Morrison Hotel

Morrison Hotel is the fifth studio album by American rock band the Doors, released February 9, 1970 by Elektra Records. Following the use of brass and string arrangements recommended by producer Paul A. Rothchild on their previous album, The Soft Parade, the band returned to their original blues-rock style and was largely seen as a return to form for the band. The Doors entered Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles in November 1969 to record the album which is divided into two separately titled sides; "Hard Rock Cafe" and "Morrison Hotel". The group included session bassists Lonnie Mack and Ray Neapolitan on the album's songs.

Morrison Hotel
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 9, 1970 (1970-02-09)
RecordedAugust 1966, November 1969 – January 1970
StudioElektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles, California
ProducerPaul A. Rothchild
The Doors chronology
The Soft Parade
Morrison Hotel
Absolutely Live
Singles from Morrison Hotel
  1. "You Make Me Real/Roadhouse Blues"
    Released: February 1970

The album peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and performed better overseas than the preceding album (it was the groups's highest-charting studio album in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 12). The accompanying "You Make Me Real"/"Roadhouse Blues" single peaked at No. 50 as a double A-side in May 1970 on the Billboard 100 chart. The album's cover photo was taken by Henry Diltz.


On March 1, 1969, Jim Morrison performed while intoxicated and allegedly exposed himself in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000 at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove, Florida, for which he was charged with indecent exposure on April 4.[1] The incident negatively reflected on the band's publicity, sparking a "March for Decency" at the Miami Orange Bowl.

Consequently, twenty-five dates on the band's next tour were cancelled, and their records were blacklisted from radio airplay, resulting in the band abandoning the rest of their potential tour, costing what Densmore characterized as "a million dollars in gigs."[2] Nevertheless, the band gradually regained momentum by playing eighteen concerts in twelve cities throughout the rest of the year, including the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival and their only appearances in Las Vegas and Mexico City.[3] In July, the Doors released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, a heavily orchestrated affair that augmented the band's sound with horns and strings. Following the Miami incident, Morrison traded in his stage leathers for more conventional attire, grew a beard and gained weight as he attempted to live down his "Lizard King" image; however, his worsening alcoholism often undermined his efforts.

In November, around the same time that the band started recording Morrison Hotel with producer Paul A. Rothchild, a drunken Morrison caused such a disturbance on a flight to Phoenix, Arizona to see a Rolling Stones concert that he was charged with a new skyjacking law that carried up to a $10,000 fine and a ten-year prison sentence.[2]

Recording and composition

Morrison Hotel's back to basics approach largely stemmed from the group's dismay over the protracted sessions for The Soft Parade, which took nine months to record and cost $86,000 (equal to $587,563 today), far more expensive than any previous Doors record.[2] The band had also been stung by the critical reception to the record. On this album, there is a slight steer toward blues, which would be fully explored by the band on their next album L.A. Woman. Morrison Hotel was recorded between November 1969 and January 1970 with the exception of "Indian Summer", which was recorded in August 1966 during sessions for The Doors (in contrast to the 1969-1970 tracks, additional reverb is evident on Morrison's vocal) and "Waiting for the Sun", which was recorded in March 1968 during sessions for the band's third album. "Queen of the Highway" was previously recorded in a jazzier arrangement (with Harvey Brooks on bass) during The Soft Parade sessions, while "You Make Me Real" (initially revived for the band's July 1969 Aquarius Theatre engagement) was one of Morrison's earliest compositions, dating from 1966.[4]

Although Morrison Hotel contains no major hit singles, it features some of the band's most popular songs, including "Roadhouse Blues" and "Peace Frog", which would go on to become staples of classic rock radio. "Roadhouse Blues" took two days to record (November 4–5, 1969) with Paul Rothchild striving for perfection. Several takes from these sessions were included on the 2006 remastered album, with Morrison repeating the phrase "Money beats soul" over and over again. The sessions only took off on the second day, when distinguished blues guitarist Lonnie Mack (also signed to Elektra Records) joined in on bass and former Lovin' Spoonful bandleader John Sebastian (appearing under the pseudonym G. Puglese either due to the constraint of his Reprise Records recording contract[5] or to avoid affiliation with the band after Jim Morrison's arrest after the Miami Incident) joined in on harmonica. Over the course of the session, keyboardist Ray Manzarek switched from his Wurlitzer electric piano to a tack piano previously used on the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations".[6]

The hook of "Peace Frog" is a distorted G5 chord played three times by Krieger, followed by a brief percussive wah-wah effect. Morrison, who took the words from a notebook entitled Abortion Stories, begins nearly every line with the word "blood", often referring to "Blood in the streets...". A brief musical interlude is next, followed by a guitar solo, and a spoken word verse ("Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding..."). The song ends with a final chord as it segues into the next track, "Blue Sunday". The line "Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding/Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind" originates from "Dawn's Highway," a poem in which Morrison describes a supernatural event that occurred when he was a child.

"The Spy" and "Queen of the Highway" celebrate Morrison's intense but troubled relationship with longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. Originally "The Spy" was called "Spy in the House Of Love", as shown on the Master Reel Control File, a line borrowed from A Spy in the House of Love, a novel by Anaïs Nin published in 1954. Both songs are tinged with ambivalence; on "The Spy" Morrison cautions, "I know your deepest, secret fears," while on "Queen of the Highway" he sardonically concludes, "I hope it can continue a little while longer." According to the 1980 Doors biography No One Here Gets Out Alive, it was during the Morrison Hotel sessions that Morrison and Courson had a violent argument after she drank his bottle of liquor so he could not drink it, with engineer Bruce Botnick recalling: "So here were the two of them, completely out of their minds and crying. He started shaking her violently. I think he was putting me on. She was crying out of control, telling him he shouldn't drink anymore and that's why she drank it. And I'm cleaning up and I said, "Hey man, it's pretty late." He looked up, stopped shaking her, said, "Yeah, right", hugged her and they walked out arm in arm...he'd always give you a funny look afterward, to see your reaction."[7]

Album cover

The cover photo was taken by Henry Diltz at the Morrison Hotel on South Hope Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The band weren't given permission to photograph, so did so while the clerk was called away from the desk. The band jumped right behind the windows and hit their places without shuffling as Diltz took the shot.[8] The rear cover features a photograph of the Hard Rock Café at nearby 300 East 5th Street.[9] The founders of the later (and otherwise unrelated) Hard Rock Cafe chain used the name, having seen it on the Doors' album. The building is now home to a convenience store. The Morrison Hotel building has been vacant for years, but a new development plan announced in 2018 may restore the building.

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB+[11]
Rolling Stone(Mixed)[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[13]
Slant Magazine[14]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music[15]

Upon its release, Morrison Hotel was seen by many as a comeback for the Doors following the critical failure of The Soft Parade. Although the accompanying "You Make Me Real"/"Roadhouse Blues" single only peaked at No. 50 as a double A-side in May 1970 despite strong FM radio play of the latter song, the album was immediately certified gold by RIAA in February 1970 (the band's fifth consecutive album certification, a record among American hard rock bands of the era) before reaching No. 4 on the Billboard album chart in March during a 27-week stay. Additionally, it became the band's highest-charting studio album in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 12.

Dave Marsh, the editor of Creem magazine, called the album "the most horrifying rock and roll I have ever heard. When they're good, they're simply unbeatable. I know this is the best record I've listened to [...] so far",[16] while Rock Magazine called it "without any doubt their ballsiest (and best) album to date".[16] Circus praised it as "possibly the best album yet from the Doors" and "good, hard, evil rock...and one of the best albums released this decade".[16]

During this period, the de facto blacklisting continued to persist in more socially conservative markets, particularly the Deep South; consequently, the band's 1970 American tour itinerary was largely confined to the Northeast, West Coast and more progressive Midwestern cities amid ongoing (albeit more sporadic) cancellations, including planned concerts in Salt Lake City and at the Jesuit-operated Fairfield University.

Track listing

Side A: Hard Rock Café
1."Roadhouse Blues"Jim Morrison, music by The Doors4:03
2."Waiting for the Sun"Morrison3:58
3."You Make Me Real"Morrison2:53
4."Peace Frog"Morrison, Krieger2:51
5."Blue Sunday"Morrison2:13
6."Ship of Fools"Morrison, Krieger3:08
Side B: Morrison Hotel
1."Land Ho!"Morrison, Krieger4:10
2."The Spy"Morrison4:17
3."Queen of the Highway"Morrison, Krieger2:47
4."Indian Summer"Morrison, Krieger2:36
5."Maggie M'Gill"Morrison, music by The Doors4:23


Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.

The Doors

Additional musicians


Charts and certifications


  1. "Jim Morrison is charged with lewd behavior at a Miami concert - Mar 05, 1969 -". Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  2. Hopkins & Sugerman 1980, p. 247.
  3. "The Doors Concert Dates & Info 1969".
  4. "The Doors Studio Dates & Info".
  5. The Doors, Morrison Hotel Remastered Liner Notes, Page 7, David Frickle, 2006
  6. The Doors, Morrison Hotel Remastered Liner Notes, Page 3, Bruce Botnick, 2006.
  7. Hopkins & Sugerman 1980, p. 274.
  8. Densmore, John (1991). Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and The Doors. London: Bloomsbury, Arrow. pp. 234–237, 244. ISBN 0-09-993300-4.
  9. "The Doors Original "Hard Rock Cafe" in Downtown Los Angeles". FeelNumb. November 17, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  10. Unterberger, Richie. "Morrison Hotel – The Doors". AllMusic. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  11. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: D". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 24, 2019 via
  12. Bangs, Lester (April 30, 1970). "The Doors Morrison Hotel > Album Review". Rolling Stone (57): 53. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  13. "The Doors: Album Guide". Archived from the original on January 6, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  14. Cinquemani, Sal (April 18, 2007). "The Doors: Morrison Hotel". Slant Magazine. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  15. "The Doors Morrison Hotel". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  16. Hopkins & Sugerman 1980, p. 284.
  17. "Top RPM Albums: Issue {{{chartid}}}". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  18. " – The Doors – Morrison Hotel" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  19. "Doors | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  20. "The Doors Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  21. "The Doors - Chart history - Billboard".
  22. "Austrian album certifications – The Doors – Morrison Hotel" (in German). IFPI Austria.
  23. "Canadian album certifications – The Doors – Morrison Hotel". Music Canada.
  24. "French album certifications – Doors – Morrison Hotel" (in French). InfoDisc. Select DOORS and click OK. 
  25. "Polish album certifications – ATB – Distant Earth" (in Polish). Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry.
  26. "Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1991–1995". Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Año A Año. ISBN 8480486392.
  27. "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (The Doors; 'The Morrison Hotel')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
  28. "British album certifications – Doors – Morrison Hotel". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Morrison Hotel in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  29. "American album certifications – The Doors – Morrison Hotel". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 


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