I was lucky to have interviewed the late Ray Manzarek in person a couple decades ago -- in a room with just me, him, John Densmore and my tape recorder. I conducted the audiotaped interview at Elektra Records in Manhattan in May 1987. At the time I was a staff writer/reporter for Cash Box magazine's New York bureau. Because of breaking stories happening that month, my interview never saw publication. Until now! Here's a transcript of the Q&A:
How about the Miami Concert, where Morrison was arrested?
Densmore: Where Jim whipped it out and tripped [laughs].
Manzarek: He fell on it. Well, he could. The tool was long enough. It was difficult. He had to shove it down his pants leg.
Densmore: He had to fold it over, didn't he? [laughs]
Manzarek: Sometimes he did and sometimes he just let it hang there. See, Miami was a religious hallucination. The exposure, to my knowledge, never actually took place, but he told the audience he was going to do it and he baited the audience and kept telling them he was going to expose himself. And he held his shirt in front of his crotch and kept using it as a bullfighter's cape, pulling it off to the side. And then he'd quickly cover himself,. And he said, "I'm going to show it, I'm going to show it , watch, watch, watch." And then he pulled his shirt aside and pulled it back. That's what I remember. I never remembered him actually doing it. I thought, He's pulling a number on the audience. But the southern audience, his home state of Florida, they saw the snake, they saw snakes, lizards. The Doors came as the kings of acid rock, the kings of orgasmic rock, all those funny titles. I think he hypnotized 15,000 people into believing he did it.
Densmore: Certainly these psychedelic Christians that attended the trial and stood outside and accosted us saying, "He did it!".
Manzarek: Yeah, I'll never forget that
It was a hallucination, you say?
Manzarek: Boy, we were right there, man. We didn't see it. I didn't see it. Maybe he did. If he did, it sure was quick. Densmore: He certainly didn't simulate oral copulation on the guitar player and lavishly display his penis, as they charged him with.
When Jim Morrison died in 1971, didn't you think at the time, 'Maybe we should get a new vocalist'?
Densmore: We thought about it and we actually jammed with a few guys and then we thought , Gee, replacing Jim, what a burden for whoever it is. So Ray [Manzarek] had sang blues occasionally and so we decided to continue with Ray singing and Robbie [Krieger] singing a little bit. And after two albums of that, we kind of musically were going in different directions and lamenting the [death of Morrison], so we closed the doors, *
Was there an aura of doom around [Morrison]?
Densmore: ...Doom I could feel the last few years.
Like after the Miami gig?
Manzarek: Well, there was an awareness of death. Morrison was aware of -- and I think we all should be aware of -- our own mortality. Anything could happen to us at any moment...I almost got hit by a taxi crossing the street, the guy was hauling ass. You're dead, you're gone, man. You live, you die. Densmore: And death not ends it. Manzarek: And death doesn't end it either.
That's right; there are still videocassettes!
Manzarek: [laughs] There's still footage in the Doors archives....
How about the moment when you got the news that Morrison died Manzarek: I was in Los Angeles at my breakfast table. A phone call came in from our manager at the time, who said, Jim Morrison is dead in Paris. I said, "Bullshit." At the time, Paul [McCartney] is dead rumors were going around. Lots of people were sort of dying, or [there were] rumors of their deaths. I didn't believe it at the time. I had heard four or five other rumors of his death, so this was just another rumor of Jim's death. So it didn't really upset me in any way at the time. And the guy said. "I think this is serious." And I said, well, I'm not about to fly to Paris to check out some rumor, I don't believe it, anyway. He said, "I've got a twelve o'clock flight to Paris," he flew to Paris. Fine, go ahead, check it out. Call me back. About two days, three days later, he said, "We buried a coffin, and Jim Morrison was in that coffin, and he's now buried and dead...." I said to the guy, "He's dead, you buried him?" He said, "Yes." I said, "How did he die?" He said, "Well, it 's all in French, I can't read it. Something about his heart stopped." "Well, how did he look?" He said, "I don't know." I said, "What do you mean you don't know?" He said, "I never saw the body....it was a sealed coffin." I said, "You mean you put a sealed coffin in the ground?" He said, "Yeah but Jim was in there." I said, "Are you sure Jim was in there." "Yeah." "Well, how do you know?" "I know he was in there?" "Did you see him?" "I didn't see him." And that's the story from my perspective.
So technically, Jim Morrison might have just run away and said "To hell with all this stuff?"
Manzarek: It's possible, it's possible. I doubt it. French death certificate, pay off an Algerian doctor a couple thousand dollars to sign it, put a hundred and fifty pounds of sand or bricks in a coffin and put it in the ground. It's possible. I don't think so. But it's sure is strange. And there were a lot of strange circumstances around his death. And the whole thing with never seeing his body. I never saw Jim Morrsion dead. Last time I saw Jim Morrison was in March in Los Angeles, and he said, "I'm going to Paris," and I said, "Great, God bless, go, have a good time, write, relax, take it easy, take as much time as you want... and call the muse back, get back to being a poet again." And that's what he was going to do. And that's the last I ever saw of Jim Morrison.
How about you, John?
Densmore: I think it was at our office. This was several days after [their former manager] had gone to Paris and called Ray back., So I remember I came up the stairs and Robbie [Krieger] said, "Jim is dead." And I sat down and sort of [groans]... I don't know, the last few years, [Morrison] was pretty tortured. I was kind of relieved for him in a way...