The Doors' Robby Krieger Sheds Light — Album by Album — on One of Rock’s Most Mysterious Bands
Any strange memories from the Strange Days album?
One time, we were getting ready to leave for the night and Jim didn’t want to stop because he was feeling good. He kept saying, “Man, I want to play all night.” But we were all tired and wanted to go home. Jim finally left, but he came back half an hour later, climbed over the fence, broke into the studio, took out the fire extinguisher and sprayed it into the piano and all over everything. It was quite a surprise in the morning. [laughs]
Were you guys around when Jim recorded “House Latitudes”?
Yeah. He said he had a poem he wanted to read and he wanted something real weird to back it. There were all these instruments in the studio from an orchestra session—harpsichords and pianos and timpani. We all started banging on them and fumbling around inside the pianos, and there were 10 or 12 people just screaming at the top of their lungs. After we laid that down, Jim overdubbed the poem.
The funny thing was, as we were listening back at full volume and Jim was reading, the guys from the Jefferson Airplane came straggling in—high as kites, or course. They stared at us like we were out of our minds, but we just acted casual and said, “Oh yeah, this is one of our songs.” [laughs]
Were you friends with them?
Sort of. We always played on the same bill, but we didn’t really hang out much. There was always a bit of competitive vibe—to see who could blow who off the stage.
We didn’t hang out with other musicians that much—just Van Morrison when he came to town, and occasionally the guys in Buffalo Springfield. We didn’t get too close with the San Francisco groups—especially the Grateful Dead, who wouldn’t let us use their amps one night. We had a gig at Beverly Hills High School in the afternoon and then one about an hour up the coast in Santa Barbara, so we left our gear, figuring the Dead would let us use their stuff. You’d always let people use your amps in those days, but they just refused. I ended up playing through a Pignose or something equally ridiculous.
Ray was aghast at the fact that Pigpen wouldn’t let him use his organ. He kept saying, “Pigpen? Someone named Pigpen won’t let me use his instrument? I could catch cooties from his organ.” He couldn’t believe it.
WAITING FOR THE SUN
Released August 1968
It seems like the band was in a creative lull and feeling a lot of pressure by the third album. Do you see a band like Pearl Jam going through a similar thing?
Their situation is a lot different, but, yes, I see the similarities. I know Eddie [Vedder]—he sang with us at our induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year—and he wants to be like Jim. He was drilling me about Jim—asking me a million questions about how Jim would have reacted to various situations. And he is kind of a troubled person and a very serious guy, like Jim was. But I don’t think he, or anyone else in that band, is too fucked up to write good material. They may not be the straightest people in the world, but it’s not like our situation, where you have a guy who’s really out of control. Eddie’s not like that; he knows what he’s doing.
Does it trouble you to see someone emulate a person whose self-destruction you witnessed?
Yeah, it really does. I always tell people, “Don’t drink because Jim drank. That was a mistake. That’s what fucked him up.” If it weren’t for the booze he might still be writing today.
Had his drinking gotten seriously worse when you were recording Waiting for the Sun?
Definitely. That’s when the liquor really started being a problem. Before that, everything was more or less fine. LSD was no problem because it was a creative thing. There’s nothing good about liquor—it just fucks you up—though at first it relaxes you, which is what you probably need after taking eight-zillion acid trips. [laughs]
“Hello, I Love You” was a number-one hit and Waiting for the Sun topped the album charts. Can that kind of success get you through a creative lull?
It helped a lot. In fact, we were just going out on tour when “Hello, I Love You” hit number one, and it really buoyed our spirits. People always think that we stole that track from the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night,” but we weren’t thinking of them at all. What I did steal was the drumbeat: I told John to play something like “Sunshine of Your Love.” So, we ripped off the Cream, not the Kinks.
What specific recollections do you have of these sessions?
A lot of very horrible ones. By that time, Jim was being taken advantage of by various hangers-on. He would bring them to the studio and Rothchild would go crazy—all these drunken assholes would be hanging around, fucking in the echo chamber and pissing in the closets. It was a mess.
Jim would drink with anybody because we wouldn’t drink with him. He would take on all these assholes, who used him: “Hey, we’re hanging with Jumbo.” And they wouldn’t care how fucked up he got—they’d leave him on somebody’s doorstep in his own puke.
At what point did you guys refuse to drink with him?
I never drank with him because I didn’t like to drink to excess and he loved to go until he couldn’t see. I knew what was coming and hated to see it, so I would usually be gone by that point. John and Ray felt the same way.
Were you three using a lot of drugs at that point?
No. Not at all. And the fact that Jim was using so much made us use even less. The romance was definitely gone. Once in a while he would talk me into taking acid—just like you saw in the movie—but not often.
THE SOFT PARADE
Released January 1969
The Soft Parade features several heavily orchestrated, intricately arranged songs. Were you compelled to go into this direction because of the Beatles?
Yeah, totally. In those days you had to try to keep up with the Beatles! But, to be honest, I didn’t really like orchestrating the songs. It definitely wasn’t my idea—it was Paul Rothchild’s. I never would have done it.