If anyone was qualified to be “the fifth Door” it was Paul Rothchild. As the producer of five out of the six Doors studio albums he was an integral part of The Doors creative process as any members of the group. Rothchild was born April 18, 1935 and would have been 81 years old.
Rothchild was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey and seemed music was his destiny from the start. His mother was an opera singer and he studied classical music. After a brief stint in the military Rothchild started his music career in Boston where he became a well known figure in the folk music scene recording bands and releasing the recordings of the bands. It was in this capacity he met Jac Holzman the founder of Elektra Records which was then known for their folk album recordings. Holzman hired Rothchild as a salesman, but mostly for his connections in the folk world. Rothchild is credited with discovering the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1964 and produced their first two albums (the first was shelved until the 90’s).
When Elektra wanted to expand into rock music and the west coast, Holzman brought Rothchild along and soon Rothchild was producing the rock bands that Holzman was finding in Los Angeles including Love and The Doors. When he first heard The Doors Rothchild was unimpressed with them as a band (it also took Holzman a night of listening to the band before seeing their unique qualities) and went back to the Whisky a-go-go for a second listen and it’s then Rothchild heard the literary and theatrical aspects of The Doors. Rothchild went into the studio with The Doors and by all accounts worked with the band as equals (at a time when the producer was the final authority in the studio), listening to what they wanted to accomplish as a band and gave them a lot of room to explore the creative possibilities of the studio. Rothchild also offered his suggestions, and he was willing to experiment as much as the band.
At first, because The Doors had developed a lot of their early songs in a club setting first at the London Fog and later at the Whisky a go-go, producing The Doors wasn’t that hard, but as Jim Morrison’s alcoholism grew and interest in the recording process waned Rothchild compensated for this by becoming a perfectionist in the studio demanding more and more takes on songs until by the time of the “Soft Parade” it took the band and Rothchild nine months to record the album.
Rothchild and The Doors went their separate directions in the early stages of recording The Doors final studio album with Jim Morrison, “L.A. Woman. During rehearsals for the album Rothchild famously put his head down on his mixing console out of sheer boredom saying the music sounded like “cocktail lounge music” and suggested The Doors produce the album themselves.
During his tenure with Elektra, Rothchild championed and tried to put together “super groups” such as Clear Light, and Rhinoceros (you can read more in “The Work of Paul Rothchild”), but they didn’t get the recognition of other bands he worked with. Rothchild also produced Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell (all Elektra artists), The Lovin’ Spoonful, Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt. Rothchild also worked on the soundtracks of the movies “The Rose” which was based loosely on Janis Joplin and Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”. Rothchild should also be remembered for his work in technical aspects of recording. Rothchild Musical Instruments set a distribution network that got quality instruments into the hands of musicians.
Rothchild died on March 30, 1995 a few weeks shy of his 60th birthday of lung cancer.
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