Pay no attention to that dirty hippie making love to his microphone stand... THIS is about the man behind the keyboard. His name is Ray Manzarek and he is freshly dead. Once upon a time, he co-founded a band by the name of The Doors - a frightening little combo with no bass player and a lead singer dripping with charisma, chaos and quite a few chemicals. “The Lizard King”, he called himself and it got a lot of press. But the musical landscape upon which Morrison trod was largely built by that cat hunched over the Vox Continental.
A contemplative gent with a degree in Economics, Ray Manzarek grew up playing piano before meeting Jim Morrison shortly after completing UCLA Film School. What followed was a collaboration of music and madness, a troubling amalgam of theatrical bedlam and psychedelic sensibilities. Did I mention the music kicked ass? It did, but only in the most unconventional ways. And while Jim with his tortured howl and angelic looks got all the camera time, all ears were tuned in to the kaleidoscope of sound Ray wrenched from those primitive, carnival-like keys.
But Ray did more than provide a musical underpinning for his friend to preen upon. He also kept his lead singer alive. For awhile, anyway. Onstage, Ray, along with Robbie and John, would fill in the gaps between Jim’s natural genius and his drug-fueled delusions. In fact, all three instrumentalists became adept at punctuating their leader’s musical missteps with just the perfect flourish. Credit Ray, whose precision, intellect and deep hippie street cred foiled Morrison’s grimmest proclivities. For far too short a time, they made music: brooding, spooky tunes that had more to do with setting worlds on fire than wanting to hold your hand.
Long after Jim Morrison left this realm, Ray found himself explaining their days away. Verbal, kinetic and usually smoking, Ray Manzarek gave the kind of interviews rock writers dream about. “I played Apollo to his Dionysus!” he’d tell any scribe who’d listen and they’d always nod, not always knowing who Dionysus was. That’s okay, Ray did. For Manzarek made music with a fallen God and he seemed to know this long before Morrison ascended into legend. Now that Ray has joined him, there’s no telling what those two are up to. One thing’s for sure, though...
It sounds like nothing else you’ve ever heard.