Monday, November 14, 2016

Break On Through To the Other Side

The billboard hung over the Strip, the first of its kind, though few grasped its significance. Any square would have motored by offended by the hippies glaring down at them. "The Doors break on through with an electrifying album," it read alongside portraits of four moody young faces . "I believe the Doors billboard was the first rock billboard ever erected on Sunset," recalls photographer Bobby Klein. "We were all really excited to see it go up. They weren't even really doing movies at that time, it was all product merchandising," Klein said about the new billboard genre, "so this was a really big deal. Local radio was already planning to be out in force to cover the moment, and I'd got wind of it so I went to the PR people at Elektra and said, 'how about getting the Doors out there and photographing them?'" It wasn't a simple task for Klein, who knew them, but not well; and daunting indeed at 6am. Yet Klein was able to rouse the bunch, pose them up the billboard's scaffolding, and, somehow, one of the most iconic photo shoots of The Doors' career was in the can.

Morrison and The Doors would have a long affair with the camera. Pictures of The Byrds were less common, The Yardbirds or Love nearly non-existent, but Morrison was the stuff of 16 magazine or Look or Life. There was a fervor over The Doors like there was for The Beatles earlier in the decade, though never was it more stylistic than the photography for The Doors' fifth album, Morrison Hotel. 

Here's what photographer Henry Diltz had to say about the cover photo shoot: "We parked the VW van and walked in. I told the guy at the desk we were going to take a few photos and it would take but a few minutes and he said we couldn't without the owner's permission and the owner wasn't there. I thought, You're kidding! It was a transient hotel and it was empty! I saw him leave the desk and get in the elevator. Right on the cover, you can see the lit elevator numbers right under the 'son' in 'Morrison.' I said 'Quick you guys, run in there!' They jumped right behind the windows and hit their places without shuffling and I shot. I shot one roll of film, starting close to the window, and then I backed across the street [1246 Hope Street] with a telephoto lens. So we finished the whole thing in about five minutes and the guy never saw us. We pulled it off though, like a guerrilla photo shoot."

Afterwards the photo shoot moved further downtown to the Hard Rock Cafe on East 5th Street in a section of downtown known as Skid Row (this was a year before London's original Hard Rock Cafe would open in Picadilly). A dingy fleatrap filled with what Morrison called "The real people." The Doors happened upon this ramshackle dive bar and collectively said, "Oh, we gotta go in there!" 


This is the end, beautiful friend...the end.