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Back Door Man

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"Back Door Man"
Back Door Man single cover.jpg
Single by Howlin' Wolf
A-side"Wang Dang Doodle"
Released1961 (1961)
RecordedJune 1960
StudioChess (Chicago)
GenreBlues
Length2:47
LabelChess
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"Spoonful"
(1960)
"Back Door Man"
(1961)
"Down in the Bottom"
(1961)

"Back Door Man" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960. The lyrics draw on a Southern U.S. cultural term for an extramarital affair. The song is one of several Dixon-Wolf songs that became popular among rock musicians, including the Doors who recorded it for their 1967 self-titled debut album.

Lyrics

In Southern culture, the phrase "back-door man" refers to a man having an affair with a married woman, using the back door as an exit before the husband comes home.[1] Dixon's lyrics include:

When everybody trying to sleep
I'm somewhere making my midnight creep
Every morning the rooster crow
He's telling me you got to go ...
I am the back door man[2]

The philandering "back-door man" is a theme of several blues songs, including those by Charley Patton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Blind Willie McTell and Sara Martin: "every sensible woman got a back-door man", Martin sang in "Strange Loving Blues" (1925).[3]

Recording and releases

"Back Door Man" was recorded in Chicago in June 1960. Accompanying Howlin' Wolf on vocals is Otis Spann on piano, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Willie Dixon on double bass, and Fred Below on drums.[4] Both Freddie King and Freddy Robinson have been suggested as the second guitarist.[4][5] The song features a modal arrangement, where it "hangs on one chord, hinging on an infectious and insistent riff [which] is similar to his own one-chord songs like 'I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)' and 'Spoonful'", according to AllMusic reviewer Bill Janovitz.[6]

Chess Records issued the song as the B-side to "Wang Dang Doodle" and included it on his second compilation album Howlin' Wolf (1962).[7] Wolf later re-recorded the song for Chess' 1969 attempt to reach the rock audience, The Howlin' Wolf Album.[8]

The Doors version

"Back Door Man"
Song by the Doors
from the album The Doors
ReleasedJanuary 4, 1967 (1967-01-04)
RecordedAugust 1966
Genre
Length3:32
LabelElektra
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild

The Doors recorded "Back Door Man" for their 1967 self-titled debut album. Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger introduced the other members of the group to a blues rock adaptation of version of the song recorded by John Hammond Jr. for his 1964 album Big City Blues.[9] The Doors' version also incorporates elements of psychedelic blues[11] and hard rock.[10] Drummer John Densmore described it as a song that is "deeply sexual and got everyone moving."[12]

Unlike Howlin' Wolf's one-chord arrangement, the Doors utilize a different approach.[6] Critic Bill Janovitz described it as a "thumping rhythmic approach. They vary the chords in a 12-bar blues arrangement, which serves as a great tension-and-release pattern."[6]

Jim Morrison provides the vocal, backed by Ray Manzarek on keyboards, Krieger on guitar, and Densmore on drums.[13] Krieger asserts that he played bass guitar for the recording.[14] A live recording of the song appears as a part of a medley, on the Doors' live album Absolutely Live (1970).[15]

References

  1. ^ Segrest & Hoffman, pp. 174, 369.
  2. ^ Dixon & Snowden 1989, p. 77
  3. ^ Oliver 1990, p. 87.
  4. ^ a b Shurman 1991, p. 29.
  5. ^ Segrest & Hoffman 2004, pp. 174, 369.
  6. ^ a b c Janovitz, Bill. "Howlin' Wolf: 'Back Door Man' – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Shurman 1991, pp. 27, 29.
  8. ^ Shurman 1991, p. 27.
  9. ^ a b Davis 2004, pp. 102, 140.
  10. ^ a b Davis 2004, p. 114.
  11. ^ a b Matijas-Mecca 2020, p. 77.
  12. ^ Densmore 1991, p. 77.
  13. ^ The Doors (Liner notes). The Doors. New York City: Elektra Records. 1967. Back cover. ELK-4007.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  14. ^ Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman Q&A and Performance (video). Event occurs at 13:23. Retrieved February 16, 2021 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Absolutely Live (Liner notes). The Doors. Elektra Records. 1970. LP labels. EKS-9002.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)

Sources