Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar with the Doors
by Robby Krieger with Jeff Alulis
The Doors have always carried an air of mysticism for me. I first heard them as a child through my older sister and her friends, when I knew nothing of them but their haunting melodies and ability to transport you in a single song length. For instance, Riders on the Storm reminded me of the Tiny Toons episode where a family picks up a crazed hitchhiker after a trip to the theme park (the only concept I could conceive for “killer on the road”). The rainstorm is clear throughout the audio, the synth itself feels like raindrops, and Jim’s vocals create smooth, eerie tension. It’s both beautiful and creepy, it feels like a journey you know is dangerous but calls you all the same. That ability to transport is vivid in so many of their songs like Spanish Caravan, Moonlight Drive, and Roadhouse Blues.
As I got older The Doors were prevalent in pop culture, films like Lost Boys, and even though it was an Echo and the Bunnymen cover that spooky and sunny California air is perfectly embodied by The Doors’ classic People are Strange. Oliver Stone’s The Doors movie was one of those films that made the band into rock gods with wild lives that we as teenagers simply ate up. I even happened to stumble on Jim Morrison fanfics, reading an entire series dedicated to the poet and his tumultuous relationships.
So when I saw this book was available, written by Robby Krieger himself, I instantly dove. Once you’ve listened to the music and read the fan writings and the books of Jim’s poems, the chance to read all the Doors stories straight from the source is an absolute must and it did not disappoint.
Krieger breaks the stories down from their humble beginnings and that humility carries through the entire book. You never get the sense that these band members are the Rock Gods you see depicted in movies. All of those wild movie moments are dispelled into their small grains of truth and Krieger tells why there are so many Doors rumors around. Jim especially who’s been conceptualized as a drunken sex symbol is finally given the insight into his character that only someone who personally knew him well could give. There are so many cool stories that I urge anyone who’s a Jim fan (and dabbles in Jim fanfiction) to pick this one up just for that.
I expected to read a lot more about Robby’s own life, but as the title states he commits this book to mostly all Doors talk. He talks about his beginnings in guitar, his jazz and blues inspirations, and you get to follow his whole journey. After The Doors form and begin recording, he goes into detail about studio sessions spilling all kinds of recording secrets, things he wishes he could’ve changed, instances in the studios, and tidbits about how songs were recorded and overdubbed. You get to pull up tracks and listen to these songs in whole new ways.
The writing style is cool and laid back, even funny and very witty at times. It’s obvious that Robby has a gentle soul because even when there are tensions between the band members he never writes with anything like anger or spite. You can tell he looks back on his life with The Doors fondly. The entire work is a labor of love and if you love music the way I do, this book is an absolute must read.
Massive thank you to the publisher Little, Brown, and Company for providing a copy of this book for review.