One of their best albums, L.A. Woman was released by The Doors on April 19th 1971, and peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 upon release. It includes singles ‘Love her madly’ and ‘Riders on the storm’, released before and after the album itself respectively, which individually had successes on the Billboard.
In this album, The Doors reverted back to blues rock, harking back to an earlier time in their musical career, with John Densmore commenting in his autobiography that “[their] last record turned out like [their] first album.”
L.A. Woman is seen as a fitting swan song for Jim Morrison, the band’s lead singer, who passed away later that year, but was pleased to have finally recorded a more blues-orientated album.
Lyrical inspiration in L.A. Woman
Drawing from a plethora of sources, the album was composed in a more traditional blues style. ‘Riders on the Storm’, for instance, was prompted by an old song from a 1948 western – ‘Ghost riders in the sky: a Cowboy legend.’ As The Doors began to play along, improvising on the tune, ‘Riders on the Storm’ was born. The song was also inspired by Jim Morrison’s 1969 desert film ‘HWY: An American Pastoral’, which starred Morrison as a killer hitch-hiker. The character was based off Billy Cook, a real serial-killer who murdered 6 people in 1950 whilst posing as a hitch-hiker over the course of 22 days.
Another interpretation for ‘Riders on the Storm’ would be Jim Morrison’s own nihilistic views – the only certainty for the eternal wanderer is death. The song therefore speaks, superficially, of a serial killer on the road, but at a deeper level reflects Jim Morrison’s crisis of existentialism.
The title of the lead single ‘Love Her Madly’ was taken from Duke Ellington’s ‘Love You Madly’, the lyrics generated after an exceptionally loud argument between Robbie Krieger and Lynne, his wife. The song seems to roughly echo Robbie’s tumultuous relationship with Lynne, although not quite perfectly; they have been married, despite everything, from 1972 to the present day.
Reactions to L.A. Woman
The Doors’ L.A. Woman was met with mainly positive critical acclaim. David Quantick from BBC music praised The Doors on “a stripped-down yet full sound, a developed mysticism tied tightly to the band’s brand of rock, and confidence born of having been a functioning unit for several years.”
However, The Doors had some difficulty in actually producing this album. Paul Rothchild, producer of their first five albums, declared that ‘Riders on the Storm’ sounded like “cocktail music”, and dismissed everything that the band had come up with so far. Suffice it to say, Rothchild did not help to produce The Doors’ sixth album. Despite this major setback, and the loss of their fifth band member, the group was eventually successful overall.
The whole album seems, to me, a thoughtful masterpiece, with Jim Morrison really contemplating his own life, and the issues lurking beneath the surface. It is less pretentious, perhaps, than previous songs, consistent in tone and quality, and reflects the band’s increasingly cynical and disturbing American portraits. The album belongs further back in time, and we can see this in its finale, ‘Riders on the Storm’, which completes the lonely, moody atmosphere.
|1.||The Changeling||Jim Morrison||4:21|
|2.||Love Her Madly||Robby Krieger||3:20|
|3.||Been Down So Long||Jim Morrison||4:41|
|4.||Cars Hiss by My Window||Jim Morrison||4:12|
|5.||L.A. Woman||Jim Morrison||7:49|
|7.||Hyacinth House||Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison||3:11|
|8.||Crawling King Snake||Anonymous, arr. John Lee Hooker||5:00|
|9.||The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)||Jim Morrison||4:16|
|10.||Riders on the Storm||Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore||7:09|