Henry Rollins: Remembering Ray Manzarek
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
After a month of living in Virginia and the D.C. area, we (myself, cameraman, producer and assistant producer) have made a company move to and are now living at the Pointe Plaza Hotel on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.
It is a fascinating neighborhood to walk around in. The streets are busy with Hasidic people. At one point, I looked around and noticed I was the only one not dressed in black. We will be based here for a few days of shooting before we return to Los Angeles for the last of the work.
Before we landed here, I was afforded a few days off as we transitioned. I got myself a hotel room in my old neighborhood and hit the streets, walking for hours at a time.
I don't do much walking in Los Angeles. I am sure there is a lot to enjoy as a pedestrian in our city, it just never occurs to me to do it. Years ago, when I lived in Silver Lake, I used to walk for miles all the time. As I would make these epic, biped journeys into Hollywood to see shows, I always had the same feeling that I wasn't really going anywhere except deeper into the seemingly endless sprawl of Sargassoid stucco.
In Washington, D.C., I walk for hours, take a break for food or writing and then set out again. Most of my walks are referential, having to do with music. Places I saw bands, places where bands used to practice, houses I used to hang out in and listen to records. I go to these places over and over again, decade after decade. I know that sounds strange and it probably is, but to me, it's like a Kata or a meditation. The walk, the arrival at the spot. A moment to dwell on the significance and then to walk elsewhere, is to me what it means to be "poetry in motion."
It is clear to me now that most of my life has been spent transfixed by an obsession with music. It is perhaps now pathological, or at least well out of my control. Who knows what I could have amounted to had not all these songs gotten in the way?
I grew up with some serious music mavens, writers, players, producers and collectors. During these recent days of walking all over, I visited two very full-on record collections, both decades in the making. Flipping through the boxes of singles is like visiting parts of my life. Pulling a record out, putting it on and looking at the picture sleeve as the song plays never gets old to me. Neither does talking about music with someone with the same points of interest. It's like two people's DNA conversing. Ian MacKaye and I have been doing this for almost forty years now, and there's never a lack of things to talk about, just never enough time to get it all said.
I tell you all of this so you can appreciate how sad it was to read that Ray Manzarek of The Doors had passed away.
My mother, a very eclectic listener, had the first Doors album and gave it to me when I expressed interest in the band. It was one of the first records I ever had. As the years passed, the babysitters who used to look after me would bring their Doors albums to the apartment, and that's how I got to hear their later work. I was still living in that apartment when Jim Morrison died in 1971.
As a young adult, I rediscovered the Doors and heard them in a totally different way. It's because of reading about Morrison and his interest in Antonin Artaud, which got me to the aforementioned, along with Rimbaud, Lautreamont, Camus, Baudelaire and Celine. Their writing lit my brain on fire.
Around 1983, Ray released a solo recording of Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff. My pal Harvey knew Ray and took me to the release party. I met Ray, and he was really cool to me. He told me that he was a fan of Black Flag. That was the night I met Iggy Pop as well. I walked out of the event all fan-boyed out. This also started a series of meetings with Ray over the years.
A few years later, I was invited to visit the mix down of the Doors' Live at the Hollywood Bowl film. I sat in a studio next to Ray and watched him as he watched himself onstage with Densmore, Krieger and Morrison. I kept looking at the two Rays and tripping on the otherness of it.
In 1987, I was mastering one of my albums to CD. There were not many places in L.A. who did that at the time. I asked the engineer who was in the other rooms. He said the Grateful Dead were across the hall and that Manzarek and Paul Rothchild were at the end of the hall, remastering the Doors catalog.
My roommate at the time had one of the first run Doors CDs, and it sounded awful. I asked the engineer to tell them I was in the building. Minutes after I had finished getting my work done, Rothchild came into my suite and asked me what my favorite Doors album was. I told him Strange Days. He said, "Me too!" and invited me to come down the hall to check out what they were up to. They happened to be mastering that particular album, so I got to hear songs from it right off the master mixdowns. Ultimate.
Over the years, I would run into Ray here and there. He was always excited about what he was up to and seemed quite ageless. He was always interested in what I was up to. I really got a kick out of the guy.
I was passing by that apartment where I first listened to the Doors a few days ago and actually thought of Ray. Sad that he's gone, but he had a good run and was in a band that set a lot of imaginations free. Count mine as one.
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