BY SHAUN McGANN | I never got a chance to talk to Ray Manzarek on the telephone, but I almost did. Sorta. I was sitting in on a friend’s radio show and he had Mr. Manzarek on the line, “Hello, Evan, how are you?” I heard him say. Then th...
BY SHAUN McGANN | I never got a chance to talk to Ray Manzarek on the telephone, but I almost did. Sorta. I was sitting in on a friend’s radio show and he had Mr. Manzarek on the line, “Hello, Evan, how are you?” I heard him say. Then the call dropped. Not deterred my friend called back. “Sorry about that Mr. Manzarek.” This time I didn’t hear the other end of the conversation. The call dropped again. This time my friend didn’t call back. “He sounded a little annoyed,” he said. No point in pissing him off. Maybe he could call in on the next show. But he never did.
The Doors were big for me when I was a teenager. They’re still big with teenagers and it’s not difficult to figure out why—they sing about death and love and sex and the death of love and sex. They talk about little gateways to bliss, about politics, and Oedipal conflicts, and booze and drugs and the city and the night. When you’re young you feel the Doors music.
The Doors are still big for me. I’m prone to going on long listening jags as an elixir to boredom or depression, even writing rambling diatribes about such things. I still feel the Doors music, but that’s because I felt it when I was young. Some of it has been watered down from the pulverized horse-corpse of classic rock rotations and bar bands toasting at the altar of “I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.” And whatever to that. It’s all part of the legacy. Morrison as the drunken buffoon is certainly a large asterisk in their history as are the two post-Jim records, Other Voices and Full Circle.
But as much as it was/is Morrison on the magazines and t-shirts and covers of endless re-packaged Greatest Hits releases, it was also very much Ray’s band. Hunched over his Vox Continental like a man quietly possessed while keeping the bass with his right hand on a Fender Rhodes, he was the steady line throughout the songs while the rest of the band smashed, and screamed, and screeched over his foundation.
When I was going through my First Great Golden Era of the Doors during the second half of my high school years, I went through a stretch of buying interview discs, mostly alleged “imports” with jacked up prices. Many of these featured clips of Morrison interviews coupled with more recent interviews with the rest of the band reflecting on their history. The track and time listing on one read as follows:
Jim Morrison Interview – 5:13
Robby Krieger Interview – 11:47
John Densmore Interview – 19:01
Ray Manzarek Interview – 33:52
Ray could talk. He was enthusiastic. He was philosophical. Spiritual. He may have even been a little nuts. He dabbled in epic levels of hyperbole when he’d talk about Morrison as an “electric shaman” who “re-invented the gods.” He’d describe parts of songs with words like “oogga-dunt-dunt” and “chunka-dunka.” In his book Light My Fire he talked about how he separated Jim Morrison, the sensitive poet who was his friend, from “Jimbo” Morrison’s persona when he was drunk. Also in that book he railed against the accuracy of Oliver Stone’s film about the group where he and the rest of the band were essentially depicted as being along for the ride on Morrison’s death march towards Rock-God enshrinement.
That might be the reason why in the last 15 to 20 years there has been an enormous amount of output from a band that was only together for 7 years. There’ve been feature-length documentaries narrated by Johnny Depp, and smaller ones for TV about the making of their eponymous debut album, and L.A. Woman their final album with Morrison, live recordings of full shows in Vancouver, Boston, and Pittsburgh just to name a few, as well as a performance from their early days at the Matrix in San Francisco, vinyl-box sets, rarities discs, and the list goes on. Ray himself even directed videos for “The Crystal Ship” and “L.A. Woman.” People are still into the Doors and Ray was a driving force in keeping the people interested.
But in the last decade things got a little, well, um strange.