Original Artist: The Doors
Original Album: L.A. Woman (1971)
Historian: Chris Bertolet
It's one of the longest tracks in The Doors’ discography (only “When the Music’s Over” and “The End” clock in longer). It fuses two distinct passages which could have easily stood alone as individual songs into a coherent and thematic whole. Its middle refrain, “Mr. Mojo Risin’,” is a self-referential anagram (figure it out yourself, smarty-pants).
Considering its inherent peculiarities, “L.A. Woman” seems like a natural cover for Phish to tackle. Odd, then, that the band didn’t get around to playing it until late 2003. Not that the thought hadn’t crossed their minds much earlier. Phish teased the tune during “Possum” on 5/17/92, sound-checked the tune in its entirety on 4/17/93, and teased it again during the “Possum” encore on 5/30/93. But it wasn’t until 12/30/03 that Phish decided to trot out “L.A. Woman” for an audience. Well, maybe Trey decided to trot it out for an audience, and the band just kinda followed gamely.
The first signs of “L.A. Woman” appeared about twelve minutes into a “Tube” that had spun well out of its natural orbit and was spiraling spectacularly into the singularity of a black hole. By way of rescue, Trey introduced Robby Krieger’s signature lick a few octaves down the register, and began moaning, then howling, the lyrics: “Just got into town about an hour ago…” The band did the best they could to drop in behind Trey, Page sliding over to caress his Rhodes, Fish nudging the tempo on a Densmore-esque ride cymbal. Phish “changed the mood from glad to sadness,” and after a few bars of serpentine improvisation, slipped neatly into a dark and textural “Birds of a Feather.”
In the middle of the “Birds” jam, Trey re-introduced the “L.A.Woman” theme, and for the next four minutes, the band seemed to jam on both songs at once before ending “Birds.” But Trey wasn’t quite done.“Mis-ter Mo-jo Ri-sin’...” he announced, trying feebly to contain a chuckle (it’s good to be the Lizard King). Once again his band-mates gamely followed. They put a bow on the whole bit with a final verse and a ballsy outro jam that decayed into a decidedly Funkadelic “Makisupa Policeman.”
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