The Story of L.A. Woman is really the story of the end of the Doors first phase, the phase of musical creation. Like the TV show Star Trek, The Doors became even bigger in “syndication”, if you will. And though this wonderful Blu-ray on Eagle Vision doesn’t delve into the late Jim Keith’s look at Jim Morrison from his classic book Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History (Keith believes Morrison faked his own death; Jim Morrison biographer Stephen Davis doesn’t buy it) or Salvador Astucia’s Chapter 13 (on Jim Morrison) from his counterculture masterwork Rethinking John Lennon’s Assassination: The FBI’s War on Rock Stars, it’s still a fun ride that – for fans of the Doors 200 years from now – documents the moment in a somewhat contemporaneous fashion 40 years after the album’s release in 1971 (my review is in slow motion delayed reaction…sorry about that!). If the Gospel of St. John was actually written in 90AD, 57 years after Jesus walked the planet in human form, then this Blu-ray tells the Gospel of Jim Morrison’s final album with the luxury of 17 extra years sooner than one of the most read books in history. Think about that for a few moments…and go get your Jim Morrison photo on that telephone pole.
The DVD / Blu-ray cover is drenched in the same color scheme as the original L.A. Woman, though it only features the photo of The Doors, not the aforementioned Morrison crucified on a telephone pole (why there was a transparent plastic cover) that was so very…mind opening. “Been Down So Long” is just a great blues number and at the time young fans weren’t thinking of Morrison’s crazy arrest in Florida and the oppressive atmosphere where within a month Alan Wilson of Canned Heat (September 1), Jimi Hendrix (September 18) and Janis Joplin (October 4) were all wiped out. That Morrison’s alleged death was said to have happened on July 3, 1971 is less than 3 months after the April 19, 1971 release of the original disc. Perfect timing a la Janis Joplin’s Pearl, Jimi Hendrix’s The Cry of Love and – in a morbid way – Michael Jackson’s This is It film (almost 262 million on a budget of about 80 mill, a nice haul!) and Whitney Houston’s Sparkle (which, after 11 days in release, has brought in almost 20 million on a budget of 14 million…perhaps Whitney didn’t time it as perfectly as some of her colleagues) … well, there are conspiracy theories on J. Edgar Hoover setting his sights on rock stars and there are theories about selling records. Morrison had the means, motive and desire to vanish…his voice was said to have been changing, he looked bored on some of the concert footage, and the hassle from the authorities must have made it not as much fun anymore.
So I’ve let this L.A. Woman DVD spin numerous times over the past 24 hours and for a fan of the Doors it really does address the importance of this music by those who were heavily involved in the making of the music. Ray Manzarek showing us the Vox Continental break in “Love Her Madly”, isolation of guitar and Morrison’s voice on other tracks, all top flight material to make this a definite companion piece to the actual CD itself.
Jim Morrison is said (in the Blu-ray) to have looked at the court drama as a “test case” involving Artistic Freedom of Expression. Robby Krieger says “the Hall Owners Association had a meeting” and decided to cancel a Doors tour. So they went and made another album.
“Been Down So Long” is a terrific blues song – and the disc blames the government, one segment from manager Bill Siddons stating: “It probably killed Jim; it completely destroyed that thing that an artist has when they know that they’re making a difference and they’re doing something and all of a sudden he’s on the defensive”.
Engineer Bruce Botnick, critic Ben Fong Torres, the great Michael McClure (who co-wrote Janis Joplin’s FM hit “Mercedes Benz”), Elektra Records prez Jac Holzman and others join the three surviving Doors, Robbie, Ray and John to give their perspective and go through the L.A. Woman album, noting how the title track was inspired by John Rechy’s classic (and chilling) sex novel City of Night. There could have been a lengthier exploration of the music in how the album has evolved with bonus tracks at least three times now, that would have been essential, but all-in-all it’s a fine look at this important band’s important final studio offering.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.