L.A. Woman was released in April 1971. Forty-one years later, surviving members of the Doors, and others involved with production, discuss the album with the Weekly, track by track.
Ray Manzarek, Doors keyboardist: The lyrics are prophetic. “I've lived uptown. I've lived downtown, but I've never been so broke that I couldn't leave town.” He'd lived on the beach and in the hills. He'd had money and been broke. He'd had his L.A. adventure, and he was out.
John Densmore, Doors drummer: Jim had changed. You look at him when I met him, and he looked like Michelangelo's statue of David. When he left, he was overweight with a beard. That was a conscious reaction against the Mick Jagger sex-symbol image.
Bruce Botnick, L.A. Woman engineer/co-producer: Jim was always writing in his notebook. When he wasn't drunk, he was quiet and introspective. He was amazingly well-read and one of the easiest people I've ever recorded. He had marvelous microphone technique. All the great singers backed off the mic when they'd sing loud, and he instinctively knew how and when to do it. He'd seen Sinatra perform and would pick things up immediately. He wasn't a trained singer but was never out of tune.
“Love Her Madly”
Robby Krieger, Doors guitarist: This was about my girlfriend, and now my wife, Lynn. She had a bad temper, and when she'd get mad, she'd slam the door, and the house would shake.
Jac Holzman, Elektra Records head: “Love Her Madly” was the clear AM radio hit. The band wanted “The Changeling,” but I insisted. Jim once admitted to me that they never got the singles right.
“Been Down So Long”
Manzarek: [Morrison] took the title of a Richard Farina novel. It's another retrospectively prophetic song. He was tired and worn out. He needed to be in a quieter, calmer place.
Growing up, we both heard lots of blues on the radio. When I turned 12 and found the Chicago black radio station, I was turned on to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Jimmy Reed. It was unbelievable.
Holzman: Jim always thought he was the world's best blues singer. He'd see somebody up on the stage and say, “You can't sing the blues worth shit,” and nearly get into a fight with them. He was generally drunk by then. Jim had a preponderance of wonderful qualities, a great gentleness. But he was Mr. Hyde when he was liquored up. It wrecked his insides. He was funny, lighthearted, but accepting of his fate. The idea of the tragic poet appealed to his dark side.
“Cars Hiss by My Window”
Manzarek: It's a dark Venice Beach song. Four a.m. You can't sleep. Your girl's passed out, and who knows what arguments you've been through. She's cold and she'll kill. You. Take it out of Venice and stick in Hollywood and it's The Day of the Locust.
Manzarek: You arrive looking for a little girl in a Hollywood bungalow. Then it goes to half-time. Motels, money, murder, madness. Film noir L.A. You go through the back alleys of Hollywood, looking for drugs, witnessing a crime. Someone pulls out a roscoe and is blasting right between the eyes. They fall hard and fast, blood splashing everywhere. Then they shoulder the gun and get the fuck out of there. That's “L.A. Woman.”
Krieger: We were never stupid enough to ask Jim what his lyrics meant. He never would have given a straight answer. The L.A. woman was the city itself. When he's talking about driving on the freeway, I always think about the intersection of the 405 and the 10. It was actually designed by a woman and it kind of opens up like a pair of legs.
Densmore: After we recorded the song, he wrote “Mr. Mojo Rising” on a board and said, “Look at this.” He moves the letters around and it was an anagram for his name. I knew that mojo was a sexual term from the blues, and that gave me the idea to go slow and dark with the tempo. It also gave me the idea to slowly speed it up like an orgasm. The difficulty is that it's a seven-minute song, and at the end, I was trying to approximate the same tempo I did seven minutes earlier. I overshot it. It's faster at the end. But you know, sometimes you get excited when you have sex.
Manzarek: Antonioni was interested in using it in Zabriskie Point. So we played it for him, and it was so loud, it pinned him up against the wall. When it was over, he thanked us and fled. So he turned to Pink Floyd, as European filmmakers tend to do when they want rock & roll.
Densmore: One of his saddest songs. He needs a brand-new friend who won't bother him. He was re-examining but not with regret. Toward the end, Jim said, “Probably next time, I'd be a little solitary, Zen gardener working in his garden.” I don't interpret that as a regret, but he had a hunch. I was shocked when he died. I thought he'd be an old Irish drunk living to 80.
Krieger: The Hyacinth House was my old house in Benedict Canyon. I had a really cute baby bobcat that I kept out in the yard and on the patio. That's the lion Jim talks about. Eventually I had to give her away when she got too big. It was probably highly illegal.
“Crawling King Snake”
Botnick: We only did one take. In the middle of the sessions, [Morrison] had to have a blues day, so he just started riffing. And I thought to hit the record button. He was just riffing, train of thought, nothing planned. He was very good at that.
“The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”
Krieger: I heard a song that was basically only on the radio for one day, but it gave me the feel for “Texas Radio.” I came up with the whole song musically, and [Morrison] had this poem that he had previously written about Texas radio and the Big Beat. I don't think he ever lived in Texas, but I bet he heard Wolfman Jack, broadcasting on XERB in Tijuana.
“Riders on the Storm”
Krieger: This was the first time that we'd actually written some of the songs together in the studio. Before, I'd usually have some music and bring it in, and Jim would set some words to it. This time, we actually spent time jamming and making songs out of what came out of it. One day we were riffing on the old Western song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” and it morphed into “Riders on the Storm.”
Holzman: I knew “Riders on the Storm” was going to be a rock radio staple forever. DJs have to go to the bathroom, or maybe have something else going on in the studio late at night. So long tracks are loved. And every rainy night, when there was a storm out, I knew they were going to play “Riders on the Storm.” —Jeff Weiss