Ray Manzarek died last week, he was the keyboard player with the Doors. I never met him but living in LA for 40 odd years I was always conscious of who he was, he was frequently on the air or being interviewed in the music press.
Around 1966 I applied for admission to the graduate program of the UCLA film school and was accepted. At approx. the same time, the Doors who were well known around town as the house band at the Whiskey, released their first album which became a huge hit and was played constantly on the radio. At the film school it was common knowledge that several members of the Doors were using the facilities after hours to edit a film. I never saw them but those in the know had tales of their nocturnal presence. Upstairs in the dept was a long corridor, 60 – 80 ft long, every 6 ft on each side there was a door to an editing room, which was about 6ft by 10 ft with only a 16 mm. Movieola editing machine, a film bin, a chair and a shelf: very basic, very primitive, though from those tiny rooms emerged many works of filmic genius. The word around the department was that there was a student who was a friend of the Doors who regularly signed up for an edit room and then gave them the key. We used those rooms day and night, I was editing one of my films with the radio on the night that Robert Kennedy was shot at around midnight at the Ambassador hotel only a couple of miles away. Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison were the two who were most frequently mentioned as being the film editors; I’ve never seen or read anything about the film they were working on but as usual whenever they’re mentioned, as in this week’s obituaries, there’s usually a line that states they were UCLA film students, I don’t think that’s actually true.
That first album ‘The Doors’ was released in 1967 and became a huge success in the US once the single “Light My Fire” scaled the charts, the album peaked at #2 in September 1967. “Light My Fire” was the first song ever written by Robby Krieger and was the beginning of the band’s success. The other standout hit from that album was ‘The End’, Coppola, another film student at that time used it for the finale of Apocalypse Now.
Here’s a clip from a 1998 recording of Ray Manzarek talking about the origins and the musical evolution of ‘Light my Fire, it’s very interesting how it came to be, particularly John Coltrane’s contribution, the boogie boogie influence and the Bach component, well worth a listen for Spillers.