"Opening new Doors // New songs and a sense of humor in boxed set"

30 Nov "Opening new Doors // New songs and a sense of humor in boxed set"

Chicago Sun-Times
November 30, 1997

NEW YORK Robby Krieger still dreams about Jim Morrison.

“He was the most influential person in my life,” he says of his late friend and bandmate. “I never met anybody like him.”

The mystique that’s grown around the singer since his death in Paris July 3, 1971, at age 27, has led to countless greatest hits compilations and rereleases of Doors material. The latest is a new four-CD boxed set.

“When I first heard the idea of a box set, I figured, well, a box set is all of your albums and then maybe some other stuff,” Krieger said. “So we started looking for other stuff, and we kept finding more and more other stuff, until finally it turned out that three out of the four CDs are unreleased material.” In its first week of release, the collection sold more than 18,000 copies, according to Elektra Records.

Guitarist Krieger, 50, and drummer John Densmore, 52, spoke about the new collection during an interview at a New York hotel. (Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, 58, was getting over an illness and remained in California.)

The Doors, named after Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, formed in 1965, bringing together jazz lover Densmore, flamenco and folk enthusiast Krieger, classically trained blues fan Manzarek, and the literary-minded Morrison. Combining Krieger’s sensual guitar licks, Densmore’s strong rhythms, Manzarek’s catchy organ riffs and Morrison’s luscious baritone, they topped the charts with “Light My Fire,” “Hello, I Love You” and “Touch Me.” And Morrison’s and the band’s appeal is enduring. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Director Oliver Stone recounted their story in his 1991 movie, “The Doors,” starring Val Kilmer as an eerily right-on Morrison. And they still sell more than a million records in the United States each year.

Krieger and Densmore maintain that Morrison was a great guy when sober – and a monster when he was not. Drug and alcohol abuse dogged the singer throughout his life. “I remember on the second album, Paul (Rothchild, Doors producer) said to us after Jim was supposed to come into the studio one day and he was on acid and never came, he said, `Boys, we’d better record as much as we can right now, because I don’t think this guy’s going to be around very much longer,’ ” Krieger said. That sense of foreboding stuck. “We knew it, but we kind of didn’t,” Densmore said. “We thought maybe he’d live to 80 as an Irish drunk. “I threw my sticks down on the third album, the `Waiting for the Sun’ sessions, and I said, `I quit!’ It was so hard for me to see this great thing we created being destroyed, (seeing) the humanity of my friend and not being able to stop him. But I came back the next day, didn’t I?” Densmore said.

Despite Morrison’s erratic behavior, the music still came easily. “‘L.A. Woman’ is a real good example,” Densmore said. “It was our last album, and Jim was clearly drinking too much and had a problem. It was pretty strained. But somehow when we recorded and wrote songs, it wasn’t hard.”

One of the objectives of the boxed set was to show Morrison’s underappreciated sense of humor. On one of the compact discs, he tells the crowd they’re being recorded and urges them to scream out any chosen obscenities as loudly as they can. “Jim was funny and lively and wild, not all dark,” Densmore said. One track, “Orange County Suite,” combines an old Morrison vocal that appeared on 1978’s “An American Prayer” poetry album with music the band recorded this year. The track was Manzarek’s brainchild. Recording the song felt a bit odd, Densmore said. “Jim’s in the headphones like usual, but he’s not in the vocal booth,” he said with a wry chuckle.

The live CD was compiled from several shows recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1970. Doors shows were at best unpredictable; nothing was ever scripted, there were no set lists. “I was the one with the pencil going, ‘All right, we’re going to write a list,'” Densmore said. “Jim would never agree past three or four songs, so then we would wing the rest. We’d argue in front of everybody about what song to play – in the middle of the show.”

The final disc is composed of five songs each member selected as his favorites. Among Krieger’s favorites: “Light My Fire,” which he wrote along with such hits as “Love Her Madly” and “Love Me Two Times.” Manzarek chose tracks that explored the star-crossed relationship between Morrison and his longtime girlfriend, Pamela Courson – for example, “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind.”

Writer Michael Ventura says in the boxed set’s liner notes that the Doors remain in the public consciousness today because they didn’t say that “the world was insane, or the ’60s were insane, or the Vietnam War was insane, or our parents were insane, or history was insane. The Doors said over and over that WE were insane. And we responded because that’s how we’ve FELT.” Densmore saw it a bit more simply. “Jim didn’t write overtly about changing the world. He wrote ‘The Unknown Soldier’ rather than saying `Vietnam,’ ” he said. “So maybe what he was really saying was look inside, look at your dark side and get that together, then it’ll change the world out there.”