"The Doors' legacy lives on"

03 Aug "The Doors' legacy lives on"

August 3, 2007
by Tierney Smith

“Rock Hall celebrates the tumultuous career of rebellious rock act”

As part of The Doors’ ongoing 40th anniversary celebration, Cleveland’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is staging “Break On Through – The Lasting Legacy Of The Doors” as its major exhibit of 2007.

The exhibit, which opened May 25 and is slated to run through October 7, came about after The Doors organization pitched the idea to the Rock Hall. The result is a treasure trove of Doors artifacts, all sanctioned by the remaining Doors members and the Jim Morrison estate.

Some of the items on display, according to Ray Manzarek, include “Edmund Teske’s proof sheet of Jim [Morrison] and Pam [Courson] at the romantic photography session at the Hollywood Hilton, my wedding certificate witnessed by Jim Morrison and Pam Courson, a student film from UCLA (which, he adds, features “me and Jim before we even talked about The Doors”), Jim Morrison’s dictionary (and) my Vox Continental organ on which I played ‘Light My Fire.'”

The exhibit also includes never before seen pre-Doors items donated by Manzarek’s younger brother Rick, guitarist of Rick And The Ravens, which features a poster of the band featuring a goateed Ray clad in a sharkskin sportcoat.

Also on display: Morrison’s original handwritten manuscript of his poem “Ode To L.A. While Thinking Of Brian Jones Deceased 1969” and a Les Paul backup guitar lent by Robby Krieger.

John Densmore’s contributions include a drum from a Doors-era kit and some items of clothing, i.e., striped pants, jacket and green velvet sportcoat. There is also an impressive collection of rare Doors concert posters (from a private, New York-based collector) dating from the band’s earliest days at The Whisky a Go-Go to their final concert in New Orleans, many of which haven’t been on display since.

Doors artifacts are all the more prized considering they’re not that easy to come by.

Howard Kramer, curator at the Rock Hall, says, “The Doors aren’t very good collectors of The Doors. Some artists are very good collectors of themselves or have someone around them who is a good collector. There is a pack-rat mentality that doesn’t exist with this band.”

Which is just fine by Manzarek. “That’s the problem with America, the keeping of stuff,” he states emphatically. “People have storage to keep their stuff they’re never gonna use, but they might someday. I think that what you have to do is … live in a forward-thinking way that would be having you not accumulate.”

Manzarek added with amusement, “People have said to me, That’s your clothes!’ Why would I keep clothes that are 30 years out of style? Why would I keep a pair of shoes that I wore onstage at the Hollywood Bowl? Why would I have Jim Morrison’s leather pants?”

Leather pants or not, one would be hard-pressed to view The Doors exhibit without marveling at the creative magic that marked both, the band and the times they lived in, a magic that Manzarek readily acknowledges.

“The ’60s were a very exciting time; they were like the ’20s in Paris and Berlin,” he affirms. “We were actually a generation that had ingested a certain psychedelic substance, and we were going to attempt to change the world and to bring the true message. I mean, we had become mystery Christians. We were going to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world. The message of Jesus Christ is love, love, love, and the hippies always said, ‘make love, not war.’ That’s what we were attempting to do, bring a new loving inspiration to the world, and we failed miserably. It’s been replaced by a mad fever, a rage, a hate that has completely supplanted love.”

As Manzarek sees it, “The spiritual search is over; the idea of the attainment of enlightenment is gone. We’re in a dark, muddy place now, and we cannot see the light.”

Though Manzarek and The Doors were, in essence, reaching for the light, some saw only darkness. It was, as Manzarek points out, “The darkness of film noir; it’s the darkness of Orson Welles. You had your choice of Rock Hudson and Doris Day in ‘Pillow Talk’ or Orson Welles in ‘Touch Of Evil.’ Well, Jim and I were in the line for ‘Touch Of Evil.'”

Reflecting further, Manzarek adds, “I don’t know that the darkness negates spiritual fulfillment. I don’t think it does. I think the two together create the whole human being. All darkness results in madness, all light results in blindness. As a human being, you have to have a way of balancing the yin and the yang.”

Asked if audiences got what The Doors were attempting to convey Manzarek is quick to assert, “oh, absolutely, two thirds of them, yes. Some of the audience came for the hits like ‘Light My Fire’…but the majority of our audience was there for a much more religious experience, definitely!”

As to how much of The Doors’ continued popularity can be attributed to the fascination with Jim Morrison or to the simple strength of the music itself, Manzarek sees it as “a combination. You can’t separate one from the other. Now (Morrison’s) almost a semi-deity and a handsome fellow to boot. Also a poet, but it’s obviously the music. Jim’s words are expressed most beautifully through the music of The Doors.”

A whole new generation of record buyers would agree. Of the millions of Doors albums sold each year, most are purchased by people in their teens and 20s who clearly recognize Morrison’s quest for freedom from societal constraints is something worth emulating.

“I think that’s one of the things that was so appealing about Jim Morrison,” states Manzarek, “that honesty and the freedom that The Doors represented, that searching for freedom. They’re entering that stage in which personal freedom is possible and is attainable and they turn to The Doors for validation and encouragement of that search.”

For those potential fans who have yet to discover the band’s music, Manzarek sees the licensing of Doors music for advertising as a means of reaching the unconverted, even if it has yet to happen.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with marrying music with advertising,” asserts Manzarek. “I love hearing rock ‘n roll on my television. Muddy Waters on my television! I thought it was fabulous. I don’t hear Muddy Waters on the radio, I heard it on television.”

As Howard Kramer sees it, The Doors’ continuing relevance for a new generation is based on a number of factors: “The lead singer will always be young and beautiful. They quit before they could ruin their reputation.”