Doors’ co-founder, Ray Manzarek, the band’s keyboardist, died Monday, May 20th, 2013 at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany from bile duct cancer.
Manzarek is survived by his wife Dorothy, son Pablo, and their three grandchildren. Family members request that in lieu of flowers, that donations be made in Manzarek’s name to Standup2Cancer.org.
Author and music historian, Harvey Kubernik, a friend of Ray Manzarek, let us run a portion of his 2010 interview with Ray that first was published in THC Expose Magazine.
“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.
Ray Manzarek was one of my first and only literary advocates before I ever became a published author of hardcover books.
“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 Marriott at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California.
“Ray Manzarek cared deeply about music, the Doors, art, cinema, the UCLA basketball team, his family, and our planet.”
By Harvey Kubernik © 2010 c 2013
Raymond Daniel Manzarek (born Raymond Daniel Manczarek) was born February 12, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. Ray resided with his family on the South side of Chicago and graduated DePaul University with a B. A. degree in Economics. On May 20, 2013 he died at RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany after a lengthy battle with bile cancer.”
“I was trained classically and I think it opened up a lot of avenues for the rock element to enter. Rock ’n’ roll to me is just like jazz. It’s an improvisational medium. I left classical music because it didn’t allow me to improvise. I didn’t feel that I wanted to subjugate myself to another man’s thoughts. I loved the technical training though, and there’s nothing like it. I love the act of making my fingers move over the organ and piano,” Manzarek stressed to me in a 1974 interview in the now defunct Melody Maker.
In the early 1960s, the Manzarek clan relocated to the South Bay community of Redondo Beach in Southern California. Ray also fronted a band, Rick and The Ravens, and was exposed to 1950s and ’60s jazz records, as well as the sounds emanating from the seminal World Pacific Records label. It was in Westwood, California, at the UCLA School of Film in 1964-1965 where Manzarek first encountered James Douglas Morrison and then earned an M. A. degree in Cinematography.
In 1965, Ray fronted Rick and The Ravens, and that same year joined up again with Morrison on the beach in Venice. The singer’s poetry was a perfect fit for the classically trained keyboardist’s musical ideas, and eventually they decided to form a band, taking the group’s name from Aldous Huxley’s infamous psychedelic memoir, The Doors of Perception. They soon teamed with drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger formerly in the band Psychedelic Rangers.
The Doors actively toured and recorded together until 1971.
Over the course of six monumental Paul A. Rothchild-produced Elektra Records studio albums and numerous paradigm-shifting recordings and epochal live performances, The Doors changed the course of rock music.
Jim Morrison died in 1971 at the age of 27 in Paris, France, and is buried there.
Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore released two albums as a trio under the Doors moniker, with Manzarek and Krieger handling vocals. The surviving Doors reunited to create a musical backdrop for Morrison’s recorded poetry on the 1978 release, An American Prayer. In November 2007, to celebrate and salute the fortieth anniversary of the Doors, Rhino and Elektra Records released Perception, a 6-CD/6-DVD boxed set offering all of the Doors’ classic studio albums with Jim Morrison, each augmented with rare and unreleased audio and video tracks with longtime Doors engineer (and later co-producer) Bruce Botnick back behind the boards.
Ray Manzarek has directed three long-form films on the Doors. The Doors: Live At the Hollywood Bowl; The Doors: Dance On Fire; and The Doors: The Soft Parade.
Manzarek produced and performed on five albums by the L.A. band X, including Los Angeles. For the last thirty-five years he has continued to record, produce albums and write. Manzarek, who earlier authored The Poet in Exile, as well as his autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors, most recently penned a second novel, Snake Moon (Night Shade Books), which is a Civil War-era ghost story. He has also released a new CD, Atonal Head (PBM Records), his endeavor into electronica, which he describes as “jazz-based with computer additives,” done in collaboration with Polish expatriate jazz musician Bal. There’s also a rendition of “Riders on the Storm,” with guest vocal by Jim Morrison.
During 2010, Northern California resident Ray Manzarek was collaborating on a couple of hour-long nature study videos with his son Pablo. Ray provides keyboards for the projects produced by Pablo Manzarek. “‘Waves of Grass,’ is a tip of the hat to ‘Leaves of Grass,'” Ray explains. “It’s tranquil, meditative music. Another one is called ‘Lotus Pond,’ that focuses on water lilies and lotuses.”
Ray Manzarek & Harvey Kubernik Interview
Q: Talk to me about your early encounters with Jim Morrison and especially his singing voice. I walked with you on Venice Beach last decade and you pointed at the sand and said, ‘This is where Jim sang to me in a Chet Baker-like voice. His voice had a softness to it.’ Morrison got louder and better as a singer during the entire Doors recording process.
A: When I first heard Jim sing in Venice I thought he had it. There was no doubt that he would not have any problems ‘cause the microphone is no problem. Pitch is the problem with a singer. Can you sing in the same key on pitch? And I worked with a lot of singers who can’t do that. Finding the notes. But Morrison had a good sense of pitch. So, if it was in the key of G, he would sing ‘Moonlight Drive’ in the key of G. And he would be there right on pitch. That was the important thing. The rest of it was all acquired expertise in your practice of your instrument.
“Interestingly, on ‘Moonlight Drive’ is that it’s a really a seminal, or a signpost song. It’s the first song Jim Morrison sang to me on the beach. It had been after we graduated UCLA and I ran into him on the beach. ‘What have you been doing?’ ‘I’ve been writing songs.’ ‘Sing me a song.’ ‘I’m shy.’ ‘You’re not shy. Stop it. There’s nobody here. Just you and me. I’m not judging your voice. I just want to hear the song. Besides, you used to sing with Rick and The Ravens at the Turkey Joint West and did ‘Louie Louie’ until you could not talk.’
Q: How was Morrison on stage even then? I know later he went straight into a garage rehearsal room with you and the boys was he a natural even in jams at the Turkey Joint West?
A: No. (laughs). It took a while and later to work it out on stage at The London Fog and Whisky A Go Go. But by God, he sure did scream a lot and sure had a willing injection of energy into rock ‘n’ roll.
Q: Though several bassists auditioned for the group, none could match the bass lines you provided by your left hand employing a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass instrument. Left hand bass, and your right hand you were not doing chords but comping on the organ or piano.
I always felt that was one of the main attractions about the sound of the Doors and the dynamic of the Doors sonically. And not having another physical fifth person on stage as bassist as you held down two instruments…although you had a bass player on some recording dates.
A: First of all, the left hand created that hypnotic Doors’ sound. For instance, during the ‘Light My Fire’ solo section, it’s an A-minor triad to a b-minor triad that just repeats like (John) Coltrane’s ‘My Favorite Things.’ The same sorta modal chord structure that Coltrane used in ‘My Favorite Things.’ Left-handed I’m playing the same thing over and over. The right hand is just playing filigrees, comping behind Robby Krieger, punctuating with chords, punctuating with single notes playing with Robby Krieger. When I’m soloing I’m playing anything I want to play. And that bass line just keeps on going. It never varies and it never stops. Over and over like tribal drumming or Howlin’ Wolf playing one of his songs without any chord changes. On and on and on. The same pattern. Now, if I were to have added a live bass player to play that the guy after about 2 or 3 minutes playing the same two triad…I’ve had guys say to me, ‘I can’t do this Ray…’
“The same three notes over and over. And off he goes, man. So I think the secret to the Doors hypnotic sound comes out of the left hand keyboard bass. Meanwhile the right hand thinks its Johann Sebastian Bach.
“A fifth person, another physical element on stage, would have made it not a diamond. It would have taken away the diamond with Morrison at the point. As we faced the audience Morrison is at the point, (John) Densmore is at the point, behind Robby and I, who are point left and point right, a four-sided diamond, the purity of the diamond shape rather than some kind of pentagram star thing. And a fifth element would have confused it. Another guy playing would have made a more confusing bottom.
Q: In late 1966, KBLA DJ Dave Diamond telephoned Jac Holzman of Elektra Records and mentioned that Jac had to go see and listen to the Doors at the popular Whisky a Go Go club in Hollywood. Diamond had been playing the debut Love album locally and first broke it on the L.A. airwaves. Holzman eventually signed the Doors after watching a convincing set at the famed venue. Diamond also suggested the initial edit of “Light My Fire” to band members that was eventually spliced for a 45 rpm single release from their label by producer Paul A. Rothchild for AM radio airplay. Let’s discuss the epic Doors’ debut LP done at Sunset Sound with Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick.
A: Dave Diamond was the first to play ‘Light My Fire.’ Sunset Sound was a very hip recording studio on Sunset Blvd. The Beach Boys had been there. Herb Alpert, Love. It was owned by a trumpet player, (Salvador) Tutti Camarata and he had the Camarata Strings, I believe.
Q: He arranged Billie Holiday’s final album–“Lady in Satin.” That room was built by Disney money.
A: Nice money. It was an excellent recording studio, four tracks. Rothchild and Botnick. Never had met Bruce before. Paul was the producer. “Rothchild and Botnick are Door number 5 and Door number 6. There’s four Doors in the band and two Doors in the control room. So, they were always there, always twisting the knobs and really on top of it. A couple of high IQ very intelligent guys. We couldn’t have done it without them.
“Paul Rothchild was the guy who had produced The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and also Love, along with Botnick. The two of them did those albums together. So, Robby was a big fan of the Butterfield Blues Band and he was very excited that Paul Rothchild was gonna produce for us. I didn’t know either one of them and not familiar with their work outside of Love. I had heard Paul Butterfield and thought it was good. Chicago blues by Chicago white boys. Being a Chicago white boy myself I could identify with Chicago white boys playing the blues. So it was a great combination of six guys. That first album was basically the four Doors and the two other Doors in the control room making the sound. We made the music. They made the sound. And they did an absolutely brilliant job. And it was a real joy and a great learning experience.
“I had been in a fabulous recording studio before at World Pacific on 3rd Street in L.A. with Rock and The Ravens for Dick Bock. And that’s where we cut The Doors’ demo, along with some Rick and The Ravens songs.
Q: You and Morrison schlepped some of these songs to record labels in an acetate demo in 1966, and had played the material all over the clubs in Southern California. Then you put them down on tape for the first album. I would imagine you didn’t labor over whole first LP in the studio.
A: I had been in the World Pacific studio before, but Jim had never been in a vocal booth. He had some hesitations because he was a rookie. “Rothchild and Botnick were two alchemists with sound. We were the alchemical music makers but they were alchemists with sound-adding a bit of this-a bit of that. Some reverb. Some high end. Let’s hit it at 20k or 10k. Let’s dial in a bit of bass in there. They were making this evil witches brew concoction as we went along. And the sound just got better and better.
Q: And on this album, and subsequent sessions you were joined by a studio bassist who essentially followed and copied your bass lines done on the Fender Rhodes.
A: I was the bass player of The Doors. When it came to recording I played a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass. The instrument was great in person because it had a deep rich sound and moved a lot of air. But in the recording studio it lacked a pluck. It did not have the attack that a bass guitar would have-especially if you played a bass guitar with a pick. You had plenty of attack. So, on some of the songs we brought in an actual bass player, one of the Los Angeles cats, Larry Knechtel. Who played the same bass line that I played on ‘Light My Fire,’ who doubled my bass line. They could then get rid of my bass part and use the nice sound that Larry Knechtel could get. The click and the bottom.
Q: And, in the sound mix the keyboard was treated equally. Not a second thought overdub or hidden below in the collaboration.
A: Well it had to be. We were the Modern Jazz Quartet!
“Well the whole thing took ten days. Boom. We’re done. We’re out of here. ‘Light My Fire’ was two takes. ‘The End’ was two takes, which was a major ordeal because there were certain substances floating around everyone’s brain to wit, LSD, and to record on LSD was quite difficult. But Morrison thought that would be a good idea for him to sing and do ‘The End’ on LSD. None of the rest of us took acid as we were recording. However, we did indulge in smoking marijuana. And that really started with our second album.
Q: You then start “Strange Days” L.P.
A: Album two is recorded on an eight-track. The first album was four-track. We now had four more tracks. That meant everything that we could do on the first album We would still have four more tracks left over for overdubs. For experimentation. So we experimented in and out of the universe. I actually played one of the songs backwards. The song was played to me backwards and I had each bar written out with the chord change that went along with it and I started reading the music on the lower right hand side and read right to left across the bottom line. And then jumped to the next line, when I got to the end of the previous line, jumped to the next line up on the right hand side, reading everything backwards, bottom to top, getting closer and closer, finally to the top line and hoping that I end when the song begins. ‘Cause it’s all going along and it’s backwards. I’m following (John) Densmore’s beat on the bass drum not knowing what’s going to happen. And sure enough, I get to the last measure here are four more beats! I stopped and the music stopped. It was a miracle. And everyone went, ‘You did it Ray!’ And I went to the guys and said to them in the control room. And I said, ‘Please, whatever you do, help me here, never let me do his ever again.’ And they collectively said, ‘That’s a deal, Ray.’
Q: You saw the studio becoming a laboratory.
A: Exactly. It was a place where we could really experiment. We could put on our lab tech coats rather than coming in with our ‘Mod’ outfits. It’s almost as if we put on our glasses. I felt like I was in a 1932 German Science Fiction movie, ‘Woman In The Moon,’ something along that line. Some Fritz Lang. It was like ‘Metropolis’ and we were wearing those glasses that you wear so you don’t get sparks in your eyes and we had lab coats on. And we were preparing this strange concoction called ‘Strange Days.’
Q: You had already had some of the songs for it like ‘Moonlight Drive’ from 1965, ’66, and now in 1967, it’s coming to fruition in the studio. Plus, Jim Morrison’s voice really went further into the “Strange Days” expedition.
A: Well, the man had his chops as they say. Jim got his chops together. He had a thick bull neck resembling a large engorged male organ. (laughs). And by then, he could sing, man. That throat had opened up and that man was singing.
Q: There’s the Morrison scenic lyric “under television skies” in “My Eyes Have Seen You” that chronicles a pre-cable TV world he witnessed. On “Strange Days” The Doors employ Doug Lubahn as studio bassist on the album.
A: Yes. And Doug and I worked very closely together and I showed him what I wanted on the bass parts. And he would play it and improvise on what I had shown him and expand upon it. He was not playing exactly what I told him to play. He was adding his own little touch to it that made it extra exciting for all of us to be there. He was just a great stoner, hippie, good guy.
Q: He played with a band Clear Light.
A: They were originally called The Brain Train. Great name and they change it to Clear Light. ‘Why?’ I asked Doug, ‘Why did you change your (band) name? ‘I don’t know, Ray. It wasn’t up to me.’
Q: On “Strange Days” your organ work offers a tiny tip of the hat to Herbie Hancock and his composition “Watermelon Man” on the end hang lyric conclusion of “When The Music’s Over.”
A: Oh absolutely. That’s Herbie Hancock, man. I’m borrowing a little bit of Herbie’s piano line. My keyboard line is a variation of his piano line on ‘Watermelon Man.’ Like Jim would say, ‘we’ll steal from anybody. (laughs). ‘Beggars borrow, Geniuses steal’.
Q: As you are hearing Jim’s lyrics to “When The Music’s Over,” late 1967, this is a timeline pre-Earth Day that began in 1970. Those lyrics are detailing ecological concerns and environmental chaos. Psychological territory away from ‘The End’ song. You and the band are the new soundtrack to global warning and the continual destruction of our planet.
A: I knew Jim was a great poet. There’s no doubt about that. See that’s why we put the band together in the first place. It was going to be poetry together with rock ‘n’ roll. Not like poetry and jazz. Or like it, it was poetry and jazz from the ‘50s, except we were doing poetry and rock ‘n’ roll. And our version of rock ‘n’ roll was whatever you could bring to the table. Robby bring your Flamenco guitar, Robby bring that bottle neck guitar, bring that sitar tuning. John bring your marching drums and your snares and your four on the floor. Ray bring your classical training and your blues training and your jazz training. Jim bring your Southern gothic poetry, your Arthur Rimbaud poetry. It all works in rock ‘n’ roll. So Jim was a magnificent poet. I loved his poetry. The fact that he was doing ecological poetry. ‘What have they done to the earth?’
Q: It’s akin to poet Gary Snyder and his writings and prose on nature.
A: Sure, absolutely man. But don’t forget that’s late 1967, and the potheads were aware. “It’s God’s good green earth and you’ve got to take care of God’s good clean earth. The pot heads were the first mass ecological movement. And I hope they continue on and continue it into future because it’s our obligation to save the planet.
Q: Again, like in the entire Doors’ studio journey, Rothchild and Botnick are taking the whole trip into a new sonic world.
A: Absolutely. We knew each other. We were friends. We would hang out together. We would get high together and go to each other’s houses and hang out.
Q: You know, as a kid, I would see some of The Doors in Los Angeles eating at Norm’s restaurant on La Cienega right next to the Elektra Studios. It was near our high school. Even then I sort of knew you guys were recording and didn’t bother you at a table or the counter. My Aquarius mother said something like, ‘Let them eat. They’re on the clock.’ I didn’t quite know then what she meant at the time. She was working for The Monkees at Raybert Productions on the Columbia Pictures movie studio.
A: Absolutely. It was work. We didn’t fool around. I guess the ultimate indulgence was Fleetwood Mac when they recorded individual by individual and had cases, not one bottle, of Dom Perignon brought into the recording facility. (laughs). I knew Mick (Fleetwood) and if I could have gotten a hold of him I would have said, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ He would have shrugged his soldiers.
“I was not able to duck out of Sunset Sound, or TT&G or later at Electra to see bands or local jazz at Shelley’s Manne-Hole. No! We were working. We’re recording. The clock is ticking. This is your job. Your job starts at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and goes to 11:00 at night, 12 or one o’clock in the morning. You go home. You got to bed. You get up the next day. Maybe at 11:00 a.m. have a leisurely breakfast, take care of a couple of things and go back to the recording studio. Because guess what, Harvey. The recording studio is the only place you wanted to be. I didn’t want to see anybody. I didn’t want to go to a film or a jazz club. I wanted to make records. Right then and right there. With Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Paul Rothchild, Bruce Botnick and Doug Lubahn. Great bass player.
Q. Why do Jim Morrison’s lyrics work so well in recordings and the printed page?
A. Well, you know, Harvey, because lyrics are poetry. The words were well edited. Jim was good that way when it came to songs. When you are doing this written poetry you can really stretch out and you can really expand. And, no one so far has done an ‘Ezra Pound’ on Jim Morrison. With his poetry, he’d throw this out, take this line, or two lines, but when it comes to music you gotta be very choosy because you only have a short period of time. Songs in a way, outside of like ‘The End,’ and ‘When The Music’s Over,’ are sorta like haikus. The fit has to be very tight.
“I saw Jim’s words before he started writing songs. So, when you see his words on the page that’s poetry. I always thought of Jim as a good poet. But when he started writing songs, then everything became verse, chorus, verse chorus. Really tight, and it was a whole other ball game. He put his words into an entirely different context. A musical context. A hit single in a three-minute context. I thought ‘Moonlight Drive’ was brilliant.
“My God, ‘Strange Days,’ what an album cover. We told the art director from Elektra Records, Bill Harvey, ‘Make something ‘Fellini-esque.’ And he did that on his own. That’s all we told him. We saw the photos and said, ‘Bill this is fabulous. You’ve outdone yourself.’ And Bill said, before he died, ‘That’s the best album cover I ever did.’
Q: Then the “Waiting For The Sun” album. Some songs already existed in raw form but a lot of new material was written for this endeavor.
A: You know it’s time to do a record when you have 10 or 12 songs together. When it hits a dozen time to enter the recording studio. I mean, we worked on thosesongs. I mean, when we would get together in the rehearsal studio they were polished. They were changed. They were adapted. Somebody, invariably Robby or Jim who would come up with the original idea. But boy, the four of us would get together, change and modify and polish the songs.
Q: “Hello, I Love You” from “Waiting For The Sun” had been around for a while.
A: Yes. It was a song Jim wrote on the beach when we used to live down in Venice. Dorothy would go off to work and Jim and I would go off to the beach around the rings on the sand at Muscle Beach and work out around the bars, rings and swings and get ourselves into physical shape. He was gorgeous. Man, he was perfect. He was a guy who had opened the doors of perception and made a blend of the American Indian and the American Cowboy. He was the white Anglo Saxon Protestant. The WASP who had taken on the mantle of the American Indian. He now was no longer a fighter of Indians. He was a lover of American Indians. Like John F. Kennedy, that guy would have been a great President. Pre-alcohol, would have been a great President. The alcohol unfortunately destroyed Jim Morrison.
Q: Once again, some warnings about the environment are inherent in the lyrics. ‘Not To Touch The Earth.”
A: Sure. Yes. 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, as 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. 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.
Q: Why does “Celebration of The Lizard” from “Waiting For The Sun” still resonate? Shaman and poet/singer Morrison’s lyrics are prophetic.
A: 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.
Q: It seems as if The Doors and technical people were allowed to create and flourish without record label monitoring or corporate nterference. Did Elektra Records owner Jac Holzman come to the sessions?
A: Once in a while. Sure. He was a real cheerleader, if anything.
Q: We are then lead into “The Soft Parade.” Was there a pre-production meeting where everyone voted to include the use of strings and horns on the album?
A: We had made three albums with the same formation and at some point or another when you make albums you want to do an album with
Expanded sound. So you want to have some horns and strings. My God, everybody did it. And we were gonna do it too. I want some strings. I want some jazz arrangements. I want some classical arrangements. And everyone said yes. Great idea. And a record label that said it was fine. What was great about the record label was that Jac Holzman said, ‘Boys, do whatever You want. Just don’t use the seven illegal words.’ George Carlin’s seven foridden words. Other than that, anything goes. What ever you want to do. And Paul Rothchild encouraged it.
Q: You are using the new Elektra Studios as well.
A: We have left Sunset Sound. The first two there and the Third at TT& G. on Sunset and Highland in Hollywood. We then went into Elektra’s new place. Fabulous. It was all wooden. Brand new state of the art facility. We thought it was great and would be able to play there for free. I mean, after wall, it was really the studio that The Doors built. ‘Jac, this is gonna be great’ when he showed it to us. And we get to record here for free.’ Jac said, ‘Free? No. You don’t get to record here for free. But, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. For you guys a ten percent discount.’ (laughs). But it was a great recording studio and they had a great funky organ in there. Gnarly organ.
Q: George Harrison dropped by one of your ‘Soft Parade” sessions. He was visiting the Elektra studios. He mentioned all the musicians at your date reminded him of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers” because of the orchestra booked.
A: Yes. A Beatle in the room. A very charming guy. Very low key. And I’msurprised John Densmore didn’t become good friends with him.
Q: And, once again, the Morrison vocals are potent, distinctive and his voice more confident than ever.
A: He’s no longer a blues singer. He’s added Frank Sinatra crooning to his voice and did an absolutely brilliant job. Terrific. Girls loved it. ‘Touch Me’ a number one song.
Q: You also had individual writing credits for the first time on the album sleeve.
A: That’s a great story. Because of ‘Touch Me.’ The song was initially called ‘Hit Me,’ and Jim is gonna say hit me. It’s ‘Hit Me’ like in poker. And Jim said, ‘No It’s not like poker. It’s like someone is gonna walk up to me and are gonna hit me. You gotta change the line.’ ‘To what?’ ‘Touch Me.’ Beautiful. And along with that ballad part he sings in ‘Tell All The People’ the line with ‘Get your guns…
Follow me down.’
“Morrison, a military boy said, ‘I am not going to say that.’ And Robby replied, ‘that’s the way I wrote it and you can’t change it.’ Robby was going to stand up to Jim at that point. And Jim said, ‘I am not going to do it.’
“And Robby said, ‘well that’s the song.’ And Jim said, ‘We’re gonna have to say that you wrote this song.’ And Robby said, ‘OK. Fine with me.’ And that lasted for one or two more albums.
Q. And, guitarist Robby Krieger was another kind of songwriter. He penned a lot of the popular radio hits and chart singles. “Love Me Two Times,” “Spanish Caravan,” the lyrics to “Tell All The People,” “Touch Me,” “Runnin’ Blue,” “Love Her Madly,” and co-wrote “Peace Frog” and “Light My Fire” with Morrison.
A. Robby was a different sort of lyric writer. You know, Robby might be the secret weapon of the Doors, we get this great guitar player who plays bottleneck, and all of a sudden he comes in and plays ‘Light My Fire,’ the first song he ever co-wrote with Jim. And then Robby wrote ‘Love Me, Two Times,’ ‘Love Her Madly.’ ‘Touch Me.’ Lots of Doors’ hit singles. Another guy with a high IQ.
Q: On “The Soft Parade” you had Harvey Brooks as well as Doug Lubahn on bass, saxophonist Curtis Amy and George Bohanan, the trombonist.
A: Wasn’t that great. Curtis Amy, who was married to Merry Clayton. Curtis was a big nationally known jazz horn player who lived in Los Angeles. He takes he solo on ‘Touch Me.’ It might have been he first time a real jazz saxophone solo went to number one on pop charts. And, we brought the strings and horn players to some shows and TV appearances. It was a great deal of fun for me to bring them on
Q: I saw the Forum gig in 1969.
A: It didn’t work for a lot of the critics and teenagers. ‘We’re not coming to see you guys expand.’ We want to see ‘Light My Fire.’ Four Doors. The sexy lead singer. You play the songs. No horns. No strings. No jazz soloing.’ Well, you’re gonna get it anyway. Like, at the Forum show you get Jerry Lee Lewis, Lonnie Mack, Sweetwater and a Chinese Pipa player, too. “We started experimenting in the studio. I wouldn’t allow anything to get out of the recording studio without my approval. If I didn’t think it was right it did not go on a record. Nothing happened without my OK. We did some composite vocals. You do what you have to do. If Jim sings one line great. Fine. Then let’s get the next line. Let’s get the words, man. Whatever it takes to get the best possible performance. While you can see that Jim Morrison is undergoing a transformation. Right before our very eyes. And I hoped that this transformation was short lived. But it wasn’t. ‘This can’t last. This is not Jim.’ ‘The Soft Parade’ song is an unusual piece of music. It’s a suite, you know. A suite of tunes all put together. Which is what it was.
Q: The Doors then arrive at ‘Morrison Hotel.” Why this direction?
A: Well, we had done out horns and strings experimentation. We had had a great time. I had a great time. Critically it was our least acclaimed album. However, it has stood the test of time and there are many great songs on there. So, you know what? We’ve done that experimentation. Let’s go back to the blues. Let’s get dark and funky. Let’s go downtown for the album cover. We went to the Hard Rock Café on skid row with (photographer) Henry Diltz. And we went to a flophouse called The Morrison Hotel. Rooms A sign read $2.50 and up. It was definitely supposed to be a funky album and you can see that on the inside photo and the front and back cover. Album covers were always important. We were involved heavily in that process. You could never just turn it over to he record company. Everything that The Doors turned out had to be stamped by The Doors. We approve of this.
Q: And, there’s a song called ‘Waiting For The Sun’ on “Morrison Hotel.”
A: We loved the title. But the song had not come together earlier. We finally got it and a beautiful piece of music. It needed to cook more. Sometimes Doors’ songs came out of the collective conscious whole. ‘Bam. That’s it.’ Others needed to cook and they needed be worked on. And ‘Waiting For The Sun’ was one of those songs with a great title and the song took a while to jell.
Q: It’s a hard mean album. Morrison’s voice lends itself to this specific material.
A: It was a barrelhouse album and barrelhouse singing. He’s smoking cigarettes. ‘Jesus Christ, Jim. Do you have to smoke cigarettes and drink booze?’ He didn’t say it but it was like, ‘This is what a blues man does.’ Oh fuck. That’s right. You’re an old blues man. He says that in one of his lines. ‘I’ve been singing the blues since the world began.’ And Rick and The Ravens was a surf and blues band from the South Bay. ‘Roadhouse Blues.’
Q: In addition, the album brings us as into the water and film noir aspect of Los Angeles. Water is a principal theme explored. “Ship of Fools.” The “River of Sadness” cited in “Peace Frog,” and the salvation of the ocean and the destination charted in “Land Ho!”
A: Water, ships. It clicks big time. The water images and that beach down in Venice. And that ocean side. ‘Moonlight Drive’ again. And the water always entered into Morrison’s life. And where does his life expire? In the water in the bathtub in Paris. From the amniotic fluid of his birth to the bathtub in Paris. His final expiration.
Q: Lonnie Mack plays bass on a couple of tracks on “Morrison Hotel.” He had an instrumental hit with a version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis.”
A: He was great, man. ‘Roadhouse Blues.’ Lonnie Mack. He was either recording in the next studio, or working around us, or came down, I can’t remember why he appears. Paul Rothchild said, “Hey. This is Lonnie Mack. He introduced him to Robby. ‘Hey, you wanna play some bass?’ ‘I’d love too, guys.’ Simple as that. That was a great deal of fun. The album was definitely blues, ‘Raymond Chandler.’ Downtown Los Angeles. Dalton Trumbo. ‘John Fante.’ ‘City of Night’ John Rechy.
Q: Then there is the tune “Peace Frog.” In 1995 you told me for “Goldmine” magazine, “Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago” is obviously about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was written after the young people rioted against the war, in Vietnam.”
A: Those are great lines. Morrison goes further to say, ‘Blood is the rose of mysterious union/blood will be born in the birth of a nation.’ So it’s the idea that blood is the cleansing property, and from blood will come the healing and the enlightenment of the nation. America is what Jim is singing about. ‘Birth of a Nation.’ Another cinematic reference.
Q: In that interview you mentioned you had a class at the UCLA School of Film with director Josef Von Sternberg (“The Blue Angel,” “Marocco,” “Shanghi Express”) who applauded your student film “Evergreen.” “Very good Manzarek. Very good.” You cited his praise as one of the greatest moments of your life, adding that Sternberg’s influence was inherent in the way he paced his movies and the psychological weight of his films informed the way you and Jim together wedded a cinema and music mixture.
A: He’s the guy who really kind of gave a real sense of darkness to The Doors, not that we wouldn’t have been there anyway. But having Von Sternberg seeing the deep psychology of his movies, and the pace at which he paced his films, really influenced Doors’ songs and Doors’ music. The film school is always there. Our song structure was based on the cinema. Loud. Soft. Gentle. Violent. A Doors’ song is again, aural, and aural cinema. We always tried to make pictures in your mind. Your mind ear. You hear pictures with the music itself.
Q: Just before the album “L.A. Woman” formally began, producer Paul Rothchild leaves the project.
A: Yes. He did a great service to us. We played the songs in the studio so Paul could hear what the songs were. First at the rehearsal studio and then over to Elektra. I think we went back to Sunset Sound, too. We were bored. He was bored. We played badly. And Paul said, ‘you know what guys? There’s nothing here I can do. I’m done. You’re are gonna have to do it yourselves.’ And he walked out the door. We looked at each other and said, ‘Shit. Bummer.’ And Bruce (Botnick) said, ‘Hey, I’ll do it! I’ll be the producer.’ John (Densmore) said, ‘We’ll co-produce with you.’ Bruce said, ‘That’s a deal. Let’s all do it together.’ And then Jim said, ‘Can we record at our rehearsal studio?’ And we all said, ‘Hey, we play great at our rehearsal studio. Let’s do it Can it be done?’ And Bruce said, ‘Of course I can do it there. I’ll set the board up and a studio upstairs. You guys record downstairs. That’s where we make the album and it will be virtually live. ‘Yea!’ And we got excited like that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland ‘Let’s put on a show!’ “The only thing with Bruce that was really different than working with Paul was that we didn’t do as many takes. We knew when we had it. The thing about Rothchild ‘he was a slave driver.’ That’s not really true. We did do a lot of takes on ‘Unknown Soldier’ and that drove Robby crazy.
Q: And, Jerry Scheff plays bass on ‘L.A. Woman.’
A: Botnick brings in a guy who is going to be playing with Elvis Presley. ‘I got Elvis Preesley’s bass player.’ ‘Shit, man.’ He came in. A very cool guy who is playing with Elvis Presley.
Q: And, you and Jim just earlier had watched the “Elvis Presley 1968 Comeback Special” on television together. I wrote the liner notes in 2008 for the CD reissue. Elvis is wearing leather on that program. And I believe Jim had his leather pants made on Sunset Blvd. in 1967, ’68.
A: Yes. We watched it. Elvis puts on his Morrison outfit. (laughs). He had seen Morrison. He knew what he was doing. Imitating Jim.
Q: “L.A. Woman” is a logical step from “Morrison Hotel.”
A: I think it’s the same Doors but a continual growth, continual evolution of The Doors. Continual revolution of The Doors.
Q: The title track “L.A. Woman” embodies movement, freedom, lust and dust.
A: ‘L.A. Woman’ is just a fast L.A. kick arse freeway driving song in the key of A with barely any chord changes at all. And it just goes. It’s like Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg heading from L.A. up to Bakersfield on the 5 Freeway. Let’s go, man.
Q: The haunting “Riders On The Storm.” In 1995 you ran down the song to me commenting on that highway and freeway chase depicted. “The storm is an unresolved psyche. We are moving into the Jungian collective unconscious. And those motivations in the collective unconscious are the same in 1976, 1968, 1969 as they are in 1994, 1995. There are needs that we all have on the human planet, and we must satisfy those needs and come to grips with the darkness and the interior of the human psyche.”
A: It’s the final classic, man. Interestingly, Robby and Jim come in and were working on ‘Riders On The Storm.’ And then they start to play it and it sounded like ‘An old cow poke riding out one dark and misty day.’ It was like ‘Ghost Riders in The Sky.’ No. We don’t do anything like ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ as much as I like it by Vaughn Monroe. And Jim likes it. What’s next? A version of Frankie Laine’s ‘Mule Train?’ Doors don’t do that. Let’s make this hip. The idea is good. We’re going to go out on the desert. ‘There’s a killer on the road.’ This has got to be dark, strange and moody. Let me see what I can do here. It was like ‘Light My Fire.’ It just came to me. I got it. The bass line.
It became this dark, moody Sunset Strip 1948 jazz joint.
Q: And, only Morrison could inject a Hollywood movie studio system reference in the lyric ‘an actor out on loan.’
A: Yeah. How ‘bout that, man.
Los Angeles native Harvey Kubernik is a music journalist for over 40 years and the author of 5 books, including “This Is Rebel Music” (2002) and “Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music In Film and On Your Screen” (2004) published by the University of New Mexico Press.
In 2009 Kubernik wrote the critically acclaimed “Canyon of Dreams The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon” published by Sterling, a division of Barnes and Noble now available since 2012 in paperback.
With brother Kenneth, he co-authored the highly regarded “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival” published in 2011 by Santa Monica Press. In summer of 2013 the company will publish Harvey’s book, “Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972.”
During 2013, Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik teamed up to write text and essays for the debut photography book of Guy Webster for Insight Editions due for publication in fall of 2014.
This decade, Harvey Kubernik penned the liner notes to the CD releases of Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” the Ramones’ “End of the Century” and the “Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special”).
He is the Contributing Editor of Treats!
In 2013, Kubernik was lensed for a BBC-TV documentary on Bobby Womack directed by James Meycock and also interviewed Brian Wilson on camera for the Chris Allen-directed documentary on songwriter and Wilson collaborator, Stephen J. Kalinich.