On October 9, 1970 The Doors were in the process of recording “L.A. Woman”, the last album they were contracted for with Elektra Records. However, Jim Morrison was planning for a future past the release of the album. In the spring of 1971, Morrison was laying plans to release a poetry album without the involvement of the other members of The Doors. In The Doors office that day Jim Morrison started a correspondence with artist T.E. Breitenbach about creating the cover art for his poetry album.
In 1970 T.E. Breitenbach was a college student, in a band, and was a Doors fan who liked Morrison’s surrealistic imagery. Breitenbach wrote Morrison a fan letter telling him he was an artist and offering to paint an album cover for The Doors. Morrison must have immediately thought of his poetry album (in late March of ‘69 he had previously recorded some poems) and sent Breitenbach a letter describing an idea for a triptych that would include: “The left panel depicting a radiant moon-lit beach and an endless stream of young naked couples running silently along the waters edge, on the beach a tiny infant grins at the universe and around its crib stand several ancient old people; the center — a modern city or metropolis of the future at noon, insane with activity; the last panel– a view through a car windshield at night on a long straight desert highway.” Along with the letter, Morrison sent autographed copies of his self-published poetry “The New Creatures” and “An American Prayer” with the promise that if Breitenbach came up with something in the next 4-5 months, “I’m sure I can use it.”
Breitenbach did indeed finish the triptych for Morrison and when he contacted The Doors office was informed by The Doors secretary Kathy Lisciandro that Morrison was in Paris. Before Morrison left for Paris, on December 8, 1970 (Morrison’s 27th birthday), he went into the Village Recorders Studios with John Haeny who was to produce the poetry album. Morrison also signed a contract with Jac Holzman and Elektra Records on December 31, 1970 for the poetry album. Haeny was supposed to fly to Paris in August of ‘71 to finish up the project with Morrison. Had Morrison not died in Paris on July 3, 1970 it is quite probable that he would have finished the poetry album and used Breitenbach’s triptych.
When the surviving Doors (Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger) decided to record Morrison’s poems from the December 1970 poetry sessions they didn’t know that Morrison had commissioned a triptych from Breitenbach. The triptych and its genesis only became known when Breitenbach contacted Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner who forwarded it on to Jerry Hopkins who wrote the original manuscript of the Morrison biography “No One Here Get’s Out Alive.”
T.E. Breitenbach went on to a successful career as a painter and illustrator as well as dabbling in film scoring and acting. For more information on T.E. Breitenbach, his work, or the Jim Morrison triptych visit T.E. Breitenbach’s website.