At the age of 18, Robby Krieger joined what would turn out to be one of the most important psych-rock groups of the 1960s; The Doors. Renowned for their wild antics and their charisma-oozing frontman, Jim Morrison, the LA-based group defined the sound of west coast psychedelia, stamping an indelible mark on popular music that it still bears to this day. Kreiger was instrumental in the development of the group’s sound, writing many of the group’s best-known tracks after teaching himself guitar as a teenager. The last word you would use to describe Krieger, however, is amateur.
Today, he consistently ranks as one of the most iconic guitarists of all time. Following the death of his friend and bandmate Jim Morrison in 1971, Krieger continued to perform with The Doors as a trio until their eventual demise in 1973. Here, we take a look at an album that reminds Krieger of The Doors’ glory days.
In a 2012 interview, Krieger was asked to name some of the albums that have made an impact on him throughout his life. His selection, which includes Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, and Ravi Shankar, acts as a reminder that he lived through one of the most creatively explosive eras in the history of recorded music history; a period in which the boundaries between genres were far more permeable than they are today. Perhaps the most important selection Krieger made was one he was directly involved in, the posthumous spoken word record, An American Prayer, by Jim Morrison.
Describing how the LP came together, Kreiger said: “One of my favourite albums that we did was called An American Prayer. Before he died, Jim spent a night recording his poetry, just speaking it. I’d heard all those words before from reading his poetry book but the way he read it was very melodic. And I said ‘man, we could put music to that, that would be great.’ So we went in the studio and started putting music to these poems. Nobody else could have done it, because we knew his phrasing so well.”
Part of the reason An American Prayer is so poignant is that it embraces Morrison in all his complexity. As Kreiger recalled: “One time, when we were recording the song ‘When the Music’s Over’, Jim was off on an acid trip somewhere and he didn’t make it to the studio. So rather than blow off the whole day, we said well let’s just put the music down and we’ll imagine him singing and then see if he can come in later and do the vocal. And we did it and it worked. Some day people are going to realise how good that album is.”
An American Prayer really is an astonishing album, although it divided fans at the time. Some saw it as a tribute to the late Jim Morrison, while others regarded it as nothing less than an insult to his memory. Personally, I love it. The Doors are so veiled in their own mythology that it’s actually quite difficult to approach their albums on one’s own terms. An American Prayer offers us an antidote to this problem, showing us a side of Morrison that was rarely seen in public, and which is still hugely underrated: his power as a poet.