Featured Album – Morrison Hotel – The Doors

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.

 

15 thoughts on “Featured Album – Morrison Hotel – The Doors

  1. Nice album! The Doors were a pretty cool band with a cool sound. I guess if I had to name my favorite album, I’d probably go with their eponymous debut. “L.A. Woman” and “Morrison Hotel” would be a close second and third. I never warmed much to “The Soft Parade”.

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    1. I like all of those, actually. I think I like something from all of their albums, even if each one isn’t great. There’s always something unusual like “The End” that stands out.

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  2. Good one. I love the Doors. I was just listening to the first album the other day. I probably listened tp this one the most. You jogged my memory back. Our old friend J and I did a collab on this album. It’s good.

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    1. Kinda thought the Doors might smoke C to the B out. J, huh? Geez, another one who fell by the wayside. I love that riff that goes throughout “Land Ho!” Easy-peasy to play.

      BTW, in my Elvis Costello listening extravaganza I’m up to a covers album called “Kojak Variety.” Im really digging it (and the whole ride.) There’s a tune called “Must You Throw Dirt in My Face.” There’s another tune on a different album, song called “I Want You.” Goes exactly where I didn’t expect. Spike still sounds fresh.

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      1. “Land Ho” is such a cool tune. We touched on Kruger a few times in the past. I like his playing.
        The EC rabbit hole is a good one. Just tuned into the first tune. Yeah its a good slow tempo Elvis for sure. He sings with passion. “I Want You” is a killer cut. Talented guy with so much music in him.

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        1. Damn sure. He was in town the other night but we missed him because we were way closer to you, if not close. Bar Harbor, Maine. Had we thought to bring our passports we could have gone to Nova Scotia and then asked for asylum.

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  3. Of all the big classic rock bands, they’re kind of the one I have the most mixed feelings about – mainly Morrison.

    They were a little later than some of the other bands of the era to pivot away from big arrangements/psychedelia and make a back-to-basics album.

    Have you heard the post-Morrison albums?

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    1. Is it Morrison’s singing you don’t like? Or his hedonism? Both? He is certainly not the whole band but without him it would be a totally different animal. No, the radio never plays the post-Morrison albums and I haven’t sought them out.

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      1. He just comes off a bit portentous – he’s not as good of a poet as he thinks he is. They certainly have their moments – I like the use of The End in Apocalypse Now.

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        1. No he’s certainly not. But he was a good singer. And even his attempts at it make them sound different. I agree about The End not only as a song but in that movie. One of my favorite movies ever. Don’t (or rarely) make ’em like that anymore.

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        2. I appreciate them much more than I used to – their discography (or at least the records they made with Morrison) is pretty strong since he passed away when they were still at their peak. They are distinctive and unique.

          I don’t know if The End is even the best use of music in that movie when it’s up against Wagner?

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        3. I wouldn’t consider them “up against” each other. The Wagner is an exciting – if horrific – scene. “The End” is just weird. Right music for the right scene. I just listened to Rick Beato break down music from ET. He calls John Williams the composer of the 20th Century.

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