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THE SoCAL SONGBOOK

`L.A. Woman'

The Doors | 1971

March 25, 2007|Geoff Boucher

A Florida State University student named Jim Morrison came to Los Angeles in early 1964 with books of his handwritten poetry, rhymes that would become the dark, lyrical core of the music of the Doors as they tore up the Sunset Strip. One song that was not in those books, however, was "L.A. Woman."

"No, he made up most of the words to 'L.A. Woman' on the fly right there in the studio," says Robby Krieger, the guitarist of the Doors. "That whole song was different than most of our music because usually Jim or I would come into the studio with the whole idea of a song ready to go. But by the sessions for the whole 'L.A. Woman' album, we had our own studio, so we weren't paying by the hour and we just jammed. The song came together. That was very different for us and very cool."

The song they recorded at the band's headquarters on La Cienega Boulevard was an epic, decadent travelogue for Los Angeles, with lyrics that portray the city as a woman and a woman as the city.

Drivin' down your freeways

Midnite alleys roam

Cops in cars, the topless bars

Never saw a woman.

So alone, so alone

So alone, so alone

Motel money murder

madness

Let's change the mood from glad to sadness

The "L.A. Woman" album was a swan song. It was recorded in late 1970, and Morrison would be dead in Paris the following summer. Krieger thinks it was their best work. "That was the one, looking back now, the one that had everything,"

It starts with a fading rev, like a muscle car cruising off into the night. Then comes a roadhouse groove (aided mightily by session bassist Jerry Schiff) and Morrison's opening line, a drive-by-night leer:

Well, I just got into town about an hour ago

Took a look around, see which way the wind blow

Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows?

Krieger said the song reminds him of L.A. asphalt anatomy: "There's the area of the 405 Freeway, going north, right there at the 10; where it's like a woman's thighs, that curve there."

There's a section that slows to a stagger and Morrison moans "Mr. Mojo Risin' " (yes, it's an anagram for "Jim Morrison") and, according to the Doors mythos, the singer belted out his lines in the studio's bathroom for acoustic effect.

Some sad trivia: The band never performed "L.A. Woman" on stage here.

"I wish we could have," said Krieger. "I don't think of that song as a throwback. It's about the place now just as much as it was then."

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-- Geoff Boucher

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