It’s only a three-quarter moon but it wakes me up at midnight and it feels full. Just before I went to sleep I read that keyboardist and composer Ray Manzarek had died earlier today, in Germany. A resident of Napa Valley California…not far from my sister. How come I’d never gone on a pilgrimage to meet him and tell him what effect he had had on my youth, in conjunction with, of course, Jim Morrison. It was now officially too late to do so. And I had missed him when he’d appeared locally a few years back, with guitarist Robby Krieger, in Albany, at The Egg. What a mistake…his last time around.
When Morrison died, I was only sixteen. That seemed epic and tragic in 1971, and as such, corrupted my otherwise positive outlook at that age, when everything was on the upgrade in my life, and I felt I had the world by the tail. I had not seen The Doors in concert and felt crushed that now I never would. For years afterward I would listen to their music in a trance state, and I have to tell you, it meant more to me, and seemed to have more depth, than anything I’d ever heard from The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, or whoever else was being touted as being the best of rock music.
Today I know there was a sloppy aspect to Morrison’s performances and behavior and I do not idolize the man as I did as a teenager,.. but Manzarek always commanded my respect in being the thinker, the musical intellectual, and the primary arranger of the group. White Krieger’s guitar was a stinging, lusty swagger that spoke like a blues siren, and John Densmore’s drums seemed the crispest and slickest of all rock stickmen.
But in later years, Krieger became spacey as a hippie spoof and Densmore was bitter about the the crashing aftermath, and never forgave Morrison for his early demise. Only the keyboard guy– Ray Manzarek– evolved into a transcendent state.
In 1968, when “Light My Fire” hit the nation’s airwaves, it seemed to be everywhere, Even though most of us had tinny transistor radios in our bedrooms, not exactly Bose speakers, you could tell that the roller-coaster jabbing of the organ was unlike any other rock group of the day, with the possible exception of Deep Purple. Jim Morrison’s seductive baritone stole the show, of course, but Manzarek led the ride like a ringmaster.
Someday soon, maybe I’ll take an hour on WEXT’s “My Exit” and dredge up some of the longer, more obscure Doors songs that stuck with me long after the group’s dissolution,
Over 40 years later, L.A. WOMAN, their last album recorded together, live in the studio, supposedly with no overdubs, remains on my Top 10 list of all time, despite falling well down the list on my favorite radio station’s Top 500 Countdown recently. I’d like to express to the listeners and those at the station themselves why the staying power of The Doors is so potent and prevalent even now…
It’s late on the east coast, Ray, and I feel your spirit here in the moonlight of mid-late May. Sorry to see you go, man, and sorry we never met. But there are keyboard hooks you injected into my soul long ago that will not be unfastened in my lifetime, and I thank you for those. Peace and safe travels beyond. Wayne