Happy Day of the Doors, Los Angeles


I love the Doors. I think I really got into them when I was fourteen. Around that time I developed a love for pretty much any rock band with lots of keyboards (eg ? & the Mysterians, The Animals, The Seeds, and The Zombies — and a few years later, Inspiral Carpets and The Charlatans). It was also when I was fourteen that I developed a crush on an older woman (well, a fifteen-year-old Doors fan). We shared a set of headphones from her Walkman and listened to the debut on the playground. When we visited Paris, she invited me to go to Père Lachaise to see Jim Morrison‘s grave but I turned her down. Probably out of shyness. Ten years later, I was living and Los Angeles. I used to routinely spend my work breaks with a motley assortment of stoners. The Doors were the only thing all of us could enjoy getting high too. For the record, I was also alright with the cholos’ preferences for Santana and Zapp & Roger but the Texas Jews wanted to listen to Phish and the like and that stuff is a musically-induced panic attack just waiting to happen.

Of course, I also have a thing for maps and because today is Day of the Doors in Los Angeles, I had the notion yesterday of making a Doors map of Los Angeles. It took a bit longer than I thought. Any additions or corrections are appreciated. Just leave a comment! I rushed a bit at the end because I need to head down to Morrison Hotel.

The Doors released eight studio albums during their eight-year existence. The roots of the Doors was a frat rock band called Rick & the Ravens, which had been around since 1961 and released three singles on Aura Records in 1965. The original line-up included Rick Manczarek (guitar), Jim Manczarek (organ and harmonica), Patrick Stonier (saxophone), Roland Biscaluz (bass), and Vince Thomas (drums). The Manczareks’ brother Ray Manczarek joined the line-up in 1962, provided a bit of piano and vocals — and dropping the “c” from the family name.

Rick and the Ravens.jpg

In July 1965, Ray and Jim Morrison ran into one another on Venice Beach. Morrison sang one of his compositions, “Moonlight Drive.” Manzarek was impressed and at a live performance with his band coaxed Morrison onstage at the Turkey Joint West (now Ye Olde King’s Head) for a cover of the garage rock staple, “Louie, Louie.”

Rick & the Ravens’ line-up underwent several changes. By September 1965, it included Jim, Ray, and Rick Manczarek; Morrison; Patricia Hansen (of Patty and the Esquires, bass), and John Densmore (drums). Densmore previously played in a band called the Psychedelic Rangers with Robby Krieger. After meeting Ray at a Transcendental Meditation lecture, he’d joined Rick & the Ravens in August 1965. On 2, this line-up of Rick & the Ravens entered World Pacific Studios and recorded demos of “Moonlight Drive“, “My Eyes Have Seen You“, “Hello, I Love You“, “Go Insane,” “End of the Night,” and “Summer’s Almost Gone.”

Disappointed in the lack of interest as well as the songs themselves, Rick and Jim quit the band. Morrison suggested changing their name to The Doors — taken from The Doors of Perception by English-Angeleno writer Aldous Huxley — who had himself taken the name from a line of William Blake‘s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In late September, they were joined by Robby Krieger. In October, they signed by Billy James to Columbia Records — although they would record nothing before leaving the label in April of the following year.  That December, Patty left and Ray added Fender Rhodes Piano Bass to his duties.

 From February to May 1966, the Doors had a residency (with “Rhonda Lane Exotic Dancer“) at the London Fog. It was there that Jim met his “cosmic mate,” Pamela Courson, an art student at Los Angeles City College. In the spring of 1966, the Doors (minus Jim Morrison) were hired to provide the incidental music for a Ford Motor Company industrial video titled Love Thy Customer.

The Doors in Toronto

In May, the Doors took up residency at the Whiskey a Go Go. On the advice of Love‘s Arthur Lee, Elektra Records president Jac Holzman caught a performance on 10 August 1966. After catching a second performance with producer Paul A. Rothchild, the Doors were signed them to Elektra on 18 August. The Doors were fired from the Whiskey a Go Go on 21 August after performing the Oedipal “The End.”

From 24 to 31 August 1966, the Doors recorded at Sunset Sound Recording Studios.  They released their debut single, “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” b/w “End of the Night.” Although a radio staple now, it then only reached number 126 on the Billboard charts (although it placed higher in France, New Zealand, and the UK). The second single, also released in January of 1967, was the Robby Krieger composition “Light My Fire” b/w “The Crystal Ship.” It reached the top spot in the US (and France). Both were included on the self-titled debut, which was released on 4 January 1967 — the day that was proclaimed Day of the Doors fifty years later.

From May to August 1967, the band returned to Sunset Sound Recording Studios to record their second album, Strange Days. It followed, for the most part, the template established by the debut of an album’s worth of fairly short compositions followed by a longer, epic, this time “When the Music’s Over.” The title track was one of the first rock songs to incorporate the Moog synthesizer. The debut single, “People Are Strange” b/w “Unhappy Girl” was written by Morrison during a bout of depression following a walk in Laurel Canyon and only reached No. 12. The follow-up, another Krieger composition was “Love Me Two Times” b/w “Moonlight Drive,” which peaked at No. 25.

The Doors recorded most of their third album, Waiting for the Sun, in from January-May 1968 (“We Could Be So Good Together” had been recorded from May to August 1967). There were apparently tensions around the recording. The album’s epic, the 17-minute “Celebration of the Lizard King,” was rejected by producer Paul Rothchild. Morrison’s increasingly heavy drinking took a toll on his creativity whilst, at the same time, the band had by then exhausted their early repertoire of original songs. The first single, “Unknown Soldier” b/w “We Could Be So Good Together,” peaked at number 39. Nevertheless, its follow-up, “Hello, I Love You” b/w “Love Street” was their second US number one and the album was their only one to top the charts.

The Doors performed at the Hollywood Bowl on 5 July 1968. Footage was included in the Doors’ film, A Feast of Friends, released in 1970.

The Doors in 1969.jpg

Later in 1968, the band re-entered the studio to work on The Soft Parade, on which the music revealed the band moving further away from their acid rock beginnings into jazz-inflected sunshine pop. The first single, released in December 1968, was Krieger’s “Touch Me” b/w “Wild Child.” It reached number three on the US charts. The Soft Parade was released 18 July 1969. It was followed by three more Krieger compositions, “Wishful, Sinful” b/w “Who Scared You,” “Tell All the People” b/w “Easy Ride,” and “Runnin’ Blue” b/w “Do It.” Morrison was less involved in the songwriting process than on previous albums, dealing as he was with legal issues, personal problems, as well as his poetry. That year he published two works of the latter, The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. Morrison also acted in a 52-minute experimental film, HWY: An American Pastoral, filmed in the Mojave Desert and Los Angeles. It was also in 1969 that Morrison bought a fashion boutique, Themis, for his girlfriend Pamela Courson.

The Doors recorded most of Morrison Hotel from November 1969-January 1970 (“Indian Summer” had been recorded in August 1966). The orchestral arrangments and studio soloists of The Soft Parade were, for the most part, eschewed in favor of a stripped-down blues rock sound. Morrison, for his part, attempted to distance himself from his earlier Lizard King image, putting on weight, growing a beard, and retiring his leathers. He also contributed more to the songwriting process, writing or co-writing all of the songs. “You Make Me Real” b/w “Roadhouse Blues” peaked at number 50 on the US charts, although “Roadhouse Blues” would over time become an FM radio staple.

Jim Morrison in HWY.jpg

A live album, Absolutely Live, and a Christmas cash-in compilation, 13, were followed by the final studio album with Morrison, L.A. Woman. The band recorded the album at The Doors’ Workshop from December 1970-January 1971. It was recorded without Rothchild after he fell out with the group after asserting that one or more of the new songs sounded like “cocktail music.” It was subsequently co-produced by the band and longtime sound engineer Bruce Botnick. The first single, “Love Her Madly” b/w “(You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further” (the B-side was the first to feature Manzarek on vocals). “Riders on the Storm” b/w “Changeling” was released in June 1971.

On 3 July 1971, Morrison died in Paris at the age of 27. No autopsy was performed but the cause of death was listed as heart failure. His body was discovered by his girlfriend, Pamela Courson. Morrison was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

The other Doors had begun work on a new album, which would be released as Other Voices, that June. They had hoped that Morrison would return from Paris to finish the album with them. After his unexpected death, the surviving members finished it as a trio. “Tightrope Ride” b/w “Variety is the Spice of Life” reached 71. Its follow-up, “Ships With Sails” b/w “In the Eye of the Sun” did not chart. The album, for its part, reached 31.

The surviving members of the Doors convened once again in the spring of 1972 to record Full Circle. Botnick departed from the Doors’ circle and was replaced by Henry Lewy. Full Circle was released on 15 August 1972 and peaked at number 68. Three singles were released: “The Mosquito” b/w “It Slipped My Mind,” “Get Up and Dance” b/w “Treetrunk,” and “The Piano Bird” b/w “Good Rockin’.” Not long after, Ray Manzarek let Densmore and Krieger know that he wasn’t interested in continuing the Doors and the band called it a day.

Jim Morrison’s partner, Pamela Courson, died of a heroin overdose on 25 April 1974 at the age of 27. She was living at the time in a Hancock Park apartment building with two roommates. Her cremated remains were interred at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.

In 1978, five years since their break-up and seven years since Morrison’s death, the surviving Doors re-convened to record music for An American Prayer. The spoken word vocals had been recorded by Jim Morrison in March 1969 and December 1970. The album was released on 17 November 1978. Prior to leaving for Paris, Morrison had reached out to Lalo Schifrin with the possibility of collaborating on the music. Rothchild denounced the album as “a rape of Jim Morrison.”  It sold over a million copies. A year later, “The End” was prominently featured in Francis Ford Coppola‘s film, Apocalypse Now, introducing the Doors to the post-punk generation.

Ray Manzarek died in Rosenheim, Germany on 20 May 2013. He was 74 years old. John Densmore and Robby Kreiger are both alive and well and living in Los Angeles. Viva la Doors!

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

Art Prints

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