Four decades after Jim Morrison’s death, the Doors can still draw a crowd. Eternal fascination with the band delivered a full house to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for the Friday premiere of a documentary on the making of L.A. Woman, where keyboardist Ray Manzarek advised the audience during a Q&A: “If you’re interested in knowing what existence is all about, I highly recommend LSD.”
The screening and DVD release of Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman coincides with this week’s 40th anniversary CD reissue of the Doors’ final album with their meteoric frontman, who left for Paris immediately after the 1971 sessions and never returned. The new two-disc set includes alternate takes and one previously unreleased tune, “She Smells So Nice/Rock Me,” a raw, smoldering blues track discovered by album co-producer Bruce Botnick in the Doors archives.
“It was 40 years ago, for God’s sake. And there it was – a Doors buried treasure, Jim Morrison creating ‘She Smells So Nice,'” Manzerek told Rolling Stone. “What a great image that is: Pick the part of her body you’d like to be smelling. I know where my nose goes.”
The recording came from an early session for L.A. Woman at the Doors’ rehearsal space near the Sunset Strip. It was the first time guitarist Robby Krieger remembers hearing Morrison utter the ominous “Mr. Mojo risin’” chant, later included within the album’s title song. “We never heard that before,” Krieger recalled of the lyric, which became a defining statement on the singer’s persona after his death. “It was an anagram of his name.”
The album was recorded in just 10 days, with “a lot of banter, a lot of fun, a lot of beer,” said Manzarek, 72. “The playing is furious. We played the shit out of those songs. I think the fun we were having, the excitement, the energy, translates through the tape. It’s all there. You can really feel it.”
Noticeably absent from the screening in Hollywood was drummer John Densmore, estranged from the other surviving Doors for the last decade following dueling memoirs and a lawsuit over use of the Doors name in live shows by Krieger and Manzarek as the Doors of the 21st Century. Densmore won that court case in 2005.
“I’m hoping for a reconciliation, of course,” Manzarek said. “I love to play with those guys. John and Robbie are great musicians. What fun. We know how to lock into that mystical place, that Zen music place. It’s a shame not to do it anymore.”
All three do appear in a frantic collaboration with Skrillex called “Breakin’ a Sweat,” which was released on the DJ/producer’s EP Bangarang, and filmed as part of the documentary RE: GENERATION, set for a February release in theaters. Densmore’s percussion was recorded separately from Krieger and Manzarek. “It’s stupid,” Krieger, 66, said of the falling out, “but I guess a lot of groups go through this kind of stuff.”
Recording with the fast-rising electronic musician wasn’t something the guitarist embraced immediately. “It wasn’t really my kind of thing at the time,” Krieger said of his expectations for the alliance. “Being a guitar player, I’m kind of anti-digital, but I was willing to try it. It sounded interesting, and it was. It was pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.”
Manzarek hopes to make that happen. “We’ve talked to him about doing more stuff,” he said. “I was amazed. He’s a little pocket full of dynamite.”
Meanwhile, the legacy of the Doors’ original work continues, though Krieger said the band’s cache of previously unheard recordings “is kind of running dry.” He hopes to see a release of the London Fog tapes, the earliest live recordings of the band. A new remastered cut of the film documenting the Doors’ 1968 performance at the Hollywood Bowl is due this year, and Botnick told Rolling Stone the band plans to release every recording and outtake from the L.A. Woman sessions on a multi-disc set. This summer, Krieger and Manzarek will also perform classic Doors songs on tour in Europe, with possible U.S. dates.
The band’s presence emerges in other mysterious ways. Earlier this month, Morrison’s former house on Laurel Canyon was in the news after it was singed by a Hollywood serial arsonist (a suspect was captured soon after), and in November comedian Jimmy Fallon did a spot-on impersonation of the Lizard King on his late-night show performing the Reading Rainbow theme song.
“Dead on, man! I went, ‘What?! Look at that guy!'” said Manzarek with a laugh. The keyboardist has witnessed a lot of Morrison pretenders over the decades and is not easily impressed. “Fallon’s good. You’ve got to be mystical and sexual at the same time. That’s the hard thing.”