Jim Morrison fancied himself a blues singer. “I’ve been singing the blues ever since the world began,” he sings on “Maggie M’Gill,” the final song on The Doors’ 1970 LP Morrison Hotel. With a voice as ravaged as it is on songs like that one and “You Make Me Real,” he had no choice but to sing the blues, howling and crooning like never before. The album is divided into two separately titled sides, Hard Rock Cafe and Morrison Hotel (named after Morrison’s favorite bars, located on opposite sides of L.A.), but there’s another, less obvious schism: the record is split between old, previously unheard Doors songs and newly written ones, creating an inconsistency in tone. (“Indian Summer” and “Waiting For The Sun” were originally written—and presumably recorded—for The Doors’ first and third albums, respectively; Morrison’s vocals are cleaner and clearer and Robbie Krieger’s psychedelic guitar sounds like something he would have done a few years earlier.) Still, Morrison Hotel is an easier listen than 1969’s The Soft Parade, which, though nowhere near as bad as rock history would have us believe, truly divided critics and fans alike and didn’t particularly sound like The Doors. The politically charged “Peace Frog” is the album’s best track—and one of The Doors’ greatest. Lyrics referencing the violent 1968 Democratic Convention and partly inspired by Morrison’s poem “Abortion Stories” are set to a funky Stax-style sound, the band’s signature polyrhythms pausing briefly for the singer’s famous spoken verse: “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway, bleeding/Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.” The story would eventually be heard in full on Morrison’s posthumous spoken-word album, An American Prayer, and, of course, immortalized on celluloid in Oliver Stone’s 1991 biopic. But nothing embodied the electric blues The Doors strived for here more than the album’s opening track “Roadhouse Blues,” which features harmonica by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian and finds Morrison reveling in the prospect of a drunken orgy in the back of the bar—because, well, “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.” Nearer than he knew.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: