Happy Birthday, Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek, one of the founding members of The Doors, would be 75 today. Below is an excerpt from The Doors FAQ, by Rich Weidman, in commemoration of Manzarek’s birthday.

Ray Manzarek, Doors Keyboardist

The oldest Door, and the band’s cofounder along with Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek often came off as a kind of bespectacled, perpetually stoned professor, somewhat akin to Donald Sutherland’s character, “Dave Jennings,” in Animal House (“Would anybody like to smoke some pot?”). Onstage, however, with his head flailing wildly and fingers flying maniacally across the keyboard while improvising the bass parts on his Fender Rhodes organ, Manzarek evinced a total psychedelic, blues-driven intensity.

Raymond Daniel Manczarek (he dropped the “c” soon after cofounding the Doors) was born on February 12, 1939, to a working-class family in Chicago, Illinois. His grandparents had immigrated from Poland in the 1890s. Manzaarek started practicing piano at an early age, and he eventually studied classical music, including Bach, Rachmanioff, and Tchaikovsky, at the Chicago Conservatory. However, Manzarek was blown away when he first heard the Chicago blues and eventually fell under the sway of such legends as Muddy Waters (in his official Elektra biography, Manzarek listed Waters along with Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel as influences), Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, and others. He also discovered jazz artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, and Bill Evans to round out his musical education.

After graduating from the Catholic all-boy St. Rita High School, Manzarek embarked on a conventional career path, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from DePaul University. After briefly attending UCLA law school and serving a two-year stint in the army (where he got the opportunity to smoke some genuine “Thai stick” in Thailand), Manzarek headed back to UCLA, where he majored in cinematography, completed three well-received short films (Evergreen, Induction, and Who and Where I Live), and met fellow film student Jim Morrison. According to Manzarek in his autobiography, Light My Fire, “instead of realizing our parents’ dreams, much to their chagrin, we created our own dreams.” To help pay for tuition, Manzarek took the stage as “Screamin’ Ray Daniels” on weekends at a total dive called the Turkey Joint West with his brothers, Rick (guitar) and Jim (harmonica), in a local surf/blues band called Rick and the Ravens. Manzarek would frequently coax fellow film students, including Morrison, to join him onstage and help him belt out such classics as “Louie, Louie,” in front of the crowd of blitzed college students. In the summer of 1965, Manzarek and Morrison cofounded the Doors after a chance meeting on the beach in Venice. Soon later, at a Transcendental Meditation session, Manzarek recruited a drummer, John Densmore, who in turn brought guitarist Robby Krieger into the Doors.

 
It has been 40 years since the untimely death of L.A.’s mystic and rock’s Dionysus, Jim Morrison, yet the Doors have consistently inspired new generations of fans worldwide ever since. Highlighting one of the most influential, original, and outrageous American bands of the 1960s, The Doors FAQ is a dynamic, unorthodox exploration of this remarkable band and its enigmatic lead singer. Drawing upon unique sources, Rich Weidman digs deep and serves up fresh perspective on the music, from the garage to the hits to the outtakes; and on the band’s members, from their roots, influences, and key industry partners to their rare talents, personal foibles, love affairs, and arrests. This volume also details every studio album and live recording, all the highs and lows of the Doors in concert (including the notorious 1969 Miami concert), Morrison’s 40-day trial, and the death of the “Lizard King” in Paris in 1971, as well as post-Morrison milestones. Unlike the straightforward narratives of other Doors biographies, this inventive, ceremonious biographical collage leaves no stone unturned, covering the band both with Morrison and post-Morrison, including the 2010 When You’re Strange documentary and the recent pardon of Morrison by the State of Florida for the Miami concert. Countless rare images from album art to ticket stubs to posters accompany the text, in this dazzling edition of solid rock scholarship.

 

Ray Manzarek, 1939-2013

In honor of the life of Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the Doors, the following is an excerpt from The Doors FAQ by Rich Weidman.

The oldest Door, and the band’s cofounder along with Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek often came off as a kind of bespectacled, perpetually stoned professor, somewhat akin to Donald Sutherland’s character, “Dave Jennings,” in Animal House (“Would anybody like to smoke some pot?”). Onstage, however, with his head flailing wildly and fingers flying maniacally across the keyboard while improvising the bass parts on his Fender Rhodes organ, Manzarek evinced a total psychedelic, blues-driven intensity.

Raymond Daniel Manczarek (he dropped the “c” soon after cofounding the Doors) was born on February 12, 1939, to a working-class family in Chicago, Illinois. His grandparents had immigrated from Poland in the 1890s. Manzarek started practicing piano at an early age, and he eventually studied classical music, including Bach, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky, at the Chicago Conservatory. However, Manzarek was blown away when he first heard the Chicago blues and eventually fell under the sway of such legends as Muddy Waters (in his official Elektra biography, Manzarek listed Waters along with Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel as influences), Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, and others. He also discovered jazz artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, and Bill Evans to round out his musical education.

After graduating from the Catholic all-boy St. Rita High School, Manzarek embarked on a conventional career path, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from DePaul University. After briefly attending UCLA law school and serving a two-year stint in the army (where he got the opportunity to smoke some genuine “Thai stick” in Thailand), Manzarek headed back to UCLA, where he majored in cinematography, completed three well-received short film (Evergreen, Induction, and Who and Where I Live), and met fellow film student Jim Morrison. According to Manzarek in his autobiography, Light My Fire, “instead of realizing our parents’ dreams, much to their chagrin, we created our own dreams.” To help pay for tuition, Manzarek took the stage as “Screamin’ Ray Daniels” on weekends at a total dive called the Turkey Joint West with his brothers, Rick (guitar) and Jim (harmonica), in a local surf/blues band called Rick and the Ravens. Manzarek would frequently coax fellow film students, including Morrison, to join him onstage and help him belt out such classics as “Louie, Louie,” in front of the crowd of blitzed college students. In the summer of 1965, Manzarek and Morrison cofounded the Doors after a chance meeting on the beach in Venice. Soon later, at a Transcendental Meditation session, Manzarek recruited drummer, John Densmore, who in turn brought guitarist Robby Krieger into the Doors.

Post-Doors, Manzarek recorded two solo albums, The Gold Scarab (which was billed as “a busy fusion of Jazz, Exotica, Rock, Rumba and Salsa”) and The Whole Thing Started with Rock ‘n’ Roll. He also performed in several bands (including the Nite City), recorded a rock adaptation of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with Philip Glass, produced four albumbs with influential Los Angeles punk band X (Los Angeles; Wild Gift; Under the Big, Black Sun; and More Fun in the New World), backed Beat poet Michael McClure’s poetry readings, and collaborated with poet Michael C. Ford. In 1996, Manzarek recorded The Doors Myth and Reality: The Spoken Word History. Manzarek’s autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors, was published in 1998. In 2001, Manzarek published his first novel, The Poet in Exile, which explored the myth that Jim Morrison had faked his death. In 2002, Manzarek organized the highly controversial group the Doors of the 21st Century with Robby Krieger that later morphed into Riders on the Storm and then Manzarek-Krieger. In 2006, Ray Manzarek published a second novel, Snake Moon, an “erotic ghost story” set during the Civil War that was a reinterpretation of the Japanese film Ugetsu (directed by Kenjo Mizoguchi).

The Doors FAQDrawing upon unique sources, Rich Weidman digs deep and serves up fresh perspective on the music, from the garage to the hits to the outtakes; and on the band’s members, from their roots, influences, and key industry partners to their rare talents, personal foibles, love affairs, and arrests. This volume also details every studio album and live recording, all the highs and lows of the Doors in concert (including the notorious 1969 Miami concert), Morrison’s 40-day trial, and the death of the “Lizard King” in Paris in 1971, as well as post-Morrison milestones. Unlike the straightforward narratives of other Doors biographies, this inventive, ceremonious biographical collage leaves no stone unturned, covering the band both with Morrison and post-Morrison, including the 2010 When You’re Strange documentary and the recent pardon of Morrison by the State of Florida for the Miami concert. Countless rare images from album art to ticket stubs to posters accompany the text, in this dazzling edition of solid rock scholarship.

The Doors Quotes

Guest Blogger: Rich Weidman is the author of The Doors FAQ. Below is an excerpt from his blog on Doors Trivia.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” – William Blake

“I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos—especially activity that seems to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.” – Jim Morrison

“The Doors embodied—incarnated—a major upheaval in popular culture. Their music was of the times and it shaped the times.” – Jac Holzma

“The Doors, more than any other group I can think of, brought theater to rock and roll . . . Morrison was a video performer before his time.” – Digby Diehl

“Jim Morrison—it’s a strange story—that he drowned in a bathtub in Paris. It seems a Goddamned odd thing to happen. I never believed it for a minute.” – William S. Burroughs

“Morrison was a dangerous mind. He read books. Huxley, Rimbaud, Artaud, and perhaps Milton. He was an intellectual and artistic anarchist . . . When talking of The Doors, the sheer presence of Morrison makes us sometimes forget how brilliant Krieger, Densmore, and Manzarek were as players and songsmiths. Morrison needed a highly sympathetic sonic wildernes to wander in, and they were right there for him. It was a perfect fit.” – Henry Rollins

For more please visit Doors Trivia.

The Doors FAQ

Drawing upon unique sources, Rich Weidman digs deep and serves up fresh perspective on the music, from the garage to the hits to the outtakes; and on the band’s members, from their roots, influences, and key industry partners to their rare talents, personal foibles, love affairs, and arrests. This volume also details every studio album and live recording, all the highs and lows of the Doors in concert (including the notorious 1969 Miami concert), Morrison’s 40-day trial, and the death of the “Lizard King” in Paris in 1971, as well as post-Morrison milestones. Unlike the straightforward narratives of other Doors biographies, this inventive, ceremonious biographical collage leaves no stone unturned, covering the band both with Morrison and post-Morrison, including the 2010 When You’re Strange documentary and the recent pardon of Morrison by the State of Florida for the Miami concert. Countless rare images from album art to ticket stubs to posters accompany the text, in this dazzling edition of solid rock scholarship.

2012: The Year of the Doors


Guest Blogger:
Rich Weidman, author of The Doors FAQ

In April 1971, the Doors released L.A. Woman, a back-to-basics, blues-oriented album that contained a slew of classic hits such as the title track, “Riders on the Storm” and “Love Her Madly,” as well as eclectic favorites such as “Hyacinth House,” “The Changeling” and “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”. It was the band’s sixth studio album and the final album featuring enigmatic lead singer Jim Morrison, who died in Paris under mysterious circumstances less than three months later on July 3, 1971. To mark the 40th-anniversary of this landmark release, the Doors have pronounced 2012 as “The Year of the Doors”. This yearlong campaign will feature a variety of exciting new Doors releases, including the remastered, 40th-anniversary L.A. Woman CD, Mr. Mojo Risin’ DVD/Blu-ray documentary and much more!

As a preview of “The Year of the Doors,” a limited box set was released in November of last year that featured the singles “Riders on the Storm,” “The Changeling” and “Love Her Madly,” as well as a special disc of outtakes and studio chatter from recording sessions. However, “The Year of the Doors” campaign officially kicked off on January 9, 2012, with the release on the band’s Facebook page of the bluesy “She Smells So Nice,” a recently discovered Doors song that was unearthed while reviewing the session tapes for the 40th-anniversary reissue of L.A. Woman. “She Smells So Nice” was the first new, completely unreleased Doors song in 40 years.

On January 24, 2012, the Doors will release a special two-CD release from Rhino celebrating the 40th-anniversary of L.A. Woman, which will consist of the original album, remastered, with an additional disc of bonus material. The second disc will include eight never-before-heard versions of songs from the album, including alternate takes of “L.A. Woman,” “Love Her Madly” and “Riders on the Storm,” as well as the inclusion of “She Smells So Nice.”

Also on January 24, the Doors will release Mr. Mojo Risin’, a fascinating, behind-the-scenes DVD/Blu-ray documentary from Eagle Rock Entertainment that boasts live and studio performances, rare archival photos and interviews with surviving Doors members Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, as well as Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, original manager Bill Siddons, engineer/co-producer Bruce Botnick and others. A special screening of the Mr. Mojo Risin’ documentary will be held January 20 at 7:30 PT at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles. Hosted by Holzman and legendary L.A. radio DJ Jim Ladd, the event will feature appearances by special guests and include a Q&A session.

In March 2012, the Doors will release L.A. Woman: The Workshop Sessions, a two LP vinyl set that will feature previously unreleased alternate versions of songs and studio chatter found on the 40th-anniversary edition. Several other surprises are in store for Doors fans during “The Year of the Doors,” reportedly including releases of the band’s early London Fog and Matrix performances, as well as a “cutting-edge App that will survey the Doors’ entire history in rich and fascinating detail.” So stay tuned – 2012 will definitely prove to be a banner year for Doors fans!

The Doors FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock by Rich Weidman (Backbeat Books)

It has been 40 years since the untimely death of L.A.’s mystic and rock’s Dionysus, Jim Morrison, yet the Doors have consistently inspired new generations of fans worldwide ever since. Highlighting one of the most influential, original, and outrageous American bands of the 1960s, The Doors FAQ is a dynamic, unorthodox exploration of this remarkable band and its enigmatic lead singer.

Drawing upon unique sources, Rich Weidman digs deep and serves up fresh perspective on the music, from the garage to the hits to the outtakes; and on the band’s members, from their roots, influences, and key industry partners to their rare talents, personal foibles, love affairs, and arrests. This volume also details every studio album and live recording, all the highs and lows of the Doors in concert (including the notorious 1969 Miami concert), Morrison’s 40-day trial, and the death of the “Lizard King” in Paris in 1971, as well as post-Morrison milestones. Unlike the straightforward narratives of other Doors biographies, this inventive, ceremonious biographical collage leaves no stone unturned, covering the band both with Morrison and post-Morrison, including the 2010 When You’re Strange documentary and the recent pardon of Morrison by the State of Florida for the Miami concert. Countless rare images from album art to ticket stubs to posters accompany the text, in this dazzling edition of solid rock scholarship.

Available from Amazon, B&N, independent bookstores, and Backbeat Books