Robby Krieger watched Jim Morrison go from a "very shy and reserved" young singer to a wildman proclaiming himself as god. The Doors was quite a trip, but the guitarist tells the Guardian that the legacy of the band's music will outlive the Morrison stories.
“The music will outlast all the ‘crazy Jim’ stuff,” he tells the Guardian in a new interview, “the music is what will keep the Doors in people’s minds for the next fifty years.”
The stories around Morrison's increasingly wild and offstage antics don't need much exaggeration –“Most people, when they take acid get self-conscious and quiet,” Krieger says, promoting his new memoir, Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying and Playing Guitar with The Doors. “With Jim, it was the opposite. He would really go for it.”
Morrison wasn't a ready-made rockstar when the classic lineup of the band was finalised in California during 1965, with Morrison and pianist Ray Manzarek joined by Krieger and drummer John Densmore. While Krieger had already developed a background in flamenco, blues and jazz guitar, the vocalist was still green. “Jim had never sung before and your singing muscles need time to develop," the guitarist notes. "Vocally, Jim became a 95 on a scale of 100 after starting as a 10. His voice became a weapon”.
Though Krieger asserts even Morrison thought his 'Lizard King' persona name was "silly", the musician says the singer's willingness to push the envelope live was a crucial element in their success.
“When people saw us play, they knew that this wasn’t just a show,” notes Krieger, writing in the book that “there was no difference between Jim on-stage and off. I’m pretty sure Iggy Pop doesn’t roll around in glass in between trips to the supermarket and I doubt Hendrix ever set his guitar on fire just to keep warm. The magic of Jim was that he was just Jim.”
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of LA Woman, the Doors' final album with Morrison that hosts classic songs including Riders On The Storm, Love Her Madly and the title track. For Krieger it remains their best work and though it was tracked a few months before Morrison's controversial death, it marked a positive atmosphere of collaboration for the band.
“The coolest thing was when we were recording songs like Riders on the Storm and LA Woman, we were just jamming,” Krieger remembers. “We were making things up on the spot which we hadn’t done in years.
Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying and Playing Guitar with The Doors is out now