OK, we’re shakin’ things up a bit this week, dipping a toe into the rock music world with Andrew Zohn’s sensuous and bluesy take on The Doors’ moody 1971 hit Riders on the Storm. Hey, you all love classical guitar versions of Beatles songs, so why not a tune from one of the great bands to emerge from Los Angeles in the late 1960s? The song is credited to all four members of the group: singer Jim Morrison (d. 1971), guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek (d. 2013), and drummer John Densmore, and is actually the final number the group recorded before Morrison’s death in Paris on July 3, 1971, at the age of 27. It appeared on the album L.A. Woman, released in April of that year. Andrew Zohn’s imaginative arrangement manages to combine elements of both the original slinky guitar and jazzy electric piano parts of the song, not to mention the rumbling bass line (played on the record by session musician Jerry Scheff).
Lest you think Zohn is just some “pop guy,” he has extensive and impressive classical guitar credentials that include playing on five continents; publishing numerous original pieces (around two dozen of them reviewed in the pages of Classical Guitar), as well as his transcriptions of works by Bach, Haydn, Rossini, Vivaldi, and others; and many years teaching at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Georgia—several of his students have gone on to win prizes at guitar competitions around the world. If you have the time, check out his YouTube channel, where you can see and hear him play everything from Bach to Gnattali to Gershwin to Assad, alone and in combination with other players.
A final personal note: Doors guitarist Robby Krieger had some background playing flamenco and a bit of classical guitar before he and the others met and formed The Doors. And the first bit of classical/flamenco guitar that really jumped out at me during my rock-obsessed mid-teenage years was a bit of Krieger’s flamenco-ish playing at the beginning of The Doors’ song “Spanish Caravan,” from their 1968 album Waiting for the Sun. Following that short bit of nylon-string fingerwork on the intro, Krieger then switches to a fuzzed Gibson SG electric guitar and unleashes a bit of the opening figure of Francisco Tárrega’s Leyenda (or Asturias). Around that time, I read an interview with Krieger in which he acknowledged his appropriation from Tárrega, and I remember not long after that hearing the full piece on a classical-guitar album a friend’s father owned (sorry can’t recall the guitarist). So, thanks to The Doors for giving me my first (brief) exposure to classical guitar! —Blair Jackson