.
As for the Doors and Vietnam, the placement of “The End” in Apocalypse Now was essential. They’ve had other songs in Vietnam-themed movies like Gardens of Stone.
“Light My Fire” was such a great anthem; I could never get enough of the long version. In fact on my first, pure Sandoz, acid trip I heard that song. We had dropped on the sunrise shores of Lake Michigan where poet friends and I stared at scores of Vietnamese peasants in conical straw hats planting rice in the Lake. It was a never-to-be-forgotten mass hallucination.
To me Jim Morrison was marketed as a kind of young Dylan Thomas-Lord Bryon character, a claim that is not without its validity. But I think it probably drove him crazy from what his friends have told me. He wanted to finally grow out of that. It’s like John Lennon taking his naked pictures.
I have a theory, and it's been proven to me from the reception and media coverage of my Instagram, The Family Acid. And it applies to bands like the Doors. There's a tremendous interest now among the tech generation for true imagery from a time that now is being transformed into mythology. For analog versus digital. Unless you lived through the Psychedelic Revolution you can't fully overstand that experience.
I attach specific dates to most of the slides that we post, which leads to our followers making comments like, ‘OMG, this is the month or the week or the day I was born,’ wishing they had arrived earlier to feel The Vibes.
I think about the great artists who didn't make it out alive, tragic lessons for us all. After my discharge I spent all of 1970 speaking out nationally against the war.
At the end of that year, utterly disillusioned, I left America and ended up for most of 1971 in Marrakech. I had a letter of introduction to a French Countess who had a massive palace in the European section of that venerable city. Her young son Jean was about to turn 21 and inherit the title of his late father, the Count de Breteuil. He showed up in town on a Sunday evening. My wife and I were invited the next day to dinner at the Villa Taylor. There, Jean and his girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, told us a story about discovering Jim Morrison's body in a bathtub in the Marais in Paris the previous Saturday.
For days there was no news anywhere and we began to doubt his tale. How could someone so famous die and nobody know? Eventually, the story broke and was an enormous sensation.
Back in the mid-'80s I was hosting an NPR show called The Sound of the Sixties, and had John Densmore on as a guest, and told him that story. He told me he had been hearing rumors for years but knew nothing of the circumstances, and asked me if he could use the transcript of our talk for his book, Riders On the Storm.
When it was published, the ghoulish Albert Goldman called me and said I had the key to what everyone was looking for, and said he’d even been to the morgue where Jim’s body was briefly held, asking if he could fly out to California to interview me. I refused to speak with him again, and he died shortly after. For me hearing about Jim’s death was just terribly sad.
Carol Schofield Owner of MsMusic
Their live show was strong. Gritty and entertaining. The Doors took you on a trip. The sound was big and large. It grabbed and sucked you in. He might have been a mess one night during “Unknown Soldier” but we all paid attention. It felt loose. He pulled it off in some weird form. It was wild, cool and interesting. The band could always pull it off in these un controlled circumstances. And besides, we always had the albums to return too.
I know the focus has always been on Jim. That might have started with the front cover of their debut album. But the fans and the devoted like myself and Harvey Kubernik, and so many others in our world, always knew it was a team on stage. And in the studio.
I loved Robby Krieger’s guitar work and his songwriting. He made me checkout some jazz albums. John Densmore, the drummer kicked my ass. Ray Manzarek was central to the heartbeat of Jim.
And there was Morrison’s writing and lyrics. Nothing like I had heard before. It was fresh. He was such a poet. It was theater. Rock ‘n’ roll blended with sex, Greek mythology. I mean, Jim let it rip.
The Doors have always been part of my rock ‘n’ roll journey.
After the Doors ended in 1971 as a physical performing act, I owned Vault of Records in the Mission district. I then worked at Tower Records in San Francisco in the early seventies. Every time I sold one of their albums to a customer, I felt I was giving them something special and essential. I later was employed by Bill Graham Winterland Productions and in the late eighties then started E Street Records in Sacramento.
All during the nineties and threw last decade, I owned Foothill Records in La Canada and continued to sell their albums on vinyl and compact disc. And on occasion, still watch videos and DVD’s on the Doors.
Tosh Berman: Poet and book publisher
For some odd reason, the Whisky a Go-Go made a decision to have matinee performances for those who are under 21. In other words, a kiddie’s matinee. Around 2 p.m. my father took me to the Whiskey to see the Irish band Them, with Van Morrison.
At the time, I had the first Them album put out by Parrot Records. It had the hits “Gloria," Here Comes the Night,” and the intense “Mystic Eyes.” I’m one of those people, who not only like to be at the show on time but early as well. I enjoyed being in an audience and watching a room or theater to fill up. I’m that way about movies as well. The theater/audience aspect to me is just as important as the action that will take place on the stage or screen. So, we got there early and we watched and listened to the opening band - the Doors.
The L.A. Fab four came on and right away there was something weird about them. For instance, they didn’t have a bass player. There was a guitarist, organ player, drummer, and then the singer. The set-up was really odd to me. By eleven years old, I know that every band should have at the very least a guitarist, but of course, a bassist is a must as well. I can’t remember what their first song was but the sound that they were playing had a boom-ba-bay sound. It wasn’t really rock, and there was a touch of the blues, but to my ears, there was something theatrical about their sound. Like it shouldn’t belong to a rock n’ roll club, but maybe in a theater.
The singer was beautiful. And the rest of the band looked nerdy and academic. For instance, I would not have been surprised that they worked as teachers at the local university -which was UCLA. Down the street from The Whisky (on the Sunset Strip). The one song I did know was “Alabama Song.” I know this song by heart because in our family household we have the Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weil album. Every bohemian family had a copy of this album. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear the Doors perform this song, and on top of that, doing a great version of it.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think their first album came out yet. Or as a fact, I didn’t have the album, nor have I heard of them before this performance. After getting the album, I realized that they pretty much played every song off this album. Once that LP came out, the Doors were it. There were other ‘it’ bands out there, but the Doors had a weird mixture of Southern California optimism, with dark clouds roaming around the sky and blocking the sunlight. At the time, they struck me as a West Coast band, and not only that but a band from the Westside of Los Angeles. Culver City? Well, clearly Venice California. Still, what made them so unique was the ultimate organ sound, which played the bass parts as well.
When I hear the album, they sound like jazz musicians playing rock - or as I mentioned not really rock with a roll, but with a theatrical bent, with jazzy overtures. Jim Morrison, their lead singer, could have been a Chet Baker type of singer. He had a beautiful sexy voice. At eleven I ‘sort’ of knew what sexy was, and I clearly understood that this was Morrison’s appeal to the listener.
Them, on the other hand, seemed like they didn’t want to play at 3 pm in the afternoon. I remember Van Morrison wearing dark sunglasses and not moving a muscle on the stage, except in the mouth area. They sounded great, but compared to the Doors theater -, they were blown off the stage by the opening act.
At that age, the Doors represented something dark, adventuresome to me. I went to see them again about a year later at an outdoor concert setting. Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. Again, it was in the afternoon, and it was really hot and dusty. The Doors set I saw that afternoon was the complete opposite of what I saw and heard at the Whisky. For one, they seemed to have no focus on the stage. They were basically jamming, and Morrison was improvising a lot. Which comes back to the jazz vibe, but here it didn’t work. They were boring.
Still, I was a faithful Doors fan. I purchased all their albums from the first to L.A. Woman (an album I hated by the way). People were down on The Soft Parade album, but I liked it because of the orchestration, and I feel in a sense that the orchestra and Morrison were a good combination. It’s a shame that Morrison didn’t become a Broadway or off-Broadway star. He had that vibe, and I think this would have been the suitable platform for his talents. Morrison, I think wanted to be Artaud, but one can’t be an Artaud. Only Artaud is Artaud. Maybe he can do a Michael McClure, but again, there is only one McClure. Which was ironic to me, because McClure eventually did a series of albums and live shows with the organist Ray Manzarek. Which, to my ears, sucked. The reason it sucked was because of the overture of it being a Morrison tribute - and it’s weird enough that Morrison wanted to be Michael, but Michael being Jim was absurd to me.
It seems kind of obvious that Morrison knew my father. If for nothing else, due to his friendship with Michael McClure, but alas, they didn’t know each other. Still, Morrison wanted my dad to do the album cover for their second album Strange Days. Wallace turned it down, not due to the Doors, but he couldn’t deal with the record company insisting on restrictions - like for instance having the cover shrink-wrapped, or the band having their name on the cover. The Doors wouldn’t have a problem with this, but the record company would go ape-shit over my father’s demands. I know for instance that he would insist that there would be no sticker price on the cover. When my father does his art, he has complete control. If he didn’t get complete control and is not part of the (his) picture, he will turn down the job. Still, the second album is pretty great.
I have seen Jim Morrison twice outside the concert/band format. One time was at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. We were invited to the show by Neil Young to see Crosby Stills, Nash & Young. As we went backstage, we witnessed Morrison being escorted out by a security guard. He didn’t look pissed off - his expression was total indifference. Stephen Stills watched him being thrown out, and I think he tried to stop the security guard, but I think Morrison still had to leave the premises. The other time, and very last time I saw him was in Topanga Canyon by the Fernwood Market. He was in a Volkswagen bug by himself and was drinking from a paper bag.
When Jimi Hendrix died, it was shocking. When Brian Jones died, it was really shocking, because we knew him - but when Morrison passed away in Paris, it didn’t seem that weird to me. He kind of left the Doors at the time or it felt that way. He didn’t strike me the type of guy who would come back to a band, once he’s gone. I think he was doing the romantic poet thing and being in Paris - I mean, who would want to come to West Hollywood and deal with being in the Doors after that lifestyle.
When Morrison died I pretty much stopped listening to The Doors. I liked every album, except their last one L.A. Woman, due to thinking that the songs were lazy sounding. They were good songs, because hell, it’s the Doors. But they were not advancing to another level. Just marking time. I think after Morrison Hotel, they said everything that was possible at the time. So, them splitting wasn’t a sad or necessary a bad thing to me.
What did bug me was the Doors after Morrison passed away. I hated the fact that the organist was making these theories that perhaps Morrison is not dead, and he really spent a great deal of time keeping up with the Morrison legend as much as possible. Teenage stuff. As I became an adult I had no reason to listen to the Doors.
By chance, at my local vinyl store, Mono Records, I found an original mono version of the first album. I played it at home and I was knocked out by the sound coming from one speaker towards the listener. As I write, I’m streaming that album in stereo and it doesn’t make it for me. The Doors, at least the first album, has to be in mono or nothing else. Still, the Doors are one of the few bands that didn’t make it to my adult ears. I can deal with a lot of music from the era of the 1960s, but the Doors seem flat compared to a band like Love. Now that was a fantastic band. Still, my memory of happiness was playing their albums in my room in Topanga Canyon. That feeling never goes away, but I clearly don’t need to re-live the experience. Mono was something new to my ears - but, not truly essential in my life right now.
The Doors and Dad
Greg Franco: Bandleader, Man’s Body
“My dad and mom bought a brand-new 1969 VW station wagon.
It was the mini-van of its time.
My sister was born fifteen months and four days before me in 1964,
so by 1970-74, we were in the age range of 5-10 years old.
We used to ride in the back of the VW with my dad driving.
There were no seats back there, just a hard bed with two
tire humps that we used to sit on.
Generally we stayed put on the tire humps,
but sometimes we tossed around while dad drove.
No biggie, it was just the way it was back then.
The VW, named Nellie, had AM radio only,
so we used to hear the hits on
KGFJ, KHJ, and KRLA.
Pushing the buttons, we would hear the best of the day:
Curtis Mayfield, Aretha, Smoky, Ray Charles and James Brown on KGFJ.
The Byrds, Mamas and Papas, Credence and The Doors were on KHJ, and
Santana, Malo, and The Penguins were played on Art Laboe and Huggy Bear on KRLA.
My dad generally didn’t like British invasion stuff; he was not much of a Beatles fan. He hated Elvis, and being Chicano, he didn't swing too well with things like Simon and Garfunkel, Folk or Hippie music.
He didn’t appreciate silly pop songs either.
He was a sports guy, boxing, baseball, football, a history buff,
and a bookworm. But he was also a serious music fan, and
he really loved the Doors.
He was pretty square though; he was in the military.
But he loved Motown, Duke Ellington, Vicki Carr, and Latin Jazz (such as Perez Prado and even Brazil 66’.)
This was the music he purchased on 8- track.
Our good stereo had 8- track, although my sister and I had a little kids record player for our records. We didn’t touch his stereo.
I can only guess now why Dad liked the Doors so much.
The Doors had a swagger,
a muscular sound Dad must have liked.
Morrison had a deep man’s voice;
they sounded like they were sweating it out in the LA sun
or prowling around clubs and bars at midnight, a Santa Ana wind in their sails.
It was a wild sound to us, like a circus with a tiger let out of its cage.
The Doors were dangerous in a way, too adult for us.
Still, the AM radio played them, but only the hits were heard.
My favorite song to bump around to in the back of the station wagon, was “Hello I Love You.” To this day it is a favorite song of mine.
There is a restless insistence that Jim would fall in love with a woman in an instant and tell her “Hello” I love you, but he hasn’t quite figured out her name yet.
If that isn’t wild, I don’t know what is. This exuberant song represents happy memories in our VW blasting the radio.
The other song I instantly loved was “Touch Me.”
This song has many horns, features a busy bass line,
and has that crazy free jazzy saxophone in the breakdown.
Later on I was told this was the Door's sell out song,
and album, that they betrayed themselves on The Soft Parade.
But as a kid, this was a major song, a big influence on me,
and to this day I’m completely in awe of it.
I can’t forget to mention how important “Light My Fire” was to American culture,
a huge hit that insisted everyone move their bodies in a freeing way.
My favorite cover of this song is by Jose Feliciano. Man, that’s a smoking version.
In 2006 my father died of ALS. At the end he was no longer the guy with the strong handshake, the hip swinging dancer at parties, the guy who said "salude" while downing tequila shots with Uncle Freddie, the diligent carpet cleaner, the liquor store clerk with the ready loaded gun, nor the 4 tacos guy at local joints.
This music represents a time of Dad's very manly years.
It was a time when the LA freeways were more dangerous than today;
the cars were steel tanks, and the smog was thick and foul.
It was a time before my parent’s divorce in 1975, a time when
we were all still in the same house in Monterey Park.
For my sister and me, it was our last memories of all of us being together.
In '74 Dad crashed that station wagon on Indiana Ave in East LA,
and my sister and I rolled around like tortillas in the back.
We were not hurt, but we cried for the smashed car and for our radio.
It was the beginning of the end of our family.
Funny what memories stick and embed in our souls,
like a brand on the body. The Doors music bonded us spiritually.
The Doors represented our LA world well, and 50 years ago they gave us a great gift called L.A. Woman. No matter what, through all their difficulties, their short story and eventual destruction, all legendary now, their story isn’t as important as their exceptional music that lives on to this day.
We were a Doors family for sure.”
Prof. James Cushing:
L.A. Woman ties in a dead-heat with The Doors as the group’s finest album. I thought so in 1971 and I think so today. In both cases, this listener was presented with something new.
In 1967, the first album showed Morrison’s fully developed poetic sensibility, embodied in a uniquely jazz-derived sound, based on the organ-guitar-drums trio beloved of inner city taverns across the nation. Jimmy Smith meets Antonin Artaud.
In 1971, the last album paired Morrison’s poetic sensibility with a tough blues band that relished jazz changes. Remarkably, the band was the same three men, with the addition of Elvis’ bass guitarist, Jerry Scheff. His bass lines somehow reinforce the impact of every other instrument.
Both The Doors and L.A. Woman give a sense of having been thoughtfully sequenced so as to give a sense of overall coherence, a beginning-middle-end arc every bit as pleasing as Sgt. Pepper, yet no one ever called either one a “concept album.” They do deep and powerful work on the listeners’ mind, and (to these ears) sound just as compelling on CD as on vinyl.
Morrison has his detractors, people who say he's writing above his boxing weight, but I think they're mostly losers in sweaty leisurewear, secretly jealous of his absurdly indisputable sexual charisma. Have you ever heard a young single woman diss the writing of Jim Morrison? The men don't know but the you-know-who understand.
Speaking of women, I point detractors to the song "L.A. Woman," Morrison's lyrical masterpiece, a kaleidoscope of jarring noir imagery that posits female as city, city as female, taking the listener on a surreal journey to the heart of the shadow self. The song is a bait-and-switch: At first, the "singer" is on a quest, in search of a single L.A. woman, but once he enters the labyrinth, this enigmatic feminine other becomes all L.A. women and finally all souls lost in the floating neon.
It's no small thing that the song manages to feel like a lonesome afternoon driving through our town, caroming through the rolling foothills in the hypnotizing, hazy sunlight. The guy's a film major, and the visual complexity he deploys is unusual for rock, shifting POVs, throwing intimate super-close-ups next to Cinemascope wide shots. The day changes to night (change in an instant!) as afternoon flips to a midnight of LAPD units languishing outside strip clubs, motels where bad deals end in blood, and luck and loss are two sides of a coin in endless mid-flight.
But maybe the most moving thing about the song is that line about people saying he never loved her, and how they're all liars. He's right.
Harvey Kubernik is the author of 19 books, including Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows published in 2014 and now available in six foreign language editions. Kubernik also authored Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972.
Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. For October 2021 the duo has written a multi-narrative volume on Jimi Hendrix for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.
Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s book, Docs That Rock, Music That Matters, featuring interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Albert Maysles, Murray Lerner, Morgan Neville, Dr. James Cushing, Curtis Hanson, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Andrew Loog Oldham, Dick Clark, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Travis Pike, Allan Arkush, and David Leaf, among others.
Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies, most notably The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey penned a back cover endorsement for author Michael Posner’s book on Leonard Cohen that Simon & Schuster, Canada published in October 2020, Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years)
This century Kubernik wrote the liner note booklets to CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special and The Ramones’ End of the Century).
In November 2006, Harvey Kubernik was a speaker discussing audiotape preservation and archiving at special hearings called by The Library of Congress and held in Hollywood, California.
During 2020 Harvey Kubernik served as a Consultant on the 2-part documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time directed by Alison Ellwood. Kubernik is currently working on a documentary about Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member singer/songwriter Del Shannon.
Kubernik also appears as a screen interview subject for director/producer Neil Norman’s GNP Crescendo documentary, The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard. Jan Savage and Daryl Hooper original members of the Seeds participated along with Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, Iggy Pop, Kim Fowley, Jim Salzer, the Bangles, photographer Ed Caraeff, Mark Weitz of the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Johnny Echols of Love. Miss Pamela Des Barres supplies the narration on this documentary scheduled for a debut broadcast on television during 2021.
This decade Harvey was filmed for the in-production documentary about former Hollywood landmark Gold Star Recording Studio and co-owner/engineer Stan Ross produced and directed by Brad Ross and Jonathan Rosenberg. Brian Wilson, Herb Alpert, Richie Furay, Darlene Love, Mike Curb, Chris Montez, Bill Medley, Don Randi, Hal Blaine, Shel Talmy, Don Peake, Kim Fowley, Johnny Echols, Gloria Jones, Carol Kaye, Marky Ramone, Slim Jim Phantom, David Kessel and Steven Van Zandt have been lensed.
**Photos courtesy of Henry Diltz