July 6, 2013

Remembering Ray

Ray Manzarek The Doors Keyboardist

Harvey Kubernik And Kim Fowley Reflect On Doors Co-Founder Ray Manzarek

by Harvey Kubernik


ay Manzarek, keyboardist and the co-founder of the Doors, died May 30th at the age of 74 in Rosenheim, Germany, where he had been receiving treatment since March for bile duct cancer. Manzarek is survived by his wife Dorothy, son Pablo, and grandchildren Noah, Apollo and Camille.

I saw The Doors perform at the Forum in Inglewood, California in 1968, and first met Ray Manzarek in 1974 at Mercury Records on Hollywood Boulevard. I must have interviewed him a dozen times over the last third of a century.

Last decade, I produced Ray’s double CD audio biography, The Doors: Myth and Reality; The Spoken Word History. I’m one of the fortunate eight people listed in dedications in his autobiography, Light My Fire. Ray is also profiled and interviewed in my 2004 book This Is Rebel Music.

Last century I co-produced and curated a Rock Literature music series at the MET Theatre in Hollywood and all three surviving Doors performed one evening.

In addition, Manzarek penned the introduction to my 2009 coffee table book, Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. He also joined me for two book signing events in Oakland and San Francisco.

In 2011, Ray, Doors’ engineer/producer, Bruce Botnick, Elliot Lefko of the AEG/Golden Voice company and I were the featured panel discussion in the second annual Pollstar Live! Conference, The Doors-An L.A. Legacy, held at the Marriot at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California.

My next book, due out in late summer, 2013, Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972, carries a dedication to him.

Raymond Daniel Manzarek cared deeply about music, the Doors, art, cinema, the UCLA basketball team, his family, and our planet.”

A year ago Doors Live at the Hollywood Bowl ‘68 was released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital Video from Eagle Rock Entertainment. A CD, Digital Audio, and double LP was issued from Rhino.

“You can hear it as if you were at the Hollywood Bowl, on stage with is,” suggested Manzarek, who was joined at the legendary venue with John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Jim Morrison.

The missionary zeal of the collective was evident the evening of July 5, 1968. The Doors Waiting for the Sun LP topped the charts that summer.

In 2011, Ray told me, “Ecology was very, very big. We were all trying to save the planet. The sun was the energy. The supreme energy. The establishment, as we called it, the squares, they were called in the fifties, the establishment as they were called in the sixties, were trying to stop drug use, the smoking of marijuana and were trying to stop any kind of organic fertilizer. The word organic to them meant hippie, radical pot heads and people who wanted to leave behind the organized religions and start some new tribal religion based on American Indian folklore. That’s indeed what we were. We called ourselves the new tribe. We were working in the future space. The Doors on their third album were in the future. And many things have come to pass that Jim Morrison wrote about.”

As told to Harvey Kubernik

Ray Manzarek was a rock ‘n’ roll scholar. Ray Manzarek was Goodbye Mr. Chips as a young man and he never grew old. Ray Manzarek was from Chicago. So he understood Studs Lonigan and he understood Chess Records and he probably understood Riley Hampton. Google him folks. Ray Manzarek understood Vee-Jay Records. He must have understood Calvin Carter. He knew who Jerry Butler was. Just as important, Ray Manzarek knew where Europe was, he knew where Asia was and he knew where he fitted into the solar system. Ray Manzarek from the very beginning to the very end was an immaculate attired gentleman. He had his own sound, his own worldview and his own perception of what was surreal, real and unreal. We always got along well. We never recorded together. But we would speak sometimes in the shadows about the sunlight that we weren’t missing. Ray Manzarek will be missed. Somewhere in heaven Ray is playing music and the band has already improved their sounds since he joined.

Ray Manzarek in Milano Italy 2012

Ray Manzarek in Milano Italy 2012

I first saw the Doors when they were an opening act and unsigned band at Ciro’s on Sunset. There was a heckler in the audience who ridiculed the three musician Doors as they loaded their own instruments on stage and amps, and wanted to pick a fight with them. And he was doing a theatrical heckler imrov, and then jumped up to show them that he as an audience member could be a better singer than their missing singer who was probably hiding in the dressing room or outside in the street out of fear. And then Jim Morrison did “Break On Through.” That was the first song. The place went wild. Because no one had ever seen them before.

“Ray’s organ was a music box to a volcano. John Densmore was a jazz drummer. You also had a jazz keyboardist and a jazz guitarist all playing the blues with a great poet and actor fronting it.

It was tremendous. It was theater. Jim could sing in pitch, he had the image and the poetry. He understood theater. Manzarek supplied a pulse, and Robby the guitarist is never given credit what he brought to the table in 1967.

The Doors were not a rock ‘n’ roll band but gave you a rock ‘n’ roll feeling. And the only band that did that was the original King Crimson. ‘Cause they weren’t a rock ‘n’ roll band, either. But when you heard “Court of the Crimson King,” and Pink Floyd ’67, they were the only bands that had some Wagner with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude.

Earlier in 1965 I recorded a song “The Trip” in one take in the middle of El Monte with a group of pickup musicians. There was a Farfisa organ on the record. My original version was released on Corby Records, which is a defunct label out of Oregon who put it out. It was later covered by Godfrey on the C Jam label. I put one of the 500 copies that were manufactured into the hands of Jesse, the manager, owner, and bartender of the London Fog who thought it was a good song and put it into the jukebox. When the Doors showed up a year later they used it as their “break song.” Jesse would play it and it would be the signal for them to take their break from the bandstand. And if you hear a song for multiple weeks or months it will get into your subconscious and it will influence you.

(Author and music biographer) Albert Goldman many years ago came to interview me when he was researching a book on Jim Morrison. Once of the things he mentioned to me, knowing I casually knew some of the band members, been on stage with them a couple of times, was that he obtained the BMI or ASCAP logged reports on ‘The Trip’ and the frequent airplays it received in 1965-1967 on the jukebox at The London Fog. He was a good researcher. Some people have cited that “The Trip” might have had some influence on the Doors’ Soul Kitchen.

I saw the Doors everywhere. I introduced them at the Devonshire Downs Music Festival in Northridge in 1967. Astounding. They had magic.

In 1969 I was the MC of the Toronto Pop Festival at Varsity Stadium. The Doors followed John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. I introduced the Doors on stage.   I said, “Get ready for the Doors, who are coming on next.”

I had drunk some beer and on the original pressing of the live album you can hear someone saying, “Kim! You’re always on the wrong mike. Kim!” And I fell off the stage into the pit. Then I jumped back on stage. The Doors had to follow this and this was the first and only time you had John Lennon and Jim Morrison in the same bill. I don’t think they met or posed for photos.

The Doors started doing their thing. Around the third song of the set, out comes Chuck Berry, who saw the movie cameras, went up to approach Jim Morrison on stage and Jim Morrison stopped on stage and said, “You don’t let young musicians jam with you when they’ve offered. Shame on you. You should jam with young musicians. So now we’re gonna continue our set. Get off our stage, Chuck.” The place went wild. Then the show continued. The best artist that night was Tony Joe White playing ‘Polk Salad Annie.’ He had Booker T. and the MG’s behind him. That moment of Tony Joe White doing “Polk Salad Annie” was like Elvis Presley.

Ray and I both embraced and worked with punk rock musicians while many of our contemporaries then didn’t. He produced X and I worked with the Germs. I financed the live Germs album from the Whisky a Go Go. Ray and I were living in the future the whole time.

As a DJ on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on the SiriusXM satellite radio I play a lot of Doors. Because they are timeless. It’s the dream radio gig we all wanted in high school. Where we could sit there and play music and influence our classmates and our buddies and the girls that we knew and have the power of putting needle to vinyl or the modern equivalent and changing someone’s life with a series of musical combustion by creative sequencing. We put it all together from yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

The Doors


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *