Martin Pitts Interview With Ray Manzarek of the Doors (Part I)

(In 1991 Martin Pitts interviewed Ray Manzarek for a television special on the roots of American music. The show was broadcast throughout the world and received much favorable attention. Recently, a transcript of the show was discovered, and American Legends is pleased to present this classic interview which was thought to have been lost.)

MP: How did you and Jim Morrison decide to form a band?

RM: We graduated from the UCLA Film School in the summer of 1965. Jim was going to go to New York City, and I was going to stay in L.A. I was sitting on a beach in Venice a month or two after graduation, in the middle of July, thinking, What am I going to do? I've got a masters degree in film, big deal. I don't know anybody in film-- I don't have any relatives in Hollywood. How am I going to get a job making movies? So I'm sitting on the beach looking up at the sun-- a beautiful day. And I open my eyes and walking along the shore break, maybe 10-15 yards away, was a guy I recognized--sort of. And I thought, Who? My God, that's Jim Morrison. And I said, "Hey, Jim, hey Morrison, come over here."

And Jim came from the water with the sun behind him, and I watched the figure with the light spilling around him. It was getting to be about four o'clock, and the light was shimmering around Jim Morrison. And he came up to me, and he looked fabulous. He'd lost thirty pounds--he was a little on the chubby side at UCLA. He looked hard and lean and his hair was grown out.

And I said, "Man, you look great. What have you been doing?"

He said, "Nothing."

"I thought you were going to New York?" He said, "No, I decided to stay here." "What have you been up to?" And he said: "I've been writing songs..." I said, "Whoa, that's interesting, writing songs. Well, sing a song for me. Let me hear one." He knew I was a musician. I knew he was a poet...So he sat down on the beach, and he dug his hands into the sand, and the sand was streaming out.

And he began to sing, "Moonlight Drive" in this really haunting kind of voice. It was soft--a soft, but powerful voice. Almost like Chet Baker used to sing. And when Jim Morrison sang those first words:

"Let's swim to the moon Let's climb through the tide Penetrate the evenin' that the City sleeps to hide..."

I thought-- Wow. Those are great lyrics. And he continued the song, and I thought this is one of the best rock 'n' roll songs I've ever heard. The lyrics are haunted and psychedelic. They're about life and death and existence and love. As Morrison was singing, I could hear the things that I could play behind it. Just funky kind of. It was a funky song.

And I said, "'Moonlight Drive.' That's fabulous, man. Do you have any other songs?"

And he said, "Yeah, I've got a couple more." And he started to sing a few more songs. I can't recall exactly which ones they were. But they were brilliant. Just Jim's singing and hearing what I could play behind them.

I said, "Wow, hey, let's get a rock 'n' roll band together."

And he said, "That's exactly what I want to do."

And I said, "Fabulous man. Do you have a name for the band?"

"Yeah," he told me.

And I said, "Well, what is it?"

And he said, "the Doors."

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