Paul Rothchild in Memoriam

Paul Rothchild
Paul Rothchild, 1935-1995

If anyone qualifies as being “the fifth Door,” it’s Paul Rothchild. As a producer for Elektra Records he was there from the beginning of The Doors’ professional career until almost the end.

Paul Rothchild also came to Elektra Records at a critical period in its history. Rothchild started as a record salesman, had connections in the New York folk scene, and evolved into producing by the time Elektra was expanding. When the music scene emigrated to the west coast and the burgeoning rock scene in L.A., so did Elektra Records and Paul Rothchild. Rothchild was soon producing Love, and on the recommendation of lead singer Arthur Lee scouted The Doors. At first Rothchild wasn’t impressed with The Doors, but upon being convinced to give them another chance, he saw a second show and saw the literary and the dark theatre the band possessed.

Paul Rothchild and Jim Morrison
Paul Rothchild and Jim Morrison, Hollywood, 1966. The nameplate for Sunset Sound Recorders, where The Doors recorded their first album, can be seen in the background.

Rothchild went into the studio with The Doors and by all accounts worked with the band as equals (in an age when the producer was the final authority in the studio) listening to what they wanted to accomplish as well as making suggestions. Rothchild was willing to experiment along with the band suggesting a section of Robby Krieger’s guitar be played backwards on a song, or putting a microphone in an empty garbage can while everyone shouted into it. He was also a perfectionist in the studio. As Jim Morrison’s alcoholism and behavior in the studio grew more erratic, he clashed with Rothchild’s perfectionism and resulted in longer and longer periods of time to create an album’s worth of songs. This crescendoed in “The Soft Parade” sessions during which Rothchild said he practically had to piece together songs from the many takes.

Rothchild produced all The Doors albums except “L.A. Woman“. During rehearsals for “L.A. Woman” he said the music reminded him of “cocktail lounge music.” Rothchild leaving The Doors allowed them to regroup and find themselves as a band again enabling them to make one the classic albums of rock ’n’ roll.

Paul Rothchild and Janis Joplin
Paul Rothchild and Janis, circa “Pearl”, 1970

During his career Rothchild also worked with Janis Joplin, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Clear Light, Tim Buckley, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bonnie Raitt. Paul Rothchild is also closely associated with an iconic moment in Janis Joplin’s career, producing her “Pearl” album, from which “Me & Bobby McGee” brought her her only number 1 hit single. He also produced the soundtrack of “The Rose” (loosely based on Joplin) and Oliver Stone’s “The Doors“.

Paul Rothchild died of lung cancer on March 30, 1995 at the age of 59 (born April 18, 1935).

Originally published March 30, 2010.

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