“Come on baby, Light my fire!” When you hear that, it really can mean just ONE thing…at least to anyone of and before my generation. It represents the same melodic yet intense voice and psychedelic sound that belted out “Riders on the Storm,” “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Hello I Love You,” and so many other tunes that helped to define a generation. Yes, the music of Jim Morrison and The DOORS.
As a teenager in the 70s, I was more into Led Zeppelin than The DOORS. Truthfully, it was a bit “out there” for me. But as I listen to some of the early Zeppelin stuff, I think that was a bit “out there” too!
I think it was Morrison’s chant-like poetry interspersed with the music that seemed too deep for me. He said things that I could not relate to at my ripe old age of eight. Jim passed away in July of 1971 of congestive heart failure. He became a member of the famed “27 Club” of those music legends who passed at that tender age. And so closed The DOORS.
But as the years went by, and I devoted more and more time to the AM and FM radio, I acquired a strong affliction to DOORS music. From a pop-rock radio standpoint, WLS, WLUP, WDAI, WMET, WXRT, WKQX, WCFL all packed its playlists with DOORS hits. There was NO way around it…I was going to hear DOORS songs, time and time again-and learn to love them all, learning them one lyric at a time!
And similarly, like many of the tunes and groups of that era, the songs remain timeless, just as good as the day they broke on radio, over fifty years ago. I still turn the radio up and put the windows down as these songs bring me back, and I murder them with my humble rendition.
Fast forward to my world today, filled with live music and blessed times spent with some of the very icons I grew up with. How lucky am I? Most of them are wonderful, some are great, and a few are downright mind-blowing.
One such Rock-Hero is Robby Krieger, singer, songwriter and guitarist of The DOORS. Robby recently performed at both our Arcada and Des Plaines Theatres. He gave us all the hits, masterfully sung by Robby’s son Waylon.
I have worked with Robby on several occasions, including interviews with the ageless star. He is full of great stories including the time in 1966 when The DOORS were playing the famous Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California as the house band and Van Morrison and his band joined The DOORS at the two-year-old, 500 capacity venue. It is mind-blowing to think that for only a couple of dollars, one could have seen both bands in that intimate setting!
On the last night of Van’s two-week stint, Jim was tripping on LSD and went into one of his tirades that literally stunned everyone in the room, including bartenders, guests and the Go Go Dancers themselves. Jim’s outburst was even too much for the venue (now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and The DOORS three month residency was over. And Jim didn’t remember a thing after!
Getting back to Robby, he has truly become one of the “trophy” relationships I have been blessed to foster in my career. He is soft-spoken and warm hearted, he paints, and wears some of the funkiest stuff I have seen on celebs! It is usually a psychedelic-patterned pants with an oversized cotton shirt. This last run he wore baggy pants that had the design of a crossword puzzle. Crazy!
After I introduced him, he sauntered onto the stage, garnering a sincere roar of love from the audience. And he returns that love by being generous with autographs and photos, humbled by the applause. As I stood backstage and the theatre was filled with the haunting sounds of Morrison, Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore, I felt as if I was transported back to the late 60s. That signature sound performed by the Krieger Band was as close as we can get to the real thing. And Robby was playing as intensely as ever, the music ever-flowing through his pores.
I watched him closely while putting it all into the perspective that HE was THERE with Jim and the guys, more than five decades ago, during one of Rock’s defining eras, the Laurel Canyon years. It was literally overwhelming to think about all the people he has performed with, for and around. Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix…the list goes on. Some planned interludes, some meetings by happenstance…still all in a reality that he lives today.
There is the famed story about the four DOORS band members giving themselves a homework assignment of each one taking a weekend to write a song. They got back to the studio, and of the four, Robby was the only one to complete the assignment. He wrote, “Light My Fire”, and the rest of the band added their own nuances to it, making it one of the band’s biggest songs, and one of the most popular songs in Rock history.
The tune did garner some backlash, however. It was the producers of “The Ed Sullivan Show” who asked the band to change Robby’s lyrics from “…couldn’t get much higher” to something else, as that was a “family show.” The band agreed to comply with the producer’s requests, but when it came to the live television performance, Jim stayed with the original lyrics, causing the group to be banned from future performances.
When asked by the press if he was upset at this wrist-slapping, Jim Morrison replied, “We already WERE on Ed Sullivan’s show. Who cares if we co back on or not?”
Robby Krieger on our historic stages is just another situation when legendary performers create surreal moments for all of us music fans, moments almost too big to truly comprehend. The DOORS may be gone as they were only actually together as a group for six years, but the band’s legacy lives on through Robby, and beyond. The “Fire” was lit, will rage for generations.