photo & text by nacrowe
L.A. WOMAN (ELEKTRA, 1971) by THE DOORS is one of those quintessential albums that in essence culturally defines the complex seductive allure and devastating depravity that is the city of angels in the hearts and minds of many. the two standout tracks in that regard are the title track "L.A. WOMAN" and "RIDERS ON THE STORM."
the beauty of "L.A. WOMAN" is how JIM MORRISON personifies the city in that of a young female. there has always been this duality about living in LOS ANGELES whereby you are confronted with the end result of the hopes and dreams of people seeking to make it in the entertainment industry are met with the reality of failure. the optimism and delusional thinking of the daytime and the cruel, stark reality of lonely night-time reflection has been a trope utilized since noir films of the 1940s and 1950s to describe LOS ANGELES, and MORRISON does the same here in "L.A. WOMAN" when he asks "are you a lucky little lady in the city of light, Or just another lost angel, city of night." in MORRISON's hands, LOS ANGELES as a woman is fundamentally a false hope as her optimism and future hope leads to "motel money murder madness, Let's change the mood from glad to sadness." for me, that strange duality of hope and delusion, allure and depravity, camaraderie and jealousy is something that is intrinsically LOS ANGELES and very clearly showcased in this song specifically.
"RIDERS ON THE STORM" and its existential tale of a murder in the desert find THE DOORS at their experimental peak in terms of sonic and lyrical exploration. slow and prodding, it feels like a lonely car ride through a desert with a sublime storm on the horizon making one reconsider their life's path with existential dread. is the storm coming to wash away the world or its sins. hard to tell. again for me this song is also very much about LOS ANGELES, especially the experience of driving through the desert towards neighboring NEVADA or ARIZONA where it feels like civilization has been pulled back leaving you with a raw, harsh, almost elemental landscape devoid of people or responsibility, bother personal and moral. driving there is almost like being in a state of moral flux, where the rules dont matter. its a great metaphor for the city itself, which seems to thrive on an OUROBOROS-like ability to auto-cannibalize on itself, eating its inhabitants, spitting them out on its streets as disfigured and degraded versions of themselves. only to be met with new faces on a daily basis. the family murder on the road in "RIDERS ON THE STORM" always felt to me evocative of the then-recent TATE-LABIANCA murders by CHARLES MANSON and his followers, turning the idea of spiritual connection, hope and shared familiar affection on its head. what was beautiful about AMERICAN optimism (perennially evoked in the cultural image of LOS ANGELES) was now baseless physical cruelty and moral degradation. its a great song.
i have long been a fan of those two songs, which make L.A. WOMAN well worth revisiting and checking out again.