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.
The Doors’ Jim Morrison lit the world on fire, but it was guitarist Robby Krieger who supplied the matches. In 2008, the legendary axman shed light on one of rock’s most mysterious bands for Guitar World.
The Doors’ Jim Morrison lit the world on fire, but it was guitarist Robby Krieger who supplied the matches. Here, the legendary axman sheds light on one of rock’s most mysterious bands.
“It was hard living with Jim.”
Robby Krieger is talking about his days as guitarist with the Doors, reflecting on his role as creative sidekick to one of rock’s all-time great lyricists, singers, sex symbols and extreme personalities, Jim Morrison. “It would have been so great if we’d just had a guy like Sting,” says Krieger wistfully. “You know, a normal guy who’s extremely talented, too. Someone who didn’t have to be on the verge of life and death every second of his life.”
The guitarist laughs at his own fantasy. He knows better than anyone that it was Morrison’s inner demons, which surfaced all too frequently, that gave the Doors’ music its resonance and power. But while Morrison was undoubtedly one of rock’s great visionaries, the contributions of the other Doors to the band’s unique sound and success cannot be overlooked. The blues-based, often hypnotic music created by Krieger, organist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore perfectly complemented Morrison’s commanding, sensual vocals and mesmerizing lyrics. And it was actually Krieger who penned many of the Doors’ greatest songs and biggest hits, including “Light My Fire,” “Love Me Two Times” and “Touch Me.”
Remarkably, when Krieger joined the Doors in 1965 he was only 18 years old and had been playing guitar for just two years — electric guitar a mere six months.
“I really learned to play as a member of the Doors,” he asserts. “I just tried to sound like myself—I consciously avoided copying Chuck Berry or B.B. King because that’s what everyone was doing. I tried to come up with the right part for the song and play something that would complement Jim’s singing.
“It must have worked,” he adds coyly. “I think we came up with a pretty good body of work.”
Pretty good, yes. Good enough to have gotten the Doors inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last January and to have inspired Oliver Stone’s reverential 1991 biopic. And, most of all, good enough to enthrall three decades of rock fans with music that remains as powerful and profound in the Nineties as it was in the Sixties.
Robby Krieger cannot escape his past with the Doors, even though the band essentially died with Morrison in 1971. Although he has remained active, touring regularly and recording seven solo albums dominated by instrumental music, Krieger says, “I realized pretty quickly that I would never again have another band like the Doors. Music has become more of a fun thing for me, much like painting is — something that’s personally rewarding. It’s what I do and how I identify myself: I’m Robby Krieger, guitarist.”
Most people would say: Robby Krieger, Doors guitarist. What follows are Krieger’s recollections of the Doors’ career, from their 1967 self-titled debut to 1971’s brilliant swan song, L.A. Woman.
Released January 1967
GUITAR WORLD: What was your first impression of Jim Morrison?
I first met him when he came to my house with John Densmore and he seemed pretty normal. I didn’t really get a sense that there was anything unusual about him until the end of our first rehearsal. Initially, everything was cool. Then this guy came looking for Jim. Something had gone wrong with a dope deal, and Jim just went nuts. Absolutely bananas. I thought, Jesus Christ, this guy’s not normal.
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