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Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles

Love Street by The Doors

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I wonder what they do in there
Summer Sunday and a year
I guess I like it fine, so far Read full Lyrics
Morrison's home on Rothdell Trail
In 1966 the Doors were in the process of recording their first album. Jim Morrison, the band’s lead singer, was living at 8201 Rothdell Trail in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles with the love of his life, Pamela Courson. Across from the young couple’s apartment was the Canyon Country Store, a popular shopping destination for locals. All day long a stream of tie-dyed hippies, yippies, and beatniks flowed past Morrison’s apartment. Watching the scene from his balcony day by day, Morrison dubbed Rothdell Trail "Love Street." The poem that he subsequently wrote about it would eventually become the lyrics to the song.

When Jim sang of the “store where the creatures meet,” he was talking about the Canyon Country Store. The girl of the song was, of course, Pamela Courson, the woman that would be with him right up until the day of his death.

Looking back at it now, the list of the neighborhood’s residents reads like a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit. In addition to Morrison, there was David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Three Dog Night’s Jimmy Greenspoon, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, and Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas, and Frank Zappa. It was a vibrant community of artists, with people popping in and out of each other’s houses, sharing meals and dope. Love Street was very much a product of its flower-bearing times.

Morrison never quite fit in with the idyllic hippie image of the era. In fact, he was in many ways its counterpoint. His friends and family today recall a sensitive, intelligent, and compassionate individual, but there is no denying that he had another side - that of the hard drinking, confrontational, sometimes cruel iconoclast. His dark tendencies seemed to grow along with his fame, like a shadow forever attending every step of his career. Even in those early Doors days there were plenty of signs of his looming self-destruction. Morrison was already known for drinking heavily, often pounding straight scotch in the middle of the day. He had a penchant for committing life-threatening, daredevil acts, swinging from rooftops or driving his car towards the cliffs atop Mulholland Drive, slamming on the brakes to skid to a halt at only the last moment.
Canyon Country Store
Pamela Courson, a vivacious, petite redhead from Weed, California, possessed a deceptive wildness of her own. Many feel she only pushed Morrison’s exploits even further. In fact, she was often the one working the brakes on those Mulholland games of chicken, when she wasn’t in the passenger’s seat goading Jim ever closer to the edge.

Lending weight to that claim, the book Angels Dance and Angels Die (by Patricia Butler) describes an exchange between Courson, Morrison, and "self-proclaimed groupie" Pamela Miller. A huge fan of the Doors' live performances, one afternoon Miller recognized the strains of their song “The End” wafting through the open air. Knowing that the song had not yet been released to the public, Miller became curious about who was playing it. She followed the music to a house and peered through the door. Shocked and rewarded by the sight of Jim Morrison inside clad only in leather pants and digging through the refrigerator, she eventually knocked on the door and walked inside. The ensuing conversation between the two led to Miller doing backbends for Jim’s appraisal. In so doing, her dress dropped over her head and revealed her lithe body. It was at this point that Pam Courson walked into the room - and immediately launched into a rage. As Miller fled from the scene, she could hear vinyl records being smashed against the walls inside the house, testament to the volatility she narrowly escaped.

In the same book, Butler talks of how Mirandi Babitz, who lived with Morrison and Courson for a short time, recalled feeling discomfort in their presence. She felt that Morrison was “weird, he was like…black.” They would brandish knives to scare each other, or leap out from hiding spots when least expected. They were a wild, energetic pair always trying to ride the peak of life’s wave. Courson liked to smoke pot, while Morrison preferred LSD. In between their party binges, they would get B12 shots at UCLA to rejuvenate their systems.

The success of The Doors' first album took Morrison and Courson away from their Love Street home. And years later, on December 30, 2011, the house was the target of an arsonist. The residence has since been repaired, but in many ways an arson fire might be a fitting end for the house’s place in the Doors' mythology. After all, while they'd occupied the home, the Doors themselves were on the verge of setting the music world on fire, and that blaze would ultimately consume Morrison himself. Its first flickering signs were just becoming visible at 8201 Rothdell Trail. They were clear to Paul Rothchild, The Doors’ legendary producer, who foresaw Morrison’s eventual self-destruction. While the band recorded Morrison’s vocals for its first album, Rothchild turned to guitarist Robby Krieger and said, “We’d better get as much of this stuff from Jim as possible, as fast as possible, because he’s not going to make it.” (Butler)

Beyond the mythology, beyond the glimmer that rock and roll casts upon its highest deities, Morrison was ultimately a troubled, self-destructive figure. Sensationalist media has immortalized his crazy escapades and outbursts, but that glorification conceals the complex, kind man that friends and family recall. Ultimately, it’s an incomplete portrait and one that does not do the man justice. Long before that tragic day of July 3, 1971, when Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris, victim of an apparent drug overdose, Morrison was an ambitious young man living with his soul mate as they spent long afternoons on the balcony, watching the colorful Love Street parade float by. From that vantage point, the future must have presented itself to Morrison in many different guises. Though one can never know for sure, it seems highly unlikely that the poet ever guessed the tragic and unceremonious final version.

“Love Street” was released on the Waiting for the Sun album. It was released as the B-side to the single “Hello, I Love You.” “Love Street” saw only minor airplay. Somewhat irrelevant to this story, but interesting nonetheless, is the fact that “Hello, I Love You” was in the Billboard Music Chart’s Top 5 at the same time that Jose Feliciano had a remake of “Light My Fire” in Billboard Top 5, meaning that two songs penned by the Doors occupied that auspicious space simultaneously. That’s just a little tidbit for those folks that have a fondness for minutiae.
~ Jeff Suwak

Songplaces contributor Jeff Suwak is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the novella "Beyond the Tempest Gate" and various works of short fiction. He also writes for The Prague Revue. He loves being berated on Twitter @JeffSuwak and receiving visitors at jeffsuwak.com.
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Comments: 2

  • Kathy from Napa, CaGreat information. Somehow, it doesn't sound like Jim Morrison's voice singing LOVE STREET. BUF When listening to
    LISTEning to RIDERS ON THE STORM...ITS UNMISTAKENLY MORRISON. Maybe because LOVE STREET
    IS LIGHT HEARTED! Don't know.
  • Dave Mcconnell. L51940@aol.com from Romeo, MiEnjoyed your article. When did you write this? I'm 62 and have been a Doors fiend all my life. Tonite I decided to read up on any new angles on the song Love Street and found your story. Thanks!
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