Left with time on his own, following the onset of the pandemic, The Doors’ founding member and guitarist Robby Krieger returned to something he started two decades earlier, recounting his life story, and his many lives with The Doors, in a new memoir Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar with the Doors (Little, Brown).
Waiting for the right time to tell his stories around his time with The Doors, Krieger—who penned some of the band’s biggest hits, including ‘Love Me Two Times,” “Touch Me” “Love Her Madly” and their first hit in 1967 “Light My Fire,” which he originally wrote for the band in 1966—pulling the set the night on fire verse from “Light My Fire” for the memoir title since The Doors’ late keyboardist Ray Manzarek already used Light My Fire, My Life with The Doors for his memoir in 1999.
Never following any special order of events, Set the Night on Fire is Krieger’s record to set some stories straight about the band, their internal workings, and tall tales that have extended over time, and debunk the picture of the band loosely portrayed in the 1991 Oliver Stone-helmed film The Doors, show more fictitious elements of the band’s relationship and the time leading up to Morrison’s death in 1971 at the age of 27, as well as replacing the 1980 book No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman.
“My point in doing this book was getting everything right,” Krieger tells American Songwriter. “When you watch that movie sometimes you end up believing everything, so I wanted everything correct. This should be the real version of how everything happened.”
Throughout Set the Night on Fire, Krieger, now 75, reflects on his formative years, growing up in Los Angeles, drugs bouts, and his battle with cancer, all weaved around joining one of the most famous band’s in rock history.
Moving through early writing sessions with Morrison in his parents’ living room and the band’s first house party gigs, Krieger tells the real story behind his relationship with Morrison and more behind the band’s controversial TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, a result of Morrison’s emphasis on the word “higher,” and the infamous black eye Krieger had during the band’s 1968 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which, despite made-up myths and stories over time, was not the result of a fight with the frontman.
“My black eye should serve as a reminder that no matter how much a person thinks they know about The Doors, there’s always more to the story,” says Krieger. “Much more.”
Co-written with Jeff Alulis, former touring vocalist for the Dead Kennedys and author of the punk autobiography NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, the book was initially started as a film idea but turned into deeper recollections of the guitarist’s time with The Doors, and follows drummer John Densmore’s 1992 release Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors and Manzarek’s Light My Fire—both books, which resulted in the two musicians filing lawsuits against one another.
Krieger’s book precedes the 50th anniversary of LA Woman, the band’s sixth album, and last with Morrison, and the release of a deluxe edition including recently discovered original taped reels, featuring an unearthed demo of “Riders on the Storm.” On Nov. 4, The Doors: Live at the Bowl ’68 Special Edition concert film is also set to screen, featuring previously unseen footage and the band performing “Riders on the Storm” and “L.A. Woman” with former Chicago bassist Jason Scheff, whose father played bass on the L.A. Woman album.
Now more than 55 years since The Doors formed, Krieger hopes to shed more light on the stories around the band he grew and lived with for and hardcore followers and future fans.
“I just wanted to set the record straight on everything that actually happened,” says Krieger. “It’ll be interesting to people who don’t know that much about the Doors to see how a kid like me that grew up and ended up in a band like The Doors.”
Photo: Araya Diaz