|Single by The Doors|
|from the album Morrison Hotel|
|A-side||"You Make Me Real"|
|Recorded||November 4–5, 1969|
|Genre||Blues rock, boogie rock, hard rock|
|Writer(s)||Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore|
|Producer(s)||Paul A. Rothchild|
|The Doors singles chronology|
"Roadhouse Blues" is a rock song written and recorded by the American rock band The Doors. The song, which appeared along with the B-side of "You Make Me Real", was first released as a single from the album Morrison Hotel in March 1970 and peaked at #50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song quickly became a concert staple for the group, a live version appearing later on the posthumous album An American Prayer and that same version, which has been called "probably one of the best live performances of any song", again on In Concert and Greatest Hits. During this version, Jim Morrison talks for a short while to a female audience member about his Zodiac sign and, with a sudden, ironic twist that causes the audience to erupt in laughter, denounces his beliefs in it. The song was also featured twice in the movie The Doors; the studio version in the film, and the aforementioned live version over the end credits. The line "Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer" was inspired by Alice Cooper as stated on his Planet Rock morning show.
According to the book, Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek, a bandmate of Morrison's, the song refers to Morrison's waking after an alleged three weeks of drug-induced sleep and the actual lyric sung is "woke up this morning and I got myself a beard".
The song took two days to record (November 4–5, 1969) with the producer Paul A. Rothchild striving for perfection. Several takes from these sessions were included on the new 2006 remastered album. Rothchild can be heard instructing the band members on their musicianship, notably when he exclaims to Robby Krieger about his introductory guitar riff that "we're going to the roadhouse, Robby, not the bathroom!" Surprisingly, he does not comment on Morrison, who is apparently intoxicated, "going into full blues singer mode" in the words of engineer Bruce Botnick, improvising and simultaneously flubbing several lyrics and repeating the blues phrase "Money beats soul every time". The phrase can be found on the When You're Strange: Music from the Motion Picture soundtrack, with the next track being a live version of "Roadhouse Blues".
The sessions only took off on the second day, when resident Elektra guitarist Lonnie Mack joined in on bass and harmonicist John Sebastian (appearing under the pseudonym G. Puglese out of loyalty to his recording contract or to avoid affiliation with The Doors after the Miami controversy) joined in on the sessions and Manzarek switched from his Wurlitzer electric piano to a tack piano (the same used on The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"). A studio version of the song with John Lee Hooker sharing vocals with Jim can be found on the Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors album.
A recent urban myth wants that: "Lonnie Mack also played the lead guitar solo on the track, but was only credited as bassist". This funny legend is obviously totally fake and must be considered just as an internet rumor. The evident truth is, as always known, that Krieger played the guitar and Mack just the bass line, also because it is perfectly audible that Jim Morrison shouts "Do it, Robby, do it!" (especially on the audio proof of DVD-Audio and SuperAudioCD where the single vocal track can be separated from other instruments) right before the guitar solo that shows the typical fingerstyle of Krieger and is identical to all his Roadhouse Blues solos played in the previous sessions the day before (5th November 1969). Four decades of interviews to The Doors and Paul A. Rocthild confirm this truth. The complete song, with solo, riff and licks, was ready much before Lonnie Mack was casually invited to the sessions of Morrison Hotel to play the bass on Roadhouse Blues and Maggie M'Gill (because that day Ray Neapolitan, bass session man for Morrison Hotel recording session, couldn't arrive in time for a traffic jam). Twenty years later, the band's drummer, John Densmore, wrote:
Lonnie sat down in front of the paisley baffles that soak up the sound. A hefty guy with a pencil-thin beard, he had on a wide-brimmed hat that had become his trademark. Lonnie Mack epitomized the blues---not the rural blues, but the city blues; he was bad. "I'll sing the lyrics for you", Jim [Morrison] offered meekly. [Morrison] was unusually shy. We all were, because to us, the guitar player we had asked to sit in with us was a living legend.
— John Densmore, 'Riders On The Storm, Dell, 1990, p. 235
More quotes from "Robby Krieger: The Doors' Distinctive Fret Master", Interview by Bob Cianci, February 11, 2010, for Premiere Guitar magazine:
- Bob Cianci: Lonnie Mack played bass on that track, didn’t he? How did that come together?
- Robby Krieger: Lonnie had quit the music business and was actually working for Elektra Records doing something. I know he sold Bibles for a while too. He was around the studio when we were getting ready to record “Roadhouse Blues,” so we asked him to play bass. He did a great job, and got back into music after that.
- Bob Cianci: The Doors always used bass players in the studio, didn’t they?
- Robby Krieger: Yes. Ray and I used to write the bass parts. On the first album, we used Larry Knechtel, the session guy. He passed away recently. On the second and third albums, we used Doug Lubahn from the band Clear Light. On the fourth, Harvey Brooks played bass, and we used Ray Neapolitan (on Morrison Hotel) and Jerry Scheff (on L.A. Woman) on the fifth and sixth albums. Jerry is probably best known for having played in Elvis’s band for years.
Status Quo discovered The Doors' version whilst touring Germany in 1970, and it quickly became an integral part of the band's setlist, fitting their change in musical direction. Their arrangement added an additional verse and featured slightly different lyrics. A studio version appeared on the album Piledriver, while a live version appeared on the album Live!. The band still perform the song regularly today.
Blue Öyster Cult performed the song on their Extraterrestrial Live album, with Robby Krieger joining the band. Creed played the song at Woodstock '99 and were joined on stage by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. This version of the song was released on a bonus version of the Creed album Human Clay. The song was also covered by Mahogany Rush on the What's Next album. Ministry performed a cover on their final album, The Last Sucker. The Jeff Healey Band performs the song in the movie Road House. Frankie Goes To Hollywood cover it on the b-side of their 1986 single "Rage Hard". Elkie Brooks covered the song on her 2005 album Electric Lady. Robby Krieger joined Stone Temple Pilots at the House of Blues in 2000 for a performance of this song. He again joined STP onstage on March 18, 2010 to play the song as the encore for STP's performance at the SXSW music festival at the Austin Music Hall. STP frontman Scott Weiland also performed live covers of it with Velvet Revolver.
The song was played by the surviving Doors and Eddie Vedder at The Doors' Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993. In addition, a bootleg recording of this song performed by Vedder and others surfaced in 2001.
The jam-bluegrass group Railroad Earth covered the song twice during the summer of 2008, once at High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California, and again at Yarmony Grass in Copper Mountain, Colorado. The latter performance featured over 20 musicians on stage, including most of the members of the jam band The String Cheese Incident. They also covered the song in December 2009 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, and in May 2010 at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Swedish band Imperiet have also done a cover of "Roadhouse Blues" at a concert at Orionteatern in Stockholm in 1985.
It was in the stage repertoire of Eric Burdon from 1989 to 1998. He performed it also with Robby Krieger in 1990 and 1991. A live version he recorded with the Brian Auger band was released on "Access All Areas" in 1993. Live versions he recorded with his "I band" were released on Official Live Bootleg#1 and with his "New Animals" on the DVD Live at the Coachhouse.
Finnish rock band Eppu Normaali has covered the song on their 1980 live album Elävänä Euroopassa.
The Crystal Method did a remix of "Roadhouse Blues". It can be found on their albums Community Service II and Drive: Nike + Original Run. It was featured also in the short-lived TV show Drive. In 2010, it was used as the promotional song for the third season of FX's Sons of Anarchy.
- The Doors Discography. 60s Web Radio.
- "Billboard Singles". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- The Doors. Jack Feeny Reviews.
- The Doors, Morrison Hotel Remastered Liner Notes, Page 1, Bruce Botnick, 2006
- The Doors, Morrison Hotel Remastered Liner Notes, Page 7, David Frickle, 2006
- The Doors, Morrison Hotel Remastered Liner Notes, Page 3, Bruce Botnick, 2006.
- Topanga Corral, the site of the Roadhouse venue that served as the inspiration for the song
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics