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In The Footsteps Of Jim Morrison And The Doors

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When I was in high school, I picked up a copy of the book “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” When I got to the part where Jim Morrison recalls the car accident that he was in with his parents when he was young, and how he felt the Indian spirits leaving their bodies and coming into his, I was hooked on their story. “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding…Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.”  What the fuck?!?  This was more than just a band. This was a mythological tale of some sort of spirit animal wrapped in music, spirituality, sex, exploration…everything that deep down I was yearning for. Excess. Expansion. The West.

From then on, I couldn’t get enough of their story. I bought every book about them that I could find. I even specially ordered a couple from my local Barnes & Noble (this was pre-internet, of course). I would take them to school with me and hide them under my books in class and read them instead of Great Expectations or whatever “classic” literature we were supposed to find inspiration in. In college, I found all of their albums on vinyl via eBay (way before vinyl made its resurgence). But the ultimate goal (which started my lifelong passion to visit places I’ve read about), was to get to L.A. and walk in the footsteps of The Doors. 

As I kid from suburban Massachusetts, L.A. was a complete other world to me. When I eventually moved here in 2005, I felt like Peter Pan going to Never-Never Land. Of course, the reality of it was something else and, initially, it was a struggle just to survive. But, on a sunny July 1st, my friend Mark and I decided to make the best out of currently being without work – we decided to finally go on our long talked about, long anticipated tour of The Doors locations in Los Angeles.

We started in Venice Beach where the famous mural of Jim is located just down the Speedway…

We also saw the building where Jim used to sleep on the rooftop in the early days of the band…

Our next stop was the old Morrison Hotel on the corner of Hope and Pico, where the cover for the album Morrison Hotel was shot…

Here’s what the hotel looks like now. (Los Angeles is horrible at preserving their history)…

The window to the left of the main entrance is the window in which the band sat in. The owner at the time did not allow them to do the photo shoot. So according to the story, when the owner turned his back to attend to a task, the band quickly scurried in, took the shot and left.

Notice the mini blinds. Still there after 40 years???

Next we moved on to the Alta Cienega Motel on the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica Blvds in West Hollywood. This is the motel where Jim “lived” most of the time, crashing here frequently to sleep off his benders. This is the type of motel now where a tetanus shot might be needed after staying here…

We went into the office and asked the elderly gentleman (who we assumed was the owner) if we could take a look at Jim’s room. Apparently, it was occupied so we had to settle for some exteriors…

The entire inside of the room is covered in graffiti in an homage to Jim. When I was there, the room cost $74 a night to rent. On the street side of the room, underneath the window, someone has scribbled “Jim’s Joint”…

Next we headed across the street to the site of where The Doors offices were located. You can see why Jim chose this motel – short commute to work…

The building where the offices were located is now a Mexican restaurant that commemorates its history…

Upstairs on the inside was where the actual offices were (the downstairs was a practice/recording space). It’s now one big open lounge. The owners were very gracious as they gave us free reign to hang out. The restaurant wasn’t even opening for another couple of hours. Lots happened up here, back in the day. If these walls could talk…

And now for the money shot. When the Doors were recording L.A. Woman (their last album), they decided to record it here, at their offices. (All of the other albums were recorded in studios). When they started recording, they decided to fuck around and experiment. They stuck Jim in the bathroom and had him record the vocals (they thought it sounded cool). Well, here is that bathroom…

“Riders on the Storm,” “L.A. Woman,” and “Love Her Madly” were all recorded in this literal shit hole…

From here we headed up to Laurel Canyon to visit the famous and colorful Laurel Canyon Country Store, located below the house where Jim and his girlfriend Pam lived for a short while…

Up the street was house where Jim would watch over the general store. In the late ’60s, it was THE meeting place of the Los Angeles music scene. Frank Zappa, David Crosby, the Mamas and the Papas, and Joni Mitchell all called Laurel Canyon home. Jim wrote the song “Love Street” about this little enclave and where “the creatures meet”…

From here we headed to our last stop, which was the apartment where Jim and Pam last lived before heading to Paris. Norton Street in West Hollywood…

Jim and Pam lived upstairs and during some of their many knock down, drag out fights. Neighbors are said to have scene Pam throwing Jim’s poetry books out the windows into the courtyard. It has been memorialized with a plaque…

L.A. and its relationship with its history is unlike any other city. We don’t have battle sites, nor ancient ruins. We don’t have a Central Park or a Grant Park or a giant golden bridge. The history of L.A. is generally hard to find and because of its relative youth it is mostly pop culture related, unless you want to get into the El Pueblo era (but I consider that Native American history). 

I’ve always said that if you just dropped me in L.A. without knowing anything about it or without anyone to show me around, I would absolutely hate it. You have to do your research here and really have a specific idea of what you’re looking for or want to see. Only then can you appreciate its historic mark on popular culture and the hidden little gems that remain (until they become another luxury condo building). 

The Doors history was something that I specifically wanted to find. The more trivial the site the better. Any site that’s nondescript and forgotten has its own charm since it hasn’t been commercialized and altered. Those mini-blinds at the Morrison hotel were still there since not enough people care or realize what they are. Much like a collector, the thrill is in the hunt for these places. Anyone can walk up and take a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but to do the research and the legwork and locate something that’s been left abandoned to time – that’s the real thrill. At least for weirdos like me.

Join the Manopause Community Forum here, to talk about Jim Morrison & The Doors!

Check out these other great articles on music:

CAT STEVENS: Full Circle by Larry Pollack

Steely Dan: That’s Right, They’re Awesome by Larry Pollack

Too Young To Rock At Woodstock by Richard Basis

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About The Author:

Jon Tognacci

Jon Tognacci

Jon is a native New Englander who has been an L.A. resident since 2005 and is an entertainment finance professional. Raised on early '80s MTV and Saturday morning cartoons, his passions are in music, film, history and overall pop culture. He holds a B.S. in Business from Northeastern University and really likes PB&J sandwiches and Fig Newtons. He credits his love of reading to his parents who consistently read to him as a tyke. Jon can be reached at [email protected].
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