(More Than) 40 Years Out: The Doors on the Sunset Strip

The Doors help set up their billboard at 8171 Sunset Blvd. to plug their first LP in 1967. It was the first billboard on the Sunset Strip to advertise a rock band.

In Los Angeles recently to chill for a few days, we spent a little time walking up and down the Sunset Strip. Being a couple of tourists from Texas, we could occasionally sense a few stares but by and large everyone treated us like locals – that is, nobody gave a fuck who we were.

The Sunset Strip is the home territory of the mighty Doors – Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and James Douglas Morrison. We wanted to channel some of the Doors’ magic on the Strip, but unfortunately very few of those vibes floated our way. We did see a small billboard trumpeting The Doors as the honorees of this year’s Sunset Strip Music Fest; it was nowhere as big and bold as the storied billboard that Elektra put up in 1967 to advertise The Doors’ first LP.

The Whisky’s shrine (such as it is) to Jim and Jimi.

So we peeled in to the equally famous Whisky A Go Go, the historic venue where The Doors once toiled as the house band. We bought a couple tickets to see a bill headlined by alt metal thrashers Spineshank. Once our eyes adjusted to the dark interior of the club, we scanned the floor – lots of standing room and a handful of tables and booths. Those prime spots were reserved, though (the booths can be had for a $200 fee, we were told) so … hey look, there’s an upstairs!

The upstairs area had more tables, although the ones closest to the stage were taken up by the opening bands getting their stuff ready to play. When one band finished their set, the next one just carried their gear down the stairs and set up on stage! There was even a band from Texas: Shattered Sun, from Corpus Christi. Fine bands, OK venue, but the best part was the “shrine” to Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, also a Whisky alumni. Just above it was one of those signs that Miller Lite often prints up: “Welcome Back Mötley Crüe! Home Sweet Home.” Well, we got some pretty decent Doors vibes here, even though they were gussied up as death metal.

We didn’t actively seek out The Doors while in L.A., we just wanted to see if we could pick up some sweet Doors vibes naturally, like sensing them on the breeze blowing in from the ocean. I had downloaded The Doors’ L.A. Woman onto my iPhone and was ready for the chance to plug in and blast it while cruisin’ up and down the Strip. But it was too cool to listen to “Ozzy’s Boneyard” on the rental car’s satellite radio; they played “The Changeling” one time, anyway.

The next day we ventured into downtown L.A., and naturally we needed a map to get there. We were told by our L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller that’s not unusual, even longtime L.A. residents need a map when they dare to creep into the city proper. Our destination was The Grammy Museum, which is part of the L.A. Live complex that includes the Staples Center. Not much mention of The Doors here, although we did enjoy the awesome exhibit “Golden Gods: History of Heavy Metal.” Luckily, we caught it on the last day of the exhibit; the next day they dismantled the Metal exhibit and set up another exhibit paying tribute to Whitney Houston.

We raced back to Hollywood, and into the warm embrace of Amoeba Music, billed as the world’s largest independent record store. We believe that! Aside from the two customers and maybe one employee who slightly resembled an older, fatter and post-millennial Jim Morrison, not much Doors action here either. Well, there was an ad for the new LP L.A. Woman: The Workshop Sessions, consisting of even more outtakes from the classic album.

While we’re here, let’s get a Quarter Pounder!

We walked a few blocks north to Hollywood Boulevard to look for stars (on the sidewalk!) but we didn’t find The Doors. They’re actually over by the Hard Rock Cafe, which was flooded with tourists at the time we went. We did find the star for Ozzy Osbourne by a McDonald’s, and the star for Vince McMahon. And of course, over by the Capitol Records building: John, Paul, George and Ringo, and one for The Beatles.

So we are kinda bummed we couldn’t channel more of The Doors while we were in L.A. It’s not like we tried that hard, admittedly. Perhaps it’s best – The Doors, while a great and entertaining memory for many of us, they were damn troublemakers back in the day. Who knows, any one of those hipsters flouncing past us on the Strip or over at The Grove could have been the son or daughter of an illegitimate son or daughter of the Lizard King his own bad self.

And it didn’t occur to me until I was writing this screed (and really grasping for an ending) that Hollywood its own bad self is a tribute to The Doors. Many things may have changed physically along the Sunset Strip and up in the Hills, but with the right kind of attitude you can still feel a bit of The Doors vibe.

Turn off the radio, roll down the car windows and listen closely to those whispers in the wind. What’s that you hear? Just another lost angel in the City of Night.

MP3: “L. A. Woman”

The Doors official web site

Yes, I know about this and this. And especially this. We just wanted to find our own way.

Download our Doors New Year’s Eve concert

Check out last night’s opening of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, honoring The Doors

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