How the Doors Ignored Jail Threat to Make ‘Morrison Hotel’
The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger recalled how the band made its 1970 album Morrison Hotel with the threat of a prison sentence hanging over singer Jim Morrison.
Their fifth album was recorded soon after Morrison was arrested on an airplane for drunken behavior. A recently introduced skyjacking law, under which he was charged, carried a maximum 10-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.
In the 50th-anniversary edition of the record, Morrison can be heard explaining his thinking behind “Roadhouse Blues” before they tracked it. “It’s an old roadhouse down south or maybe Midwest, perhaps on the way to Bakersfield, and we’re driving in a 57 Chevy,” he says. “It’s about 1:30, and we’re not driving too fast but we’re not driving too slow either. We’ve a six-pack of beer, a few joints and we’re just listening to the radio on the way to that old roadhouse.”
“I loved hearing that stuff again,” Krieger told Uncut in a new interview. “That wasn’t something Jim did all the time, but it helped us to get the feel he was after, and it’s a great reminder of what we were like in the studio for that album. I know that at the back of his mind he would have been worried about going to jail, but he wasn’t going to let it get in the way. Jim was always in the moment, no matter what he was doing.”
The guitarist noted that "most of it was really fun. We still didn’t think of it as work. It could be long hours and some of it was boring – getting the right sound from the snare drum for four hours – but once we started playing, it was always fun. We were a pretty odd lot, but when you put us all together, it made sense.”
Engineer Bruce Botnick explained: “Morrison Hotel was basically about trying to climb up from underneath intense negativity. Jim was under terrific stress waiting to hear what the courts were going to do. But they weren’t creatively bust. Morrison Hotel was a springboard forward.”