Interview: Guitarist Robby Krieger Discusses The Doors' Albums and Working with Jim Morrison
Robby Krieger sheds light — album by album — on one of rock’s most mysterious bands.
Does it sound better to you now?
Actually, it does sound better with time. But I never thought it sounded bad—I just thought it didn’t sound like us. The Doors were lost. It was Jim and the orchestra.
This was the first album where you had individual songwriting credits.
Right. Jim originally wanted everything to say “written by the Doors” to keep things mysterious. But everybody just took it for granted that he wrote everything. I think he realized that wasn’t fair and wanted to give others credit.
Did he actually write the music on those songs where he alone is credited?
No. He would hear the song in his head. But he didn’t play anything, so he would sing a vocal melody, and we would have to figure out what to do. But a lot of times he just had a poem on paper and I would come up with something. Other times I would come up with a melody, and he’d put words to it.
What about the Soft Parade sessions sticks out in your mind?
The endless mixing sessions. That was a very long, drawn-out album. We spent more money on it than we did on any other album. And Jim was hard to find. All the mixing bored the hell out of him. But I think his drinking problem wasn’t as bad as it was on Waiting for the Sun, because he had started making a film, which kept him busy.
There was one funny thing that happened. This crazy guy appeared and apparently he thought that “The Celebration of the Lizard” [a Morrison poem which appeared on Waiting for the Sun] was written about him. He was yelling, “How did you know that I’m the Lizard King, goddamn it! That’s me. You wrote a song about me!” And he smacked Ray right in the eye because he thought Ray was Jim. Ray had his glasses on and they just crumpled. It was a mess.
Before the poem appeared had you ever heard Jim refer to himself as the Lizard King?
He was always obsessed with lizards—he loved that kind of stuff because he’d seen it on acid a lot. But I don’t know when he came up with “I am the Lizard King.” I think he wished he had never said that. It was just another thing he had to live up to.
During the Soft Parade tour, your Miami concert erupted in pandemonium and was canceled. Later Jim was charged with indecent exposure. What do you remember of the concert?
Well, first of all, Jim did not pull it out. But it was bedlam, just total craziness. The place was oversold, thousands of people swarmed the stage, and it collapsed. I remember Jim just rolling around in the midst of all those people and I was wondering if we would ever get out of there. It was very much like in the movie — they did a real good job on that one.
But you had no sense that the incident was going to turn into such a big thing?
No, hell no! Okay, the concert was fucked up, and we didn’t finish, but nobody was angry, nobody asked for their money back. And the cops were friendly — they sat around drinking beers with us after the show. Nothing happened until a week later, when somebody decided to make a stink about it. Some politician decided to make their career at our expense. Then it fucked everything up. We couldn’t play anywhere for a year. The Hall Managers’ Association basically banned us.
Did Jim feel very persecuted?
I’m sure he did. But he wasn’t surprised. He knew he was pushing authority as far as it could go. We really did have the sense that we had pushed the system to the edge and finally they were pushing back.
Released March 1970
“Roadhouse Blues” and a couple of other songs on Morrison Hotel hinted at the changes to come on L.A. Woman—heading in a bluesier, more bare-bones direction.
I think it was a reaction to the overproduction of The Soft Parade. We wanted to get back to basics. “Roadhouse Blues” is one of my personal favorites. I was always proud of that song because, as simple as it is, it’s not just another blues. That one little lick makes it a song, and I think that sums up the genius of the Doors. I think that song stands up really well as an example of what made us a great band. And the session was really cool — one of my fondest memories of the band. We cut the tune live, with John Sebastian playing harp and Lonnie Mack playing bass—he came up with that fantastic bass line.
How did Mack end up on there?
He just happened to be hanging around. I think he had a contract with Elektra and wasn’t recording so they gave him a job at the studio. We just said, “Hey, why don’t you play bass?”
You co-wrote “Peace Frog” with Jim.
Yes. I had written the music, we rehearsed it up, and it was really happening, but we didn’t have any lyrics and Jim wasn’t around. We just said, “Fuck it, let’s record it. He’ll come up with something.” And he did. He took out his poetry book and found a poem that fit. But it always seemed kind of forced to me, to tell you the truth.
The legend has Ray and Jim being very tight, but you’re the one who wrote with him a lot.
In the very early days Ray was very close with Jim; Jim actually lived with Ray and his wife. He was almost like their son, and he was great for a while—he wasn’t drinking or anything. The problem was that Ray became a father figure, so Jim rebelled. He fucked their house up—trashed it on more than one occasion — and took advantage of them in many ways. Then I joined the band and sort of latched on to Jim, and we hung out a lot.
Ray worked up all the early songs with Jim — everything on the first album. Then I wrote a lot with Jim — before I started really writing on my own—and those songs went mostly on the second and third albums.
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