I can remember when I was in the 8th grade I went out and bought The Very Best of The Doors album for the sole purpose of the song Riders on the Storm. As time progressed I began to explore the album and listen to other tracks like Light My Fire, Love Me Two Times, L.A. Woman, Soul Kitchen, The End and Break on Through (To the Other Side). I was struck not only by how good and different the songs were, but the fact that I had heard them before in other aspects of my life. Showcasing their timelessness that in 2002 I was able to recognize recordings from thirty years earlier. My parents and relatives were surprised when they learned that I owned a Doors record, remarking how interesting it was that I was listening to a band that they had grown up with. How I doubt that I will be able to say the same.
It is a fact that there would be no Doors without Ray Manzarek. He was walking along Venice Beach one day contemplating his future, when he came across his former UCLA film school classmate James Douglas Morrison. Ray was under the impression that Jim was headed to NYC after graduation, and as they got down to chatting Jim confessed that he had stayed in LA and had been writing songs. Or as Morrison put it, “I was taking notes at a fantastic rock n’ roll concert going on in my head” (he had been taking copious amounts of acid at the time). Ray convinced Jim to sing him part of “Moonlight Drive” and its beautiful lyrics prompted Ray to remark “let’s go start a band and make a million dollars.”
Millions upon millions of dollars they did make thanks in no small part to Ray’s cultivation of the organ and bass parts for the band. Part of the Door’s unique appeal was that they had no bass player, setting them apart from other bands of the era. Instead, Ray used a Fender Rhodes piano which provided deep low notes as the bands bass. He played it along with a Vox Continental combo organ to round out the band’s sound of psychedelic, rock, blues, folk and soul. Manzarek was also very good at taking the business of making records and playing shows seriously. As a musician he was most concerned with how the band sounded and not sending any type of special message or delivering a captivating performance, as Jim was keen to do. He consistently gave great interviews with The Doors up until his death where he would recollect the history of the band and his experiences in it. Ray often tried to keep Jim in line when he would get lost in his own haze of alcohol, singing lyrics live when Jim would pass out on stage or otherwise be unable to sing.
A talented musician and honest professional, Ray Manzarek was a founding member of one of Rock’s greatest bands. He leaves behind a great legacy of music, interviews and achievements. He unlike many of us was able to leave something behind once he left this earth. For me, the band’s first album remains one of my favorites and in my opinion one of the greatest in rock history. As Jim would say, Ray has joined him on the other side of life and he will be missed.
This clip highlights the different personalities of the band as they introduce themselves at an airport while arriving for their European tour .
Here towards the middle with have Ray expressing how he hopes the band is received on tour and within it we see what is most important to him as a performer.