Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleedin’
Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind
A quick scan of my now almost-seven-year-old blog tells me that while I may have mentioned them once or twice, I’ve never really featured the Doors. Not sure why that is. I don’t worship them as much as some people do but I do like them an awful lot.
And why this album in particular? Is it their best one? Not necessarily, maybe that’s their debut album. I dunno. As happens so often with bloggers, this one popped into my head and I realized that I’ve always dug it. So here we go.
I’ll spare you the history of a band you’ve known for all those years, maybe saving it for some other post or series or something. A little Wikipedia for ya:
“Morrison Hotel is the fifth studio album by the Doors, released on February 9, 1970. After the use of brass and string arrangements on their previous album, The Soft Parade (1969), the Doors returned to their blues-rock style and this album was largely seen as a return to form for the band. (Definitely bluesy with some nice licks by Robbie Krieger – ME).
The group entered Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles in November 1969 to record the album which is divided into two separately titled sides, namely: “Hard Rock Café” and “Morrison Hotel.” Blues rock guitar pioneer Lonnie Mack and Ray Neapolitan also contributed to the album as session bassists.
Of this album, Allmusic says, “Blues and R&B were foundational to the Doors’ musical vocabulary. They employed them to some degree on all of their albums, but never as consistently, adeptly, or provocatively as they did on Morrison Hotel, with absolutely stunning results.”
Let’s kick this off with my favorite song from the album, a Morrison Krieger (as are most of the album) tune, “Land Ho!” Based on the lyrics, I think you can take the song pretty much at face value as a sailor’s tune though who knows how they came up with it. It’s a hoot!
Grandma loved a sailor
Who sailed the frozen sea
Grandpa was a whaler
And he took me on his knee
He said, son, I’m going crazy
From livin’ on the land
Got to find my shipmates
And walk on foreign sands
I never quite understood why the Doors became so emblematic of the Sixties, even getting their own docudrama treatment by none other than Oliver Stone. Certainly, if you wanted a California band of the Sixties the Dead and the Airplane were every bit as important and had their own charismatic icons (Garcia and Slick, respectively.) Maybe it was that whole Dionysiac shaman thing Morrison had going on.
“Peace Frog” has an interesting provenance. Recall that Morrison was somewhat of a poet and he had written something called “Abortion Stories.” That was the original title of the song but the producer thought that might not go down so well. The lyrics kinda sound like they’re heading that way but ….
“The line “Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven” is a reference to his onstage arrest on December 9, 1967, during a live performance. (Morrison was, let’s face it, a bit of a nasty drunk who during this time period got arrested for one thing after another – ME). After the guitar solo, the song enters a spoken word verse with the lines “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding” which describes a highway accident that occurred when he was young.
Morrison reportedly witnessed dead Native Americans while his family was crossing a desert by road in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He said, “That was the first time I tasted fear. I musta’ been about four.” Morrison was also referring to the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests with the lyric “Blood in the street/ The town of Chicago.”
The cover of the album was taken with exactly zero permission from the hotel while the desk cleark was otherwise distracted. Alas, it is now a convenience store so if you visit LA you’ll have to content yourself with Spiderman impersonators and so forth.
I’ll feature one more tune and then you can listen to the whole bloody album if you’re so inclined. The band lets you know where it stands by kicking off with “Roadhouse Blues.” Now, do I have to explain to you that EVERY band that purports to play the blues must have at least one song that starts with some variation on “I woke up this morning?” I think not. The then-ubiquitous John Sebastian on harp thank you very much.
“Do it, Robbie, Do It!”
Interestingly, this is the penultimate studio album the Doors released prior to Morrison’s untimely death. The next (and last) one would be 1971’s LA Woman.