Jim Morrison announced to his fans that he was going to “get my kicks before the whole shit house goes up in flames.” Cleansing the Doors of perception enough to glean what transpired within the group is a risky business, as there are more points of view than stars in the sky. The Doors would sell over 80 million records worldwide, as conga lines formed following Jim in his doom-laden mantra of partying self-destruction bringing such sweet sorrow.

A rock group that lobbied long and hard for peace had its own share of riots, rifts, and inner rebellion against one another. Yet the soundtrack to the story remains as vibrant and gripping as the day the band first struck a chord in the Whisky A Go Go. Krieger, Manzarek, and Densmore fought bitterly over even the use of band’s brand to hype tours with two original members on stage. As Krieger brings his band to New Jersey, the power behind the music overshadows all of this. Fans would be wise to make the trip to the Ocean City Pier and witness firsthand the power that this music still produces from any stage the guitarist graces.  The subplots can act as a soap opera for music fans, only increasing the mystique that follows the caravan. 

Live For Live Music writer Bob Wilson was able to ask Doors founding guitarist Robby Krieger about his legacy, the music, playing with his son, and other thoughts crowding his mind. Krieger’s insights are as interesting as they were in the Summer of Love, and his music as mesmerizing. Robby Krieger will bring his band to Ocean City Music Pier in New Jersey on June 29th (Purchase Tickets).  Lead vocals will be handled by Robby’s son Waylon Krieger, as they play the very best of The Doors catalog.

L4LM: The Doors went without adding a permanent bass player, was that by design from the start?

Krieger: We actually intended to add a bass player.  We tried three or four different players, but we didn’t sound the same.  Ray added a Fender piano bass, so we didn’t feel we needed more than that.  A band called the Seeds had a piano bass, and it made the sound more ‘grungy’.

L4LM: Did you cover bass on any studio tracks?

Krieger: I did on the first album, on some tracks like “Back Door Man”, and “Soul Kitchen”.

L4LM: You brought Elvis’ bass player Jerry Scheff in for the “L.A. Woman” sessions; The King sort of met the Lizard King.

Krieger: Jerry Scheff was great to play with,  and Jerry fit right in with us.  His playing on “Love Her Madly” made that song.  Jerry would play what Ray would play.  On “Riders on the Storm”, for instance,  Jerry would play the exact line as Ray had played on the keyboard.  

L4LM: Some books make it sound as if you only played guitar for three months prior to joining the Doors. Is that true?

Krieger: I had been playing flamenco guitar, and mostly folk music for two or three years.  After seeing Chuck Berry play live, I switched to an electric guitar about three months before joining the Doors.  

 L4LM: How many bands had you been in before the Doors?

 Krieger: I’d played in a folk-oriented group called the Clouds, and in the Psychedelic Rangers (with John Densmore).  We hadn’t done any gigs, though. We were more or less just jamming.

L4LM: On the Ed Sullivan Show, you got in so much trouble for saying ‘higher’. Yet on Jonathan Winters variety show, it wasn’t any sort of an issue. Why was that?

Krieger: The producer on Ed Sullivan made a huge issue out of it.  The producer also pressured The Rolling Stones to alter their lyrics and sing, “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” (instead of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”) The Doors stayed true to themselves.  -Jonathan Winters wasn’t much of a rock and roll fan.  We did have a good time when we did his show. He came out after the show was over, and most of the audience was gone.  He did a monologue that lasted for about an hour, and we all loved it.  He was really brilliant, and spontaneous.  It seemed that Jonathan just couldn’t turn himself off, and he had to keep performing.

L4LM: The Doors took some risks in bold protest, but protest that was principled. Songs like “Love Me Two Times” seem inseparable from remembering the Vietnam War, and the era in general. What comes to mind when you think of that one?

Krieger: “Love Me Two Times” was banned largely due to the fallout over Miami. If that hadn’t happened and so much airplay being lost, it would have reached number one on the charts.  

L4LM: Miami leaves Jim looking like quite the handful. In interviews he rarely seemed to shed his public persona. What was he like in more quiet moments?

Krieger: If you watch the Feast of Friends DVD (2014), you can see footage of Jim speaking with independent Pastor Fred L. Stegmeyer. In that footage, you see more of the real Jim.  He was very cordial, and at heart a true southern gentleman.  It was only in the last year or two, when Jim started getting much more seriously drunk that things changed.  Before that, Jim was really fantastic to be around.

L4LM: What was the writing process like when you did a song with Morrison? 

Krieger: On the first album, five or six songs just popped into Jim’s head. The words and the music came to him simultaneously, like “Moonlight Drive”.  That was before I had actually joined the band. Jim had some excellent Acapulco Gold around that might have helped somewhat. Later on the songs that I wrote with him, he would show me the words that he had written, and then I would start to work on the music. The first demo of “Moonlight Drive” really stands out in my mind as an example of Jim’s early writing. People can probably find that demo on YouTube, and I think on one of our box sets.

L4LM: In terms of rarities, is there anything special left in the vault?

Krieger: We have recently found some multi-track tapes that are very worthwhile. Most of the music is live, but we may have a surprise left from the studio.  There are also some alternate versions of songs from the studio.

L4LM: Is it true that you were meditating before the Beatles, and into the sitar before the ‘Quiet Beatle’?

Krieger: Ray, John, and I had seen the Maharishi in New York in about 1966.  Including us, there were only about ten people there. I started playing the sitar at that time. I still have a coral sitar that I use. Yeah, so we had actually been into meditation before the Beatles were, which is kind of cool.

L4LM: Is it true that George Harrison came to one of your Soft Parade recording sessions to visit, and check out what you fellows were up to?

Krieger: George Harrison came in, and also Paul and John. The Rolling Stones were recording Gimme Shelter” at the time, and some of them also came around. The San Francisco musicians weren’t as friendly with each other as you might have thought at that time. I guess that had to do with competition, and being on different record labels, and things.

L4LM: Jim Morrison is said to possibly have visited the Beatles during the White Album sessions, and maybe sang background on “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.  Any thoughts on that?

Krieger: There might be some truth to that story. Jim had spoken with a couple of the Beatles.

L4LM: Any other studio memories that stand out?

Krieger: Well, John Sebastian played the harp on “Roadhouse Blues”. He was billed as Giovanni Puglese for that one. That may have been because he was signed to a different record label.

L4LM: How did you feel about Paul Rothchild as your producer? 

Krieger: Paul had produced the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and he was a hero to me.  Paul also produced Turner, Ray & Glover on a record I loved called Blues, Rags and Hollers. Paul was a super cool guy from back East. Paul knew all of the folk music from back then, which was good for us.

L4LM: Have any of the acts that obviously emulated you impressed you?

Krieger: Eddie Vedder, Nirvana, The Cult (with Ian Astbury). And I also liked Echo and the Bunnymen very much.   

L4LM: Why weren’t the Doors at Woodstock?

Krieger: Ray Manzarek actually said, “Are you kidding?  Who is going to travel up to Woodstock?” Ray’s estimation kept us from joining the bill. But John Densmore was in the audience as a spectator. 

L4LM: And how about Monterey Pop?  What kept you away?

Krieger: Lou Adler kept us away.  He didn’t like us.  He had wanted to produce us, and was angry that we had chosen to stay with Paul Rothchild.  I would like to have played at that show, but you can’t look back.  

L4LM: Were you surprised at the aftermath of Miami, and that Jim found himself in such deep trouble?

Krieger: Well, it reminds you a little bit of the struggles that Lenny Bruce experienced with free speech. If adversity helps the artist to create, perhaps all of that helped to make L.A. Woman such a great record.  Jim headed to Paris to cool out, so we never did much touring in support of the record.  It was well reviewed right away.  

L4LM: When you started Other Voices with Jim in Paris, did you expect him to come back, and to be a part of the record and the band?

Krieger: Yes, definitely. We kept writing and rehearsing, and thought when Jim returned we would complete it together.

L4LM: Any thoughts to the follow up to that one, Full Circle?

Krieger: The Doors had so many Spanish speaking fans that the song “The Mosquito” became a fairly big hit worldwide.  Argentina has a very large number of Doors fans, among other places.   

L4LM: Can we expect some Doors nuggets that you didn’t play the last time around?  

Krieger: You can definitely look for some surprises that you wouldn’t have heard the last time we were on the East Coast.

L4LM: Waylon brought his own vocal style to the Paramount last time. That was a great show.

Krieger: It is great being on stage with him, and he is bringing his own unique style to the band. He is a fine guitarist, but he will concentrate all of his efforts on the vocals this time.

L4LM: Thanks for the shared thoughts, and for your time.

Krieger: You are very welcome.

Words by: Bob Wilson  

[photos by Wayne Herrschaft, where noted]


  Tour Schedule & Tickets:  http://www.robbykrieger.com/






 Waylon Krieger’s IMDB page