The Doors’ Robby Krieger, John Densmore Talk 50 Years of ‘LA Woman’: “Maybe it was the First Punk Album”

Not everyone can say they picked up the notorious murderer Charles Manson while he was hitchhiking. Jim Morrison is one person who had this story, and many more—mostly poetry-turned lyrics of The Doors seminal sixth album LA Woman.

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Talking about LA Woman 50 years later, The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore recall their life, and crazier times, around the making of the album.

Celebrating the anniversary of the album, and last with frontman Morrison, who died three months after its release, the LA Woman: 50th Anniversary Edition features the original album, remastered by its original producer Bruce Botnick, in addition to two bonus discs of unreleased studio outtakes, the stereo mix of the original album on 180-gram vinyl, and more than two hours of unreleased recordings pulled from the original sessions, including an early demo of “Hyacinth House” from Krieger’s home studio, recorded in 1969.

In a recent interview with Jenn on Rock Classics Radio on Apple Music Hits, Krieger and Densmore shared memories of the more manual, “portable” recording process with Botnick at their small studio on Santa Monica Boulevard, how capturing the opening rain and thunder on “Riders on the Storm” was like “playing God,” and getting back to the “essence of The Doors” on LA Woman.

Here are several LA Woman snapshots from the full interview and video with The Doors:

The Energy of The Band Going Into The Making of ‘LA Woman’

Robbie Krieger: Well, it was kinda cool because it ended up that we were producing ourselves with Bruce Botnick who was our engineer. Our normal producer, Paul Rothchild couldn’t do it, so we decided to just record it at our little studio that we had on Santa Monica Boulevard. And you didn’t have pro tools or digital anything back then, so we had to do it for real… turning the tape recorder on and that’s what you get.

John Densmore: Bruce was our long-time engineer, sorta like the fifth Door. He brought in remote portable equipment, and he was right. We were so relaxed there. That’s where we wrote songs. Then, it would be a good place to do it. And we did it in a couple of weeks. Maybe because we went through our Sgt. Pepper phase with a soft parade and horns and strings and the big production we got back to the blues, which was what we did in the garage where we started. That kinda got back to our essence. Maybe it was the first punk album. 

The Process of Mixing The Album and The Origins of the Rain and Thunder Sounds on “Riders on the Storm”

JD: The process goes that after recording, you’ve got to mix everything. That’s when Jim went to Paris, and the three of us loved mixing,  because that’s like putting the final ingredients together forever in cement, so you got to get real meticulous about that. That’s where somebody got the idea to put rain and thunder on “Riders on the Storm.” And that was real fun, like playing God.

Influences on Jim Morrison’s Lyrics and the Time He Picked Up Charles Manson Hitchhiking

JD: A lot of his stuff was from poetry he had written in high school. I think Manson, too, was part of that.

RK: Oh, right. He picked Charles Manson up hitchhiking one day. Yeah. Him and the Beach Boys drummer Dennis. The two of them were driving down Sunset Boulevard. They picked up Charlie with his guitar and he was going up to see Terry Melcher to play his demo for Terry Melcher, who he later was trying to kill because he didn’t like it. 

Jim Morrison Kidding That He Would Follow Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix

RK: Jim used to say ‘I’m going to be number three,’ just kidding around. But you know, in a way, we believed him. 

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Robby Krieger: Writing on the Storm