In the studio, you used bassists quite a bit. Would you track in a conventional way?
“On the first album, Larry Knechtel – late, great studio bass player – just overdubbed Ray’s basslines. We didn’t have Moog synthesizers, and the keyboard didn’t have the punch we needed. We needed a string, a bass string. Then later we started using bass players, and they’d add their own stuff. Like Jerry Scheff, who was on LA Woman, he twisted the bassline on that song. It was a lick that Ray played on a keyboard, but he couldn’t finger it. So bass players added stuff. Harvey Brooks – oh, what a great bass player. That was a lot of fun.”
What was the band’s relationship with Elektra like? Were label execs ever bugging you for “the next Light My Fire”?
“No, they were totally supportive. They let us do our thing, and then they’d choose a single. They’d lobby – I mean, they talked with us – but it would be their decision.”
How was your onstage equipment back then? Did things ever break down?
“It was… small at the beginning, and then it got really big. We had it all pretty together.”
So you could hear yourselves on stage? You didn’t play to screaming girls like The Beatles did, but your audiences were pretty raucous – sometimes there were riots!
“Well, yeah, but then when we played The End, everybody would get really quiet and then leave. [Laughs] Which was great – they were taking it all inside instead of dispersing it with applause.”
A lot of times, people tend to focus on the downsides to fame. What was great about being a pop star in the ‘60s?
“It was both great and hard, because Jim had a problem. Your buddy’s destroying himself, and you can’t seem to do anything about it. There weren’t substance abuse clinics, and so we didn’t really know what was going on or why it was happening. We were making great music, but it was difficult.”