— Molly Woulfe, Copley News Service
July 12, 1998
Herald-News (Joliet, IL)

University of California at Los Angeles film students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 on a South California beach. The combination of a volatile lead singer, cryptic lyrics, swirling organ riffs and moody guitar solos earthquaked the landscape of ’60s rock: the Doors’ first single Light My Fire topped the charts and remains one of rock’s signature anthems.

But the charismatic Morrison self-destructed after a handful of albums, dying under mysterious circumstances July 3, 1971, in Paris.

More than 25 years later, keyboardist Manzarek has finally penned his eyewitness account of the Doors’ rise to fame in Light my Fire: My Life with the Doors (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.95). The wry Chicago native, 59, lives in Los Angeles and produces the retro-punk band X.

1. Why did you wait nearly three decades to write the book?

Manzarek: I really wasn’t going to write the book until the next century.

I thought we’d have to turn the corner on the 21st century before people could understand a lot of the things I’m talking about, the subconscious and the psychology.

At the moment, all people want to know is, “Did the Lizard King whip it out in Miami?” They don’t understand anything else besides that. … We’re living in this very 1958 time and people don’t understand anything about primordial myths, the myths of mankind, the constantly recurring myths. …. so I thought I would wait until the 21st century. (Shrugs, smiles) But I don’t know, one thing led to another.

I had a lot of free time, and I started writing.

1. Do you think Doors’ music is under-appreciated because of the mythology?

Yes. Yes, I do, gosh darn it! I think it’s loved.

But where intellectual critics are concerned, I think it’s unappreciated.

And the poetry.

Just listen to the words.

Just listen to the words.

Q. Is the mythology holding up the music?

A. No, it’s not the mythology.

It’s the eros of Jim Morrison.

E-R-O-S. The erotic images of Jim Morrison that are so attractive.

The leather pants are so attractive to all women.

And the Botticellli hair and that lean, Michelangelo’s David body.

I just hope all the girls who are so madly in love with Jim Morrison’s sex zone also buy a couple of Doors records so they can listen to Jim sing the songs!

3. The Doors considered hiring Iggy Pop as a frontman in 1973. What happened, and will you and guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore ever regroup?

We didn’t want to lay the weight of Jim Morrison on Iggy. Everyone would say, “You’re not Jim Morrison!” And, of course, he’s not.

But it would have been really unfair to Iggy to have to bear that burden.

It would have been a great deal of fun to play with him but people wouldn’t have been unable to look past the fact he was now the Doors’ new lead singer. … So we decided to do it ourselves and I did the singing and guess what the people said? “You’re not Jim Morrison!” (Blows a loud raspberry.) Of course I’m not Jim Morrison! … So we put the band to rest.

4. You grew up on Chicago’s South Side, went to St. Rita’s High School, then DePaul. Your parents loved the blues and you hung around blues clubs, too.

Did Chicago blues influence the Doors’ “Bach rock” sound?

Of course.

Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed. It’s the sound of men in anguish and the great soul of Africa, the rhythms of Africa coming through American black men who brought a great dignity to music.

And yet a great injustice was in the voices.

Howlin’ Wolf singing Smoke Stack Lightning was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life. And Muddy Waters doing anything.

Muddy Waters, the Hoochie Coochie Man, was the greatest blue singers of all time.

And Bo Diddley.

The Doors covered Who Do You Love. It was one of our favorite songs to do. And we did Willie Dixon’s Back Door Man. We did hundreds of blues songs when we were first starting out because of the great sense of rhythm, the power, the dark moodiness … Me and Jim Morrison — Jim was from the South, from Florida — we worshiped the black blues singers.

5. If Jim had survived, what would you two be doing today?

We would have gone into politics.

Because in 1967, I thought to myself, “You know what? Someone in show business is going to become president of the United States.” By God, it could be the son of the admiral.

The well-born, high-bred, WASP-Native American, the combination of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and the Native American.

Jim had the Native American shamanism, the Indian, inside of him.

He was a blending of the cowboy and the Indian.

The son of the admiral had all the lineage, the right breeding.

Eventually, I thought, around 1980 or so, he could run for president of the United States.

I would be vice president.

God, we could have turned this country around.

Holy cow! By now, we would be laughing and singing and the schools would be great and the water would be clean and the air would be clean and we’d be eating a lot better food.

There’d be a lot (fewer) E-coli breakouts.

There wouldn’t be runaway production to a lot of foreign countries.

We’d even be making Nikes here!

— Molly Woulfe, Copley News Service