May 21, 2013

Ray Manzarek, RIP

The keyboard player of The Doors has died of cancer at 74. I saw him perform in January 1981 as the producer / fifth member of X. I can recall thinking during Manzarek's organ solo in X's walk-off song "The World's a Mess (It's in My Kiss), "You know, for an old guy, he's really good."

35 comments:

Lurch said...

I just listened to "People are Strange" as a tribute. That keyboard solo had the creepy feel of a player piano by itself over in the corner of a Victorian parlor.

Daybreaker said...

That would be good for not an old guy too.

I hope he had as much fun playing his keyboards as everyone else had listening to him.

Captain Tripps said...

Loved the Doors growing up in the mid-70's; they were all over what was becoming the "Classic Rock" ouevre on FM radio. Whenever I think of Ray Manzarek, I always think of this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58ceB8U9N3w

LOVE the opening keyboard riff...

Shouting Thomas said...

Old Dawgz are always the best, Steve.

garyinfh said...

The Doors’ first album was, by far, their best, although Strange Days was a perfectly fine follow-up. For those who weren’t around at the time to hear what the fuss was all about (I’m about to turn 51, and remember dragging my parents to the nearest record store so I could buy “Light My Fire” on 45 when it was ubiquitous on the radio in 1967; but what was that eerie song on the B side, “The Crystal Ship?” Later on, I learned about those things called minor chords…), the best introduction to the Doors in the studio is the 2xCD Legacy: The Absolute Best, which excerpts generous portions of the first two albums and cherry-picks the rest of the studio recordings.

As for Ray Manzarek’s post-Doors second act as producer/keyboardist for X, suffice it to say that he produced the band’s first four albums, each of which is at least a four-star record (on a scale of five stars being the best album it could possibly be), and the first three -- Los Angeles, Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun -- arguably merit five-star status. The fourth, More Fun in the New World, runs out of gas towards the end of the second side (of the original LP), but still holds up as a terrific rock album, even thirty years on. X was a great band, but after they switched producers, trading Manzarek for heavy-metal mayven Michael Wagener on their fifth album, Ain’t Love Grand, they never again made a truly memorable record. No one ever captured them quite like Ray Manzarek, and he’s as responsible as anyone actually in X for the sound of the first two albums.

Ray Manzarek, z’l”.

d said...

74 for a rock musician is like 150 in normal people years.

tabulator said...

Does that kind of generation gap still exist - do 20 year old guys still think a 42 year old playing in a bad is an "old guy"?

Darfur Miller said...

I once was quite chummy with Nigel Harrison, an English bass player who played with Ray a while before joining a New York band with a cute but over the hill girl singer (who embarrassed the hell out of him when they got inducted into the Rock Hall).

Nigel's stories of Ray were amusing as hell,but not for general circulation so I won't. He was one of the best rock and roll keyboard players, in terms of playing what was needed and making it go.

RIP Mr. Manzarek.

elvisd said...

Steve, if you lived in LA at that time, I hope you saw Black Flag, 45 Grave, the Zeros, the Weirdos,the Screamers, or D.I. I sure would have enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Great song.

-The Judean People's Front

Anonymous said...

At the studio with X doing "White Girl":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emY12SGdrIM

God, X was great.

the gubbler said...

His only amazing work on keyboard was for LIGHT MY FIRE.

Marc B said...

Manzarek seemed like the brains behind the whole operation. RIP.

Steve Sailer said...

"I hope you saw Black Flag, 45 Grave, the Zeros, the Weirdos,the Screamers, or D.I. "

I got a lot of questions like that from my son, because the only thing in my record collection he likes is my 1981 45 rpm single of Black Flack covering "Louie Louie" in 75 seconds.

In truth, I wasn't that interested in music that was intentionally subcultural. I was mostly interested in music that ought to become the new mainstream. My deep down hope was for a kind of music that I liked (fast and loud guitar rock) and that girls could tolerate would become the new Top 40. For example, I saw the Go-Gos at New Year's Eve 1980 at the Whiskey for a moderate price, but six months later every 19 year old girl in America was blasting We've Got the Beat. I liked 19-year-old girls in 1981.

If X had become as big nationally as the Doors had been, the Blasters had become the new Allman Brothers, and Los Lobos the new Santana, I would have been happy. I would have done a little bit of the "Oh, they used to be so much cooler before they got popular whining," but really that much.

Anonymous said...

The second act for Mr. Manzarek...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i19TYrxTS2A

Steve Sailer said...

"d said...
74 for a rock musician is like 150 in normal people years."

Right. And all the announcements of his death were clearly crafted by Manzarek beforehand to emphasize that he died of a specific form of cancer, not of general rock star wear and tear (it's not uncommon to see ex-rock stars check out around 60.) And the obituaries mention he died surrounded by family members.

The context for Manzarek stage-managing the reporting of his death as an exercise in bourgeois propriety is Jim Morison's death 42 years ago at age 27 (the same year Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died at 27). Morison became a role model for a lot of young people who thought dying young was Romantic. Manzarek often got asked about Morison's legacy, and he clearly felt a sense of responsibility for trying to get through to young fools that living is better than dying.

eh said...

do 20 year old guys still think a 42 year old playing in a bad is an "old guy"?

Around '05 Time or some similar gen. interest magazine had an article about how people 4-5 yrs. out of college were feeling that they were "old."

mostly hamless said...

Steve Sailer said:

"I liked 19-year-old girls in 1981."

So how did you feel about 19-year-old girls by 1982? By 2012?

You're a riot, Stevers. That's why I keep checking in.

jody said...

get with the times steve. justin bieber at the billboard awards show is what all the cool kids are talking about right now.

it's been 3 long, brilliant years from one of our greatest musical genuises, who says he doesn't deserve the milestone award at age 19.

(totally not serious)

i note with some sort of a cultural outsiders mirth that the passing of great figures in rock will be met with a "who?" from the coming multiracial, but monomusical america, in which all colors of the rainbow are represented, yet listen to but one sound, the droning, low sophistication, rythmically ultra dull, low intelligence garbage known as year 2013 rap. retard rap, i've called it before. so much less interesting than even other rap from only 15 or 20 years ago.

when stevie wonder dies though, it will be a national day of mourning. when tina turner goes, watch out! i lol'd when they flew the flags at half mast for whitney houston. she was great but...she was still just a singer, and not even in the top 10 most important american musicians ever. they would never do that for an artist of a different hue, fly the flag at half mast, regardless of their musical stature.

in music, as in all fields, there is some kind of automatic +1000 bonus applied to africans, and africans only, which causes people to way overreact and lend far too much weight and gravity to the situation. i note, for instance, that when one of the guys from kriss kross died, CNN deemed it to be front page news on their website. not just front page news, but the headline story. again, this was KRISS KROSS. a TOTALLY MINOR one hit wonder from 20 years ago.

a lot of the rock guys will, against all odds, live for long enough that by the time they do die in a couple decades, the US will be so transformed that it will barely even be news when they finally bite the dust.

Anonymous said...

If I re-read "Less Than Zero" I sort of expect to see a mention of a tall, golfing-obsessed guy who drives a Honda Accord.

SAF said...

Jody, you're right about modern pop and hip hop but Stevie Wonder has no place in the Kris's Kross musical hall of shame. When he and Aretha Franklin pass away, the media attention will be deserved.

Carol said...

I think Manzurek is responsible for the fabulous Doors remixes that have been on FM the last 10 years or so.

As I recall, at the time they first hit the airwaves, the Doors sounded kinda different, not the formula record co creation of the time. That sort of thing added to their longevity; they don't sound so dated as the Grassroots or Ides of March or whoever was being hyped back then.

Bangs wannabee said...

Stevie Wonder was a pos—from his insipid Fingertips (with fake crowd noise) to whatever he droned onto. His usefulness was to color the spectrum (think Sly) of the then hip fm-progressive sound making the paul simonses feel better about themselves.

Dave Pinsen said...

The Doors went on tour about ten years ago with Ian Astbury of The Cult as their front man. Here they are doing Riders On The Storm live. I saw The Cult a few years ago, and Ian quoted a bit of The Doors in The Cult's one Doors-like song.

BTW, Steve: how well did Oliver Stone capture the 1960s Southern California zeitgeist in his movie about The Doors?

Brent Lane said...

Since we are roughly the same age and have very similar musical tastes (I gravitated towards the poppier stuff myself, even as I admired and appreciated the less commercial artists for breaking new ground), I must admit I wasn't a Doors fan in my youth. Even as a young child during their heyday, there was something about their sound that wasn't quite right (granted, I mostly knew them from their big radio hits like "Light My Fire", "Touch Me" and "Love Her Madly"). It wasn't until I was in my teens in the mid 70s that i learned why: they didn't have a bass guitarist. Manzarek played all the bass parts on a keyboard. As a bassist myself by this time, I considered them rock and roll heretics.

Time and exposure to some of their less popular tunes (particularly "Break On Through", "Love Me Two Times" and "Five To One") eventually brought me around, and I now readily acknowledge the tremendous influence they had on American music - which I consider as almost entirely attributable to Manzarek.

Mr. Anon said...

"Steve Sailer said...

My deep down hope was for a kind of music that I liked (fast and loud guitar rock) and that girls could tolerate would become the new Top 40."

If you like loud guitar-centric rock that's approchable, you might like the more recent stuff of The Hives:

Try it Again

Two Timing Touch

Their older stuff is faster, but more garage-band-like.

Hunsdon said...

There's not much about music I can brag about. I like what I like. But I've listened to enough Texas blues to know that the keyboard can totally drive the show. Jim may have been the face but Ray was the driving force.

I've also gotta say, I came for our host's socio-political insights, and I stay for them, but the detours into golfing and music are always a blast.

Five Daarstens said...

Spy magazine had a great fake magazine ad of Jim Morrison promoting a brand of Scotch at the age of 50. I tried to find it online, but no luck. I don't know where they found that actor, but he looked exactly like an aged Jim Morrison.

Brent Lane said...

One of the great things about the early MTV days is that they were able to secure rights to air some of the 60s-era TV performances of rock icons like the Doors. One of my favorites is this classic from the Smothers Brothers show. Three burning questions I've had for all these years since I first saw it: (1) what the hell happened to guitarist Robbie Kreuger right before the performance? He looks like he came through the Watts riots on the way to the studio; (2)was Jim Morrison a little, umm, distracted during this taping? How else can you explain his being so busy shaking his maraca (not a euphemism, by the way) that he totally blew his entrance on the 2nd verse? and (3) what do you suppose was going through the minds of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra as they supplied the horn parts?

Anonymous said...

Sure, it wasn't this fake Gap ad from Esquire...

http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b189/darkstar2525/JDESQUIREGAP19912.jpg

d said...

Isn't it weird to think that Jim Morrison's dad was the admiral of the ship in the Gulf of Tonkin incident?

Five Daarstens said...

"Sure, it wasn't this fake Gap ad from Esquire..."

That was it, thanks!

Hunsdon said...

d mentioned Jim Morrison's dad and the Gulf of Tonkin.

Hunsdon said: If you want to delve into one of the more bizarre conspiracy theories I've ever encountered that aren't about the Templars, search for the "Laurel Canyon conspiracy."

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize Manzarek was that old, being born in '38 or '39. Even all of the Beatles were born in the 1940's.

As far as Manzarek being the brains of the operation, don't forget the contribution of Robbie Krieger, who wrote a lot of their songs, and was an underrated talent on guitar. And I always suspected that Morrison's contribution to the band was far less than most people assume. He wrote some pretentious pseudo-philosophical lyrics, but beyond that, I don't think he added anything else to the songwriting process.

Cail Corishev said...

Hunsdon said: If you want to delve into one of the more bizarre conspiracy theories I've ever encountered that aren't about the Templars, search for the "Laurel Canyon conspiracy."

I'll save you a day of reading: practically everyone involved in the hippie outbreak had connections to the intelligence community or the military. A surprising number were the children or relatives of high-up officers. One person after another left the DC region and showed up around Laurel Canyon to make music and do lots of drugs.

There's never really a conclusion, though, just lots of suggestion that there must have been some kind of plot behind all this. The CIA wanted the 60s generation stoned and stupid? Dunno.

Now you can move along to the same guy's dissertation on the moon landing. The short version: we didn't.