Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 239
Sat. Oct. 26, 2013
“L.A. Woman ”
you a lucky
in the City
Although some Beach Boys fans might believe that Brian Wilson’s ode to West Coast lovelies “California Girls” was the ultimate west coast song, Jim Morrison wanted to craft a more mature post modern ode to his City of Angels personified inamorata in his quintessential song for Los Angeles, “L.A. Woman.” But what is the meaning behind Jim Morrison’s most personal tribute, he penned to his adopted home city of L.A?
Most Doors fans would believe that the title track from The Doors final 1971 LP was Jim’s lyrical ode to his wife Pamela. In reality, “L.A. Woman” is a lyrical letter to the city that Morrison both loved and loathed. Inspired by one of Jim’s unlikely, other paramours, as Michael McClure, Morrison’s poet friend explained the inspirations for Jim’s most famous L.A. song when he said in Ben Fong-Torres book The Doors, “A poet doesn’t just hand his work over to people. Diane Gardner was a recipient of a bulk of his work. “L.A. Woman” is Los Angeles but Diane Gardner was a magnet for the concept of “L.A. Woman.”” Gardener herself talked about how she became Jim’s muse for the title track of The Doors last album when revealed to Fong-Torres, “It’s things that happened. “Into your blues, into your blue, blue, blues.” I was always painting him blues in my apartment. “L.A. Woman” was like a description of exactly what happened to us.” But what about Pamela, how did Morrison’s wife feel about Jim’s extracurricular relationship with Gardner? Diane added, “When “L.A. Woman” came out [Pam] said, “Well, at least I got the line, ‘I See your hair is burning,’” she said, “That’s all I get?””
Although Diane Gardner and to some extent Pamela Courson Morrison may have been the original impetus for “L.A. Woman,” The Doors title track was in reality as Jim’s poetic comrade explained above, Morrison’s conflicting emotions about his adopted city of Los Angeles. Everyone has a specific interpretation about Jim’s song. Ray Manzarek’s shared his take on his singers lyrics with L.A. Weekly when The Doors bassist explained, “You arrive looking for a little girl in a Hollywood bungalow. Then it goes to half-time. Motels, money, murder, madness. Film noir L.A. You go through the back alleys of Hollywood, looking for drugs, witnessing a crime. Someone pulls out a roscoe and is blasting right between the eyes. They fall hard and fast, blood splashing everywhere. Then they shoulder the gun and get the fuck out of there. That’s L.A. Woman.”
Writer Greil Marcus shared Manzarek’s darkened Film Noir-ish view of “L.A. Woman” when he wrote in his book of collected essays called The Doors, “The voice is full of cracks and burrs, in the sin, at night under neon, [“L.A. Woman” is] Blade Runner starring Charles Bukowski instead of Harrison Ford—the bum doesn’t shuffle down the street, he runs, stops, twirls, runs back the way he came. Maybe the city doesn’t want to see him, but he’s in love with the city and that’s the story he has to tell.” That’s a little too much of a fatalistic view of our fair city of Los Angeles; Marcus’ and Manzarek’s idea of “L.A Woman” are what strangers from the Midwest and other sections of America picture our ciudad as an urban capital of decay, death and destruction. I don’t think you can live here and view our city as shot glass that’s half empty? Who would want to live in a place that leaves you thirsty, wasted and feeling abandoned more than half the time?
My view of “L.A. Woman” has shades of shadows but for the most part, I like to believe, we live in the city of Light. I tend to agree with John Densmore’s interpretation of Jim’s eternal song for Los Angeles when The Doors drummer explained in the documentary The Story of L.A. Woman, “The metaphor for the city as a woman is brilliant: cops in cars, never saw a woman so alone—great stuff. It’s metaphoric, the physicality of the town and think of her and how we need to take care of her, it’s my hometown.” That’s the same idea I had of “L.A. Woman” I imagined growing up as a devoted fan of Jim Morrison and The Doors in Michigan and South Texas. I pictured an idealized woman that you could glimpse with some kisses but you could never actually capture because of her free flowing spirit, impossible to tame.
In his book, Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison, author James Riordan shared a similar interpretation of “L.A. Woman” when he wrote, “Then there’s L.A. Woman. An ideal car song, it sounds best exceeding the speed limit on the freeway. Bright, steady, and energetic, it captures the paradox that is Los Angeles—a scrapbook cameo of the city. The golden sunsets and the gritty streets. The promise of a bright new tomorrow even while unspeakable evil stalks at your door. A modern Garden of Eden on one hand and an inescapable web of corruption on the other. The song paints a portrait of a city as dark, dangerous and disturbing a place that is so beautiful at just the right angle and alluring in just the right light that it is impossible to leave. It is Los Angeles…”
In 2011, Ray Manzarek must have been reflecting in these same good spirits because he came up with another take about Jim’s song talking to Uncut UK magazine when he explained, “L.A. Woman” as “A song about driving madly down the LA freeway – either heading into LA or going out on the 405 up to San Francisco. You’re a beatnik on the road, like Kerouac and Neal Cassady, barreling down the freeway as fast as you can go.” That’s more like it Ray. But I believe the best analysis of “L.A. Woman” came from Robbie Krieger, when The Doors guitarist described his own interpretation about Jim’s song to L.A. Weekly as, “The L.A. woman was the city itself. When [Jim] was talking about driving on the freeway, I always think about the intersection of the 405 and the 10. It was actually designed by a woman and it kind of opens up like a pair of legs.” Now that’s my kind of ideal for a song inspiration. Brilliant. Morrison’s ode to L.A. was inspired by a section of the L.A. freeway mirroring a woman’s most privatest of parts.
While some have the lyrical mindset of Brian Wilson’s classic song, wishing they all could be California Girls? Not me, give me my lucky lady in my city of light. I’ll take my L.A. Woman any day of the week, over any California Girl, eight days a week and twice on Sunday. Regardless of Morrison’s love and loathe relationship with his adopted city of night; today, I dedicate The Doors quintessential Los Angeles song to my Michelle. I remember our first date when she drove me around Los Angeles, showing me the secret beauty of her birth city. The same place where we first met has now become our home. This city and Jim’s immortal song brought me to you and I’m the luckiest man in L.A.. Happy Birthday baby, to the finest “L.A. Woman” who coincidentally is the love of my life, this song is for you— my lover, my wife.