Doors founding guitarist Robby Krieger sat down with Reverb.com for a fascinating conversation about his early days of performing, with a special focus on the writing of the group’s songs “Peace Frog” and “Light My Fire.”
Krieger was 19 when he helped form the Los Angeles–based group in 1965. Though he’d started out as a flamenco guitarist, Krieger got turned on to rock and roll by Chuck Berry around 1964, when he saw him perform. He subsequently went looking for a guitar like Berry’s cherry-red Gibson ES-335 before settling on a Gibson SG with the same finish. He tells Reverb that for the Doors’ 1967 self-titled debut album, he used the SG straight into a Fender Twin Reverb, adding a Gibson Maestro distortion pedal to his setup by the time the group recorded its sophomore effort, Strange Days, later in 1967.
Recalling “Peace Frog,” from 1970’s Morrison Hotel, Krieger reveals that he and lead singer Jim Morrison found lyrics for the song by mining words from a Morrison poem called “Abortion Stories.” “It had some cool stuff in it, and he said, ‘Oh, I think I can make this work,’” Krieger recounts.
As for “Light My Fire,” the group’s break-out 1967 hit, Krieger recalls that he wrote the song’s music after Morrison complained that he had to do all the band’s songwriting. Curious to know what he should write about, Morrison told him to “write about something universal—something that will last, not just about today.”
“So I decided I’d write about earth, air, fire or water,” Krieger says. “And I picked fire because I always liked the song by the [Rolling] Stones, ‘Play with Fire.’”
Krieger also elaborates on the song’s opening, which uses numerous chords that were uncommon in rock and roll. “I said, ‘Those poor chords, nobody ever uses them,’” he explains before demonstrating how to play it.
Take a look for yourself below.