The Doors: The Doors of Perception
Using the band’s studio releases as reference points, each bandmember gives his version of the rise and fall of Jim Morrison and the Doors. Manzarek provides the myth and magic, Krieger contributes the musical insight and dispassionate remembrances, and the clear-eyed Densmore offers the healthy dash of reality. Botnick and Sugerman add detail and perspective. While individual recollections occasionally clash, together the group provides the closest picture of the truth currently available.
Unless, that is, Jim decides to put down his piña colada and gives us a call. Hey, you never know.
RAY MANZAREK Jim and I graduated from UCLA Film School in 1965, him with a Bachelor’s and me with a Master’s. He said he was moving to New York, and I thought I’d never see him again. Forty days and 40 nights later, almost biblically, I’m sitting on Venice Beach in the middle of the day, thinking, What am I going to do with myself ? And Jim Morrison comes walking along the edge of the water, backlit by the sun, diamonds coming off his feet. He’s like Krishna, like the new blue God. He was wearing just cutoffs and his hair had grown out, and he was beginning to look like Michelangelo’s David. I waved and yelled to him.
He came over and said, “What are you up to?” I said, “I’m not up to shit, man. How about you?” And he goes, “I’ve been writing songs.” My antenna perked up and I said, “Sit down and sing me one.” He was very shy and had a very soft, Chet Baker–like voice. The first song he sang was “Moonlight Drive,” and the moment I heard the lyrics—“Let’s swim to the moon, let’s climb through the tide, penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide”—I thought, Wow, man. Psychedelic. Because those words were LSD, and we were both acid heads. I’m imagining all the things I could do behind him—a little jazz, good, strong backbeats, some Ray Charles vamps—and I’m thinking, Jesus, this is amazing. We are going to form a rock band and be great. Because who was the competition? The Beatles playing Everly Brothers and the Rolling Stones doing Chicago blues. This was a whole different thing, a whole new genre.
I said to Jim, “This is going to be psychedelic. But there’s only one problem: what do we call it?” And he goes, “I already got the name, man. The Doors.” I said, “The Doors? That’s ridic… Oh, like the doors of perception? The doors of your mind?” And he said, “Exactly. Open the doors of perception.” I said, “That’s it, man. That’s it.”
JOHN DENSMORE Ray was in my meditation class, but we didn’t really know each other. He came up to me and said, “I hear you play drums. I have a great singer and I need a drummer.”
MANZAREK John and I were big Coltrane and Miles Davis fans, and we really tried to bring a lot of their modal influence to rock. I said to him, “I want to bring jazz elements into this band.” And he goes, “Oh man, what you’re talking about has never been done. It’s like jazz-rock.” I said, “There you go, man. Jazz-rock. That’s exactly what I want to do.”
DENSMORE It was exciting to think about doing something new. We had the same heroes and inspirations, and it seemed possible that we could create something really creative and inspirational. But as much as Ray likes to say that he founded the Doors with Jim and all that, it’s all bull to me, because the Doors did not exist until we hooked up with Robby Krieger—until I brought him to the band, thank you very much. His melodic sense and understanding of song structure were extremely deep. Without him, I can’t imagine what the Doors would have become.
I’ve known Robby since high school and he’s always been the same. He’s a great guy and a great musician, but he seems kind of out of it. And it’s not due to substance abuse. He’s just thinking about other stuff rather than the practical. I once said to Robby, “I love your solos, but you look like you’re lost! What are you thinking about?” And he said, “Oh, a fish in my fish tank.” So, he’s elusive, but he’s not dumb, believe me. He’s a very smart guy.
MANZAREK We originally had my brother Jim on harp and my brother Rick on guitar. We had some rehearsals and cut a demo, but it was going nowhere, we had no gigs, and my brothers both said, “Nothing is happening here. We have other things to do with our lives.” Then John said, “I know a great guitar player: Robby Krieger. He’s in our meditation class.”
ROBBY KRIEGER Ray’s brothers were good musicians, but they were like a surf band. I was coming from a different place. I had learned flamenco classical guitar, so I played with my fingers. I played slide, and I was into urban blues, all of which helped the band develop its own sound. But I think the writing aspect is what I really added. Jim and I just started writing a lot right away. And that’s where most of the material on the first and second albums came from. But that was all unknown to everyone when they hired me. They liked me because of my slide playing.
MANZAREK The first time we got together with Robby was at a friend’s house in Venice Beach. We started playing “Moonlight Drive,” and Robby said, “I’ve got something that might fit this.” He opens that little center thing on his guitar case, where you keep your strings, picks and stash, and out comes this jagged glass bottleneck. I thought, Why does he have a fucking weapon in there? What kind of gigs does this guy play?
I said, “God, man, what are you gonna do with that?” He said, “Fool, this is a bottleneck! Here’s what you do with it.” And he slipped it on and played that glass against the steel strings, and Morrison and I just shivered. It was one of the eeriest, spookiest sounds I had ever heard. Jim said, “That’s our sound, man! I want that on every single song.” Bam, that was it. We all smoked a joint and something magical happened. Robby was our secret weapon.
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