Set The Night on Fire, Living, Dying, And Playing Guitar with The Doors
published: 12 /
In her 'Raging Pages' book column Lisa Torem assesses Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger's new autobiography, 'Set The Night on Fire, Living, Dying, And Playing Guitar with The Doors'
The American rock band, The Doors, featured the dramatic vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. They formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The curious counter-culture of the era gravitated to Morrison’s erratic, spoken word approach to songwriting and the quartet’s wildly inventive arrangements.
Even the band moniker held an air of mystery. It was inspired by ‘The Doors of Perception’ by Aldous Huxley, and the William Blake line: ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to Man as it is: infinite.’ Certain youth interpreted that line as an invitation to take psychedelic drugs. Meditation and alternative lifestyles reigned. The Doors did their part by developing an intoxicating, sonic landscape, rife with cutting lyrics and mind-expanding riffs.
In this revealing biography, Krieger, the guitarist and co-writer of some of The Doors’ most striking hits, divulges vivid memories of the band’s global appeal. At a Midwest concert, Morrison ‘baited the crowd, writhed around, he used coarse language.’
When working alongside a front man who projected a god-like persona, the band often witnessed unpredictable crowd and authority reactions. As Morrison stretched the behavioural envelope night after night, arrests followed.
There was severe push-back even after the Morrison years. For example, Manzarek and Krieger were subject to tear gas cannisters in Bogota, Columbia: ‘I was just playing my guitar when suddenly I started gagging.’
The rollercoaster trajectory led to Krieger’s own addictions. In-house legal battles, automobile accidents and family traumas also play a big part in the book. In all cases, Krieger speaks frankly about not just the duress, but the transformations that resulted. The band members supported Morrison, especially when they felt he’d been scapegoated by agenda-seeking politicians.
‘For the record: The Doors never did peyote in the desert,’ the authors assert, when discussing director Oliver Stone’s 1991 film, ‘The Doors’, which, while beautifully filmed, relied on a certain degree of poetic licence. Fortunately, Krieger takes the time to separate other facts from fiction as well.
Throughout, there are pertinent nods to recording studio sessions where tensions brewed and imperative decisions were made, plus insider stories drawn from the Sunset Strip’s Whisky A Go Go and Krieger’s homestead on Topanga Beach.
As the stalwart keeper of the band’s flame, Krieger dispels murky myths, while providing a clear portrait of an incredible era and a forward-thinking band.
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