10 Questions for Ray Manzarek | The Doors

The Doors - Ray Manzarek

After discussing Jim Morrison at length, Stephen and I decided to develop questions for Ray Manzarek, keyboards for The Doors. While a lot of popular culture focuses on Morrison, we felt more attention should be paid to the other band members and to start by finding out more about Manzarek. He not only brought The Doors together, he also played the keyboard & keyboard bass, lending The Doors their iconic sound. We decided to focus our Manzarek questions around the The Doors second album, Strange Days released in 1967 shortly after their debut album, The Doors. The tone of Strange Days reminds me of the opening sentence to a Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." A pure joy to listen to this album again!

First question that pops to mind is How did Manzarek come to play the keyboard and keyboard bass developing an iconic sound? The Animales, " The House of the Rising Sun " hits number 1 hit in 1964, a year before The Doors form and you see Alan Price on a Vox Continental, did this influence Manzarek ? The first mass produced transistor appears in 1959 -- Vox uses the transistor to develop the Continental for touring and to replacing tone wheel organs. Coincidentally, in 1960 Fender Rhodes introduces the earliest keyboard bass. The keyboard bass amplifies vibrating metal tines like a guitar, and can be altered like an electric guitar, for example wah-wah effects -- this allowed Manazark to play the bass part with his left hand. Was The Doors psychadelic sound more of a function of technology, as much as the psychedelic rock movement?

I find Manzarek's 1961 - 1962 tour in the Army Security Agency (ASA) interesting and lots of questions come to mind. The ASA reported directly to the National Security Agency (NSA) and strives to maintain an edge in new electronic technology. Did this open Manzarek up to using the Vox keyboard ? Mazarek's deployment to Laos in 1961, opens even more questions for me. The US was trying to prevent a civil war in Laos. Was he helping with Air America, or assigned to Special Forces as an analyst ? In the Army with Ray, Britt Leach paints a picture of Manzarek as a rebel by not agreeing to sign documents related to his security clearance, with the idea that he would never be allowed to travel to Poland, under USSR control at the time. Why would the Army send him to Laos, on a even more potentially sensitive mission. Was he recruited and this was part of Mazarek's training ? I know, total conspiracy theory. Yet, Morrison, the son of a decorated Navy admiral meet ...

Manzarek returns to film school in 1962 and finishes in 1965. He was a good film maker. Why jump into music ?

Stephen and I cover this ground and more in the YouTube video "10 Questions for Ray Manzarek ", also available via podcast at podcast.chocolaad.com.

Like doing your own research on Ray Manzarek? Check out Manzarek's book Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors, available on eBay, and this playlist of video interviews with Manzarek. The 10 Questions video contains even more sources in the description section. Follow this link for a playlist of music similar to The Doors.