Back in November 1970, a great but despairing band decided to go it alone and record L.A. Woman, one of the greatest comeback albums of all time.
One month later they said their first goodbye in a string of farewells to their charismatic leader, Jim Morrison, who, devastated by a life of disillusionment, booze and drugs, would soon take off for Paris, then for the grave, becoming the stuff of legend.
A couple of words about this album and a few of its pieces. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) is about Morrison listening to Wolfman Jack’s rock-n-roll assault in the 60’s, a technological-cultural airwave revolution that encompassed the land from ‘Tijuana to Tallahassee’ —
Been Down So Long was written to reflect Morrison’s angst at the looming 6-month jail sentence awaiting him in Florida, where he had been arrested and charged with indecent exposure three days after trying to incite a riot during the band’s concert in Miami a year earlier —
Hyacinth House was written when Morrison and Krieger were tripping at Krieger’s place one time, admiring the hyacinths in the garden. It was subsequently spruced up by Manzarek —
L’America was originally titled Latin America and was intended to feature in Antonioni’s movie Zabriskie Point, but it was eventually rejected by the flamboyant director. The title was changed to L’America and the song, a tune about intoxicated escapades in Mexico, became part of the album —
Riders On The Storm was still a work in progress when the band hit the road for a two-show mini-tour in December of the same year. The idea was Jim’s, and it came following his birthday, after his passing out on some studio equipment while recording his poetry on December 8.
How these shows were put together in a mere couple of days is probably a story in itself, but what is more interesting is that the first show, in Dallas, Texas, was a success, whereas the second one, in New Orleans, Louisiana, was a disaster. On December 12, 1970, the Showman inside Jim expired on the stage, never to perform live again, the rest of his mind and body following suit a few months later.
But not before he went back to the studio to finish Riders On The Storm, which he had evidently penned as a prelude to his own death.
It was his searing, haunting epitaph.
Read another great article on the last days of Jim Morrison here: