The Doors' keyboardist shares
Rock And Rules - Ray Manzarek

As one-quarter of The Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek has experienced success and excess. From a life in rock and roll comes these valued guidelines.


When forming a band, you have to have an instinct that speaks to you and makes you think, ‘Hey, this guy’s good! These are good lyrics!’ If you read poetry and if you were a musician, you could tell that Jim Morrison’s lyrics would lend themselves beautifully to rock and roll songs. We both came from the same place musically and lyrically instinctively. At that particular point in time, we had both taken LSD, so the doors of perception were open, and with those open doors, things were coming in from all over the place. From the sun, from the ocean - the beach in Venice, California - from our father the sun, filling us with light and energy and profound thought. It was cosmic consciousness. So, there’s Morrison and Manzarek on the beach with open doors of perception, and Jim is singing those songs to me and I’m thinking, ‘This guy is great! And he’s my buddy from film school at UCLA! He’s been transformed!’ I hadn’t seen him for two months and he was transformed into Jim Morrison: from UCLA film student to rock idol-to-be. Follow your instincts, man, that’s what it’s all about.


You capture the energy of creativity and you work it and milk it and squeeze and tighten it and let it loose, and then bring it back in, and then you rock and you stomp and you scream and your shout and you holler. That’s what you do. Make your music as passionate as you can possibly make it. And still under control. You don’t lose control and go totally ape-shit, because then you’re just a screaming maniac. And maybe even that will be successful, who knows?


We were always allowed to do whatever we wanted to do. And we did. And we got arrested. Jim was arrested in Miami for threatening to show his johnson! We got so big that people just started coming to see the spectacle: ‘Jim’s going to do something dirty! He’s going to do something obscene!’ So that titillated a lot of the squares. But nonetheless most of the time we would grab them and we would hypnotize them. A Doors show was always hypnotic. It might be sensational from a scatological point of view, but it was always hypnotic, whether it was sensational or not. Our favorite performances were the ones in which we would probe the unconscious.


Just because your second album isn’t the monster hit like the first album, doesn’t mean you panic. We knew the second album was fantastic. The only thing it didn’t have was that Number One single. The album went Top Ten, but it wasn’t a matter of numbers, it was a matter of vibrations, and the vibrations were proper, the vibrations were correct, the vibrations were harmonious in a dark, spooky kind of way with what was going on in the world of young people. We were appealing to the new tribe, we weren’t appealing to the mass. We never intended to be a monster band. We intended to be a popular band, a very popular band, but within a limited framework. It was within the framework of the Intelligentsia, part of the new, young, thinking people who were reading books, the people who were opening the doors to perception; that was our audience and we did fine with them.


No white powder in the arm or up the nose, or into the butt hole. Lay off the white powders, and stay strictly psychedelic. You’re not going to die from LSD, you’re not going to die from marijuana. You could very easily die from cocaine and heroin. And as far as drinking goes, don’t drink yourself into a stupor. We don’t know what happened to Jim Morrison, but it was excess. Jim Morrison died in Paris of excess. You name it, he did too much of it. So just don’t do too much.

Interview by Simon Harper

The Doors’ ‘L.A. Woman: 40th Anniversary Edition’ is out now on Warner Music.

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