L.A. Woman

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L.A. Woman
The Doors - L.A. Woman.jpg
Studio album by The Doors
Released April 19, 1971 (1971-04-19)
Recorded December 1970 – January 1971 at The Doors Workshop in Los Angeles, CA
Length 48:24
Label Elektra
Producer The Doors, Bruce Botnick
The Doors chronology
Morrison Hotel
L.A. Woman
Other Voices
Singles from L.A. Woman
  1. "Love Her Madly"
    Released: March 1971
  2. "Riders on the Storm"
    Released: June 1971

L.A. Woman is the sixth studio album by the American rock band the Doors, and was released on April 19, 1971 on Elektra Records (see 1971 in music). The album was the last to feature the group's lead singer, Jim Morrison, who unexpectedly died at the age of 27 three months after the album's release. It saw the band continue to integrate elements of blues back into their music, a direction that they had begun with their previous album, Morrison Hotel. In addition, it saw long-time record producer Paul A. Rothchild depart, after a fallout over the band's performance in the studio. After his departure, the band would co-produce the album with sound engineer, Bruce Botnick.[1]

Upon release, the album peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200[2] and reached number 28 on the UK Albums Charts[3] It was preceded by "Love Her Madly" single in March 1971, which reached the Top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100. An additional single in support of the album, "Riders on the Storm", was also released to success on the Billboard singles charts, and managed to chart in the UK Singles Chart. Music critics Richie Unterberger and David Quantick have both noted that L.A. Woman is arguably one of the Doors' best albums, citing Morrison's unwavering enthusiasm in his vocal performance, and the band's stripped-down return to their blues rock roots.[4][5]


In November 1970, shortly after the conclusion of Jim Morrison's controversial trial for indecent exposure,[6] the Doors entered Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles to record early versions of "L.A. Woman", "Riders on the Storm", and "Love Her Madly", three new songs they had recently composed.[7] The new songs were a departure from the overly orchestrated pieces, evident in The Soft Parade, that burdened the group with long, drawn-out recording sessions.[8] The simplified and straightforward style, manifesting from Morrison Hotel, was well-received, noted by Jazz & Pop magazine as "A return to the tight fury of early Doors' music".[9][10] However, the band ran into trouble with their record company, Elektra Records, which released the Doors' first compilation album, 13, to have a product for the Christmas market. It was released without the band's input, and featured a larger-than-life image of a younger Morrison, upsetting the Doors' frontman enough to threaten signing with another label after their contractual obligations were met. With one more album entailed in the group's contract, they could do little to protest, but continue rehearsing their material.[11][12]

Record producer Paul A. Rothchild, who worked with the band through their first five albums, departed the Doors' early on into recording sessions as a result of friction arising from, among other things, Rothchild's dissatisfaction with the band's wish to record "Love Her Madly", the song that he recollects "drove me out of the studio". Rothchild felt that recording the composition was a step backwards artistically, notoriously calling the song "cocktail music".[11] It has been suggested the unkindly label was directed toward "Riders on the Storm", although Rothchild maintains that the remark, regardless of where it was directed, was actually an attempt to "make them angry enough to do something good".[13] An additional factor that contributed to Rothchild's leaving was the group's minimal progress in developing written material, especially when the band contained three capable songwriters. His investment in the band deteriorated still further when he found he was gaining no headway in enthusing Morrison to consistently show for rehearsals.[13][14] As Botnick revealed in the book Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre, an underlying issue that also led to Rothchild's leaving was the emotional devasation the producer felt after the death of Janis Joplin, who he had been working with to complete her second solo effort, Pearl.[15] In the end, Rothchild left before any master takes were complete, recommending to the Doors to co-produce L.A. Woman with sound engineer Bruce Botnick.[16]


Despite its troubled beginnings, L.A. Woman contains some of the Doors' most mystical and ethereal music, as well as some of their most blues-oriented.[17] Lyrically, it attempted to deal with contemporary topics such as love, life in Los Angeles, and complex aspects of the human experience.[18] Manzarek explained the band did not "approach the album with one vision, but after we started working on the songs, we realized that they’re talking about L.A. They’re about men, women, boys, girls, love, loss, lovers-lost, and lovers-found in Los Angeles".[18] The album, as a whole, represented the apex of Morrison's songwriting abilities, juxtaposed with his poetic phrasing that underline his passions for Los Angeles, and a desire to depart from the city with his love interest, Pamela Courson.[19] Artistically, L.A. Woman took the musical experimentation of the original band to the farthest logical extreme, mixing blues, psychedelia, and jazz, often within a single song.[20] For the first time since the epics "The End" and "When the Music's Over", the group was able to successfully incorporate extended concept works, including "L.A. Woman" and "Riders on the Storm".[21]

The Doors and Botnick organized a makeshift recording studio at their private rehearsal space, The Doors' Workshop, located in a two-story building at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Los Angeles[22] enabling the band to record in a more comfortable and relaxed setting, while at the same time avoiding the expenses of a professional studio.[23] A mixing console, previously owned by Elektra, was installed into the upstairs of the Workshop, while studio monitors, microphones, and keyboards were set downstairs. To compensate for the lack of an insolated vocal booth, Morrison recorded within the facility's bathroom with the same microphone used on the Doors' infamous final tour.[24][25] The band initiated the sessions lacking much prepared material, and were required to compose some of the tracks on the spot, often through jam sessions and conferencing in the studio. Morrison was encouraged by the absence of the numerous takes that plagued The Soft Parade, and unlike on past recording sessions, appeared on time, while reducing his alcohol consumption.[21]

For recording, the Doors hired Elvis Presley's bassist Jerry Scheff and rhythm guitarist Marc Benno to round out their sound, with Scheff, in particular, contributing on every track except "L'America".[26] Densmore characterized Scheff as "an in-the-pocket man", also praising how he "allowed me to communicate rhythmically with Morrison, and he slowed Ray down, when his right hand on the keyboards got too darn fast".[27] The songs were completed, almost spontaneously, in a few takes on a professional quality 8-channel recorder, and the album was finished within six days.[7] Being something of a blues buff, Morrison enthusiastically proclaimed the final recording session as "blues day", recording "Crawling King Snake", "Cars Hiss By My Window", and "L.A. Woman", and ultimately ensuring that the album had a raw, live sound with very few overdubs, aside from the keyboards played by Ray Manzarek.[27] Botnick explained, "The overall concept for the recording session was to go back to our early roots and try to get everything live in the studio with as few overdubs as possible".[10][28] In the end, mixing for the album was completed at Poppy Studios between February and March 1971, by which time Morrison had relocated to Paris, France.[29]

Live performances[edit]

Morrison, rejuvenated from recording his poetry at Village Recorders on December 8, 1970, felt encouraged to debut the forthcoming L.A. Woman material on tour.[30] On December 11, 1970, the Doors performed in front of two sold-out audiences at the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas.[31][32] The band opened the first concert with an extended version of "Love Her Madly", but were noticeably unpracticed on their older tunes after being on hiatus since the Isle of Wight FestivaI in August 1970.[33] Morrison managed to compose himself for the first showings of "The Changeling", "L.A. Woman", and the remainder of the set, before closing with an improvised "When the Music's Over".[31] Much to the band's delight, the Dallas concerts were met with positive reception from the audience, proving to the detractors that the Doors were still a capable live act and compelling the group to schedule an additional performance in Louisiana.[34] Crude recordings taken from the Doors' performances of "Love Her Madly", "The Changeling", "L.A. Woman", and the Morrison Hotel track "Ship of Fools" were included on the 2003 album Boot Yer Butt: The Doors Bootlegs.[35]

On December 12, 1970, the Doors took the stage at the Warehouse in New Orleans for what turned out to be the last live performance with Morrison.[36] Midway through the group's set, an intoxicated Morrison began slurring the lyrics to "Light My Fire", and attempted to compensate with lengthy speeches and jokes. He proceeded to sit in front of the drum platform in between Krieger and Manzarek's solos, but did not rise to complete the song.[37] Morrison finally advanced toward the microphone when he was urged on by Densmore, hanging on the mic stand as he attempted to sing. Amid the rising tension, Morrison repeatedly bashed the mic stand into the stage until the wood splintered, before retiring to the drum platform where he laid motionless. In the end, the Doors mutually agreed to cease touring, and reiterated a commitment to complete the studio work for L.A. Woman.[38][39]


I'm glad that L.A. Woman was our last album ... It really captured what we were all about. The first record did, too, but L.A. Woman is more loose, it's live – it sounds almost like a rehearsal. It's pure Doors.

– Robby Krieger reflecting on the album during a 2012 interview[40]

L.A. Woman was released on April 19, 1971 on the Elektra label (catalogue item EKS 75011 in stereo).[41] It peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, during a stay of 36 weeks and reached number 28 in the UK, spending four weeks on the UK Albums Charts.[2][3] Initially, the album's front cover was released in the US and UK with a burgundy-colored, curved-corner cardboard cutout sleeve, framing a clear embossed cellophane insert, glued in from behind.[42] Photography was credited to Wendell Hamick. According to Jac Holzman, then the chief executive officer of Elektra Records: "I wasn't sure there would be another album ever, so I had Bill Harvey create a collector's cover. The Doors' faces were printed on clear film. The backing color of the inner sleeve could be changed and would affect the mood of the package. This is the first album in which Jim is bearded [on the cover]. His photo is on the right, no bigger, no smaller than the others, just another guy in the band."[43]

Three months following the album's release, Morrison was found dead on July 3, 1971. There had been discussions between Morrison and the band for future recording; however, he never had the opportunity to return to the US to take part in possible developments.[44][45] The album was preceded by the "Love Her Madly" single, which was released in March 1971 and charted at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a stay of 11 weeks, but failed to chart in the UK. An additional single taken from the album, "Riders on the Storm", was released in June 1971, and reached number 14 on the Billboard chart, while managing to peak at number 22 in the UK chart.[2][3]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[4]
Classic Rock 7/10 stars[46]
MusicHound 4/5[47]
PopMatters 8/10 stars[48]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[49]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[50]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[51]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[52]

The album received mostly positive reviews. Robert Meltzer of Rolling Stone, in his 1971 review, was impressed by the sense of fun and the togetherness of the band and claimed that this was "the Doors' greatest album" and the best album of the year.[53] In more recent years, Richie Unterberger, writing for the AllMusic website, described L.A. Woman as "uneven", but noted that the album contains compositions that "rate among their finest and most disturbing work".[4] Rock critic J.D. Cook wrote that "the album strikes the rare balance of going back to basics while still exploring uncharted territory in the initial, pioneering journey of rock n roll", and concluded by saying, "every track is musically crafted to near perfection without being over-produced nor overdone".[54] Critic Sal Cinquemani, reviewing the album for Slant Magazine, considers L.A. Woman to be "the sound of a band in perfect harmony". He describes the Doors' material as "disturbing and cynical over the years, and these songs were no exception".[51] Stephen Dalton of Classic Rock, reviewing the 40th Anniversary Edition of the album, remarks how "the original L.A. Woman still stands proud, an all-time classic journey into bright shining darkness."[46]

Although Morrison's vocals are critiqued, L.A. Woman is today regarded as a successful connection between blues, and The Doors' mystifying rock sound.[5][48] In his 1994 book The Complete Guide to the Music of The Doors, Peter K. Hogan describes the album as an expansion on the style from Morrison Hotel, but in a more coherent form. The author goes on to say that L.A. Woman is a fitting swan song for Morrison, who was pleased to finally record a blues-oriented album.[55]

In 2003, L.A. Woman was ranked at 362 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[56] When the list was revised in 2012, to accommodate a number of albums released since 2003, the album was repositioned at number 364.[57]

CD reissues[edit]

Botnick later produced and mixed a new 5.1 Surround version of the album, which was released on DVD-Audio on December 19, 2000. It was produced from the original eight-track analog 1" master tapes.[58] L.A. Woman was digitally remastered as a part of "The Years of the Doors" series. It was reissued in an expanded format on January 24, 2012 by Elektra and Rhino Records, with seven alternate versions of songs, and three previously unreleased tracks, "Orange County Suite", "She Smells So Nice" and "Rock Me".[59] To correlate with the release, a documentary titled Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman was distributed. The film includes interviews between Krieger and Densmore, as well as live and studio performances.[60]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Changeling"   Jim Morrison 4:21
2. "Love Her Madly"   Robby Krieger 3:20
3. "Been Down So Long"   Jim Morrison 4:41
4. "Cars Hiss by My Window"   Jim Morrison 4:12
5. "L.A. Woman"   Jim Morrison 7:49
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "L'America"   Jim Morrison 4:37
7. "Hyacinth House"   Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison 3:11
8. "Crawling King Snake"   Anon, arr John Lee Hooker 5:00
9. "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)"   Jim Morrison 4:16
10. "Riders on the Storm"   Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore 7:09


  1. "Love Her Madly" b/w "(You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further" (Elektra 45726) March 1971 (US #11)
  2. "Riders on the Storm" b/w "The Changeling" (Elektra 45738) June 1971 (US #14, UK #22)


The Doors
Additional musicians

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Position
1971 Pop Albums 9
1972 L.A. Woman / Riders on The Storm USA Position
1971 "Love Her Madly"
B-side: "(You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further"
Pop Singles 11
1971 "Riders on the Storm"
B-side: "The Changeling"
Pop Singles 14


Region Certification Sales/shipments
United States (RIAA)[61] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[62] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[63] 2× Platinum 600,000*
Australia (ARIA)[64] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[65] Platinum 100,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[66] Gold 25,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[67] Gold 25,000x
Germany (BVMI)[68] Gold 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[69] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


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