Ray Manzarek Video Interview

© 1993 by Rainer Moddemann

In August 1993 I got a call from a director asking if I had time to do an interview with Ray for a few TV features
planned for Jim Morrison’s 50th Birthday. Of course I agreed. I called Ray if he had time, and a few days later I
got a flight ticket from the TV company. Ray was pretty busy at that time and let me know that he had just half
an hour left before he had to leave. In fact he was anxiously waiting for a phone call. So I tried my best to keep
my questions precisely on what the director had told me.

(very special thanks to Wendy Bachman, who transcribed from the video file)

Ray Manzarek in Berlin, August 31, 1991.
Photo © Rainer Moddemann.
  Rainer: Ray, the thing I just wanna know is, aehm, I'm gonna sit down here and you just look at me and …
  Ray: Ok.
  Rainer: … the thing I wanna know is, aehm …
  Ray: Yes?
  Rainer: … some things about the last Doors concert in New Orleans, if you could say something about that …
  Ray: Ok!
  Rainer: Then we should talk about the last time you saw Jim, when you said good-bye …
  Ray: Ok.
  Rainer: That story. Then the story of the phone call in the middle of the night you've got from Bill …
  Ray: Ok.
  Rainer: … and how you, John and Robby got the message and knew that Jim would never come back … stuff like that.
  Ray: Ok!
  Rainer: (busy fixing the camera zoom) Well, let me fix this camera, wait a second, that's great, I think it's ok now …. one more minute ...
  Rainer: Now that's fine, that's fine.
  Ray: Great!
  Rainer: Great, tape's running.
  Ray: (waving his hand at the camera) Hello everybody! (laughs)
  Rainer: This will be shown in Germany.
  Ray: (waving his hand at the camera again) Hello Germany! (laughs)
  Rainer: Ray, what can you tell us about the last Doors concert?
  Ray: Well, let's see. The last performance The Doors ever gave in public was in New Orleans in 1971 and, ah, Jim was very tired. I think …
    (A small plane is flying right over Ray's house, he stops for a few seconds until the plane has disappeared.)
  Ray: The last performance we ever gave as a band, all four of us, John, Ray, Jim and Robby, was in New Orleans in 1971, and it was perhaps
not the best concert we've ever played … the night before however we had just played in Texas, I forget Dallas or Houston, one or the
other, and it was absolutely brilliant. We played 'Riders on the Storm' for the first time, and he was absolutely amazing. And I remember
after the concert, Vince Treanor, our roadie, came up to us and said, “What was that song? I've never heard that song before!
And I said, “That is the new one we're working on for the album and it's called 'Riders on the Storm'.” And he said, “I love that
piece, Ray. That is absolutely incredible!
” So the fact that we've got to play that one song, 'Riders on the Storm', one time was one of
the great joys of my life and unfortunately we never got to do it again with Jim. He decided to leave the planet on July 3rd. And the next
night the concert in New Orleans was less than one of our best concerts, and I've never seen Jim get so tired so quickly. He was great in,
ah, great in Texas, and in the next night or the night after, there might have been a day in between, I don't even think so, he was extremely
tired, and I've never seen him that tired before because he always had a great energy about him and a great excitement about him. And he
would always feel the energy coming off of him, but that night it was as if his energy had just left him, and there was a point in one of the
pieces where we were playing … and most of the times I would play with my head down and listening to John, listening to Robby on the
far end, Jim in the middle and I would concentrate with my head down. And I heard … we were in the middle of one of our solos, and I
forget what it was exactly, but I thought Jim had left the stage. And I thought, “That is odd, he shouldn't be leaving the stage!” Sometimes
he would leave the stage in 'Light my Fire', because the song would go on so long and it would be a nice chance for him to go offstage,
get a beer, relax, come back, sit down, shake a maraca and wait until it was time for Jim to sing again. But this time he … ah, he had left
the stage in a song that he shouldn't have left the stage. And I thought, “What's that? Jim is gone!” And I looked up, and he was still
standing. Center stage, holding on to the microphone. It was as if the essence of Jim Morrison, the spirit of Jim Morrison had left his body.
The body was there, but the spirit of the man had gone. And that was the last concert we've ever played together.
  Rainer: Could you tell me about the last time you saw Jim?
  Ray: The last time I saw Jim was probably in the recording studio … well, at The Doors' Office that we were using as a recording studio, and
he said … we were working on L. A. Woman of course and nearing completion. He had done all his vocals and everything was pretty
much done except we had mixes yet to do. And Jim said, “Why don't you guys go ahead and finish up the mixes? You could do it
without me, I've done all my parts, everything is sounding great!
” We have maybe two or three songs left to go, we have been
working on 'Riders on the Storm' with the thunderclaps and the thunder, the lightning and the rain and the thunder and played it for Jim
and he said, “It sounds fabulous, sounds fabulous! You guys are doing a great job! Go ahead and finish the album, there are only
two or three songs left to go.
” We said, “Wait a minute, where are you going?” “I'm going on a vacation.” “Ah! Interesting idea!
Where are you gonna go?
” “Paris!” “Ah, Paris! How long are you gonna be gone?” He said, “Well, I don't know. I'm gonna …
let's think of …. an ‘aditus extended sabbatical’, as a teacher would say, ‘sabbatical’.
” Well, we have finished our contract with
Elektra, all seven albums have been delivered and we were absolutely free to do anything we wanted, once we were done with L. A.
Woman we were no longer tied to Elektra Records and could either renegotiate with Elektra or sign up with a new record company.
We could do anything we wanted, we were completely free at that point. And Jim decided to take an extended vacation. And when he
said 'Paris' I thought that was the best thing he could possibly do, unbeknownst then to me what would happen to him. I thought, 'An
American in Paris', Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, all the great American writers who had gone to Paris and I thought this was
absolutely perfect. Get away from Los Angeles, get away from Rock'n'Roll, get away from America, and recapture the muse, seduce
the lady, seduce the muse to come back and bless you with her inspiration so that Jim could regain his round as … not as a rock star
but as a poet – that was the important thing. The Jim Morrison - for me, for John and for Robby was always a poet. The rock star thing
was incidental to us, that came only later. The Doors were never set up to be rock stars. We of course wanted to play big venues, and
play for lots of people, but as a rock star then, you know … Rock'nRoll stars in a rock band … kings of acid rock, and Jim as the
'Lizard King', kings of orgasmic rock – we never wanted any of that. We wanted Jim to be accepted as a poet, The Doors to be
accepted as musicians, jazz-rock musicians. And Jim had, because of all the pressure and all the problems with his life and with Rock 'n'
Roll and Miami and everything that was going on with his life … I thought the best thing in the world for him was to get away, go to
Paris, capture the muse and stay there as long as you want. When I asked him, “How long do you wanna stay?”, he said, “I don't
know, three months, six months, I don't know.
” I said, “Good! Six months? Fine! You know, the album's gonna be coming out,
we don't have anything to do, go ahead and do that, you know.
” And that was the last I ever saw of Jim Morrison. He was off to
Paris to begin writing poetry again, to compile his notes from Miami – he said he was going to finally write that book of all the notes
that he had written in Miami …
    (Ray's phone rings.)
  Ray: Excuse me, just a moment please! Hello? Hello?
    (I stop my camera until Ray has finished answering the call – I don't want to record Ray's private calls.)
  Ray: Nothing to report yet, although I've got something very exciting to report … call me in about two months.
  Rainer: I'll certainly do that.
  Ray: We may have something interesting to talk about! About our new video project …
  Rainer: Oh, great! Anything new coming out?
  Ray: (laughs) Yeah, concerning our favorite band! (laughs) And our favorite lead singer! So anyway, aemmm, Jim had decided to go to
Paris to take a long vacation, three months, six months, however long it took for him to relax, to begin to write again, to work on his
poetry, to work on the notes that he took in Miami, to compile a novel … I was very excited about that. It was a novel like … there
was a French writer in 1830, 1835 who came to America, Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote 'Democracy in America', but Jim was
going to write 'Observations on America while on Trial in Miami for Obscenity', and I thought, “Perfect!”, because Jim would write
just a great book about his observations about America, what it meant to be an American. And that's what he was going to do in
Paris, and to the best of my knowledge I don't think he ever got started on the 'Observations on America' but he did write a lot of
poetry while he was in Paris, and some of that poetry has surfaced in a sealed box, '127 Fascination', as it was written on the edge
of the box, and I know the fellows in San Francisco who purchased the box, and I saw the poetry. And it's Jim Morrison's poetry
that he wrote in Paris, it's some very good stuff. Some of it has been subsequently published. Ah, Frank and Corky put a book
together, and, ah, couple of books together, and, ah, using bits and pieces of the poetry, but it would have been nice just to see the
poetry just as it is, just ... don't edit it, it doesn't need to be edited, or if it does need to be edited, just a very slight amount of editing,
but just put the poetry together just the way I saw it in this box ... and I opened this box and I saw all of his poetry, I was flabbergasted,
I thought it was wonderful. Jim was writing in Paris, Jim was working in Paris, and that was the best thing. He was trying to ... he was
being a poet again which is something I don't think he really had that much of an opportunity to do in the last year here in Los Angeles,
although he was able to come over with songs for L. A. Woman. But as far as his actual writing poetry I don't know how much poetry
he worked on here in L. A. ... and he got to Paris and he got started all over again, and the tragedy of the whole story is that Jim died
on July 3rd 1971 in Paris, and that Pam died not long after that, a few years later, and Pam was dead, too. A Romeo & Juliet story,
and, ah, two very lovely American people dead, a real tragedy.
  Rainer: Could you tell me the story of the phone call ...
  Ray: Yes, yes. Alright. On July 3rd 1971 Jim Morrison passed into the ether, left upward into the loam. On July 4th or perhaps the 5th,
I can't be sure which day it was ... Dorothy and I were having breakfast, and a phone call came from Bill Siddons saying, “I have
some bad news – Jim is dead!
” I said, “Well, wait a minute, I've heard the story before!” Paul is dead was a notorious thing
that was going on at that time, Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Jim, I've heard, had died three or four times. We were at a party,
someone came into the party and said, “Oh my God, Jim Morrison is dead!” And we said, “What, what, what, what?” Five
minutes later in walked Jim. We said, “Hey, man, I thought you were ... you're supposed to be dead!” And as Mark Twain said,
Jim said, “No, the stories of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” And we all laughed, ah, it happened a couple of other
times, too, in which Jim was dead and of course he wasn't dead. So this is the same sort of story, Jim is dead, and I said, “Bill,
come on, you know, I've heard that story before!
” And he said, “No, no, no, this time I think it's serious.” I said, “What?
“He said, “I've talked to Pam and she was all broken up!” I said, “Well, good Lord! What happened?” He said, “I don't know!
Was it an accident? Hit by a car? What happened?” He said, “I don't know what happened, she wouldn't say.” I said, “Well,
why don't you go?
” He said, “I am. I'll get over there. I have a flight, twelve o'clock.” Or something like that. It might have
been eight, nine, ten o'clock in the morning. “I have a twelve o'clock flight booked, non-stop, from Los Angeles to Paris.” I said,
Good. Get over there, find out what's going on and call me as soon as you get over there.” Well, I didn't hear from him for
two days. He called me back and he said, “Ray, this is Bill.” I said, “Where are you?” He said, “I'm in Paris.” I said, “Well, what
” He said, “We buried Jim this morning.” “What?” “We buried Jim this morning!” I said - and he mentioned Père
Lachaise cemetery which I wasn't aware of at that time, and I said, “Who was there?” “Just a few people, Pam was there ...”,
and I said, “Oh my God, what happened?” He said, “Well, I guess it was a heart attack or something.” I said, “Well, how did
he look, what ...
?” He said, “I don't know.” I said, “What do you mean you don't know how he looked? I mean, did you bury
Jim? How did he look?
“ Bill said, “I never saw the body. Jim was in a sealed coffin.” I said, “Wait a minute. You’re telling
me you put Jim in a sealed coffin in the ground in a cemetery in Paris and Jim Morrison is supposed to be in there?
” He said,
He is in there. I know he is in there.” I sat there and thought that doesn’t make any sense. Quite frankly, it doesn’t make ANY
sense. “That’s not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to find out what happened. Jim died of a heart attack? He’s
27 years old. 27-year-old men don’t die of a heart attack. Granted, he was not in the best of shape, but 27-year-olds don’t
die of a heart attack and how do you know he’s in the coffin?
” He said, “Well, Pam was so upset - I couldn’t ask to open the
coffin and see the body and that to this day is all I know of what happened to Jim Morrison in Paris
  Rainer: Uh, but The Doors continued recording …
  Ray: Uh huh.
  Rainer: … working on some songs. How did the other Doors accept the news?
  Ray: Well, we all got a phone call. Bill called everybody and we all talked to each other and said, “Why don’t we all get together and
go to the office. What did you hear? What did you hear?
” John and Robby heard the same story that I heard - a sealed coffin
was put into the ground July 5th , I guess on a Monday. Monday morning. July 6th we talked to the record company. A statement
would have to be made. All that sort of thing. After all that legal stuff was taken care of, the accountant was informed. The lawyer
was informed, the press release was going to be released. After all of that stuff happened ...
    (We’re waiting a few seconds while another plane goes overhead. Loud sound of jet plane can be heard in the background.)
  Ray: So after all of that technical and legal nonsense was taken care of, the three of us just sort of flopped back in our chairs in the office,
opened a beer and said, “Holy cow, God, what happened to Jim? What a loss. What a tragedy. Now what? What do we do?
At the time we had been rehearsing, working on songs. Robby was bringing in songs. I was beginning to write some songs. Gosh,
Robby had ‘Ships With Sails’. We had been working on the song ‘Ships With Sails’. It would have been wonderful to hear Jim sing
‘Ships With Sails’ and I think Robby also had ‘Wandering Musician’, so we were doing while Jim was writing his poetry, doing what
he did, we were doing what we do, working on some new material two to three times a week, getting together in the afternoon,
waiting for Jim to come back, just working on a batch of new songs and we just decided, “What can we do? Let’s just continue
doing what we do, making music. Jim was writing songs as we have since we found out and we were working on our own
music, so let’s just continue making music. What should we do? Should we get a new singer?
” We thought about getting a new
singer, but at this time, the idea sounded absurd … to bring someone in, someone to replace Jim Morrison was a ridiculous idea. “We
can’t. The Doors are the four of us. Even without Jim, we are still The Doors, so we will continue as The Doors
.” To bring in
someone else would be totally absurd. Consequently, we never did bring in a lead singer and we made two albums as The Doors.
After ‘Other Voices’ and ‘Full Circle’ we decided to close The Doors. It was time for that part of our lives to come to an end. I miss
him very much and I know John and Robby miss him very, very much. He was a great friend and even better, he was a great artist and
a great poet. That’s what I remember Jim as a great poet, great artist and a very good friend.
  Rainer: Great answer. Just a very private little question from myself. We’re not using this for the TV show. There are a lot of rumors about
how Jim died.
  Ray: Boy, aren’t there?
  Rainer: Millions!
  Ray: Gosh.
  Rainer: Most infamous one of all seems to be that Pam was giving him some stash and let him die in the bathtub. What do you believe?
What do you think?
  Ray: Have you heard the one about Alan Graham being there?
  Rainer: (surprised) Graham?
  Ray: I just heard this yesterday. (At this point, Ray gestures with his hands to stop. Time out.) I said, “Wait, wait, wait a minute!
‘Time out’, as we say in basketball and football. But yes, someone did tell me that Graham was in Paris. I said, “I don’t believe
that, but that’s another rumor
.”(Both me and Ray are laughing at this point.) I said, “What’s Graham doing in Paris?
I said, “No, no, no. Jim was in Paris. Pam was in Paris.” And I think what might have happened is Alain Ronay was in Paris
and someone said ‘Alan’. You know people in the States refer to Alain as Alan. Alan Ronay and this person probably thought that
Alain was Alan Graham. No, no. There was an Alan there, but it was Alain Ronay and that’s how rumors get started. That’s how
things happen. What’s the story of Jim’s death? Gosh, I really don’t know. I did hear the story of some extra strong heroin going
around. Some very, very pure heroin.
  Rainer: Siddons once said that he found a bunch of ‘things’ that were in Pam’s possession.
  Ray: Well, we know that Pam died of an overdose. You know that’s not news to anybody that Pam was indulging. Whether she was
indulging there in the white powder, I really don’t know, but obviously here in America she died of a heroin overdose. I don’t know.
If Jim did take any heroin, I imagine he snorted some heroin and since it was extra pure, and perhaps extra strong, I really don’t
know if that - I really don’t know anything about heroin, but I have heard there was a rash of overdoses. Junkies were dying in Paris.
A very strong shipment of ‘China White’ had come in. Now I can perceive of perhaps … I can construct a story of Jim snorting
some lines of heroin white, and the way Jim did things … (Ray lightheartedly chuckles) … I shouldn’t laugh, but the way Jim would
do things, he would always do more than he should of anything. That’s what he did. “Well let’s just see what this stuff does!
Boom! I can just see a couple of lines being laid out and “I’ve heard about this!” Bam bam! And he did probably … who knows
and had it been - if this is what happened, he snorted some extra strong, extra pure heroin and a huge amount. He probably started
feeling sick, had been drinking and decided to take a bath, to lie down in a bathtub and maybe he was breaking out in a sweat.
Sweating hot or cold or whatever happens. So if this is the situation, a bath is a relaxant, alcohol is a relaxant, heroin is a relaxant.
So if you add one on top of another and another, and you know what? It’s very possible that the autopsy said that Jim’s heart had
stopped. He just stopped breathing in Paris and died. (Spoken very quietly. Almost a whisper.) And if he did, it was probably the
sweetest death anyone has ever had in a very, very long time and he deserved a sweet death.
    (Phone rings. Ray answers.) “Hello?” (That must have been the important call mentioned above, because Ray got up and
said he had to leave soon. So I stopped the tape

The Doors interviewed by Robin Denselow at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, November 2, 1983.
Photo © Rainer Moddemann.

© 1993 Rainer Moddemann, The Doors Quarterly Magazine. This interview may not be distributed in any other context or media.