MORRISON HOTEL/Hard Rock Cafe by The Doors
(1970/Electra Records, NY).
The album’s front and back covers, as photographed on December 17th, 1969 in Los Angeles by Henry Diltz with art direction by Gary Burden.
Here’s the front cover of the album, the Door’s fifth album, released in 1970. The members of the band are, from left to right, Ray Manzarek (piano, organ), Robbie Krieger (guiter), Jim Morrison (vocals), and John Densmore (drums).
(photo: (c) Henry Diltz)
This is where the cover was photographed: 1246 South Hope Street, Los Angeles. At the time the building was a low-rent hotel for transients called “The Morrison Hotel.” It has been closed for several years.
Here it is PopSpotted – with the album cover placed in the exact position where the photo was taken.
And the same view, but from a wider angle; click to enlarge.
TO give you a view of how big the hotel was, here’s the former Morrison Hotel from across the street. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Here’s an aeriel view from Bing’s bird’s eye view.
The hotel was located in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s where that is in relation to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Pacific Ocean. Downtown LA is having a resurgence now, but for many years was overshadowed by the glamourous parts of Los Angeles nearer the ocean.
A few days before the shoot, Ray Manzarek and his wife were cruising through the neighboorhood looking for funky locations for the photoshoot, when they spotted the hotel. They recommended to the group that the cover shot be be taken there.
When the entourage arrived several days later, the desk clerk told the photographer that the group would not be allowed into the building for any photos. So the band took some photos outside while while they figured out how to take a picture incorporating the Morrison Hotel sign in the front window. Here’s one in the doorway.
And another version from a different angle.
The photographer, Henry Diltz, covered the scene from many different angles in pursuit of the perfect picture. Here’s Jim Morrison posing out front.
This is a close-up of the sign in the front window. I doubt there were mints under the pillows.
Photographer Henry Diltz is on the left side of this photo taken from a documentary featuring the shoot made years later in the Morrison Hotel lobby (see Addendum for more info). To the right is Gary Burden the art director. They worked together on many albums in the 1960’s to 1970’s. More on them later.
In between them is the front desk. Back when they were photographing the Doors, when they saw the desk clerk leave for a break, they quickly got the Doors to rush into the hotel and pose, looking out the front window under the “Morrison Hotel” sign. Diltz managed to shoot a roll, starting at the window then moving back across the street and using a telephoto. Then they left and the security guard never knew the photo shoot had taken place.
(still shot from the DVD “Under the Covers.” See Addendum for more info.)
Here’s the first photo taken, as the Doors are sneaking in to take their places.
First, Ray and Jim show up.
Then Robbie and John show up.
Gary Burden, the art director, also shows up in the background. Can you see him?
Here he is in close-up.
That’s Gary Burden on the left with with Mama Cass and Henry Diltz from back in the day
Now Gary has left and Henry Diltz is close to the cover shot, going now for a straight-on shot.
Bingo! Here’s the final shot: One of the most perfect “form-and-function” rock shots ever – perfectly composed for an album cover, complete with cool typeface, not to mention the name of the lead singer built in!
I liked it so much, I’m going to show it to you again with a circle showing the reflection of the photographer, Henry Diltz.
If you go to Google Images and search for “1246 South Hope Street,” this great photo from that era pops up on several websites, but there is no mention as to its origin. It looks like it came from Henry Diltz’ photo session, except that: 1) the venetian blinds in the window are at the level from after the photoshoot, 2) there is no “rooms $2.50 sign” in the window, and 3) most vividly, the shadows from the sign in the “greenish” picture are very pronounced), so it most likely was taken on a different occasion by a different person.
Here’s a shot from Henry Diltz’s session from about the same place (taken off a computer monitor). Notice that the venetian blinds are lower.
Here’s the cover shot inserted into the older photo. The venetian blinds have ben pulled up to get a clear shot of the hotel name.
So, with the cover shot complete, then the guys decide to drive around and find a place get a beer, since it’s daytime and they are rock stars. They go a few blocks and – lo and behold – look what they wander upon …a bar called, fortuitously, the Hard Rock Cafe.
The restaurant chain named The Hard Rock Cafe would later take it’s name from this album. One can only wonder though, where the name “hard rock” came from to the owner of this low-rent cafe near skid row Los Angeles. Hard labor? Hard rock to blast to make the highway? The denizens of this bar don’t seem like Zeppelin fans…though ya never know.
The Doors show up.
Let’s backtrack a little: The corner is the southwest corner of East 5th Street and Wall Street, Los Angeles; about 8 blocks from The Morrison Hotel.
Here’s a panorama of the corner. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
And here, I’ve overlayed the back of the album cover over the scene as shot by Google Street Maps.
(interior photo: (c) Henry Diltz)
So if we follow the band into the bar, you see this stool…
..That’s the one the drummer John Densmore is sitting on in the double-wide inner sleeve photo.
And if we pull the camera back a little, we can see the whole center gatefold of the album. Looks like the boys have ordered some of the beverage du jour. (Well, I woke up this morning and got myself a beeeeerrr!)
It also looks like Jim even ordered a bag of chips for the guys.
Here are some more outtakes from the bar shoot…
…and another. This time, one of the guys from the bar gets in on the shot.
He clearly does not mind being in the spotlight.
The beers having been consumed, the guys walk back outside.
…followed by their new friend, who unfortunately, didn’t know how to play an instrument, and missed his opportunity for rock immortality.
Here’s where all that took place: the Hard Rock in relation to the Morrison Hotel.
Well, that’s all folks! If you want to buy any of these photos, call up The Morrison Hotel gallery, Henry Diltz’s rock photography store at 124 Prince Street in Soho, New York (pictured below), or visit the store online at MorrisonHotel.com.
Even the front window looks like the old album cover. Fun to take your photo in front of and to email your fellow Doors fans back home.
Addendum 1: The front cover of UNDER THE COVERS, a DVD by photographer Henry Diltz and art director Gary Burden featuring the behind-the-scenes stories of taking the photographs and designing the covers for many of the iconic albums covers of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s available through most online DVD stores.
The back cover to Under the Covers listing many of the albums featured in the video documentary.
Addendum 2: Some ads from the time of the album’s release.