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Ray Manzarek On The Doors’ “Live At The Bowl ’68″: “Those Four Guys Were The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse!”

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Ray Manzarek photo by Michael Boutefeu/Getty Images

Ray Manzarek photo by Michael Boutefeu/Getty Images

In stores now is the newly reissued live Doors concert film, Live At The Bowl ’68, which shows the band at the peak of their powers. The L.A. band had, in just a few years, gone from playing clubs on the Sunset Strip to the hallowed Hollywood Bowl. At the time, it was a rare occasion that rock and roll music would grace that stage, more often used for orchestras.

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek told CBS Local that some of his, and the band’s, favorite artists had played that stage, so it meant a lot for them to be booked at the venue. “It was momentous.  That was the granddaddy of all venues in southern California.  Igor Stravinsty conducted there! The Beatles played there! And we were playing at the same place.  But up to that point, very few rock bands played there.  We were very honored.”

With their second #1 single under their belt (“Hello, I Love You”; the first was “Light My Fire”) the band was on top of the world, having realized all their dreams of becoming rock stars in just a few short years.   “The best laid plans of mice and men had not gone astray yet,” Manzarek muses. “We dreamed of putting a rock and roll band together on Venice Beach in the summer of 1965. This is now the summer of 1968 and we had attained the goal. We wanted to be as big as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and we had arrived at that place.” Indeed, at that time, The Doors – Manzarek on keyboards, with guitarist Robby Krieger, drummer John Densmore and singer Jim Morrison – had a powerful grip on their audience. When watching it today, Ray says, “Those four guys were the four horsemen of the apocalypse!”One striking difference between Live At The Bowl ’68 and the concert films of today is that the art of shooting concerts hadn’t been perfected yet:  this was a year before Woodstock was filmed. With just a few cameras shooting, and not much movement by those cameras, the experience is much different from what music fans are used to seeing when they watch a live concert from home or in a theater today.  Manzarek notes, “The camera holds on the performer.  The camera isn’t the star of the show.  Let the performer speak for himself!  That’s what’s going on.  You can really get into the keyboard player, and the guitar player, the singer.  There’s no quick cutting.  You allow the eye to rest on the performer and by allowing that, you get into the soul of the performer. It becomes hypnotic. Fast cutting is not hypnotic.”

So, had Jim Morrison survived, The Doors wouldn’t likely have done a 24-camera shoot to preserve their concert performances for the ages.  But how big would they have gotten?  After the Hollywood Bowl, they became even more popular, and headlined Madison Square Garden.  Had The Doors survived through today, would they, like the Stones and Paul McCartney, have upgraded to football stadiums?  “I’m not sure if you are still a rock and roll band or if you turn into a circus at that point.”

However, he notes that if the band had been popular enough, they most likely would have tried to play the largest venues possible: “It would have been a theatrical challenge to do something like that.  The Rolling Stones do it on a grand scale.  So what would The Doors have done on a grand scale?  All things would have been possible, unfortunately Jim didn’t make it.”  Referencing the massive popularity the band enjoys, decades after Morrison’s passing he says, “The Doors were an underground band, out of the mainstream. That’s where Jim and I always wanted to be.  But I’d prefer to have the Doors’ music being played on a radio station in a gas station than not being played.  We wanted our music to be heard by as large of an audience as possible.”

These days, Manzarek still works on that developing that audience through concert tours with Krieger where they play the band’s music, and reissues such as Live At The Bowl ’68. And there’s another project in the works, albeit one that Manzarek won’t elaborate on: on his own website, he’s asking fans to share their “Doors concert memories” as well as “photos, audio and video.”  “That is a speculative work at this particular time,” he says, “Nothing concrete at all.”  No doubt it will help keep the Doors’ music heard by a seemingly always large audience.– Brian Ives, CBS Local

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