by Robert Wilkinson
Today would have been the 75th birthday of Ray Manzarek.
We won't see the likes of him again anytime soon. Ray Manzarek (February 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013) had a strange synergy with Jim that made for some of the most excellent creepiest music ever made. Add Robbie's haunting guitar and John's perfectly spare drumming and you had "lightning in a bottle" magic for about 1700 days.
A little from Wiki: The origins of The Doors lie in a chance meeting between acquaintances and fellow UCLA film school alumni Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach in Los Angeles in July 1965. By 1966, the group was playing the LA club London Fog and soon graduated to the prestigious Whisky a Go Go, where they were the house band, supporting acts including Van Morrison's group Them. On their last night together the two bands joined up for... a twenty-minute jam session of Them's "Gloria"....
On August 10, they were spotted by Elektra Records president Jac Holzman who was present at the recommendation of Love singer Arthur Lee, whose group was with Elektra Records. After Holzman and producer Paul A. Rothchild saw two sets of the band playing at the Whisky a Go Go, they signed them to the Elektra Records label on August 18—the start of a long and successful partnership with Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick. Later that month, the club fired the band after a profanity-filled performance of "The End".
In March 13, 1971, Jim moved to Paris and the rest is history.
So today, we celebrate the life and work of the great Ray Manzarek with some great performances!
First, a very live in the studio performance from Danish tv in 1968 of “Love Me Two Times”
From 1968, the original music video by the Doors performing “Hello I Love You”
Welcome to a very edgy video set to a live performance of “Roadhouse Blues”
Bounce music! “Whiskey Bar” and “Love Me Two Times”
Here’s their very live, very first kinetic tv performance from Jan 1967! Welcome to the Doors performing their first hit, “Break On Through (to the other side)”
Also from 1967, live at the Matrix, an audio-only offering of Jim’s poetry set to the exquisite organ of Ray Manzarek in the haunting “The Crystal Ship”
Here’s the tune that blew the doors down! Live at the Hollywood Bowl on July 4, 1968, complete with illegal fireworks in the background, the Doors live in a great 10 minute version featuring great keyboard work by Ray of “Light My Fire”
This next song is like Godzilla marching through the streets of Tokyo! From 1968, this very ominous song gives a feel for just how edgy it really WAS back then, with illegal wars and government mischief. ("Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.") Still, this song features some of the creepiest keyboard and guitar lines ever played, with an impeccable military beat. Live from the Hollywood Bowl, the Doors doing their tune from the “Easy Rider” soundtrack, “5 to 1” (which segues into “Back Door Man.”)
Live in Europe in 1968, a great performance to shake it! “Back Door Man”
From the same show, a fantastic live performance nevertheless of the haunting antiwar anthem “The Unknown Soldier”
From a 1969 live television show, here are the Doors performing the very bouncy, boozy “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)”
From the same 1969 live show, “Back Door Man”
Here’s the official music video of “People Are Strange”
Here’s the music video of “LA Woman”
If you’re into a waltz, here you go! “Shaman’s Blues”
Very atmospheric and said to be Ray’s greatest achievement, here’s the original studio version of the legendary “Riders On The Storm”
Here’s Ray and Robbie live in a performance in Kiev, Ukraine in 2012, doing “Riders on the Storm” complete with a brief homage phrasing “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” which readers will remember from the RIP Ray piece that they used that song as inspiration for “Riders on the Storm.” Simply brilliant!
And we end this birthday tribute where we began, with a live performance of “Love Me Two Times”
For even more Doors performance videos, please check out the recent 2014 birthday tribute to Robbie Krieger. There are some really great clips there. I’d have included them here, but ran out of time given everything else on my plate this year.
RIP Ray. You were the perfect person at the perfect place at the perfect time to capture lightning in a bottle!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson