KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #112: L.A. Woman by The Doors.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #112: L.A. Woman by The Doors.

The late 1960s was quite the time to be living in the Los Angeles area. There was that whole, Laurel Canyon community, of Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, etc., all helping to create that California “surf sound” and then, the “folk rock” scene that grew from that. In 1969, specifically, the Summer of Love was winding down. The Vietnam War was on-going, as were the anti-war protests against it. The Hippies and their “hug-it-out” sensibilities were giving way to a more drug-fuelled paranoia, led by a charismatic man named Charles Manson, who holed up at a ranch, just outside of L.A., called The Spahn Ranch. From there, he and his followers went on a killing spree in the heart of the Hollywood Hills. The Tate-Labianca Murders seemed to signal the official end of an era of blissed out living for those who called Los Angeles, and surrounding area, home. Among those affected by the change in mood were the members of The Doors. The Doors were an L.A. band. They recorded their albums there. Many of their songs had roots there. The band members all lived there. So, in 1970, The Doors started work on an album that was to be transitory for them in more ways than one. That album was called, “L.A. Woman”. It was to a farewell to the city that they loved. Little did they realize that it would, also, be a farewell to the band, itself. Here is the story of the song, “L.A. Woman”.

The album, “L.A. Woman” turned out to be the final album The Doors completed as a full band. It was, also, the final album they completed while living in Los Angeles. Just after completing their previous album, “Morrison Hotel”, their producer quit working with them, citing a growing instability within the band that was affecting, in his words, the quality of their songs. That “instability” was focussed mainly on singer, Jim Morrison, and his growing addictions to alcohol and drugs. During this time, it became common for Morrison to disappear for days, drinking himself into oblivion within the rooms of the seediest hotels and dive bars in the city. The famous/infamous Morrison Hotel was actually known more for its Health Code violations than it was as a trendy place made famous by a rock n’ roll band. In fact, Morrison was beginning to transition from Rock star into drunken poet; emulating heroes such as Charles Bukowski. Morrison often carried a leather-bound, telephone book-sized notebook in which he would record snippets of ideas and observations. He began feeling the need to live what he was observing and, as such, he drank in the same hotel room that singer Sam Cooke was murdered in at the rundown Hacienda Hotel, just to soak in the aura of his spirit. So, when the remaining members of the band gathered to start work on the “L.A. Woman” album, they did so without a producer and, quite often, they did so not knowing if Morrison would show up and, if he did, what kind of shape he would be in. Luckily for the band…..if such a statement can be said to be lucky…..Morrison was a afternoon/evening drinker and had often slept his intoxication off by morning. So, much of the album was recorded early in the day.

The band may not have discussed leaving Los Angeles but, they could all feel that change was a-foot. Thus, a song like “L.A. Woman” came to be written. This song is an ode to the city they have lived in and loved. The “Woman” in question in the song title, is the city, itself. As we all know, sometimes, when you feel most up aganist it, you end up doing some of your best work. In this case, the members of The Doors all agreed that the song “L.A. Woman” was the quintessential Doors song. It is a rollicking, roiling, bluesy, bawdy ride down the highways of L.A., visiting the places the band felt most alive. Ray Manzarek has stated that the recording sessions for this song were the most fun the band ever had and they all loved this song.

However, one of the things that separate great bands from those that are merely good, is their attention to details. Despite his battles with drugs and alcohol, Jim Morrison was a smart, well-read young man who possessed deep thoughts on a number of topics. When it came to the song, “L.A. Woman”, the band played around with the use of minor and major chords. Minor and major chords help set a mood for a song, among other things and, usually, major chords are more uptempo and minor chords tend to lend a more dreamy air to a song. Well, the song “L.A. Woman” is, in reality, a sad song because the band is saying goodbye to the city they love but, they arranged the song using major chords so that the song has a lot of happy energy as it unfolds. Furthermore, “L.A. Woman” is noted for a change around the halfway mark, when Morrison starts to slowly repeat the phrase, “Mr. Mojo Risin'”. That phrase is actually an anagram for Jim Morrison’s name. The way that this section of the song starts slow and then repeats and repeats; building in speed and intensity as it goes, was meant to simulate sex. In essence, The Doors wanted to make love to their city one last time before leaving. “L.A. Woman” was that tryst.

Three months after the album was completed, Jim Morrison was found dead in a hotel bathtub in Paris, France. The official cause of death was listed as heart failure but, many suspect he actually died from a heroin overdose. The remaining members of The Doors released two further albums without Jim Morrison, using songs that they had recorded but not used previously but, those albums were both poorly received. And just like the way The Summer of Love had died with the Manson killings and everything changed in Los Angeles, Jim Morrison’s death seemingly ended The Doors, too. “L.A. Woman”….a song about a city that had been so much more than a home to the band….was their final big hit. It is fitting that a band as talented and intelligent and poetic as The Doors would end their tenure by driving down the highway by the Hollywood bungalows, seeing which way the wind blows. For some of us, home is defintely where the heart is. For The Doors, that home was L.A. and, in their eyes, she was the most beautiful woman imaginable!

Without further delay, here are The Doors, with their ode to the city they loved, “L.A. Woman”, from the album of the same name. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “L.A. Woman: by The Doors, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Doors, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for being home to so many great artists and bands. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #57: Light My Fire by The Doors.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #57: Light My Fire by The Doors.

Unlike most songs released by The Doors, “Light My Fire” was written mainly by guitarist, Robbie Krieger. Jim Morrison contributed only a few lines throughout the song but, importantly enough, he changed the tone of the song with one key line about “our love is like a funeral pyre” which elevated the song from being, merely, a song about the joy of finding love, to a more ethereal treatise on the enduring quality of a love that lasts forever. “Light My Fire” was The Doors breakthrough hit and the first one to reach #1 for the band.

Generally speaking, there isn’t really much of a story to this song. It is all fairly straight-forward. “Light My Fire” is about the high two people experience together when love is new. The song was oddly controversial for its use of a line that said, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, which some people inferred as being a drug-related reference. One of those people who felt that way was TV star, Ed Sullivan. When he invited The Doors to play “Light My Fire” live on his show, he stipulated they needed to change the line about getting higher and replace “higher” with “better”. The band made the change during rehearsals but, once they were live on air, Jim Morison sang the song as written. Ed Sullivan was not amused. He refused to shake their hands after the performance and banned them from ever playing his show again. The Doors took the “controversy” in stride and used their appearance for publicity purposes which helped boost sales of the song in the end.

“Light My Fire” turned out to be one of The Doors signature songs, even though it didn’t have the poetic or philosophical heft of some of their later works such as “Riders on the Storm”, “The End”, “L.A. Woman”, “Break On Through” and so on. It is known for its use of the organ off of the top. I guess that sometimes, a band’s first creative instincts prove to be their most enduring.

So, without further delay, here is the song most closely associated with The Doors, “Light My Fire”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “light My Fire” by The Doors, can be found here. ***This is the infamous Ed Sullivan appearance. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, it reverts to an audio-only version about half way through.

The link to the official website for The Doors, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #240: Riders on the Storm by The Doors.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #240: Riders on the Storm by The Doors.

“Riders on the Storm” by “The Doors” was the final track the band ever recorded prior to Jim Morrison’s suicide in Paris at age 27. In many ways, there are similarities to the song, “All Apologies” by “Nirvana” that we talked about just a few posts ago. (You can read that post here). First of all, both bands were led by enigmatic, electrifying front men; Jim Morrison for “The Doors” and Kurt Cobain for “Nirvana”.

Both died by suicide at age 27.

In both cases, each man recorded a studio album just prior to dying. Again, in both cases, the final tracks on each of their final albums is believed, by many critics and fans, to be a “goodbye” letter.

Finally, in these “goodbye letters”, both Morrison and Cobain talked about travelling and about love and about death, as well. Whether Kurt Cobain’s decision to end his life was influenced in any way by how Jim Morrison ended his, is subject to debate. But, what is clear is that both men were deep thinkers and were burdened by what they knew. To shed greater light on the matter, let’s have a closer look at the song, “Riders on the Storm” by “The Doors”.

In purely technical terms, the band members from “The Doors” all say that their final album as a full group was the easiest and most enjoyable that they produced in the career. The reason for that was that the man who had produced all of their previous albums, Paul Rothchild, didn’t like the material on the album, “L.A. Woman” and refused to produce it. According to the band, his departure opened the door to more creative freedom for each of them. As a result, the entire album has elements on it that Rothchild would never have permitted, such as the rain effects on “Riders on the Storm”.

The song, itself, is loosely based upon the old Country and Western song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Vaughn Monroe. The lyrics in the song are notable for several reasons that all give clues to Morrison’s state of mind at the time he recorded his final song.

First of all, the line, “Into this life we’re thrown” is not, pardon the pun, a simple, throw-away line. In fact, the word, “thrown” has a much larger meaning than you may expect. In Morrison’s younger days, he attended University classes in the study of Philosophy at Florida State University. One of the classes he took involved discussing important philosophers of note and their main contributions to the field of Philosophy. One of the people Morrison came to know was a man named Martin Heidegger. Heidegger believed in a concept known as “Thrown-ness” which, when simplified, comes to mean the essence of our being…..our “life force”, if you will. So, when Morrison sings “Into this life we’re thrown” he is, essentially, talking about the uniqueness of our lives and the energy we are bringing into the world.

Furthermore, there are many mentions of “A killer on the road” in the lyrics of this song. That stems from two separate but, related topics. First of all, Jim Morrison came to be known as someone who lived dangerously, at times. His penchant for doing unsafe things came to be symbolized by the fact that he often hitch-hiked in his younger days in Florida. He never knew, from one car stopping to the next, whether he was getting into the car of a killer, a sexual predator, a quiet citizen or the most interesting person in the world. Morrison enjoyed the gamble he was taking. To him, hitch-hiking was a source of adrenalin. Further to this point, Morrison was fascinated by a man accused of being a serial killer who was a hitch-hiker, who preyed on the motorists who stopped to pick him up. He even wrote a short play about this called, “The Hitch-Hiker: an American Pastoral”.

Finally, the song “Riders on the Storm” ends with a plea to a girl to “Always love your man”. It is believed that this line is in reference to Morrison’s girlfriend at the time. Those who believe that this song is a “goodbye letter” have stated that his line about his girlfriend is meant to state that he was happy with her and that he felt their love had an “eternal” aspect to it and would last into the next realm. Whatever the case, “Riders on the Storm” starts out talking about our “life force” that we bring into the world and then, the adrenalin rush of flirting with death by hitch-hiking and finally, about a love that extends beyond the bonds of earthly life.

In “All Apologies”, Kurt Cobain was much more succinct when he covered the same ground with his exclamatory shouts of, “Married! Buried!” In his song, Cobain’s final words were “All in all, is all we are”, repeated many times….eventually fading to a whisper. In “Riders on the Storm”, if you listen very carefully, you can hear Morrison whispering, like an echo, under the lyrics as the song closes. According to bandmates, Robbie Kreiger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, Jim Morrison added the whispers to make his voice seem as though it was ghost-like and coming from beyond the grave. In their words, it lent an air of spirituality to what was, otherwise, an exciting piece of musical drama that unfolded as the song went along.

Are “Riders on the Storm” and “All Apologies” both intentional “goodbye letters” to friends and fans? I will let you be the judge but, there is certainly some circumstantial evidence to suggest that this may, in fact, be the case. For now, here is “Riders on the Storm” for you to listen to with fresh ears. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Doors, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for playing the best music of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #343: The End by The Doors.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #343: The End by The Doors.

Whenever I go to write one of these music posts, I always start by conducting my own research. Sometimes, I already know the story behind the song and am just searching for details such as record sales totals or the exact year the singer/band was inducted to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. But, sometimes, while I may be familiar with the song, I don’t know the story of how it came to be so, I read as many sources as I can and then, I try to figure out the best avenue for storytelling that these new facts present to me. This was the case with “The End” by “The Doors”.

Of course, I was aware of who “The Doors” were. Jim Morrison was a legendary frontman who, along with Ray Manzarek (on keyboards), Robbie Kreiger (on guitar) and John Densmore (on drums) produced some of the most famous songs of the 1960s and 70s such as “Break On Through”, “L.A. Woman”, “Light My Fire” and, the one featured in this post, “The End”. I already knew that “The End” was a hit at the time of its release and that it gained a second wind when it was used over the opening credits in the Academy Award-winning movie, “Apocalypse Now”. But, I never knew the story of how Morrison came to write “The End”. I have to tell you, it is incredibly bizarre……the most bizarre background information I have read about any singer or group so far. Here is my report.

Initially, “The End” was written about the break-up of a relationship he had with his girlfriend. That, in and of itself, is not bizarre in the least. But, as many of you know, Jim Morrison was into drugs in his 20s and, as such, he began to have visions and revelations about what his life was becoming and how he saw himself evolving as a human. One of the things that influenced him and his vision-quest was the song, “The End”. The more he performed it, the more meaning it began to hold for him. The meaning changed to include focussing on the old classic tale of Oedipus Rex. There are many live recordings of “The End” in which Morrison speaks aloud about killing his father and “f**king” his mother. His reasoning was for him to cast off any and all residual influences they may have had in shaping who he had become so that he could, like an insect molting, be reborn, totally new and unsullied by past baggage.

I kid you not.

This is the information I found, from multiple sources, including eye witness accounts from Densmore and Manzarek. If any of you know differently, feel free to let us all know in the comments. But, for now, that is my story about Jim Morrison and “The End” and I am sticking to it. There are many live versions of this song out there on YouTube and the Interweb. Many are quite long and quite a few are filled with Morrison’s rambling monologues about his mother. If you want to hear him talk about “f**king” his mother, check out the video from Madison Square Garden. For this post, I am going with the opening scene from “Apocalypse Now” because that is one of my favourite movies of all time. So, there you have it. Here is “The End” by “The Doors”. Have a wonderful day, all!

The link for the video to the song, “The End” by The Doors, as used in the motion picture, “Apocalypse Now”, can be seen here.

The pin to the official website for The Doors, can be seen here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post…..even if the research that went into it is kinda disturbing! The link to their official website can be found here.