A strident collection of confident, mostly bluesy material, the Doors’ album L.A. Woman sounded like the work of a band with a difficult road behind them and a long road ahead. The reality, though, was quite different. Front man Jim Morrison’s substantial alcohol intake was taking its toll on his health and creativity, not to mention his relationships with his band mates. There was also the matter of an impending prison sentence over Morrison’s indecent exposure and profanity convictions in Florida, a result of a Miami concert performance in which he allegedly exposed himself to the audience. L.A. Woman was released in April 1971; less than three months later, Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris.
So there’s a specter, a cloud of doom that hangs over the songs on L.A. Woman – songs like rock radio staples “Riders on the Storm” and the album’s title track, and even the poppy hit “Love Her Madly.” Here are three of the LP’s lesser-known cuts that exude that dark, yet undeniably cool energy, and continue to bolster the Doors’ legacy.
"The Changeling": The first cut on the album is a groove-forward response to what Morrison felt was the plastic fakery of Los Angeles and the music business in general. Some of that response was ambivalence: “I had money and I had none,” he sings, “But I never been so broke that I couldn't leave town.” Supremely uninterested in fame and fortune, Morrison bids farewell in the song’s last lines: “Yeah, I'm leaving town / On a midnight train / Gotta see me change.” He practically shouts those words – so prophetic, considering the end that would soon befall him.
"Crawling King Snake": The sessions for L.A. Woman included a “Blues Day,” set aside to play and record blues covers and originals in a similar vein. This John Lee Hooker song was one the band had played a lot when they were a club act, and Morrison slides into it like the lyrics were his own extemporaneous declarations.
"L'America": Originally written for inclusion in Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point, “L’America” had a cinematic scope of its own, told from the clashing perspectives of both a seeker and a con artist – rendered in the same voice. The latter also features a bit of sophomoric word play, about the “rain man” who will “[c]hange the weather, change your luck / And then he'll teach you, how to, find yourself.” The “f” in “find yourself” is elongated, to make the listener think of a ribald rhyme, proving Morrison’s sense of humor intact, even in the midst of one of his darker visions.
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