After their experimental work The Soft Parade was not as well-received as anticipated, the group went back to basics and back to their roots. On this album, there is a slight steer toward blues, which would be fully explored by the band on their next album, L.A. Woman. The strategy worked; even though no major hit singles were drawn from the album, Morrison Hotel reestablished The Doors as favorites of the critics, peaking at #4 on the US album chart, and when they followed with L.A. Woman the next year, they were rewarded with two more US Top 20 hits. The album also became the band's highest charting studio album in the UK, where it peaked at #12.
Additional musicians include John Sebastian (credited as "G. Puglese," for contractual reasons) on harmonica and Lonnie Mack on bass and guitar.
The cover photo was taken at the actual Morrison Hotel located at 1246 South Hope Street in Los Angeles. The band asked the owners if they could photograph the hotel and they declined, so the band went inside when nobody was looking and took the photograph. The rear cover features a photograph of the Hard Rock Café on 300 East 5th Street, Los Angeles. The founders of the later and otherwise unrelated Hard Rock Cafe chain used the name, having seen it on the Doors' album. The original cafe is no longer open for business.