Gary James' Interview With Ray Manzarek of
It's been 20 years since Jim Morrison died and The Doors broke up. But, you wouldn't know it in 1991. The Doors are more alive today than perhaps at any other time. In part, that's due to the Oliver Stone film which premiered this year on the Doors, as well as several new books chronicling life with Morrison and The Doors.
On Sept. 12, MCA / Universal Home Video will release The Doors: The Soft Parade - A Retrospective, containing film footage from behind the scenes as well as never before seen interviews. Directed by Doors member Ray Manzarek, The Soft Parade is must viewing for anyone who's a fan of The Doors or even had the slightest of interest in the group.
Q - Ray, I'm curious why the PBS network never ran the footage of The Doors that you have in your video, for re-broadcast?
A - They didn't know they had it. It was part of a 28-part series and most of it was classical musicians, a couple of jazz musicians, and two or three rock bands. It was out of New York and they erased all the masters. They had no master tapes left. When we said to them we want to use it, they went into their files and said, "Oh. that's great," it'll cost you a certain amount of money to use it. We said, 'You have the masters?" They said "We have the file here." And, somebody went to the vault in New Jersey and the entire vault was empty. They had all been dumped, erased and thrown away. Fortunately, we found someone who worked on the show, and they had what's called a three-quarter inch. Someone had taken a copy at the time of the show. So what we had was a small copy of the original master. So, thank God, somebody had done that, one of the production assistants. That's why they've never used it, and that's all we had to use.
Q - I'm always amazed at how much material will come out on a group like the Doors, 20 years after they've broken up.
A - Yeah. (Laughs.
Q - Do you have more material just waiting to be released?
A - There is more. There is only more video footage. There is not more of everything. There is not more recordings. There is some film footage left. There is not another video show, oh, wait a minute. There is one, a show up in Toronto, a performance of 'The End' that we'll use someday. But, they took out the whole Oedipal section, the whole mother / father section, "the killer awoke before dawn" has been edited out of that show. The censors edited the whole sequence out of that show, man. (Laughs.) It was just too heavy. He took a face from the ancient Gallery. It's not "father I want to kill you, mother I want to..." It's "the killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on, and he took a face from the ancient Gallery, like a Greek mask." That's what Jim Morrison is all about.
Q - Doesn't it just drive you up a wall sometimes when you have to talk about a time in your life that happened 25 years ago?
A - Yeah, I wish people would get hip to it already, so I don't have to talk about it anymore and explain what the Sixties were all about and explain psychedelic and all of that. Yeah, I'm just waiting for the current generation to put on their psycholic boots and join us here in the upper reaches of the universe. C'mon, c'mon you guys, and you girls, let's go. Get off the greed wagon. Overthrow the whole Reagan / Bush idea of exploitative capitalism. Let's get benevolent. Let's get some benevolent capitalism. Let's stop working for the money and start working for our brothers and sisters and the planet and all of that stuff. You know, all that good hippie stuff. The hippie stuff is a lot more fun than the cocaine and heroin that people are taking today. Man, the drugs people take today, I cannot believe. I absolutely agree with "Just Say No' to drugs. Crack? The worst stuff in the world. Heroin? The worst. Back in the Sixties, no one would touch that stuff. That stuff wasn't even around. Stop the drugs. I'm just waiting for the young people to put on their fighting boots. Put the gloves on. Let's go head to head. It's either gonna be Gordon Gekko and corporate takeovers and yuppies will rule with the BMW's or it's gonna be people who love the planet. It's gonna be one or the other man. I guarantee you, Gordon Gekko and the corporate takeovers will destroy this planet. This is the only one we got. You destroy this planet, and this planet is gonna turn into Mars.
Q - Have you had a chance to read any of the new books that have come out on The Doors in these last few months?
A - Yeah, I've skimmed them. Which is the best one? The Illustrated History of the Doors. It's the actual writings of the times. It's a compilation of what newspapers and magazine articles were writing at the time about The Doors.
Q - How about this new book Break On Through?
A - What about it?
Q - Have you read it?
A - I skimmed it. I know the stories. See I'm not concerned with what Jim Morrison did with his penis. I'm more concerned with what Jim Morrison wrote about. That's the difference between the 60's and the 90's, the 80's. We're not in the 90's. We're still on an 80's mentality. The 90's really haven't started yet. We just want sensationalism. What did the artist create? What are The Doors songs? What are the poems Jim wrote? What are the poems about? And man, they're about much further out stuff than the sensationalism going around now, the sensationalism of the Oliver Stone movie. The books are sensational.
Q - From the Break On Through book, "Were it not for Ray Manzarek's vision, it is highly unlikely that Jim Morrison would have become a rock singer..."
A - Well, that's very nice of him.
Q - "He taught him the basics of singing, motivated him and at times tolerated him, all the while keeping his eyes focused on the greatness he believed was within." What was the greatness you saw in Jim Morrison before the rest of the world saw it?
A - The same greatness that the world now sees. I just saw it then. It's exactly the same thing. Jim was obviously gifted and obviously gonna be a star, and obviously had brains. The main thing was he had brains. He was very smart and the words were very good, the songs were very good. That was the main thing.
Q - How about the showmanship? He wasn't as developed as a showman when you first met him.
A - Who cares about the showmanship? Only today do they care about the showmanship. See, that's today again. Showman? Jim Morrison wasn't a showman. He was a Shaman. He wasn't a showman. He was a poet. He jumped around onstage because he was feeling the music. He wasn't putting on a show. He was getting into the music. Morrison was never a showman. You want a showman, go see rock 'n' roll bands today. You want to have a shamanistic experience, get psychedelic, then you watch The Doors. Get "The Soft Parade". Watch the videos. Watch "The Doors Live at the Hollywood Bowl". That's not a show at the Hollywood Bowl. That's enjoying the music. He was never a showman. Showman goes with the circus, Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Bros...The Big Top, the Big Show. Rock 'n' roll is like a circus today.
Q - A few comments about the Oliver Stone movie. Oliver Stone would have us believe that Jim Morrison was drunk and stoned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You have to wonder when Morrison had the time to write, record, rehearse, travel, give interviews, and do photo shoots. And secondly, did you catch the end of the film? Oliver Stone writes, "Jim Morrison is said to have died of a heart attack at the age of 27 in Paris, on July 3,1971." This is Oliver Stone, one of the most admired film directors / writers around today. That's the best he could come up with? Why didn't he tell us for sure? I want to know if you agree with me?.
A - Yeah, absolutely. What a jive-ass thing to do. He should be ashamed of himself. Too sensationalistic. Too jivey. Jim with a bottle all the time. It was ridiculous. It was like a movie about an alcoholic. If you want to see a movie about a drunk go see The Doors movie. If you want to see the real Jim Morrison and The Doors, you gotta see "The Soft Parade". That's what it's all about. That's what those home videos are all about. That's why I spent all the time making them. "Dance on Fire", "Live At the Hollywood Bowl", and "The Soft Parade", that's the real Doors. It's in your video store. Oliver Stone did a terrible job, but it sure was wild. It was a wild movie, and a lot of people liked the wildness of the movie, it's wild, but it's not psychedelic. It was not about Jim Morrison. It was about Jimbo Morrison, the drunk. God, where was the sensitive poet and the funny guy. The guy that I knew was not on that screen. That was not my friend. I don't know who that guy was.
Q - I know Morrison didn't get along too well with his parents, but how come we've never heard anything from Jim's brother and sister?
A - I don't know. That's a good question. I don't really know. I met Ann and Andy. So, it's Jim, Ann and Andy Morrison. Andy is a nice guy. Ann is very sweet. I met them at the Doors office, a long time ago. I haven't seen them since 1970. I have no idea why they haven't written their books, and told us their side of the story.
Q - And they could tell stories that to date, have never been told. Everyone picks up the Jim Morrison story from his college days on.
A - Right. We hardly even know from Oliver Stone, enough about him in college. What a goofy movie. I looked in the man's (Oliver Stone's) eyes and I saw something wrong there. Something's wrong with this guy. The Doors movie is a pack of lies.
Q - And it did not do well at the box office.
A - That's right It did not make money. You want to make money in America? Give 'em a good product. Tell the truth. Give 'em a decent, clean, wholesome product You want to make a movie about The Doors, you tell the truth. Don't make up stories about The Doors. You make the real Doors, you'll make money on it.
Q - Let's take you back to 1968 and The Doors tour in Amsterdam. Jim fell down on stage and was knocked unconscious. Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, who was there on the bill, was surprised that you took over for Jim and sang all the songs, with the same phrasing Jim had. You sounded like Jim. How did you do that?
A - We know the songs. John, Ray and Robbie all know the songs. We all know exactly what the words are. When Jim sings, we listen to the words. We know the words. We know how the songs go. Everybody in the band knew the songs. You just didn't get up onstage and play your part and go crazy playing your part, and not know what the singer was singing! We all listened to each other. That's the difference between the 60's and the 90's. The 60's people worked together. In the 90's they work for the individual ego. But, we gave up our individual egos and all listened to each other. So when Jim was unable to perform, hey, fine. I'll do it. I know how the songs go. I know how the phrasing goes.
Q - How did you write the music to Jim's lyrics? Did that come right away?
A - Usually the ideas came very quickly. Some of the songs however did take a long time to evolve. "Moonlight Drive" for instance took awhile to evolve from the initial time Jim sang it to me on the beach, until it was finally recorded. The song went through a few little evolutions. Some of the songs took a long time to come together, but most of 'em were pretty quick. We were all in tune with each other. You have to remember it was the 60's and people were much more open and spontaneous and excited and happy to be alive. So, when you're glad to be alive, good ideas come. The reason good ideas don't come today is because we're all bottled up with greed and anger. We're mad. White and black are fighting. We've got race wars in America. Lousy products, and you can't breathe the air. The whole country is mad at each other. So, how can you be creative? You can't. You can't think. You can't feel. You can't even have good sex.
Q - The Doors last album "LA Woman" contains some classic Doors songs. Yet, producer Paul Rothchild thought that The Doors were through at that time. I don't understand it. Why did he think that?
A - That's a question you're going to have to ask Paul Rothchild. (Laughs.)
Q - You can't get into his head.
A - Yes I can, but I'm not going to, nor am I going to share that with you. (Laughs.) That's one of those questions that's got to do with psychological motivation and has nothing to do with the artistry of The Doors. Rothchild did a great job on all The Doors productions and he chose at that time not to be involved with The Doors for LA Woman. If you want to talk about the positive aspects of Paul Rothchild's production, like on "Strange Days", the brilliant job he did on that, I'm all for it. You want to talk about Paul Rothchild doing something negative? Nope.
Q - It's been reported that when you visited Jim Morrison's grave in Paris you said, "Jim is not here." Did you say that?
A - Yes.
Q - What did you mean by that?
A - There's a body there, but that's not Jim.
Q - Meaning what? It is Jim's body?
A - Yeah. The energy, the spirit, the intellect, the heart, the soul of Jim Morrison is not there.