Cutting-Room Floor

Surviving Doors Members Speak on Jim Morrison's Substance Abuse

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Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 4:30 AM
  • Photo by Paul Ferrara/copyright DMC

See also:

*L.A. Woman Was the Doors' Bluesy Masterpiece, and Jim Morrison's Kiss-Off to L.A.

*Surviving Members of the Doors Discuss L.A. Woman, Track by Track

In December we scrambled from the Pacific Palisades to Ojai, interviewing the major players behind The Doors' opus L.A. Woman. The sessions culminated in last month's cover story on the subject, which continues to be widely read. Considering we took some 50 single-spaced pages of notes, there were plenty of interesting details that didn't make the story. Here are the highlights.

On Jim Morrison's substance abuse

Ray Manzarek (organ, keyboard bass): Before L.A. Woman [Jim's self-abuse] hadn't yet affected his literary output or sense of songwriting. It had affected his health. We had a little confrontation at one point and told him he was drinking too much. He was like, 'I know, man. I'm trying to quit.' We were like, "okay, just call us and let us know."

But he didn't quit. Maybe he'd quit for a few days, but by the end of the week, it was like 'geez, I need a drink."

John Densmore (drummer): I was nervous at first when Paul Rothchild dropped out and Bruce Botnick suggested we produce [L.A. Woman] with him. I knew that Paul, God love him, taught us how to make records. But he was rather dictatorial and by the third or fourth album, we were doing way too many takes, getting way past the good ones, because of his perfectionism...And I was nervous because Jim, his self-destruction, was...uh... I would say he was an alcoholic by then. We didn't know that, we didn't have substance abuse clinics... But, he got empowered by directing our own film. Which is what producing a record is. He stepped up. He always did when we were recording or writing. None of his self-destruction got in the way. Well, it did... Forget that. Fourth album or so, he'd pass out in the studio. But you could go home. On stage, passing out, is not so good.

Jac Holzman (Elektra Founder): After the album was done, Jim and I went out, supposedly to dinner. I ate, he drank. We had interest in movies and stuff and Jim would kid me a lot. He'd say, you gotta get more on the edge. And I would say things like, 'I think being on the edge is great. The trick is not being on the bleeding edge.' It was a very satisfying experience. The fact that the boys at that point knew enough at that point to show great self-discipline. Most of the songs came from Robby and Jim on that album. He told any number of ladies, I think, that they were the "L.A. Woman."

On Morrison's lyrics

Robby Krieger (lead guitarist): When Jim wrote lyrics, we were never stupid enough to ask him what that meant. Because we knew he never would have told us a straight answer. There's a couple different ways you could read that. I like the idea of the city, L.A., being a woman. I don't know if you ever kind of noticed, the freeway, when he's talking about driving, the number 405 when it hits the 10, it was actually designed by a woman. That whole intersection. And it kind of opens up, like legs opening. It's kind of cool.

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