New documentary highlights classic Doors album
The Doors (l-r): Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger. / Elektra Records
For the Doors, 1969 was a year marked by singer Jim Morrison's arrest on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure following the group's chaotic Miami concert. Because of the incident, the rest of the group's tour was canceled. So the Doors--Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore--were in the studio to work on their next album, "L.A. Woman." But the legal hassles that included a trial were on Morrison's mind.
"The fact that he was still under the gun being appealed, they convicted him of lewd and lascivious [behavior]...so he was looking at jail time in Florida," Krieger tells CBS News. "It was hanging over his head. He probably would have beaten it...but that definitely affected him. But in making the record, it was a release for him because he was having fun and not thinking about it."
Released in 1971, "L.A. Woman" became one of the band's successful albums, yielding classic songs in the title track, "Love Her Madly" and "Riders on the Storm." It would turn out to be the last Doors album recorded with Morrison, who afterwards went to Paris and died at the age of 27. Now marking the 40th anniversary of "L.A. Woman" is a new DVD documentary, "Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of 'L.A. Woman," which describes the making of the album and contains interviews with the band's surviving members and their friends and colleagues. (The album itself was recently reissued with previously unreleased songs).
"Going through all that material -- outtakes and stuff -- was definitely a reminder of how it was," Krieger says of that era. "It kind of was out of my mind for so long. That was kind of cool to hear that stuff, I totally forgot some of those takes -- the blues stuff, [the unreleased song] "She Smells So Nice," which [engineer] Bruce Botnick found in the tape box, so that was pretty cool to hear that stuff."
The album encompasses the musical essence of the Doors from blues-influenced songs such as "Cars Hiss By My Window" and "Been Down So Long" to rockers such as "The Changeling" and the title track, the latter an exhilarating anthem about the City of Angels, the Doors' home base. "That was the aim...to capture L.A. in a song," says Krieger. "I think we succeeded for sure."
Closing out the record is the ominous "Riders on the Storm," which originally was inspired by the Ventures cover of a Vaughn Monroe tune called "Ghost Riders in the Sky." "We were just fooling around, playing surf kind of stuff with the guitar having that tremolo on it. We were just jamming on that and all of a sudden, Jim had the idea--instead of singing 'ghost riders in the sky,' he sang 'riders on the storm.' I thought that was brilliant. That was one of Jim's favorites."
Of Jim Morrison, Krieger says: "He was the nicest guy you ever met in your life. He would charm your pants off and often did with the ladies. That's what they didn't capture in the Oliver Stone movie--he was [portrayed] just like a drunk and a jerk. He was a cool guy and he was really fun to hang out with. Hopefully one day they'll make another film and show the real side of Jim Morrison. He was this greatest guy to have worked with, to make music with."
Afterwards, Morrison left for Paris to rest, according to band manager Bill Siddons as reported by Rolling Stone in 1971. "It wasn't like the Doors broke up and said, 'This is our last record,'" says Krieger. "I fully expected him to be back at some point and then we'd continue, after having one of our most successful albums in a long time."
The aura of the Doors, however, hasn't diminished since Morrison's passing, but rather has grown over time with reissues and documentaries. Krieger himself has his own jazz band as well as his collaboration with fellow Doors member Manzarek. Recently, the surviving members recorded on a new song, "Breakn' a Sweat," with producer Skrillex. "He's a really nice guy, " Krieger says of Skrillex. "He's just this kid from the valley and he started putting this stuff out on the Internet and the next thing you know he's this huge star. He's really good with that laptop, pulling up all these beats. Ray and I were over there and started playing some Miles Davis stuff. It all kind of worked."
After all these years since the band's 1967debut record, Krieger says that it does and doesn't surprise him that the Doors continue to be popular. "We knew we could come up with pretty cool stuff. I really didn't think it would last for 40 years, but again look at Bach and most classical guys--people still love that stuff. Who knows? In 200 years from now, people will still like the Doors."
Watch a trailer of "Mr. Mojo Risin'" below:
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