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On their fifth album, The Doors abandoned experimental dalliances for the raw, sonic crunch of electric blues that had defined them in the first place. Fifty years on from its release, Neil Crossley assesses the merits of the album that returned them to the attention of the hip counterculture
reaking on through: (l to r) John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison

Few albums have started life quite so inauspiciously as Morrison Hotel, the fifth long player by seminal LA four-piece, The Doors. As the band prepared to enter the studio in November 1969, they were still smarting from the critical pounding that had greeted their previous album The Soft Parade, an experimental work that encompassed orchestral arrangements, took nine months to record and racked up a whopping $86,000 (equal to $587,563 today) in costs. The album was derided by critics and the band’s core underground music scene fans, who viewed it as an opportunistic stab at the pop market.

But by far the greatest problem confronting The Doors in late 1969 was the increasingly volatile behaviour of charismatic lead singer Jim Morrison, which had created a chasm in the band’s ranks.

Morrison, the Florida-born son of a US Navy rear admiral, had descended into alcoholism. Gone were the mercurial live shows, replaced instead by incoherent onstage ramblings as he sleepwalked his way through performances. His striking good looks were fading, replaced instead by a bloated appearance, his ballooned face obscured by a huge beard. Morrison and his band’s problems were compounded on 1 March 1969 when he was arrested onstage in Miami for allegedly exposing himself to the audience.

Then in November, the day before the band entered Elektra Studios to start work on their new album, Morrison was arrested by the FBI for “drunk and disorderly conduct aboard a plane” as he disembarked from a flight in Phoenix. If found guilty on both charges, he would have faced a 13-year jail sentence. By the time The Doors assembled for the first day of recording, the rest of the band were barely talking to him.

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About Long Live Vinyl

ISSUE 35 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! In our first issue of 2020 we bring you the inside story of Bob Dylan's most diverse, divisive and fascinating decade – the 1970s. Dylan made eight hugely different studio albums in those 10 years, and we've rounded up some of his closest confidants and bandmates to tell the tale. It's a must-read for any fan of Mr Zimmerman. Elsewhere in issue 35, our packed interviews section features Angel Olsen, Seth Lakeman, The Go-Betweens, Field Music, DJ Shadow and Courteeners, plus we take an in-depth look at The Doors' Morrison Hotel and meet the music fanatics behind America's coolest label group – Secretly Canadian. If that's not enough, we bring you 40 essential folk-rock classics, a guide to building your perfect hi-fi setup in 2020 and the usual eclectic mix of vinyl columnists, news and reviews. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers.