Ray Manzarek remembered with an epic recount of a New York adventure
And if you can’t accept the idea of The Doors playing with anyone except Jim Morrison in the lead, I told you... I was with you at first. When they did VH1’s STORYTELLERS, I thought it was an interesting evening, a cool selection of music played by a group of fans sitting in with the original musicians, a tribute and a chance to share that music with the audience... the opportunity to “get together... one more time.” The idea of them actually picking up and continuing on as The Doors, though... I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. Especially without knowing some sort of firm line-up. I didn’t want to hear rumors about who might or might not participate.
That’s why it was literally dizzying when I took my seat on the leather couch that was front and center in the rehearsal studio. Tim Sullivan, my friend who invited me to visit the rehearsal, worked to set a mood in the place by pulling curtains closed and setting the light levels both onstage and off. Brett Nemeroff (Tim’s partner on the upcoming film RIDERS ON THE STORM along with Chris Kobin, which they’re producing for Ray Manzarek to direct) was walking around with a video camera, capturing footage of these moments as the band started to come together.
Me, I was just sitting there, watching Ray Manzarek settle in behind his keyboard, setting it up so that he had all the right sounds just a keypunch away. I was motionless as Robbie Krieger hooked up a new effects pedal he wanted to try out and started playing riffs, familiar little bits and pieces of things. For a moment, the high piano part from “Riders On The Storm” was unmistakable, and then Ray was back to working on the sound of the keys. Stewart Copeland kept adjusting the exact placement of his drums and his cymbals, and he tested things out with a few powerful snaps on each piece.
Tim kept showing up with different items for me. A copy of the set list. A single drumstick with Stewart’s name embossed on it. Then he would disappear again, getting ready.
There’s also one other new member of the band, a bassist named Angelo Barbara. He’s played with Robbie before, and watching him onstage with these guys, I’m jealous. He’s having a blast. He’s obviously a fan, having studied the original recordings closely enough that he actually corrected Ray and Robbie on how something was arranged originally. He’s working to reproduce all those great bass lines originally provided by Manzarek on keyboards, and it really fills the band’s sound out in a whole new way. He’s an adventurous player, and right from the start, he brings something important to their sound.
When they actually started playing, I almost didn’t notice at first. They just gradually started making sounds together, as if testing each other out, and those little moments suddenly seemed to gel, and just like that, “Roadhouse Blues” kicked in.
There’s something dirty and seedy about the song, about Robbie’s guitar lick at the beginning, at the fuzzy sound of the whole thing. If “Touch Me” is their cheesy Vegas song, then “Roadhouse Blues” really is their drunken bar band song. It’s a great, fun song, maybe the most joyous tune I can think of with the word “Blues” in the title and lines like “The future’s uncertain/And the end is always near.” Ian Astbury was restrained at first, like he was just looking for his place in the music. And I understand... there was a moment during that first song, where Robbie and Ray started trading riffs back and forth, where I suddenly felt all doubt drop away.
What are they rehearsing for? I still haven’t been clear on that, have I? There’s a show coming up... coming up very, very soon, as a matter of fact. It’s a secret show, somewhere in LA. I hope I end up going to the show so I can see the difference in the way they finally put everything together. And following that show, The Doors are going to be part of The Open Road Tour.
See, next year is the 100th anniversary of the formation of Harley-Davidson. The Open Road Tour began in July of this year, and will end in July of next year. There’s all sorts of acts that are part of the tour, like Aerosmith and Stone Temple Pilots and Journey and Los Lobos and George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. And in Los Angeles (September 6-8) and Toronto (September 28-29), The Doors are going to be playing.
It’s a busy month, though. There’s also an event in New York on September 27th, where Ray Manzarek and George Winston are going to be playing together, a one-time concert to support Winston’s new album, a set of arrangements of Doors songs for jazz piano.
This sounds remarkable. The following night, Ain’t It Cool is going to be part of a special Ray Manzarek-related event, something I’ll be bringing you details about later in the week. I’m very, very pleased to be part of this, too. It’s going to be an interesting event, something I’m looking forward to for any number of reasons.