Keeping The Doors open

Even without Jim Morrison, co-founders Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger faithfully recreate the ’60s group’s indelible mystique.

Doors_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘In order to become one of the immortals – or a god – you have to die. I’d rather have Jim Morrison be here with us than be a dead rock legend. That’s the tragedy.” Ray Manzarek, Morrison’s bandmate in The Doors, was reminiscing about the iconic singer who was found dead at the age of 27 in his bathtub by longtime partner Pamela Courson in their Paris apartment on July 3, 1971.
While his mysterious, premature death elevated Morrison to that “immortal” status Manzarek described, it has also ended up overshadowing the music The Doors made in their short five-year career. “I’d like to think that the poetry is the most important thing about Jim – what he had to say – not his past or the way he died,” said the 72-year-old Manzarek on the phone with The Jerusalem Post from his San Francisco home he shares with his wife of 44 years.
The Doors are ensconced in a lofty position in rock ‘n’ roll lore as one of the most evocative 1960s bands whose influence is still felt today. Their dark, enigmatic music – dominated by Manzarek’s swirling organ – and Morrison’s shaman-like stage presence, poetic lyrics and commanding vocals became symbols of the counter-culture revolution of the time. Their music demanded that listeners succumb to total liberation, and audiences willingly complied.
That the band was also able to score one Top 40 hit after another – from “Light My Fire” to “Riders on the Storm” – was testament to their ability to synthesize psychedelia, free-form jazz soloing and subversive themes into a palatable sound for the masses.
Manzarek is still keeping that music alive with his original bandmate guitarist Robbie Krieger. Over the last decade, they’ve been on the road regularly, celebrating the music of The Doors.
Original dummer John Densmore joined them at first; however, he dropped out amid a series of lawsuits that have prevented Manzarek and Krieger from using the name “The Doors.”
Since 2004, they’ve been joined by drummer Ty Dennis, bassist Phil Chen, and have employed a variety of highprofile frontmen, including The Cult’s Ian Astbury and even Eddie Vedder for a few shows. Their current lead vocalist is Morrison look-and-soundalike Dave Brock, who has spent years fronting his own Doors tribute band, Wild Child.
The band will be spending the 40th anniversary of Morrison’s death performing – where else? – in Paris.
Their next show is in Tel Aviv at Hangar 11 on July 5.
According to Manzarek, the band faithfully recreates The Doors’ mystique, even without Morrison’s presence. “As the keyboard player, I would think that the music might have had something to do with it [their success]. I think that without songs like “Light My Fire,” “Riders on the Storm” and “LA Woman,” we wouldn’t be worshiping Jim the way we do,” he said.
If Morrison hadn’t met his early death, Manzarek predicted that the band would have remained together, even though the singer had moved to Paris, grown a long beard and beer belly and was far from the sex symbol he had been a couple of years earlier. “We were the other half of his brain,” said Manzarek. “If we would have broken up, he would have had to join another band. My god, can you imagine Jim Morrison not singing? All eyes were watching him, the electric shaman with the band behind him, allowing him to go into a Dionysian frenzy with complete joy, power and confidence – what a place to be. He was never going to give that up.”
Longtime Israeli fans of The Doors will get a taste of that experience on Tuesday night, with Brock filling Morrison’s huge shoes. “He’s a great singer and a very similar astrological type to Jim,” said Manzarek. “But it’s never eerie. If Jim Morrison showed up on stage, that would be eerie.”