Skip to main content
Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek

Keyboard player and record producer Ray Manzarek

Keyboard player and record producer Ray Manzarek talks about his experience playing in one of the most influential bands of the 1960s. The Doors disbanded after its lead singer Jim Morrison died in 1971. Since The Doors, Manzarek has produced four albums for the punk rock band X and recorded several solo albums. He also performs with Beat poet Michael McClure at nightclubs and on college campuses.

27:36

Other segments from the episode on September 2, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 2, 2002: Interview with John Fogerty; Interview with Ray Manzarek.

Transcript

DATE September 2, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: John Fogerty, lead singer of Creedence Clearwater
Revival, talks about the history of the band and about his
songwriting
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today we conclude our series on pop and
rock of the '60s.

John Fogerty was the lead singer and songwriter with the band Creedence
Clearwater Revival. Between 1968 and '72, the year Creedence broke up, they
had several gold records, as well as eight top 10 singles, including "Proud
Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," "Green River," "Down on the Corner" and "Lookin' out
my back door." For many years, Fogerty refused to perform the songs that made
him famous because his old record company owned the rights to those songs.
But in 1998, he returned to those songs on a live CD called "Premonition." I
spoke with him in '98 when "Premonition" was released. Before we hear from
Fogerty, let's listen to one of Creedence Clearwater's signature songs.

(Soundbite of music)

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: (Singing) Now when I was just a little boy,
standin' to my daddy's knee, my papa said, `Son, don't let the man get you and
do what he done to me.' 'Cause he'll get you, 'cause he'll get you now, now.

And I can remember the Fourth of July, runnin' through the backwood, bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin', chasin' down a hoodoo there,
chasin' down a hoodoo there.

Born on the bayou, born on the bayou, born on the bayou. Lord, Lord...

GROSS: You've written a lot of songs inspired by the South, like "Born on the
Bayou." You were actually born in El Cerrito, California, near Berkeley, and
I'm wondering why in some of your songs you wrote first person, in the persona
of a Southerner.

Mr. JOHN FOGERTY (Singer/Songwriter): Gee, that's a good question. I think I
was trying to place myself in this mythicized and romanticized territory.
It's a mythical world, kind of, that I created. Certainly musically, it's a
mythical world, and why I used the device of first person, I think--well, to
say it another way, I think I realized that talking about the main street of
El Cerrito probably wasn't going to be something that was widely understood or
even cared about. It didn't seem very interesting to me, anyway, and the
South has always fascinated me, and that's really the reason, but--the reason
that I placed myself that way in my own songs--but if you want to ask me why
am I so fascinated about the South, I really have to confess I don't know.

GROSS: Because of the music?

Mr. FOGERTY: Most of what I know about the South came through music,
particularly the early forms of rock 'n' roll, meaning rhythm and blues,
country blues and country music. And again, all those versions, I believe,
were pretty romanticized. You know, they were sort of rainbow-colored visions
of the South, in most cases.

GROSS: Would your father have ever said what the father says in "Born on the
Bayou": `Papa said, "Son, don't let the man get you and do what he done to
me'?

Mr. FOGERTY: Yeah, he did say that a few different ways. My dad was a
dreamer, unfortunately. He wasn't much of--he didn't find great success in
this world, but he was quite a dreamer, and pretty literate. He read all the
time, and he was inspired by all kinds of people that he passed on to me in
kind of little snippets. I can remember when I was very, very young, my
father reading the story of "Dangerous Dan McGrew" over and over. He loved
that particular poem. He really loved Ernest Hemingway. You know, he was a
product of the '30s and '40s, I guess. My parents certainly were
Depression-era people, and I learned a lot of those lessons at their knee, and
I think just by the way my dad ended up living his life, just by example,
really, he was telling me `Don't let the man get you and do what he done to
me.'

GROSS: John Fogerty, do me a favor. Can you say two words for me--`turning'
and `burning'?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, when I'm sitting here quietly in a library atmosphere, it
is `turning' and `burning,' but when I sing, it always comes out `toinin' and
`boinin.'

GROSS: Yeah. I know. That's very New Orleans, isn't it?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, you know what? I didn't know where, really, although
I've noticed--because I just did it naturally. When I wrote the words, I
wrote them to sound that way.

GROSS: And the song in question is "Proud Mary." Yeah.

Mr. FOGERTY: Right. I've also noticed, though, that Howlin' Wolf has very
much that sort of dialect in his music. I only spoke to him a couple of
times, but in his singing, you know, in the great songs that he did, he
pronounces those words that way. But yes, down in New Orleans, a lot of
people will say `toinin' and `boinin.'

GROSS: Well, why don't we pause here and listen to your new recording of
"Proud Mary" from your new album, "Premonition"? My guest is John Fogerty.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause and music)

Audience: One, two, three, four!

Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Left a good job in the city, workin' for the man
every night and day. And I never lost a minute of sleeping worrying about the
way things might have been.

Big wheel keep on turnin', Proud Mary keep on burnin,' rosin', rollin',
rollin' on a river.

Been a lot of places in Memphis, umped a lot of babes down in New Orleans,
then I never saw the good shot of a city till I hitched a ride on a riverboat
queen.

Big wheel keep on turnin', Proud Mary keep on burnin,' rollin', rollin',
rollin' on a river.

GROSS: The members of Creedence started performing together, I think in 1959,
when you were all in high school. Do I have that right?

Mr. FOGERTY: That's correct. Actually, we were still in the eighth grade,
three of us.

GROSS: Junior high school.

Mr. FOGERTY: Right.

GROSS: What were your early songs? What was the band like back in eighth
grade?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, we were mostly an instrumental band. I patterned myself
and my band very much around Duane Eddy, and we did several Duane Eddy
instrumentals. We also had probably 10 or more instrumentals that I had
written, not remarkably original, really, but you know, they were--I would
play--taking the pattern, basically, from Duane, I would play the melody on
the guitar and Stu, who was not yet playing bass, was playing piano, and I had
kind of showed him the rudiments of, you know, three-note chords and a little
bass line, so, you know, at that level of our development, we were certainly
learning the rudiments of music, but always with a rock 'n' roll flair, you
might say.

Rock 'n' roll has some pretty strict parameters that when you step outside
0those parameters, everyone kind of gives you that cross-finger look, like
they're holding back a vampire. So, you know, I've always kind of based
everything from the center of rock 'n' roll.

GROSS: The band's first name was Tommy Fogerty--Tommy Fogerty, that's your
brother--Tommy Fogerty & The Blue Velvets. And then the band was called--what
was the second name?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, actually originally, the three of us were the same age,
in the eighth grade, so we were just The Blue Velvets.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. FOGERTY: And then we got the lucky happenstance to make a few records
for a little local Bay Area label, and under that guise, Tom would join us.
Tom, by that point I think was out of high school and of course, we were still
in high school, and you know, under that recording name we were Tommy Fogerty
& The Blue Velvets.

GROSS: Then what was the next name that you used?

Mr. FOGERTY: The next name on records was The Golliwogs.

GROSS: And what was The Golliwogs supposed to mean?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, this is one of those deals because you're young and
everybody else is supposedly older and wiser, and it's their record company.
The real story is, we worked on the first single, the first song for about
nine months. I mean, we had gone in there and recorded it, and we kept
pressuring the record company, `When's it coming out? When's it coming out?'
This is all of 1964. And then finally, they tell us, `Well, the record's
here. The pressings are here.' So we rush over--actually, I rushed over to
San Francisco and I pull one--you know, it's your first real record on a
supposedly national label, Fantasy Records, and you want to look at this
thing. And you take it out of the box and I looked at it and, oh, my God, it
said The Golliwogs.'

So Max was one of the brothers that owned the company then, and I said, `Well,
jeez, Max, there's a mistake here. There's like a typo. They put The
Golliwogs.' `No, we decided to rename you guys.' `Oh. Well, why?' `Uh, see, a
golliwog is--in England, a golliwog is like a voodoo doll. It's this doll
that comes from Africa. It's really a hip thing. It's really cool, and it's
black, too. It's like from the black culture, and it's really cool. It's
like a voodoo doll, and in England, it's really a hip thing.' Of course, in
1964, the British had arrived in America, and all things English and British,
mod, etc., were very cool. Unfortunately, no one in England had ever heard of
a golliwog, either.

GROSS: My guest is John Fogerty, formerly the lead singer of Creedence
Clearwater Revival. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: (Singing) Oh, Suzie Q, oh, Suzie Q...

GROSS: This is the final edition in our series on rock of the '60s. Let's
get back to our 1998 interview with John Fogerty, the former lead singer of
Creedence Clearwater Revival.

How did you come up with the name Creedence Clearwater Revival?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, of course, after struggling under that name for several
years, the ownership of Fantasy changed, and the very first thing we wanted to
do was change our name, and the guy that had bought the company, the new owner
of the company, agreed with us that we could change the name. I think he
hated it, too. And so we sat about for many months trying to come up with a
name, but none of it was very suitable or remarkable. The whole process
started to bog down, I think.

It was Christmas Eve and I was watching television, and two commercials came
on television, one of which was a beer commercial that really promoted its use
of the water, and they were showing this lush, green woods and this flowing
river, and you know, the place looked enchanted, and there was this beautiful
music in the background. And right after that was a black-and-white
commercial. It was an anti-pollution commercial, and it showed all kinds of
pollution and garbage in the water and that sort of thing. And at the end, it
said, `If you want to change things, write to Clean Water, Washington.' And I
was really taken by the two things, back to back, the beautiful clear water
and the, you know, terrible polluted water, and clean water stuck in my mind;
I started playing with that. Clean Water didn't seem like a very good name
for a band, but I evolved to Clearwater, and I remembered back to when we had
toyed at some point with the name Creedence.

It's not true that I ever knew this person. We did know of a man whose first
name was Creedence--pretty unusual name--and of course, I shuffled that
around. Clearwater Creedence, Creedence Clearwater. Oh! I kind of like
that. But it still didn't sound complete. Remember, this is during the era
of Jefferson Airplane and Strawberry Alarm Clock and Buffalo Springfield. So
I kept playing around with different words and I thought that what we were
really doing was having a revival, the group. We had been together a long
time, but we were now experiencing a revival, or at least I hoped so. So
finally after about probably 10 minutes of thought or even less, I had come up
with the name, and I must say that the name was much better than we were at
the time.

GROSS: Creedence Clearwater Revival had its biggest hits between 1968 and
1972, a bunch of top 10 hits, and you were based in the Bay Area, around San
Francisco. San Francisco at that time was dominated, you know, in the public
mind by groups like the Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, the kind of
psychedelic bands. Where did you see Creedence fitting into that California
scene of the time?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, since I had grown up so much with fondness for blues and
R&B and particularly rock 'n' roll, my work ethic, you might say, was somewhat
different than what I perceived the work ethic, if you can even use that term,
of people like The Grateful Dead, and so I noticed that our music, or our
approach to music was--or at least mine--was far different than the other
bands that were becoming famous in San Francisco. But politically, I felt
very much as part of the feeling of people in the Bay Area or San Francisco,
or really my generation in general.

GROSS: You wrote some politicized songs that pertained to the draft and to
the war in Vietnam, like "Fortunate Son," which is a song about how privileged
people make wars, but the sons of the privileged are exempt from fighting
them. And "Who'll Stop the Rain" I think was perceived as an anti-Vietnam
song. I know you were in the reserves for a while. How did you end up in the
reserves?

Mr. FOGERTY: I was a very lucky guy, really. A local sergeant in a reserve
unit took pity on me and basically let me join his unit when, you know, the
unit was full and there was really no place for me to go. He basically took
pity on me and let me get into his reserve unit at the time.

GROSS: So what year was that, that you were drafted?

Mr. FOGERTY: 1966.

GROSS: So you were already recording then.

Mr. FOGERTY: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: And you didn't want to go to Vietnam, so you ended up in the reserves.
I'm wondering if being in the reserves affected your attitude toward the war
or toward the kinds of songs you wanted to write.

Mr. FOGERTY: Oh, I would say very much, because you know, you quickly learn,
when you become a grunt in the military, that you're just a number. You're
just a piece of meat. You're nothing. You have no rights, you have no
privileges, you have no power over what happens to you, and that's a very
debilitating feeling, and I can remember--You know what? I can remember the
night I finally arrived at my boot camp after being shuffled around for a
couple of days, really, and it's your first day, and they keep you awake
forever, you seem like you've been awake, and somewhere around midnight or 1
in the morning, I know all my guys got marched off to get our hair cut, and
you kind of come back, you feel like you've been sexually abused, you know.
They say, `OK, go back in there.' And you go back in your barracks and
there's like 30 other people in the same boat, and you're all a bunch of ugly
eggheads. And I laid down on my bunk and I must confess, my eyes certainly
watered, is I guess what I'm trying to say. Of course, you get over that,
because you're supposed to be a man. It was probably the most forlorn feeling
I've ever had.

GROSS: Did you see your song "Who'll Stop the Rain" as an anti-war song?

Mr. FOGERTY: Yes.

GROSS: Do you want to say anything about writing this song before we hear it?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, of course, the rain is a metaphor for the gobbledygook
that comes down from the places on high, and I was feeling pretty much
powerless at the time I wrote this song, and I was trying to reflect that
really it has gone on since the beginning of time, and even at the time of the
Vietnam War, when there was so much protest in the air, I had a very
fatalistic point of view. It seemed like all the protesting in the world
wasn't going to change anything.

(Soundbite of music)

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: (Singing) Long as I remember, rain's been
comin' down, clouds of mystery pourin' confusion on the ground. Good men
through the ages, tryin' to find the sun, and I wonder, still I wonder, who'll
stop the rain?

I went down Virginia, seekin' shelter from the storm. Caught up in the fable,
I watched the tower grow. Five years plans a new deal, wrapped in golden
chains, and I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?

GROSS: Did you hear from people who were fighting in Vietnam that they played
your records there a lot and that your records mattered to them while they
were in the jungle?

Mr. FOGERTY: I would hear that off and on right around the time of 1970,
'71, but I heard about it a lot more later, as I began to become an adult and
guys who were now back and settled into the community would tell me all kind
of stories about Vietnam and the music that they experienced there.

GROSS: And what did that mean to you?

Mr. FOGERTY: Well, in some cases, it was very uplifting. I am proud that
these songs meant so much. You know, I realize, of course, that all the music
at the time meant so much, and especially to Americans off in a foreign land,
in a jungle, fighting for their life. I mean, anything--these are kids, these
are guys 20 and 21 years old--anything that is a touch of home is a very
welcome memory at that time.

GROSS: John Fogerty was the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Our
interview was recorded in 1998. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Ray Manzarek discusses his career as keyboardist for
The Doors and his memoir, "Light My Fire"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're going to conclude our series on
rock of the '60s with this 1998 interview with Ray Manzarek.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JIM MORRISON: (Singing) Here I come. Yeah!

GROSS: That's The Doors, one of the great psychedelic bands of the '60s. The
mythology surrounding The Doors has mostly centered around its lead singer,
Jim Morrison, considered one of rock's tortured poets and sex gods. But
instrumentally, The Doors' distinctive sound was based on the keyboard playing
of Ray Manzarek. We invited Ray Manzarek to an interview at our piano, so he
could show us how he came up with some of his now classic organ solos.
Manzarek has written a memoir called "Light My Fire: My Life With The
Doors." The memoir focuses on the years the band performed together from
1965 through '71, the year of Jim Morrison's mysterious death.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MORRISON: (Singing) When the music's over, when the music's over, yeah,
when the music's over, turn out the lights, turn out the lights, turn out the
light. Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison attended UCLA film school together,
but they didn't think of forming a band until they were both out of school.

Mr. RAY MANZAREK (Former Keyboardist, The Doors): Biblically, 40 days and 40
nights after we said our goodbyes after graduation, I'm sitting on the beach
wondering what I'm going to do with myself. Who comes walking down the beach
but James Douglas Morrison, looking great, lost 30 pounds, was down to
about one thirty-five, six feet tall, Leonardo--Michelangelo's "David." He
had the ringlets and the curly hair starting to kind of fall over his ears in
gentle locks. And I thought, `God, he looks just great.' And I said, `Jim,
Jim, come on over here, man. Come on. It's Ray. Hey, come on.' He said,
`Ray, oh, man. Good to see you.' And, you know, we did, `Hey, buddy,' `Hey,
pal,' you know, high-five and all that kind of stuff that guys do. And I
said, `Well, what have you been up to?' And he said, `Well, I decided to stay
here in Los Angeles.' I said, `Well, good, man, cool. Tell me, so what's
going on?' And he said, `Well, I've been living up on Dennis Jacobs' rooftop,
consuming a bit of LSD and writing songs.' And I said, `Whoa, writing songs.
OK, man, cool. Like, sing me a song,' you know, and he said, `Oh, I'm kind of
shy,' because I knew he was a poet. He knew I was a musician.

And I said, `Sing me a song.' So he sat down on the beach, dug his hands into
the sand and the sand started streaming out in little rivulets, and he kind of
closed his eyes and he began to sing in a Chet Baker haunted whisper kind of
voice. He began to sing "Moonlight Drive," and when I heard that first
stanza, `Let's swim to the moon, let's climb through the tide, penetrate the
evening that the city sweeps to hide,' I thought, `Ooh, spooky and cool, man.
I can do all kinds of stuff behind that. I could do kind of...'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Sort of like, let's swim to the moon, you know. Let's climb
through the tide...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...penetrate the evening that the city sweeps to hide.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I thought, `Ooh, I can put all jazz chords and I can put
some kind of bluesy stuff.'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: I thought, `Yeah.'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I could do my Ray Charles, you know, and my Muddy Waters,
Otis Spann influences, and I could do just all kinds of bluesy, funky stuff
behind what Jim was singing. And I said, `Man, this is incredible. Let's get
a rock 'n' roll band together,' and he said, `That's exactly what I want to
do.' And I said, `All right, man. But one thing, what do we call the band?
It's got no name. We can't call it Morrison and Manzarek. I mean, you know,
M&M or, you know, Two Guys from Venice Beach or something.' He said, `No,
man, we're going to call it The Doors.' And I said, `The what? That's
ridiculous. The Door--oh, wait a minute. You mean like the doors of
perception, the doors in your mind.'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And the lightbulb went on and I said, `That's it, The Doors of
Perception.' He said, `No, no, just The Doors.' I said, `Like Aldous
Huxley.' He said, `Yeah, but we're just The Doors,' and that was it. We were
The Doors.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And that's now the band got formed.

GROSS: So when you and Jim Morrison decided to create a band that left--the
lead singer and keyboard player, you still needed other musicians.

Mr. MANZAREK: Yep.

GROSS: So you ended up finding the drummer, John Densmore, and guitarist
Robby Krieger, but you became not only the keyboard player, but the bass
player, too. It was kind of...

Mr. MANZAREK: Well, it was of necessity.

GROSS: Tell us that story.

Mr. MANZAREK: We had the four of us. I found John and Robby in the
Maharishi's meditation...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...and kind of an Eastern mysticism. We were into the same
kind of yoga The Beatles were into.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And that came out of--the song "This Is The End" comes out
of that. So we were all seekers after spiritual enlightenment, and so was
Jim, of course. But we didn't have a bass player, so I applied my
boogie-woogie background, my rock 'n' roll boogie-woogie, because when I
discovered boogie-woogie...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...that was the whole thing. And you just keep that left hand
going. You don't do anything with it. It just goes and goes and goes and
goes.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And the right hand does the improvisations.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: So I had done that over and over and over as a kid, so it was
very easy for me to--once we found the Fender Roades keyboard bass, 32
notes of extra-low sounding low notes, it was very easy for me to do...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: So that's what I did on the piano bass.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Or like "Riders On The Storm"...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And that's what I did. I just over and over, repetitive bass
lines that are just like boogie-woogie, just keeps on going.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And it becomes hypnotic, and that's why lefty here is--thank
you--he did a very good job. He's not too quick.

GROSS: So y...

Mr. MANZAREK: He's a bit of a slow-witted fellow, lefty, but he's really
strong and solid and plays what he has to play, so lefty became our bass
player.

GROSS: So your left hand and right hand were playing separate keyboards.

Mr. MANZAREK: Oh, of course. Yeah. I had a Fender Keyboard Bass sitting on
top of a Vox Continental Organ, and the Vox Continental Organ was what I
played with my right hand and the Fender Keyboard Bass with my left hand.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MORRISON: (Singing) Love me one time, could not speak, love me one time,
baby, yeah, my knees got weak. Love me two times, girl, last me all through
the week. Love me two times, I'm going away. Love me two times, babe. Love
me twice today. Love me two time, babe, because I'm a-going away. Love me
two time, girl, one for tomorrow, one just for today. Love me two time, I'm
going away. Love me two times, I'm going away. Love me two times, I'm blown
away.

GROSS: My guest is Ray Manzarek, who was the keyboard player for The Doors.
More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Ray Manzarek, who was the
keyboard player for The Doors. Our interview was recorded in 1998 after the
publication of his memoir, "Light My Fire."

In your memoir, 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 of one of those songs. Why don't we look at "Light My
Fire"...

Mr. MANZAREK: Sure.

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

Mr. MANZAREK: The most famous Doors' song. Yeah.

GROSS: Sure. Yeah.

Mr. MANZAREK: The most famous Doors' song. You know, Robby Krieger's
actually the writer of "Light My Fire." So Robby came in with a song. He
said, `I've 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, `Dun, da, dun, da, dun, da, da, da,
da, dun, dah, light my fire.' And I was like, `OK, OK, good chords. You
know, what are the chord changes there?' and he shows me, an A-minor...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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

(Soundbite Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: That's cool. And then...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Da, da, da, da, da, da, da. And we said, `No, no, no, no, no,
no, we're not going to do this Sonny and Cher kind of song here, man.' And
that was popular at the time. Densmore says, `Look, we've got to do a Latin
kind of a beat here. Let's do something in kind of a Latin groove.'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I'm doing this left-hand line. So John's doing
ka-ka-chooka-chooka doo-dah, you know. And we set up this Latin groove and
then go into a hard rock four...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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, and 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 Ogney(ph). And it's like, `God, Jim, what a great verse, man.'

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

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...eh, ah, doo, dah--you know how that goes. You've heard it a
million times.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And then into the chorus, `Come on, baby, light my fire.'

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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, `You know, we're in A-minor. Let's
see, what do we do?' Da, da, da, da, da.

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: It ends up on an E, so how about...

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

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

(Soundbite of Manzarek playing piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: But the left hand is exactly the same thing.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: 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.

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: So it's John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things."

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And Coltrane's "Ole Coltrane" and then...

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And into the turnaround.

(Manzarek plays piano)

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

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. The only thing left to do was to come up with that little
turnaround thing. I hadn't had that yet. And we said, `Now how do we start
the song? Do we just jump on an A-minor to an F-sharp? You know, are we
going to do that? Vamp a little bit?' I said, `No, no, no. We need
something more. We can't just vamp a little bit.' And I started--I put my
Bach back to work, put my Bach hat on and came up with a circle of fifths.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: So I started like this...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Like a Bach thing, like...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: So same kind of thing.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. B-flat, so I'm in G, D, F,
up to B-flat...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...E-flat...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...A-flat to the A to A-major, A-major. Yeah. That's it. And
then we'll go to the A-minor. I'm thinking all this to myself. So that's how
the introduction came about.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat, A...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...and the drums and everything. Jim comes in singing.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And the Latinesque and then into hard rock. So that's how
"Light My Fire" goes. That's the creation of "Light My Fire."

GROSS: And you come up with this great organ solo in the middle...

Mr. MANZAREK: Oh, that was just luck.

GROSS: ...which is, of course, cut out of the single.

Mr. MANZAREK: Right, exactly.

GROSS: Because your producer figured, we've got to get this on the radio.

Mr. MANZAREK: Right.

GROSS: So we've got to do a singles version...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yeah. We had to cut down six...

GROSS: ...and it was--What?--six or seven-minute track.

Mr. MANZAREK: ...seven minutes--we had to cut down seven minutes to two
minutes and--under three minutes, you know, two minutes and 45 seconds, 2:50
would be ideal.

GROSS: So he calls you into the office, plays you his version...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yeah. Well...

GROSS: ...his edited version.

Mr. MANZAREK: ...Paul Rothchild, a brilliant genius, producer, and Bruce
Botnick was our engineer. Those two guys were--those were Door number five,
Door number six. Without those two guys--there were six Doors in the
recording studio, the four musicians and Paul Rothchild and Bruce Botnick.
Without them, we never would have done nearly what we did. Paul said, `I'm
going to make an edit here. I'm going to do some edits. I'm going to cut
"Light My Fire" down from seven minutes to 2:45, 2:50,' and I said, `Good
luck, man. I don't see how you're going to do it.' Two days later, Rothchild
calls and said, `OK, man, I got it.' I said, `You got it? How did you do it
so fast? You've got a thousand cuts.' And he said, `No, no, no. Just come
on in. I'm not going to tell you what I did, how I did it. I just want you
to listen to it.'

So the song starts. We're all in the control room on the big speakers at
Sunset Sound. The song starts...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: We're at the regular introduction and then it's into...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...and it's going along and then `Come on, baby, light my
fire.' And that's going along. Now we're into the second verse. `The time
to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire. Try now, we can only
lose. Our love becomes a funeral pyre.' Everything's going exactly--`Come
on, baby, light my fire.' Nothing has changed. Everything is exactly the
same. `Come on, baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.' Now
it's time for the solos. I think, `Where's the edit, man?' And we're into
the solos.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I thought, `I don't know where he's going to cut. This is
insane.' And all of a sudden, where I'm supposed to go...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...you know, play my organ solo, what happens, it goes...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: It goes to the end of the solos...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: ...and then back into the turnaround, and there's like not a
solo. There's no solos where--I'm out. I've got three minutes of solo.
Robby's got two and a half minutes of solo. It's all gone. It just goes,
dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, and turnaround...

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And I think, `Oh, no, what's'--and then we go back into verse
number three.

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: And then we do that exactly as the song is, and then verse
number four. `It's time to hesitate, no time to wallow in the mire. Our
love becomes a funeral pyre. Come on, baby, light my fire. Come on, baby,
light my fire. Try to set the night on fire, try to set the night on fire,
try to set the night on fire.' And it's the end of the song, and that's it.
It's two minutes and 45 seconds long, and there are no solos in the entire
song, and I thought, `I'm going to kill this guy.' Or I looked at Robby and
Robby said, `You want to kill him? Let's kill him.' And Paul said, `Hold it,
hold it. Listen, I know the solos aren't there, but just think. You don't
know the song. You've never heard the song. You're 17 years old. You're in
Poughkeepsie, you're in Des Moines, you're in Missoula, Montana, you've never
heard of The Doors. All you know is a two minute and 45 second song is going
to come on the radio. It's called "Light My Fire." Does that work?' And we
all looked at each other and said, `You know what, man? You're right. It
does. It works.'

(Soundbite of "Light My Fire")

THE DOORS: (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...

GROSS: My guest is Ray Manzarek, who was the keyboard player for The Doors.
More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

THE DOORS: (Singing) Oh, show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh, don't
ask why. Oh, don't ask why. Show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh,
don't ask why. Oh, don't ask why. For if we don't find the next whiskey bar,
I tell you we must die, I tell you we must die, I tell you, I tell you, I tell
you we must die. Oh, mou...

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Ray Manzarek. He was the
keyboard player for The Doors. Our interview was recorded in 1998 after the
publication of his memoir, "Light My Fire."

One of the really big stories and the lure of The Doors is the concert in
Miami...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes, it is.

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

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes, they do.

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

(Manzarek plays piano)

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes, he was.

GROSS: So...

Mr. MANZAREK: Go ahead.

GROSS: Well, what did he say to the audience that got the audience so excited
and so expecting him to expose himself?

Mr. MANZAREK: Well, what he said, I don't know if I can say that on the radio
here. My goodness.

GROSS: Well, we'll do the clean version of what he said.

Mr. MANZAREK: OK, it's the C-word. He said the C-word, ladies and
gentlemen. We won't go any further than that. 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 hanger, and 14,000 people are packed in
there, and they're sweaty and Jim has seen The Living Theater, and he's going
to do his version of The Living Theater in front of--this is the first time
he's been home. He was born in Melbourne, Florida. This is 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'd have told
somebody. He said, `You didn't come to hear a rock 'n' roll band play some
pretty good songs. You came to see something, didn't you?' And they're all
going (makes noise). He said, `What'd 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. I'm playing the piano right now inside the strings.
That's how the audience--it's just rumbling and rumbling. And he said, `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 and he
said, `Did you see it? Did you see it? Look, I just showed it to you.
Watch, I'm going to show you my C-word again. I'm going to show it to you.
Now keep your eyes on it, folks,' and he whips it out. Oh, off to the side
again, off to the side again, 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 that 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 on 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 saw it. It was one of those kind of religious
hallucinations; except it was Dionysis bringing forth, calling forth snakes.

GROSS: And then you say he said to the audience, `Come closer, come on down
here.'

Mr. MANZAREK: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Come on down.

GROSS: `Get with us, man.'

Mr. MANZAREK: Sure. `Come on, join us. Join us onstage.' Sure. And they
started coming on a rickety little stage, and the entire stage collapsed.
Sure.

GROSS: Toward the end of The Doors' life as a band, Jim Morrison could only
play like three nights in a row, and he'd just be kind of either spent or just
too--What?--too depressed or manic to--one or the other--to play after that?

Mr. MANZAREK: No. It wasn't too manic. No, the manic side--no, it was his
energy was giving out.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. MANZAREK: He was depleting his energy with alcohol, and physically, on
the first night, he was fine. The second night, he was halfway drinking too
much, and by the third night, the booze would catch up with him and he was
just kind of hanging on to the microphone, and he had lost his chi is what he
had lost.

GROSS: When he went to Paris for what you thought would be some rest and
relaxation, he ended up dying there...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yeah.

GROSS: ...mysteriously...

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes.

GROSS: ...at the age of 27.

Mr. MANZAREK: Yes.

GROSS: So did you have to reinvent yourself after Jim Morrison died and that
was the end of The Doors?

Mr. MANZAREK: No. I just had to get on to the next thing. I was the same
person I was before. You know, my psychedelic and cosmic vision formed when I
was 25 is the exact same one I have today. What I'm telling you today is what
I would have told you two weeks after Jim Morrison died. I'm the exact same
person. You know, once you open the doors of perception, you know, `Ray, do
you still take acid?' No, I don't take acid. `Do you still get high
anymore?' You don't need to. Once you open the doors of perception, the
doors of perception are cleansed. They stay cleansed. They stay open, and
you see life as an infinite voyage of joy and adventure and strangeness and
darkness and wildness and craziness and softness and beauty. So that's how I
live my life and I haven't changed. I didn't really have to reinvent myself.
It took a long time to get over Jim's death, however, you know. That was a
sad, sad period for me.

GROSS: Ray Manzarek, recorded in 1998, after the publication of his memoir,
"Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors." We hope you enjoyed our series on
pop and rock of the '60s.

THE DOORS: (Singing) People are strange when you're a stranger, faces look
ugly when you're alone. Women...

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

THE DOORS: (Singing) ...no one remembers your name when you're strange, when
you're strange, when you're strange. People are strange when you're a
stranger, faces look ugly when you're alone. Women seem wicked when you're
unwanted. Streets are uneven when you're down.
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

Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.

43:04

This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

08:26

This Romanian film about immigration and vanishing jobs hits close to home

R.M.N. is based on an actual 2020 event in Ditr─âu, Romania, where 1,800 villagers voted to expel three Sri Lankans who worked at their local bakery.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

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

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue