Skip to main content

Fresh Air Remembers Saxophonist James Moody

The jazz saxophonist and flutist died Thursday at age 85. Fresh Air remembers the musician, whose 1949 improvisation over "I'm in the Mood for Love" became a jazz staple, with highlights from a 1996 interview.

20:25

Other segments from the episode on December 10, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 10, 2010: Obituary for James Moody; Review of DVD releases of television shows for the holiday season; Interview with Ray Manzarek; Review of the film "The…

Transcript

*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20101210
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Fresh Air Remembers Saxophonist James Moody

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting in for
Terry Gross.

Saxophonist James Moody died yesterday, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
He was 85 years old. Moody first became known for his 1949 recording of "I'm In
the Mood for Love." His re-working of that melody was so good, it became the
melody of a new song with a lyric by Eddie Jefferson called "Moody's Mood for
Love." Here's James Moody's original 1949 recording.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm in the Mood for Love")

BIANCULLI: James Moody began his career in 1947, in the early days of bebop,
playing with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. By the end of the '40s, he'd left the
band and moved to Europe. Moody returned to the States in the early '50s to
lead his own band. He played with Gillespie again during much of the '60s, but
in the '70s, Moody left the jazz scene to work a steady job in a Vegas hotel
band.

When he returned to the jazz world, critic Gary Giddons(ph) wrote that there
were few living musicians he enjoyed hearing perform more than Moody. Terry
spoke with Moody in 1996, after the release of his delightful recording of
songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Here's Moody singing on the title track,
"Young At Heart."

(Soundbite of song, "Young At Heart")

Mr. JAMES MOODY (Musician): (Singing) Fairy tales can come true. It can happen
to you if you're young at heart. For it's hard, you will find, to be narrow of
mind if you're young at heart.

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes. You can laugh when your dreams
fall apart at the seams, and life gets more exciting with each passing day, and
love is either in your heart or on its way.

Don't you know that it's worth every treasure on earth to be young at heart?

GROSS: James Moody, welcome to FRESH AIR. And I want to say that I think this
new album is delightful, and it's really delightful to hear you sing and to
sing a song that's not a novelty song.

Mr. MOODY: You know, when you have strings like that, it makes you think you
can sing, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: What do you think of your voice?

Mr. MOODY: Well, the funny thing is I'm not as concerned with my voice as I am
with my lisp that I have, you know, because I'm partially deaf. And I was born
that way, and it doesn't mean that I have a speech impediment, it's just that I
don't hear S's so - because my wife always tell me when I'm singing "Mood for
Love" that I'd say you give me a smile, and it sounds like you're saying you
give me a mile.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOODY: When I'm wrapped up in your magic, you know, in the lyrics.

GROSS: Well, has that held you back from singing? Are you self-conscious about
that lisp?

Mr. MOODY: No, really not at all, because I say what I say. I've been doing it
for 71 years, talking. So if I say, you know, fairy tales can come true. You
know, I don't know, too true. It can happen to you if you're young at heart.

(Soundbite of scat singing)

GROSS: Oh, I love that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: How old were you when you realized you had a hearing problem?

Mr. MOODY: I was born that way, and I never realized it. I still haven't
realized it because I hear what I hear, and that's it. See, if you don't know
what you're missing, how can you say what I miss, you know what I mean?

They were insistent that I wear a hearing aid because I would hear so much
better, and I put this hearing aid on, and I'm telling you, I thought I was
going to go nuts with the clanging and banging that I hear, you know, banging,
and you could hear the tires of the car. I said: Oh my goodness, if people hear
this. I mean, it's nerve-wracking.

So what I did was I turned it off. And they said: Oh, isn't that much better? I
said: It certainly is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOODY: You heard that joke, didn't you, Terry, about the guy says: Oh man,
he says, boy, I just spent $4,000 on this wonderful hearing aid, you know. And
the guy said: Yeah? What kind is it? The guy said: It's 12 o'clock.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It took me a second, right. So did music sound different with the
hearing aid?

Mr. MOODY: Oh, I wouldn't dare do that. I wouldn't dare put a hearing aide on
and play music because if I put the hearing aid in, then it's banging and
clanging again, or clinking, yeah.

GROSS: Tell us the story of the band that you played in in the Air Force, and
this was right after you got out of college.

Mr. MOODY: Well, the band that played in the Air Force, it was an unauthorized
Air Force band because when I was in the Air Force, it was segregated. So
three-quarters of the base was Caucasian, and one-quarter was Negro. And they
wanted to have a Negro band. So they formed one.

And then Linton Garner, Earl Garner's brother, he was drafted, and he came to
the base where we were, and then Pop Reeves(ph), he was drafted, and he wrote
some things for Benny Goodman. And I never will forget Linton Garner, one day
he asked me, he says: Moody, he said, play this scale for me.

So I said: (singing) Da, da, da, da, da, da, da.

And he said: Well. I said: Well, what? He said: Is that it? I said: Yeah. He
said: My boy, you're in for a rude awakening.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOODY: So anyway, but little by - but you know, I'd like to say one thing,
Terry. When I was in Greenville, North Carolina, I was 18 years old, right? And
I was living in Newark, New Jersey. Do you know that the German prisoners of
war used to come into town and jump off the truck, you know, with the PW on
their back and those hats and go into the restaurants and eat, and we couldn't?

GROSS: Wow.

Mr. MOODY: Yeah.

GROSS: How did you feel about serving in the Air Force, knowing that your own
country wouldn't let you into certain restaurants?

Mr. MOODY: Well, what could you do? You see, because in the first place, like,
there was nothing - when I - after I left and went to Europe and would live, I
was living in France, I would send my mother a letter, and I'd have on there,
it had, like, the land of the brave. I'd put the land of the (unintelligible),
you know, or something, you know, USA. And my mother said: Jim, don't do that.
I mean, you'll get in trouble, you know.

But hey, it was the truth, you know, because, like, it was their land, not
mine.

GROSS: you joined the Gillespie big band after you got out of the Air Force.

Mr. MOODY: Yeah.

GROSS: And it was a very innovative band. It was one of the first big bands
really playing the new music of bebop. What was it like for you to be in this
band? What were the most exciting parts of it for you?

Mr. MOODY: Well, the most exciting about that band was when I grew older and
found out where I was. When I first was in that band, Thelonious Monk was the
piano player. Ray Brown was the bass player. Milton Jackson was vibraharpist.
Kenny – Klook, Klook-mop - Clarke, he was the drummer. That was the rhythm
section, along with Howard Johnson, Cecil Payne, all the people like that.

Now, if I would have known where I was, like I would have fainted.

GROSS: Sure.

Mr. MOODY: So I'm glad I was naive. I didn't - I wasn't that hip. So I didn't
know who I was. I mean, I knew, but I didn't. You understand what I'm saying?

GROSS: Yes, I do. And what was Dizzy Gillespie like as a bandleader? I think
you've called him your musical father.

Mr. MOODY: Oh, yeah. Dizz was wonderful, man. Like, we knew each other, and was
all right, but I got to really know him better when I played in the quintet.
But musically, I mean, he was a bad boy. He was bad.

And Dizz was always studying, too. Like, he would always - you know, he'd sit
down at the piano and look at this, look at that, oh, look at this. And he'd
stop me. He said: Moody, this is where everything is. See the piano? I don't
care what the instrument is, that's where it is, trombone, violin, trumpet,
saxophone, flute. This is where it is. You look at it, and you see everything.

When you play the piano, all the notes are laid out there for you, you know,
and all those notes on every one of the instruments. So Dizz said: You want to
really know what's happening, you learn the piano.

GROSS: Did you? Did you learn it?

Mr. MOODY: Well, I can play the changes, yeah, yeah, yeah. I can sit down, and
I can pick out what I have to do.

BIANCULLI: Saxophonist James Moody, speaking to Terry Gross in 1996. More after
a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 1996 interview with saxophonist James
Moody. He died yesterday at the age of 85.

GROSS: Your first solo was recorded with the Dizzy Gillespie Band. This tune is
called "Emanon," which is no name spelled backwards. This is, I think, in 1947.
Do you remember your solo on that record? Could you sing it?

Mr. MOODY: Yeah, I remember it. I remember it because I wasn't supposed to take
the solo. The baritone player was supposed to take it and he didn't show up or
something. And the solo was...

(Soundbite of singing)

Mr. MOODY: Something like that.

GROSS: Now, how come you remember it? Do you remember it from actually playing
it or from listening to the record?

Mr. MOODY: No because a lot of times when we see each other, like sometimes I'm
talking to Jimmy Heath, and – section(ph) we called each other because he's a
wonderful saxophoner. Some of the guys, and we'll talk, and somebody says, oh,
yeah, man, you remember "Emanom?" Do it again.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MOODY: And we'd all sing it for a moment together.

(Soundbite of song, "Emanom")

GROSS: Now the most famous solo that you've ever taken was on your first
recording of "I'm in the Mood For Love." And then Eddie Jefferson, a singer who
was working with you, wrote a lyric to your solo, and that became the song
known as "Moody's Mood for Love." Let's hear the Eddie Jefferson version of
"Moody's Mood for Love," his lyric to your solo.

(Soundbite of song, "Moody's Mood Love")

Mr. EDDIE JEFFERSON (Musician): (Singing) There I go, there I go, there I go,
there I go. Pretty baby, you are the soul that snaps my control. Such a funny
thing, but every time you're near me, I never can behave.

You give me a smile, and then I'm wrapped up in your magic. There's music all
around me, crazy music, music that keeps calling me so very close to you, turns
me your slave. (Unintelligible) anything, baby, just let me get next to you.

Am I insane, or do I really see heaven in your eyes, bright as stars that shine
up above there in the clear blue sky? How I worry about you, just can't live my
life without you. Baby, come here, don't have no fear. Oh, they wonder why I'm
really feeling in the mood for love.

And tell me why...

GROSS: Now, what impact did "Moody's Mood for Love" have on your career?

Mr. MOODY: Well, if I don't do it to this day, people said I haven't been
there. I think that goes to show you. Like no matter how much I practice, if I
don't say there I go, there I go, or play, you know, then it's like I haven't
been there.

But, like, I'm not - it doesn't make me feel like, oh, I don't want to be doing
this. I mean, I love doing it. And it's been very good to me, that solo. And
I'm honored and privileged, I believe, you know, to be able to do it.

GROSS: Now, I want to take a pause here and play something that's basically an
outtake, but it's such an entertaining outtake. And this is something you
recorded in 1958. The tune is called "The Moody One," and you stopped...

Mr. MOODY: I goofed.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. MOODY: On the record date.

GROSS: Well, let's play the outtake and hear the goof.

Mr. MOODY: I goofed. I goofed, I goofed on the record, and they left that in
there, yeah. I remember that.

GROSS: Here it is.

(Soundbite of song, "The Moody One")

Mr. MOODY: (Singing) Better do it again, (Unintelligible). I goofed. Yes, I
goofed on the record.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Were your outtakes usually as entertaining as this one?

Mr. MOODY: Oh, sure, that's like the bloopers, you know. Like, that's just my
blooper. That was my way of doing it, you know. But anybody, when they do
something like that, they always say something that's a little comical, you
know.

GROSS: Were you surprised that this actually ended up on the record?

Mr. MOODY: Well, yeah, because, like, you know, finally they said: Yeah, we're
going to leave it on there, too. I said what? Yes, we're going to - I don't
care. And then I'd go and play it. The people said: I goofed, I goofed on the
record.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I want to ask you something else about Dizzy Gillespie. You were very
close with Dizzy Gillespie. Were you close to him when he died?

Mr. MOODY: Yeah. We were with him. I had him in my arms. There was - John
Faddis was there.

GROSS: The trumpeter.

Mr. MOODY: Yeah, Jacques Mouliel(ph) and his son, John Motley(ph) and myself.
There were five of us in there with him when he passed. And you know what's
funny? I told John, I said: John, you mark my words: 10 years from now, there
are going to be 50 people in the room with Dizzy Gillespie, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOODY: You know? And there was no music playing. There was nothing. I mean,
Dizz was just - he was just sitting there but, you know, trying to breathe
deep, trying to get his breath. And his eyes were closed, you know what I mean?
And, yes, he never opened them, and finally he took the last one and that was -
so, yep, that was it, man.

GROSS: Was he conscious toward the end? Did he know that you were there?

Mr. MOODY: Well, the night before, he knew that we were there, the night before
because Mike Longo and myself, we went to see him, and we said "Oop Pop a Da"
and he tried to mouth "Oop Pop a Da." And then the thing he did was he took his
finger and put it up to his lips and made his - tried to make his jowls go out
like he usually did, you know how he would do. You know, and - but he was too
weak. But we smiled, you know, and all like that. And I said Micko(ph) let's
go, man. We'll come back tomorrow. I said that to Mike Longo, you know.

So, you know, then when I went back the next day, like he was in bed that
night, and then when I went back the next day, he was sitting up. They had him
in a chair sitting up. And he was, you know, trying to breathe. So anyway,
yeah. Yeah, but I mean, I just - it's not the same. Nothing was the same
anymore without Dizz, you know.

GROSS: You must feel like you owe so much of your career to him because he gave
you your first job, and then you played with him off and on for so long.

Mr. MOODY: Yeah, I did, when I was 21 years old, my first gig, yup, yup. And
even now, like I tell people that - when they ask me, they said: Well, what do
you remember of Dizz?

I mean, many things, and what happened is sometimes I'll say: Ah, that's what
he meant. You know, it might because everywhere that I've gone in the world, no
matter where it was, I was there first with Dizz. Dizz took me everywhere
first. I go to Africa, Sweden, Germany, France, all except Paris. I went there
first alone, but then after that, everywhere else was with Dizz. And now when I
go to those places, and I'm going, boy, I say: Oh, man.

And for the longest time, I used to call my wife. I used to call Linda, my
honey, and tell her, I said: Honey, I called you and you weren't home. You
know? And she says: Honey, I've been home all day. I said: Well, I said, but I
called - and then I'd say the number. And she'd say: Honey, that's Dizzy's
number.

GROSS: Oh, wow.

BIANCULLI: James Moody, speaking to Terry Gross in 1996. The influential
saxophone player died yesterday at age 85. I'm David Bianculli, and this is
FRESH AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
131958862
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20101210
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Bianculli: 6 DVD Sets Worth Wrapping Up Right Now

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli starting the second half of
the show with what I hope is a helpful guide for your holiday shopping plans. I
have a short list of recent DVD releases of TV shows that you might want to
give or drop hints to get this year.

Let's start with my favorite new box set of 2010. From Shout Factory, it's "The
Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series," containing every episode of the HBO
comedy that starred Garry Shandling as a neurotic talk-show host. The series
was televised from 1992 to 1998 and focused on the behind-the-scenes planning,
scheming and absurdity that goes into putting on a TV talk show.

That sensibility extends to the new box set, which includes a ton of behind-
the-scenes elements of its own, including a random piece of audio from co-star
Rip Torn, who played Larry's foul-mouthed producer Artie. Torn is recording a
list of mild euphemisms meant as substitutions in case "The Larry Sanders Show"
- the real one - ever was syndicated in a milder form. Hearing Torn read the
list all at once is as ridiculously funny as the fact that he was asked to
record it in the first place.

(Soundbite of "The Larry Sanders Show")

Unidentified Man: Miscellaneous wild line library take one.

(Soundbite of beeping)

Mr. RIP TORN (Actor): (as Artie) Crap. Crap. Friggin. Friggin. Friggin. Ass.
Ass. Ass. Bull crap. Bull crap. Horse hockey. Horse hockey. Hell. Hell. Oh,
hell.

Unidentified Man: OK. That's enough. Thank you.

Mr. TORN: (as Artie) What about this...

BIANCULLI: Also in the bonus material are lots of deleted scenes - most of them
richer, longer and more entertaining than most material stuffed onto DVD sets
as extras. In the show's brilliant finale, for example, Jim Carrey stops the
show as a celebrity who serenades Larry the way Bette Midler sang to Johnny
Carson on his penultimate show. But the DVD extras continue that scene through
the pretend commercial break, as Carrey drops his show-biz act and talks
frankly to Shandling's Larry and his sidekick, Hank, played brilliantly by
Jeffrey Tambor.

(Soundbite of "The Larry Sanders Show")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JIM CARREY (Comedian, actor): Can I be honest with you?

Mr. GARRY SHANDLING (Comedian): (as Larry Sanders) Yeah.

Mr. CARREY: I'm here for three good reasons: last show, big ratings, movie
coming out. Bim. Bam. Boom. Whew. Otherwise I'd be sitting home watching
"Nightline."

Mr. JEFFREY TAMBOR (Actor): (as Hank) As usual.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) It's too – you, you don't mention anything
about the movie.

Mr. CARREY: What?

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) You didn't say anything about the movie. You
didn't, you didn't say any...

Mr. CARREY: I didn't mention "The Truman Show?"

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) No.

Mr. CARREY: Oh, my God. Oh, no. oh, my, God.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) He didn't say anything, did he, about "The
Truman Show?"

Mr. TAMBOR: (as Hank) I didn't hear it.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) I don't think so.

Mr. CARREY: Oh, I don't believe this.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) I don't think you did.

Mr. CARREY: Do I have a clip too?

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) Huh? There was a clip, yeah, but you didn't
bring it out.

Mr. CARREY: See that's your fault as a host.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) You know...

Mr. CARREY: You should've led me in that direction. Even Jon Stewart can set up
a frigging clip.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Larry Sanders) Oh, that is not necessary. You know what? Why
don't you stay and do another segment and then I'll bring – and I'll show the
clip?

Mr. CARREY: Nah. Shot my wad.

Mr. TAMBOR: (as Hank) Can I say something? Can I say something? "Cable Guy,"
underrated.

Mr. CARREY: Well, thank you very much, Henry. You ever get tired of kissing
ass? You know, you're the most talented person on this show. I've always
believed that, you have something very special and yet you squander it here.
You know, this show going off the air could be a blessing in disguise for you.

Mr. TAMBOR: (as Hank) You think so?

Mr. CARREY: Nope.

Mr. TAMBOR: (as Hank) No?

Mr. CARREY: Good luck.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: Another new complete set, from Fox Home Entertainment, is
recommended not because most of it is new to DVD, but because it is complete.
It's "24: The Complete Series" and comes out December 14th - just in time to
give, or get, all eight seasons of Jack Bauer's very bad days. It's a huge set,
and hugely expensive, but for rabid fans of "24," it's the ultimate package, at
least until a movie comes out.

Another complete series, which has been out for two years on DVD but only now
has been released on Blu-ray, is HBO's "Deadwood," which ran from 2004 to 2006.
It should have run for at least two years longer, which even series creator
David Milch now admits on the DVD extras. Giving a guided tour of the mammoth,
realistic, now-deserted "Deadwood" set, he says, I find all of this infinitely
depressing.

But "Deadwood" is one of the best TV drama series ever made, and on Blu-ray,
the dirt and grit of "Deadwood" seems even dirtier and grittier. It looks
simply astounding. Ian McShane, Keith Carradine, Molly Parker and the rest are
truly amazing as residents of an outlaw Western mining town. To me, "Deadwood"
is as good, and as infinitely re-watchable, as "The Wire" - and that's as high
as my praise gets.

Another impressive new Blu-ray release is an HBO miniseries, "The Pacific," the
companion drama to "Band of Brothers." On Blu-ray, the battle scenes in "The
Pacific" are both jaw-dropping and teeth-rattling. And there's a lot of
enhanced video on the Blu-ray, where you can be fed facts and stories instantly
about the drama as you watch it. But don't do that the first time you watch it,
or the accompanying annotations will spoil a lot of the dramatic surprises.

It's hard to imagine anyone being unhappy with at least one of these sets, but
since they all come with rather hefty price tags, I thought I'd end with
recommendations for two smaller, less expensive new releases that make for
great gifts.

For any lover of musicals, there's "Evening Primrose," the first-time-on-DVD
release of Stephen Sondheim's 1966 made-for-TV musical. It stars Tony Perkins
as a poet who avoids rent in New York by hiding illegally in a department
store, and coming out only at night along with other people who had the same
idea. It's strange, and a bit dark, but it's also wonderful.

And finally, for the very young people on your list - or the old ones who are
young at heart - there's another vintage TV musical treat. It's "Mr. Magoo's
Christmas Carol," the 1962 holiday special, with Jim Backus as Ebenezer
Scrooge. The Classic Media release gives you both a Blu-ray and a regular DVD
for one low price. The animation is so static that, to be honest, Blu-ray does
nothing for it, but the music is by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, who at the time
were collaborating on "Funny Girl."

It's the first animated Christmas special ever made for television, and there's
something about it after nearly 50 years that's positively delicious - maybe
it's Tiny Tim singing about razzleberry dressing. But I've road-tested it on
today's young kids and it still delights, just like any of these DVDs would.

(Soundbite of music from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol")

Ms. JOAN GARDNER (Actor): (as Tiny Tim) (Singing) Will we have again and then
some razzleberry dressing, oh, razzleberry dressing would be nice. Will we have
a pudding made of liver while we're guessing? Or maybe razzleberry dressing
twice?

We haven't had a hen since I can't tell you when. We love our hen again, with a
razzleberry dressing. We've been so awful good for me down to the baby and
we're not made of wood or razzleberry gravy.

BIANCULLI: Coming up, new developments regarding an old controversy. This is
FRESH AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
131780348
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20101210
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Morrison In Miami: The Doors' Manzarek Tells The Story

(Soundbite of song, "When the Music's Over")

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Florida's Board of Executive Clemency ruled yesterday on a 41-year-old case -
awarding a posthumous pardon to Jim Morrison of The Doors on charges of
exposing himself while performing on stage in Miami in 1969.

Outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist had requested the pardon and the
clemency board supported it unanimously.

(Soundbite of song, "When the Music's Over")

Mr. JIM MORRISON (Musician): (Singing) Yeah!

BIANCULLI: Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, was its rock 'n roll poet,
its sex god, its heart and soul. But instrumentally, the distinctive sound of
The Doors was based on the keyboard playing of Ray Manzarek, whose classic
organ solos have just as much drive and punch as Morrison's screams.

In 1998, Terry Gross spoke with Ray Manzarek. He was seated at the piano. She
asked him about the infamous onstage incident in Miami.

TERRY GROSS, host:

One of the really big stories in the lore of The Doors is the concert in Miami
where...

Mr. RAY MANZAREK (Musician): Yes it is.

GROSS: ...where many people say that Jim Morrison exposed himself and...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes, they do.

GROSS: ...and you say he didn't exactly. But he had seen The Living Theatre a
few days before and that was like the theater group was experimenting with, you
know, breaking down the fourth wall and taking off their clothes in the middle
of theater performances.

(Soundbite of piano chords)

GROSS: Confronting the audience and so on.

(Soundbite of piano chords)

GROSS: And he was influenced by that.

(Soundbite of piano chords)

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes, he was. We're in Miami. It's hot and sweaty. It's a
Tennessee Williams night. It's a swamp and it's a yuck - a horrible kind of
place, a seaplane hangar - and 14,000 people are packed in there, and they're
sweaty, and Jim has seen The Living Theatre and he's going to do his version of
The Living Theatre in front of - this is the first time he's been home. He's
was born in Melbourne, Florida. This is his - virtually his hometown and he's
going to show these Florida people what psychedelic West Coast shamanism and
confrontation is all about.

He takes his shirt off in the middle of the set and says, you know, you people
haven't come to hear a rock 'n' roll - he's drunk as a skunk and he didn't tell
any of us what he was going to do. If only he have told somebody. Says, you
didn't come to hear a rock 'n' roll band play some pretty good songs. What you
came - you came to see something, didn't you? And he, they're all going...

(Soundbite of Mr. Manzarek making roaring noises)

Mr. MANZAREK: He says, what you come to see? You came to see something that
you've never seen before, something greater than you've ever seen. What do you
want? What can I do for you? And the audience is going like this, you know...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: I'm playing the piano right now inside the strings. That's how
the audience, it's just rumbling and rumbling. And he says OK, how about if I
show you my C word. And all the audience goes screaming crazy. It was like
madness and Jim takes his shirt off, holds it in front of him, reaches behind
it and starts fiddling around down there and you wonder what is he doing? And
I'm thinking, oh God, he's going to take it off. And the audience is getting
crazier and crazier. And then Jim whips the shirt out to the side, he said did
you see it, did you see it? Look, I just showed it to you. Watch, I'm going to
show it to you. Now keep your eyes on it folks and he whips it out...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: Ooh, off to the side again.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: Off to the side again.

(Soundbite of piano music) Mr. MANZAREK: Off to the side and says, I showed it
to you. You saw it, didn't you? You saw it and you loved it and you people
loved seeing it. Isn't it what you wanted to see? And sure enough, it's what
they wanted to see.

They hallucinated. I swear, the guy never did it. He never whipped it out. It
was like, it was like in the West Coast Jesus on a tortilla. It was one of
those mass hallucinations. It was – I don't want to say the vision of Lourdes,
because only Bernadette saw that, but the other people believed and maybe other
people said - it was one of those kind of religious hallucinations, except it
was Dionysus bringing forth, calling forth snakes.

GROSS: And then you say he said to the audience, come closer, come on down here
get with us, man.

Mr. MANZAREK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Come on, yeah, oh, come on. Sure, come on. Join
us. Join us on stage. And eventually, the - sure, and they started coming on a
rickety little stage, and the entire stage collapsed. Sure.

GROSS: In your memoir you write a little bit, you write a lot, really, about
how The Doors developed their sound and how you developed your sound as the
keyboard player with the group. Let's take an example...

Mr. MANZAREK: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...of one of those songs. Why don't we look at "Light My Fire," which
is...

Mr. MANZAREK: Sure.

GROSS: ...probably the most famous or one of the most famous.

Mr. MANZAREK: The most famous Doors song.

GROSS: Sure. Yeah.

Mr. MANZAREK: Yeah, the most famous Doors song. You know, Robby Krieger is
actually the writer of "Light My Fire." So Robby came in with a song, he said I
got a new song called "Light My Fire." He plays the song for us and it's kind
of a Sonny and Cher kind of...

(Singing) Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Light my fire.

And it's like, OK. OK. Good chords change - what are the chord changes there?
And he shows me an A minor...

(Soundbite of A minor piano chord)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...to an F sharp minor.

(Soundbite of F sharp minor piano chord)

Mr. MANZAREK: And that's like, whoa, that's hip.

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: That's cool.

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: And then...

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: And that's when he went into the Sonny and Cher part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: (Singing) Da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Then we said, no, no, no,
no, no. We're not going to do the Sonny and Cher kind of song here, man. That
was popular at the time.

Densmore says look, we've got to do a Latin kind of beat here. Let's do
something in kind of a Latin groove.

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: And I'm doing this left-hand line. So John is doing...

(Soundbite of Mr. Manzarek making drum sound)

Mr. MANZAREK: And we set up this Latin groove and then go into a hard rock
four...

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: And Robby's only got one verse, he needs a second verse and
Morrison says OK, let me think about it for a second. And Jim comes up with the
classic line: and our love becomes a funeral pyre. You know, you know that it
would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar if I were to say to you girl,
we couldn't get much higher, is Robby's.

Then Jim comes, the time to hesitate is through. In other words, seize the
moment, seize the spiritual LSD moment. The time to hesitate is through. No
time to wallow in the mire. Try now, we can only lose. Whoa, that's kind of
heavy. Try now, we can only lose - meaning the worst thing that can happen to
you is death, and our love becomes a funeral pyre. Our love is consumed in the
fires of agnee. It's like, God, Jim. What a great - great verse, man.

So we've got verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and then it's time for solos. So
anyway, the verse goes...

(Soundbite of Mr. Manzarek demonstrating on piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: You know how that goes. You've heard it a million times. And then
into the chorus...

(Singing) Come on baby light my fire.

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MANZAREK: So it's time, then, for some solos. We've done a verse, chorus,
verse, chorus. Now what do we do? We've got to play some solos. We've got to
stretch out. Here's where John Coltrane comes in. Here's where The Doors' jazz
background - John's a jazz drummer. I'm a jazz piano player. Robby's a flamenco
guitar player. And we all said...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: You know, we're in A minor. Let's see. What do we do?

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: (Singing) Da, da, da-da, da.

It ends up on an E, so how about...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: "My Favorite Things," John Coltrane. It's "My Favorite Things,"
except Coltrane's doing it in D minor.

(Soundbite of song, "My Favorite Things")

Mr. MANZAREK: But the left hand is exactly the same thing. It's in three, one,
two, three, one, two, three, A minor. The Doors' "Light My Fire" is in four.
We're going from A minor to B minor.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: So it's the same thing as...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: And that's how the solo comes about. And then we just go...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: So it's John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," and Coltrane's "Ole
Coltrane." And then...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: That's the chord structure. Then I would solo over it...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: Robby would solo over it, and at the end of our two solos, we'd
go into a...

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...a three against four.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I'm keeping the left hand going exactly as it goes, and that
hasn't changed. That's the four. On top of it is three.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: And into the turnaround.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: And we're back at verse one and verse two.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. MANZAREK: And we're back into our Latin groove. So it's basically a jazz
structure. It's verse chorus, verse chorus, state the theme, take a long solo,
come back to stating the theme again. And that's how "Light My Fire" came
about.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. MANZAREK: That's the creation of "Light My Fire."

(Soundbite of song, "Light My Fire")

Mr. MORRISON: (Singing) You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would
be a liar if I was to say to you, girl, we couldn't get much higher. Come on
baby, light my fire. Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.

The time to hesitate is through.

BIANCULLI: That's "Light My Fire," and Ray Manzarek, keyboard player of The
Doors, explaining it all for you, talking to Terry Gross in 1998.

The lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison, was granted a pardon yesterday for
an alleged onstage indecency incident in 1969.

Coming up, David Edelstein reviews "The Fighter."

This is FRESH AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
131960761
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20101210
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
The Fighter's Good, But Enough To Be A Contender?

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

The fading junior welterweight boxer Micky Ward was working on a road paving
crew in the early '90s when he decided to give the ring one more try. And
that's the story director David O. Russell tells in the new film "The Fighter."
Ward is played by Mark Wahlberg. The cast includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams
and Melissa Leo.

Critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "The Fighter" is a mess, which I mean as a term of endearment.
It begins in a pseudo-documentary style, with familiar actors pretending to be
working-class people in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1993 - and God, do they hit
those R's hard. For a while, it's too disjointed. You can't tell what's at
stake. But that messiness has an upside. It gives the characters room and the
movie texture, so when it does get you, you're good and got.

"The Fighter" is based, very closely, on the real lives of two half-brothers,
both of whom had boxing careers. Mark Wahlberg is Micky Ward, whose career when
the movie begins is still in flux. Christian Bale is Dickie Eklund, once the
quote, "pride of Lowell," and now the subject - within the film - of an HBO
whatever-happened-to documentary that Dickie thinks heralds a comeback.

Fat chance - or rather, alarming skinny chance, since Dickie is addicted to
crack and possibly other things, and Bale is doing one of those what-a-
committed-actor transformations and looks like he's dying of malnutrition.
Dickie's claim to fame is that he once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in the
ring, although it's a better than 50/50 chance Sugar Ray tripped over his own
feet. Dickie's sensitive about that, and many other things.

Everybody in "The Fighter" is sensitive, actually. Director David O. Russell
loves the pugnacity, the bumptiousness, the random hurled punch or insult: you
junk-bag, you skank. Micky and Dickie's mom Alice is played by that marvelous
scenery-chewer Melissa Leo with bleached-blond hair and lots of cheap jewelry,
and she has a posse of big-haired daughters, like some kind of four-letter-word
hurling Greek chorus. Although Micky trains with his half-brother Dickie, there
isn't much of a storyline until Micky meets a bartender named Charlene, played
by Amy Adams.

Adams, like Bale, has transformed: She gained a little weight, not much, but
enough to give her a cute little tum and make her arms look they're used to
carrying multiple pitchers of lager. And with her mouthy affect and big swarm
of red hair, it doesn't take much to get her Irish up. It's already flying
high. "The Fighter" really takes off when Charlene goes up against Mama Alice
and the armada of sisters over who will oversee Micky's training: Charlene or
Dickie.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Fighter")

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE (Actor): (as Dickie) Mick, what's the problem?

Mr. MARK WAHLBERG (Actor): (as Micky) The problems...

Ms. MELISSA LEO (Actor) (as Alice) What problem?

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) What's wrong?

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) The problems are...

Ms. LEO (as Alice) Like what?

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) What problem?

Ms. AMY ADAMS (Actor): (as Charlene) Like maybe you not showing up on time to
train. Like maybe him having to come find you in a crack house when you're
supposed to be at the airport.

Ms. LEO (as Alice) I'm sorry. I don't know who you are. Why you're talking?

Ms. ADAMS: (as Charlene) I'm Charlene. We just met.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ADAMS: (as Charlene) We're together. Do we need to do this again? Hi, I'm
Charlene.

Unidentified Woman: Hi, I'm Charlene.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) Hey, we're together.

Ms. LEO (as Alice) What are you going to do, Mick? Listen to some MTV girl who
works in a bar? What does she know about boxing?

Ms. ADAMS: (as Charlene) I know we're going to Vegas and getting paid to train,
year around. Sounds a hell of a lot better than what you've got him doing here.

Ms. LEO (as Alice) You going to let her talk like that to your mother?

Ms. ADAMS: (as Charlene) Come on, Micky.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) I told you, we're together. This is my girlfriend. I
want her here.

Ms. LEO (as Alice) I have done everything - everything I could for you, Micky.
This MTV girl comes along.

Ms. ADAMS: (as Charlene) Stop calling me an MTV girl, whatever that means.
(unintelligible)

EDELSTEIN: That's such a wonderful scene, because when Amy Adams locks eyes
with Melissa Leo, they're competing for Micky and for Best Supporting Actress
and they're loving it. They're two amazing actresses in clover.

And Wahlberg and Bale get a mano-a-mano thing going, too. Micky visits Dickie
in prison to deliver the news that Dickie is no longer his trainer, that it's a
guy named Mickey O'Keefe, who's played by Ward's actual trainer Mickey O'Keefe.
The brothers lean in toward each, and it's very intense and hard to understand,
until the inevitable eruption.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) I know you know what I'm doing. Charles and everybody
else told you. I just wanted to tell you to to your face myself. I've got new
management. Mickey O'Keefe's my trainer now. It's all good.

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) Yeah. They got you fighting Alfonso Sanchez.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) On HBO

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) And you're promoting that.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) Yeah.

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) What's your plan? How are you going to fight Sanchez?

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) I ain't going to talk about that.

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) What's your plan? What's your plan?

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) I am not here to talk about what...

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) Yes, you are.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) You watch the fight, and you'll see the plan.

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) Hey, Mick, what is it? You scared? You're embarrassed
because you don't even have a plan? I'm your brother. Just tell me.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) (unintelligible)

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) You're going to go in against this guy, let him punch
himself out, take him to the body, right? Get inside, switch stances, like
you're going work his right, hit him on the left.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) You ain't me. All right. You can't be me.

Mr. BALE: (as Dickie) Be careful.

Mr. WAHLBERG: (as Micky) You had a hard enough time being you when you had your
chance, and that's why you're in here. All right. I'll fight Sanchez the way I
fight.

EDELSTEIN: The fighting, when it comes, is brutal. The real Micky Ward was
known for taking loads of punishment, for being regularly pulped. Director
Russell doesn't stylize the bouts. He doesn't go for "Raging Bull" slo-mo,
sadomasochistic poetry. You're just as aware of the people outside the ring
screaming at Micky as Micky himself. He seems to feed on all that family drama,
to need it the way Popeye needed spinach.

For all those over-the-top accents and Oscar-bait performances, something about
"The Fighter" seems ultra-real. You're meeting not a lone, raging bull, but an
entire raging ecosystem. It could have been called, "The Fighters."

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @nprfreshair.
And you can download podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
131935007

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

52:30

'Underground Railroad' Director Barry Jenkins Sees Film As An 'Empathy Machine'

Director Barry Jenkin's new series is based on Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about an enslaved teenage girl who escapes from a brutal Georgia plantation. He says it was the most difficult undertakings of his career.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue