The Doors’ Robby Krieger recalls the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in England as “a little chaotic.”
Which, of course, is an understatement.
The show, which was the Doors’ third-to-last concert and the final one ever filmed, makes its appearance Feb. 23 as The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 — from which a live clip of “Light My Fire” is premiering below — on CD and DVD. Coming while the group was still in the midst of frontman Jim Morrison’s trial for indecent exposure and obscenity during a 1969 concert in Miami, it captures a unique moment in the Doors’ performance history.
“It was a nervous time for us,” the guitarist tells Billboard, “and it was pretty different than any of our other shows. Jim was in the midst of the Miami thing, so he wasn’t in the best of moods, and we were into the part of his career where he was way overweight and had the beard. He didn’t really do a great show; He sang well, but he didn’t move an inch, and usually he was real animated and all over the place, depending on how much drugs he had in him. And he insisted on green light only. He wanted it as dark as possible on stage, so they’re lucky they got anything, really.
“But other than that, it was pretty fun.”
The Isle of White recording does show that Krieger and fellow instrumentalists Ray Manzarek and John Densmore were in fine form, particularly on lengthier pieces such as “The End” and “Light My Fire” — with Krieger quoting the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” during his solo. “It was always one of our favorites to do because of the long instrumental section in the middle,” Krieger recalls. “Usually it was the last song in the set, or one of the last songs, so we were pretty warmed up by that time. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was one of my favorite songs ever — still is, and I still do that when I play ‘Light My Fire’ at my own gigs. Coltrane used to do ‘My Favorite Things’ in three-quarter time but we did it in 4/4. We didn’t even know of (The Sound of Music) version, really.”
Krieger has plenty of other memories from Isle of Wight, including performances by Jimi Hendrix and the Who and the gate-crashing crowd clashing with security. He also recalls flying to England from New York sitting next to Hendrix. “I hadn’t met him before, so it was pretty cool,” Krieger remembers. “When we got there, all he kept saying was, ‘Now remember, man, if you score first call me. If I store first, I’ll call you…'”
The Doors played just two more concerts after Isle of Wight, triumphantly in Dallas on Dec. 11, 1970, where the group premiered material from its upcoming L.A. Woman album, and catastrophically the following night in New Orleans. Krieger says that recordings exist of the Dallas show that are being prepared for future release. Meanwhile the Doors plan to continue releasing expanded 50th anniversary editions of its albums, with Waiting For The Sun on tap for this year.
“Some of my favorite songs that I wrote are on that album,” says Krieger, who’s also working on an instrumental solo album. “There are more anniversary plans ahead, too. It’s gratifying, because people really want to hear these things. It shows how deep a connection we made that 50 years later there’s so much demand and attention for it. We never would have expected that would be the case.”