The Doors- Ray Manzarek

In January 1967 when John Densmore’s snare drum cracked like a rifle shot before Ray Manzarek’s nimble fingers made their intricate run of baroque-sounding notes on that reedy Farfisa organ, all on the introduction to jazz/flamenco guitarist Robbie Krieger’s composition “Light My Fire”, it clearly and boldly announced a unique approach to rock and roll that, more than half a century later, still really has no peer. And all of that before Jim Morrison stepped up to the microphone to introduce one of the greatest voices and hedonistic personalities in rock history. Not unlike Creedence Clearwater Revival from the same period, no other American bands put out more albums in less time which were more influential in the last 50+ years. And like CCR, no one ever sounded like The Doors ever since. Here is Doors co-founder the late Ray Manzarek with me In the Studio  to mark The Doors  anniversary.

Ray Manzarek’s memory for detail was positively cinematic. ” In 1966 The London Fog was this pathetic little bar on the Sunset Strip where The Doors played five or six doors down from the Whiskey a Go Go. On the London Fog marquee out front it said,’ The Doors band from Venice Beach’ with ‘Go Go Dancer the Lovely Rhonda Lane’ .” Apparently either the dancer had a great agent or she was sleeping with London Fog bar owner Jesse James. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

When he spearheaded the original VHS release of The Doors Live at the Hollyood Bowl   in 1987, the late Ray Manzarek did our first interview together in Dallas at Q102prior to a premiere event. Afterwards Manzarek graciously invited me to his hotel suite where we continued our conversation in private. He was such a good storyteller that when we launched the In the Studio  weekly national radio series about fifteen months later, I wanted Ray to give the show instant credibility with another classic rock  interview about The Doors‘ 1967 debut album. So it was arranged for me to visit Manzarek’s tile-roofed stucco Beverly Hills home just a few blocks off Rodeo Drive. 

I arrived about fifteen minutes late, only to be informed by his quiet-spoken wife Dorothy that when I had not shown up on time that Ray had second-guessed his instructions and headed to longtime biographer/ publicist Danny Sugerman’s place hoping to find me there. Returning home clearly annoyed, Ray accepted my sincere apology and appeared to shrug it off, ending up sitting for hours at his breakfast table next to a lovely oriental garden as the Doors co-founder regaled me in his rich baritone with rock campfire stories of Jim Morrison, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore, complete with heroes, villains, Greek gods, and yes, ghosts.

The top 10 list of  rock game-changing debut albums is short but breathtaking. Among them: Are You Experienced?, Led Zeppelin 1, Music from Big Pink, Ramones, Please Please Me, Never Mind the Bollocks. But ever since John Densmore’s opening snare drum shot through the ether to my little transistor radio tuned to some distant big city Top 40 station, The Doors‘ January 1967 debut took up permanent residence in any such aggregate collection purporting to have transfigured rock’n’roll. Guitarist Robbie Krieger, keyboard/bass pedal player Ray Manzarek , and vocally gifted wildchild Jim Morrison did more to influence the next 55 years of popular music with less (six studio albums in five years) than just about any band in rock history. With the passing of Ray Manzarek at age 74, we swing open the door of  time In the Studio for this  classic rock interview. Essential stuff. –Redbeard