The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore sat down with Rick Rubin recently for an interview on his podcast, Broken Record, and discussed the band’s acid-laced live career.
The main thing we have learned, is that if you thought your first live performance was bad, you can always take heart from The Doors. During their conversation with Rubin, Krieger and Densmore describe the band’s first show at Hughes Aircraft Company, which employed the father of keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems it was not your usual corporate gig.
“They needed a band for some occasions,” says Krieger. “So we got together and, I can't remember the bass player then, but he only had one string on his bass! Then Ray was on acid and totally freaked-out. He was on a bummer acid trip and I don't know how he even played.”
Densmore is then prompted for his recollection but says he doesn’t even remember the gig, expect for “the big warehouse.”
“Well the gig was pretty weird,” continues Krieger. “We played some Mingus – I think – and Jim tried to sing a couple of things, but we didn't we didn't really have any songs worked up yet. Jim and I both took speed. I remember that.”
If nothing else, it puts fluffing chords into perspective.
The pair recalled their years playing all kinds of shows, from small shindigs at Krieger’s parents’ place to massive gigs such as their 1968 appearance at the Hollywood Bowl. That event was filmed and recorded for posterity, but was ultimately regarded as pretty disastrous. Again, LSD was involved…
“Jim took acid and didn’t tell us” says Densmore. “I remember saying to you [Krieger], coming off stage, ‘What’s [going on?]’ And he said, ‘He took acid!’ It was like, ‘Great, just great…’”
“Sometimes when he took acid he was great,” reasons Krieger. “But this time he got real introverted and he kind of just kind of didn’t move around much.”
“He saw a moth on the astro turf and picked it up and was examining it,” adds Densmore.
“And it didn’t help that his girlfriend Pam was sitting with Mick Jagger on the front row,” says Krieger. The chance to impress Sir Mick was not lost on them, but it seems the Rolling Stone man may have caught the wrong show.
“Jagger went out for dinner with us right before,” recalls Densmore. “We wanted to be really good for him and... damn it! Somebody asked about it and he said in Melody Maker, ‘The Doors are nice chaps, but they went on a bit long…’”
To be fair to Rubin, the rest of the interview goes much deeper than tales of psychedelics – the duo discuss frontman Jim Morrison’s ‘gifted’ approach to writing, why they opted against a bassist and “why we need a new 60s”, so check out the full interview on Broken Record’s YouTube channel.