Ray Manzarek recently died. I’m listening to the Doors live at the Matrix March 1967. Recorded five months after they recorded their first album but before it was released. Lots from that first album plus material they were working on for Strange Days. It is so sweet to hear live versions of The End and When the Music’s Over. Cool to hear them as a band and not as the icons they too quickly became.
I remember listening to that first album in my bedroom – amazed by the long version of Light My Fire & totally hot for Morrison. The rest of the group held little interest for me. Ray was a codger on keyboards. So many bands of the time featured that Farfisa organ sound but this was one of the first that was propelled by it.
Ray certainly educated my ear to Brian Auger, Jimmy Smith – that thick juicy jazzy organ sound – which, in part, pumped jazz into my life – guitarists John McLaughlin & Larry Coryell were the other main jazz influences on me before I was overwhelmed by Coltrane.
Jim was broody, poetic and seemingly dangerous. Regardless of how banal the songs the band sometimes produced he was always compelling. I could always tell his ‘words’ – Rimbeauesque mystical laced phrases ‘secret alphabet’ – when the song sounded like they could be sung by Harpers Bazaar (Love Street) I knew why he was frustrated in losing his artistic openness to financial constraints.
I was numbed by his death – coming in that chain of pop idols: Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Croce. I’m sad that Ray has passed away, too, but know I without Morrison I wouldn’t know who he was. Who reads Verlaine?
I’ve read a few bios of Jim – in one (Jim Morrison by Stephen Davis) I find that his bisexuality was no secret but kept out of the press. Knowing the connection between sexuality & suicide I wonder how much that played into his death. I’d highly recommend the Davis bio, as well as Greil Marcus’s ‘The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening.’
‘Music is your only friend’ became an anthem phrase for so many of us, and it still is. A simple, direct, nearly trite statement, that for me, captures so much of the ache of growing up. Your only friend in heterosexist culture when fear made one ‘the stranger’ – in ‘people are strange when you are the stranger’ and I dreaded being tracked down.
paint it black