The Ray Manzarek Interview.
Parts of this interview can be heard on the 2 x 7" boxset, "The Doors Tapes", released by Final Vinyl in 1992. Recently, I discovered an unsold quantity of boxes. They are now available on eBay. For more details, click HERE.
It was November llth, a week after The Doors had been in London. Ray Manzarek was back on his own to promote "Carmina Burana". I had been told by A&M, his record company that I could get an interview before he returned to The States. So, I went back to Blakes Hotel where we spent nearly three hours in conversation about every aspect of Ray's career. For the purpose of this section, I've only included parts relevant to The Doors.
Rockmine: For starters, you've been quoted somewhere as saying you first got together with Jim in 1962 in a Jazz band.
Ray: No, I was playing in.. Let's see, it was 1963, I was playing in a jazz band in Los Angeles. Jim was a student in the film department as I was and we were just ... Jim wasn't a musician ... Jim came to some of the gigs that we played. We played a place called Mother Neptune's; sort of a late beatnik coffee house in Los Angeles and played jazz, sort of Horace Silva like and Jim came down occassionally.
Rockmine: Were you playing with Ed Cassidy at that time?
Ray: Exactly, Ed Cassidy was in the band. Ed Cassidy, a poet named Michael Ford in Los Angeles played bass and we had a trumpet player and a tenor player. We were like a Horace Silva like group.
Rockmine: How long did that last?
Ray: Oh, that was just for fun. It might have been off and on for the course of a year, perhaps. That was about it.
Rockmine: You studied music?
Ray: I actually studied music. I sat at the piano and read music, yes. I didn't study in college but I was continuing lessons. In college I was involved in economics at De Paul University and then I went to UCLA to study film, So music has always been sort of a sideline for me.
Rockmine: That explains why you're that bit older than the other members.
Rockmine: Going back, were you screaming Ray Daniels?
Ray: I was. With Rick and The Ravens for a while. It was Rick And The Ravens with Screaming Ray Daniels.
Rockmine: What sort of following did you have?
Ray: Oh, a cult of about five. I think they were assorted girlfriends and one or two male groupies and that was about it.
Rockmine: Looking back on it, you've said in the past that you had a contractual commitment to the two albums but people have said that the contract with Elektra was finished.
Ray: The original contract was finished with L.A. Woman and then after Jim died and we decided to carry on, we signed with Elektra Records for a five album contract and we did two records on the contract and then we decided not to continue any more.
Rockmine: What was the feeling behind those, because you rehearsed some of the songs ...?
Ray: We rehearsed some of the songs while Jim was in Paris. Jim was in Paris and we were in our rehearsal studio putting songs together and I think if we did any song ... I can't quite remember .... we might have done one of the songs with Jim before he left ... as a matter of fact I think we did ..."Get Up And Dance", yes was one of the songs we did rehearse with Morrison.
Rockmine: Did you not also do "Down On The Farm"?
Ray: Ah, yeah, I think so. Right, I think "Down On The Farm" also ... right. They were just a couple of things that were in a sort of rough state and we just fooled around with them briefly.
Rockmine: Now both the albums were hit very hard by the critics ...
Ray: Yes, they were ... my goodness ... I'm sorry, God ... you know ... we didn't have Morrison .... what can I tell you ... we did the best we could and we tried to sing as well as we could and granted, you know, nobody else in the band had the charisma of Morrison but then no-one else who's come along in the last twelve years has had the charisma of Morrison, so why kill us?
Rockmine: Do you think any of the criticisms had any justification?
Ray: Well, you know, these weren't the greatest ... ultimately that's why we put The Doors to bed. We didn't feel that this was the greatest music either. It was good music and it was fun to do and we had a good time doing it but it just wasn't the same without him and to continue on without Morrison just wasn't the right thing to do.
Rockmine: Can I pick up on something here ... It seems there was constantly this talk of Morrison as the shaman [...Yeah]. Now, am I right in assuming that the shaman was the Indian medicine man [...Yeah] who would be driven into a frenzy by the beat of the drums [...Exactly]. Now, it's rather like African drummers who're called Master drummers because they're in touch with something that nobody else has. I get the feeling that Morrison is just this name that people keep coming up with. I was listening to the Amsterdam gig (where Jim was taken to hospital and missed the show) and you still had the same control over the audience. There wasn't this person out front but it seems to me as if Morrison, The Shamen, was picking up the power from you guys ...
Ray: Well the shaman would never do his performance or go into his shamanistic trance unless he had his band with him. The shaman and the band worked together and the musicians worked together in the same way with Morrison ... you know ... we needed Jim ... Jim needed us, we all worked together and when Jim was there he was the leader and he would take the energy and we would go with him and just give him the energy and allow him to go insane. If he wasn't there, we you know ... like in Amsterdam, we did our best. The power existed in every member of The Doors. We all understood that sinking into the rhythm of the music and we all tried to do that and when we all did it together it was invariably an incredible show.
Rockmine: The thing that strikes people is the organ sound that you came up with [Uh-huh]. There are very definable parts of The Doors which didn't require Morrison to be there to have a hypnotic effect.
Ray: Yeah, well ... we were all into ... that's why The Doors were successful. It was Jim Morrison as the centre and the figure and the spokesman, the figurehead and the central core of the energy but we were all into the same thing. That's why we were a band. I think that's what makes The Doors special in that everybody in the band was into the same sort of thing.
Rockmine: "Full Circle" ... It seems in some ways that you knew it was the beginning of the end. The Doors music has always been doom laden but this lacked something ...
Ray: Exactly, well that's why [and it's not just the vocal], that's why I said, when we talked about what would we call this album, I said, "Hey I've got a good idea for the title, let's call this album "Full Circle"" because that meant a coming to the end ... that was it ... The Doors had come full circle and it was now time to close The Doors.
Rockmine: What was the feeling, then? Did you say that's it, we'll never play again together?
Ray: Well, at that point, yes. That was ... "That's it, thank you very much, John, Robbie ... Goodbye ... Thanks a lot ... it's been a lot of fun. We've had a lot of great times and it's now time for us to go our separate ways and get on with the next phase of our lives. The seven year cycle had come to an end as it were. I think Jim died too early for us to complete our seven year cycle. It was five years into it and we needed another year or two to complete a seven year cycle and it was over with. However,we obviously did get back together to do the poetry album ... "An American Prayer".
Rockmine: Can we leave that just now as I want to go chronologically through your career. One of the things that gets me is that even going back to The Doors interviews that I have the amount that Jim actually did was minimal. There aren't really that many Morrison interviews. There seem to be more of you ... again, I don't know how wrong this is but it seems to me that:
Ray: Well, that's all very nice, thank you very much ... you know, I certainly appreciate everyone liking what I did but again I'll have to keep coming back to the fact that without any one member of the band, The Doors wouldn't have been The Doors. Robbie Krieger's guitar ... his snakey guitar and his bottleneck guitar it was wonderful to work with him and John Densmore was such a responsive and listening drummer. I think as I might have said earlier and if you don't have this ... The Doors listened to each other. We could always hear ... we knew what Jim was saying. I knew what John was doing, I could hear Robbie. We all listened to each other. That's perhaps one of the keys as to why The Doors played well together is that the musicians all listened to each other. It was not like every man out for himself ... Okay you got the rhythm and just go ahead and play as loud as you can. We didn't do that ... we listened carefully to each other.
Rockmine: ... Do you not get sick of the Morrison cult?
Ray: Well, I ... I ... Um. It does get a bit overbearing and you know ... and when people say Morrison was the whole band that if anything really perturbs me because the band was a band and Morrison was very important but it was a very very good band so ...
Rockmine: I was going over my thoughts on The Doors and likening it to your work with "X" and the two big things are sex and drugs [laughter] and out of that a drug related mysticism.
Ray: Well, drugs ... certainly not Heroin or Cocaine or any of those kind of uppers or downers, those body drugs but classically through all of history mankind has ingested psychedelic substances ... magic mushrooms and, you know ... the mushrooms are called God's food in many cultures. Those substances exist on this planet to put you in touch with spirits beyond yourself, with the creator, with the creative impulse of the planet and that's what they're for and that's what they should be used for. They shouldn't be used for recreation although they can be but ultimately the point of psychedelics is to put you in touch with the powers of the universe.
Rockmine: A couple of questions about psychedelics. Were you involved with the early acid tests at all?
Ray: No, not with the ... out of San Francisco, no ... never met any of them. We were down on the beach in Los Angeles communicating with the sun. That's what I was doing you know ... our father the sunshine.
At this point we started to talk about Ray's two solo albums, the two with Nite City and his aborted project with Iggy Pop.
Rockmine: ... Now, from there, the next thing chronologically is the "American Prayer" album.
Ray: "An American Prayer" ... right.
Rockmine: Now, it's basically the poetry sessions that Jim recorded on 8th December 1970.
Ray: Right ... His last birthday on planet earth ... Eh, he treated himself to a birthday present and went into the recording studio and put down ... oh, approximately three hours worth of taped poetry ... And had himself a very good time ... And got progressively more drunk as the evening progressed and, you know ... Some of the poetry is a little garbled but some of it was absolutely brilliant so we thought, "Let' s do Jim's poetry album for him" ... Because that's what The Doors wanted Jim to be known as ... A poet ... He wanted to be known as a poet ... A poet, first and foremost ... So, this was our opportunity to make sure that a poetry album of Jim Morrison ... The words of Jim Morrison ... came out. And, we put music to some of the poems and others had sound effects and what not ... You know, we tried to make an entertaining, very listenable album ... A way of presenting poetry to people who really aren't in to poetry, so that's why we put the music and the sounds ... To weave this whole picture behind Jim's words.
Rockmine: We'll pick up on that in a moment if we can. Were there any other people sitting in on the session? Because I think I read someplace that there were some female backing vocalists or something.
Ray: I don't think so ... Not on the poetry session.
Rockmine: There was just Jim ... and John Haeny and Bob ... somebody played bass ... Bob Glaub.
Dorothy (Ray's wife): Wait a minute ... Cathy was on it ... Cathy and the German girl.
Ray: Oh, yes ... There were a couple of girls reading poetry on the poetry session. Yes, that's right ... that's right ... Eh, when Jim actually ... I don't know, I wasn't at the session when Jim recorded it ... so, you know ... I don't know who all popped in or out.
Rockmine: Who had the tapes?
Ray: John Haeny fortunately ... And John Haeny called Robbie and said, "I've got those tapes of the Jim Morrison poetry session". We said, "Great, let's sit down and take a listen to them" and we did ... and we thought, "Oh, this stuff is wonderful ... needs a lot of work. Gonna have to spend a lot of time with this" ... Cutting it together and ... Making sure everything was right and ... You know,finding the best parts and putting it all together into an album. So, it took us a year and a half to do the whole thing.
Rockmine: How much did you have to edit his poetry to tie in with the music?
Ray: Uh ... Well, we had to space some things out ... You know, as you're reading poetry ... and there's no music behind you ... Jim would just read and the words kinda ran together. So we allowed ... We would cut in between phrases and in between sentences and obvious points to expand it a little bit ... To allow some musical air to go in between.
Rockmine: I think John Haeny once said that Jim had been given a solo contract by Elektra to produce a poetry album and he was to be the engineer on it. Is that true?
Ray: I don't know ... It could be ... Or, Jim might have said to Jac Holzman, "I want to do a solo album" or "I want to do a poetry album" ... And Jac Holzman, the head of Elektra said, "Sure, go ahead ... sounds great to me, yeah ... You do it, we'll pay for it".
Rockmine: I'd like to talk about a couple of tracks in a moment but ... When you finished the album, you had terrible problems with it. You took it to one of the Elektra marketing guys who said, "This is depressing!" ...
Ray: Yeah ... right ... Well, Jac Holzman was no longer the head of Elektra Records ... He had since left the company when we actually finished "An American Prayer" and ... You know, it's like "Carmina Burana", you take people something that they're not expecting and they don't know exactly what to do with it ... Or how to programme it ... Radio stations didn't know what to play ... "We don't play poetry". A lot of radio stations in The States have been saying, "We can't play "Carmina Burana" ... we don't play Latin lyrics ... We play only English". Well, what's the difference, you know ... You know, it's just another case of The Doors trying to do something a little different and getting doors slammed in our face.
Rockmine: Did it not also come out in The States with a series of warning stickers?
Ray: Yes it did ... You know, "Warning - objectionable material" ... Because there are obscene words, so ... Yes, it came with a warning, "If you will be offended by obscenities, then don't buy this album".
Rockmine: That was presumably why radio stations found difficulty in playing tracks?
Ray: Right ... Yeah.
Rockmine: Where did you pick up the telephone conversation in "The Hitchhiker"?
Ray: Jim had recorded that for a movie he was putting together called "Highway" and it was one of the things he had tape recorded. He went out into the desert with a couple of friends and they shot a bunch of footage ... and never really did anything with it ... And also tape-recorded a lot of stuff ... So, at one point Jim said, "Listen, put the tape-recorder in the telephone booth. I'm going to go and I'm actually gonna call" ... He called Michael McClure ... and the conversation takes place with Michael McClure ... And Michael at the other end didn't know that Jim was acting ... Michael of course, was horrified. Unfortunately, you couldn't get his reaction on. It would have been great to have got the other end of the conversation.
Rockmine: You mentioned "Highway" there. Can you give me some information on it?
Ray: Stuff shot in the desert about a hitchhiker on the road who sets out to come into Los Angeles and commits a murder ... Em ... The basis of "Riders On The Storm". It was sort of ... They were gonna do "Riders On The Storm" but visualise the story of that "Killer on the road".
Rockmine: Now, you brought up this word, "visualise". It seems very obvious that you guys were involved in film because every single piece of your work is very very visual...
Ray: Good ... I hope so ... Well, we went to the film school and we were involved in movies. Movies were very important ... A very important art-form. The art-form of the twentieth century. The only art-form invented in the twentieth century. The art-form of technology ... You know, films couldn't exist without technology. So it's a very important art-form combining all the other arts. It combines everything ... Everything can go together to making films so it was a very important part of our lives and still is to this day ... My wife and I are avid film-buffs and you know, I've been working on a few scripts and trying to get some things together and hopefully, someday, I'll make a movie of my own.
Rockmine: For people that had gone to film school ... I wondered how much of a desire there had been to return to films after you'd done an album or two and been "A rock and roll band".
Ray: Well, we had intended eventually to get around to making some films and ... You know, if Jim had come back from Paris, that might have been the next step in The Doors career ... But as it was, we never quite had the time to really get around to it. There was just so much going on ... The Doors took up all the time. Making music took up that five year period ... Again, back to the seven year cycle ... Had the seven year cycle run its course ... We probably would've got very strongly into making films but we never had the chance.
Rockmine: Do you think you might ever have ended up in the situation that Mike Nesmith's in now? Instead of releasing albums, he releases video albums.
Ray: Possibly ... who knows?
Rockmine: Back to "An American Prayer" ... "W.A.S.P." or "Texas Radio And The Big Beat" ... which was it? It seems to have gone under both titles at one time or another.
Ray: Well, it was sort of both titles ... and it exists on the new album, "Alive She Cried" in an entirely different form ... But Doors' songs would do that. They would go through a metamorphosis ... "The End" for instance started off as a three minute, short little love song ... Jim saying goodbye to a girl ... And then it expanded through playing in person ... into the eleven and a half minute song that it finally became ... So, Doors songs would go through these various permutations and changes before they finally appeared on record.
Rockmine: I listened to the poetry tape and the album and I feel in someways the power comes from the music.
Ray: Jim ... as just a spoken poet ... was not that good. He needed the music behind him ... He felt a security and a sense ... He was allowed a sense of abandon when the music existed around him. He could say a few words and then stop and let the music take it for five minutes and then come back and he could talk for ten minutes if he wanted ... And the music would be there to support him. I think he was used to the sound of music ... So, when it was just Jim by himself ... all alone ... with the silence all around him he didn't have the same sense of power and no-one could ... Any poet getting used to working with electric instruments and then ... to do it by yourself. It just wasn't quite the same ... It wasn't as exciting for him ... Again, the shaman needed his band ... He wasn't gonna go crazy all by himself. The shaman needed the rhythm and the music behind him to put him into that shamanistic state of ecstacy.
Rockmine: Some people have said that with "An American Prayer" it sounds like "cocktail music" in the background ... all the bite had gone from The Doors music.How do you feel about that?
Ray: Maybe ... Maybe ... You know, Jim had been dead for a long time and The Doors hadn't played together ... Maybe some of the ferocity had gone ... Maybe as human beings, some of the ferocity had gone out of us ... You know, we'd been through a lot and frankly we were a lot more relaxed and a lot more comfortable and didn't feel a great rage inside of us. We were able to make music that was more relaxed and comfortable ... And if that sounds like a cocktail lounge, well ... The Doors were never that good as musicians. Perhaps the best we could play was cocktail jazz.
Dorothy: Can I say something?
Ray: Yes, this is my wife Dorothy speaking now.
Dorothy: Um ... Paul Rothchild said that "Riders On The Storm" sounded like cocktail music to him. So it was always in you.
Ray: Right ... Yes. I'm basically a cocktail jazz kind of pianist. That's what I play, you know ... That's as good as I can play ... I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a very good keyboard player ... So many people are better than I am. I think I'm gonna have to say that a lot ... People think I think I'm good ... I don't think I'm good ... I think I'm a very poor piano player.
At this point a 'phone call stops us getting to deep into Ray's weaknesses.
Rockmine: Let's cut this weak thing instantly because ... Take Amsterdam ... there are very few bands that could face the problem of their lead singer not being capable of playing the gig ... and still go out and do it.
Ray: What a show that was. I'll never forget seeing Jim Morrison carried out on a stretcher ... It's an interesting story ... We were in Germany and we were playing with Canned Heat and Canned Heat was doing a lot of hash ... "The Bear" had given Jim this large chunk of hash at the airport ... And we're about to cross a border ... And a rock and roll band and a bunch of "long-hairs" ... You know we're gonna get searched. So, our manager came up to us and said, "If anyone's got any dope then for God's sake ... get rid of it. We're going into Holland ... Get rid of it ... We're not gonna cross a border with anyone carrying anything" ... So Jim reached into his coat pocket and "Woops ... I've got this ball of hash ... Well,I guess I'll get rid of it ...gulp!"...And he shoved it into his mouth before any of us could anything. We all went, "Jim ... Oh ... No!" ... So, he started drinking on the airplane. Had a few drinks to wash it down you know ... We got to Amsterdam and he was no doubt feeling the effects of it by then ... And had a few more drinks at the hotel and was starting to get really out there ... We went to the auditorium and Jefferson Airplane was playing ... we were gonna go on second and then they were gonna go an again and we would go on again. It was two sets for each group ... By the time Jim got to the auditorium he was just blitzed ... absolutely gone ... Went on stage with the Jefferson Airplane ... Started dancing around in the middle of their set. He started singing with Grace Slick and hugging her ... I think he pinched her on the bottom or tried to do some obscene gesture with Grace Slick ... And then he finally sort of ... after five minutes ... danced off the stage. Went back into the dressing room and passed out cold ... Everyone tried to revive him, "Jim ... Jim!". Jefferson Airplane finished up their set, "Jim ... Jim!". The equipment is being changed ... Our equipment is ready to go and they've called the paramedics. The ambulance people come and take one look at him and say, "Listen, there's no way this guy's gonna go on. Are you kidding ... He can't go on and sing. We're taking him to hospital" ... They put him on a stretcher. They wrapped him up in a rubber sheet. They put an oxygen mask on his face ... I walked into the dressing room ... five minutes before it's time to go on stage ... And I walk in going, "Jim ... It's time to ..." And there goes Jim being carried out by two people. They put him into an ambulance, hit the siren and drove off. John and Robbie and I look at each other and go, "Wait a minute we're supposed to go on in two minutes" ... Our roadie is saying, "C'mon ... c'mon ... we're ready" ... "We're ready" ... What will we do.We've got two sets to do tonight ... And our manager said, "You can't cancel ... Just go out there and do it. You guys go out there" ... "Us ... well, we know the songs" ... And I said, "Okay Vince ... Give me a vocal mike". Put a mike on a boom - put it over the keyboards. "Give Robbie a vocal mike and we'll just go out and hope that everyone accepts the fact that Jim Morrison's not here ... Let's not say anything about it. Let's just go out and start to play ... Hopefully they won't really notice" ... And we got through it. They didn't notice. Nobody said, "Hey where's Morrison".
Rockmine: Wait a minute ... on the tape you come out and say he's been taken to hospital or something like that.
Ray: Did I ... Well, thank God ... Okay, Good ... Did I actually tell the audience, "We're sorry but Jim Morrison will not be here tonight" (laughs).
Rockmine: You told them something like that.
Ray: "Jim Morrison is incapacitated and has been taken away to the hospital" ... So we told them ... Well,that's probably why they were so nice about it and said, "Well,okay ... just go ahead and play some Doors' songs" ... You know they didn't really care as long as they got to hear "Light My Fire" ... and they did. So everything worked out very nicely ... But it was the hardest night of the Doors' career. We did two sets ...
Rockmine: The more I've gone over "An American Prayer" ... the more it seems to have filmic qualities than any of the the other Doors albums.
Ray: Yes ... Well we conceived it as a movie ... A movie for your ears ... You put your earphones on ... put the record on ... Light a candle at night and just let the words and the images go by. The whole point of it was to make it like a movie.
Rockmine: From a member of the band's point of view. How would you sum up "An American Prayer"?
Ray: We loved it ... The band loved it ... When I listen to the album it makes me cry ... Jim Morrison is alive on that album ... It's a very sad and yet very beautiful album. A very bitter sweet kind of album.
Rockmine: You said the feeling ... when you first heard the tape of his voice coming over the studio monitors ... was incredible.
Ray: Oh,it was great ... Jim was alive again. He wasn't dead ... There he was ... right on the speakers just talking to us once again. It was great ... We came over here in 1978 to publicise the album and we've certainly talked a lot about the album. I wish more people had heard the album. If one person for each word I've said about the album ... could've heard the album ... I think it would have been much more appreciated. I think it's a very under-rated and under appreciated Doors album ... Frankly,I'm surprised more people haven't done albums like it. I thought we were gonna open up the world of poetry and music to all kinds of things ... And yet, I can't really think of anyone who's done anything like it since.
Rockmine: Back to movies. You once said you had 50,000 feet of film of The Doors live. Is that for a documentary? ... What's happening?
Ray: Well, it's not so much The Doors live ... We did shoot a lot of footage of The Doors ... mainly off stage. Unfortunately the people we were involved with sort of stood off to the side of the stage while we performed ... and kinda hit up on the girls and had a real good time. Girls would come up to them and say, "Are you making a movie" ... "Yeah, that's right baby. We're making a movie of The Doors" and they'd forget about filming us. We don't really have a lot of stuff onstage. We have off stage stuff.Doors getting into limousines ... Doors at the hotel ... We've got one sequence of The Doors sitting around playing cards ... Someday we'll get around to doing something with that ... But not yet ... No immediate plans.
At this point we went on to discuss Ray's work with X.
Rockmine: Who's idea was it to bring out another Doors album and how did it come auout?
Ray: Well, we'd always talked about it and a lot of people had asked us, "When are you going to have some new material for us? ... Don't you have anything in the can? Please can't you give us something?", so we knew we had our live recordings ... and "Light My Fire" and "Gloria" ... and they finally turned up. I suppose they turned up at the beginning of the year and then it became a process of going over all the tapes and seeing what was there ... What was good and what wasn't and that kind of winnowing out process which ... you know, seperating the wheat from the chaff. So, that took a while to do and it took some time in the recording studio to to mix ... to get the sounds on everything correct and to really make the mix proper ... So,I don't know who's idea it was ... I guess it was just a joint communal idea to ... to put out a ... Let's hear Jim live ... one more time. Here's Morrison alive and you know ... let's take advantage of the fact that these tapes exist and ... again, let the people hear it, you know. Give them some good rock and roll and some good performances of "Gloria" and "Little Red Rooster" and "Light My Fire" ... We felt that they deserved to be heard.
Rockmine: Now, can you just recount the story of how the tapes were found for me?
Ray: Yes, the tapes were lost ... They had disappeared after the ... after we took out "Roadhouse Blues" for "An American Prayer" and then the tapes were put on a storage dock and were shipped back, we thought, to a storage facility and ... God, this was approximately, I suppose 1977 ... early 1977 and at one point or another somebody said, "Well, why don't we listen to those tapes?" ... and we found that the tapes had gone. They weren't where they were supposed to be ... and we didn't know where they were. We had traced our dock receipts and they said they went back to one...
© 1995-2021 Roy Deane, Rockmine Archives. All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without approval.