It’s an unarguable fact that the sounds Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore created with The Doors were lightyears ahead of their time. Morrison, the enigmatic vocalist, is a figure that alternative music will always be grateful for—even if he was somebody that departed us painfully too soon. But all four bandmates were equally vital cogs in the machine that became one of the standout bands of the decade. The different influences each member brought into the fold is what partially gave them such a holistic and forward-thinking sound.
Morrison, along with his bandmates, never stood still for too long over the course of their short time together. They never stopped thinking about what was going to be ‘the big next thing’ rather than rest on their laurels and, with that in mind, it remains a sincere tragedy that Morrison passed away aged just 27 and the band were effectively stopped in their tracks. It’s a tragedy for those affected personally and professionally and one we’re sure the surviving members of the band left behind can’t help but lament.
Robby Krieger became a member of the Doors in 1965, at an early Doors rehearsal Morrison heard Krieger playing bottleneck guitar and initially wanted the technique featured on every song on the first album. Krieger’s fingerstyle approach to the electric guitar, broad musical tastes, and expert songwriting helped establish The Doors as a successful rock band in the 1960s and saw them become the face of the growing counterculture movement. Together with Densmore, he studied under Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar at the Kinnara School of Music in Los Angeles and further elevated his sound.
He went on to occasionally sing lead vocals with The Doors and can be heard on the song ‘Runnin’ Blue’ among others. Kreiger also took on vocals for the last two Doors albums which were recorded after Morrison’s death, Other Voices and Full Circle. The guitarist was only 19-years-old when he joined the group and there could easily have been a lack of expertise on his part thanks to his young age. But his musical upbringing was completed on a diet of the finest choice cuts of rock ‘n’ roll.
That same year as Kreiger joined The Doors, one album would be released that would change his life forevermore. Like many people his age, Krieger was supremely affected by Bob Dylan’s magnificent LP Bringing It All Back Home — which came at just the perfect time for the guitarist. “This guy from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who I knew in school named Bill Phinity turned me onto Bob Dylan,” Kreiger recalled to Guitar World. “We had a jug band called the Black Bay Chamberpot Terriers. Our only gig was for the Ladies Auxiliary. We played a bunch of [folk singer] Dave Van Ronk stuff,” he remembered.
“I was 19 attending [The University of California] Santa Barbara when Bringing It All Back Home came out. I was taking a lot of acid in those days, and everything Dylan said just really connected with me. There are a lot of great songs on that album — ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.’ ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ is one of my favourites. That was actually the first rap song as far as I’m concerned. Dylan used words like notes. He didn’t really care what they said, just how they sounded.”
That record is one of the most beloved Dylan albums of all time now but, at the time of release, it was met with a wealth of hostility. It saw the singer-songwriter leave behind the folk-heavy protest music that they associated with him and plug in his guitar to an amp and ‘go electric’. It was a move which some ‘fans’ saw as him abandoning his roots and even urged other fans to label him ‘Judas’ for turning his back on folk. The folk community may have turned their own backs on him after listening to Bringing It All Back Home but this experimentation would be one that Kreiger was all too thankful for.
“I always liked the way that Dylan played the guitar, although I never tried to copy the way he played. I was always amazed by how he could play the guitar and sing or play harmonica at the same time. But the spirit of Dylan’s music has always stayed with me through everything I’ve done with The Doors and the Robby Krieger Band,” Kreiger concluded.
On reflection, The Doors were worlds apart sonically speaking from Bob Dylan but it’s hard to deny that they shared the same maverick attitude. It was an uncompromising artistic pursuit which would act as the catalyst for the success of both acts and why so many would fall in love with their ethos’ just as much as their music. If Krieger tried to emulate the sound of the singer-songwriter with The Doors it would have been almost certainly disastrous but instead, he tried to channel his own inner Dylan from within. It was a move which paid off remarkably.