2002 / Book Reviews / Interviews / Music

Interview: Doors Keyboardist Pens Novel About Morrison Reunion

Band Mate’s Fictional Tale Finds Morrison Alive

When Doors singer Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971, it should have been the end for the band whose music and mystic he was inextricably linked. Neither Morrison nor the Doors have ever been left in peace.

Photo: Blind Pig Records

Photo: Blind Pig Records

As soon as a coffin bearing Morrison’s name was buried in Paris’ Pére Lachaise cemetery, rumors and conspiracy theories began to pop up that the legendary frontman, notorious boozer and poet had faked his own death.

Added to this — and to most people’s surprise — the remaining Doors continued to record together without their leader before finally disbanding. Despite the split, the Doors was never something they completely walked away from.

Outside the Doors, the band members remained in the music business, but have been met with limited success. Faring best was keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who’s enjoyed high-profile working relationships with L.A. punk godfathers X and poets like Michael McClure and Jim Carroll.

Not surprisingly then, the group members have managed to revisit those strange days with the Lizard King through books and movie projects. (The band has also jumped at the chance to reunite on several occasions. Their latest regrouping was for an episode of VH-1’s “Storytellers” last year where the band was joined by a batch of Morrison wannabes.)

Offering an intriguing glimpse into his fantasies, Manzarek has followed up his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors,” with his first novel, “The Poet In Exile.” The premise is familiar.

The book follows a rock keyboardist named “Roy” who discovers that the stories about his band’s iconic singer (named “Jordan”) — who died supposedly in Paris — are true. The novel’s plot tackles the obvious questions: Where would he be now? What would he be doing?

The two ex-band mates hook up on a Pacific island 30 years after his “death,” clear the air and share their experiences. Manzarek’s adjective-heavy language and clunky use of pronouns is obtrusive at times (instead of calling characters by their real name or continuing to use pseudonyms, he awkwardly refers to them as “the Poet,” or “the guitar player”), but he offers an amusing answer to the “what ifs…”

Recently, Soundbytes spoke with Manzarek about his book and what else he’s been up to:

Soundbytes: When did you first start writing the book?

Manzarek: Two years ago. Two hours a day in the morning, three times a week.

SB: What is it that you really wanted to say with this book?

M: The act of spiritual enlightenment is available to all of us. As it is available to “the Poet” in the book.

SB: Over the years, you’ve probably heard dozens of stories about Jim Morrison being alive and up to something. What are some of the weirder ones?

M: Weird is good. Jim is in Africa and he’s associated with gun runners. Or Jim is the Outback in Australia with a broken leg. And this guy said to me, “Please send me $1,500 and I’ll bring him out.” Needless to say, I didn’t send $1,500 to someone in Australia.

SB: Since the Doors, you’ve had other writer-collaborators like poets Michael McClure and Jim Carroll. Was this book a chance to see how the other half lives?

M: This was my chance to collaborate with Jim Morrison on a book. We have long discussions in the book about his past life and his future life.

SB: How do you respond to those who’d say that part of the reason you wrote this book was to drum up attention for the “Jim is alive” myth and to boost record sales?

M: I would tell them to go to the devil. That way of thinking is bad Freud. It shows how low we can fall as Americans in a greedy, consumer society.

SB: What is it that still excites you about the Doors? What continues to make it a positive experience instead of a burdensome legacy?

M: The sheer joy of the music. And the fact that I can say “psychedelic” in an interview and also opening the doors of perception. Not exactly a thing one hears today.

SB: Would you ever imagine that this book would become a movie?

M: It could. It would make a damn good film.

SB: I read that you’re involved in satellite radio?

M: Yes. I’m one of the DJs for Sirius Satellite Radio. I’m one of the classic rock guys.

SB: Do you feel comfortable being lumped into classic rock? Do you feel classic rock?

M: They lump you. (Laughs) That’s what happens in America, you get lumped.

SB: Was there anything to the rumors that after the Doors reunited for “Storytellers,” you’d do a tour?

M: We are. We’d probably do something like the VH-1 show (with different vocalists). It’s still on the drawing board.

SB: Do you have other books in mind for the future?

M: Yes. A road story in which three (University of California-Los Angles) students on spring break go out to the desert in Arizona to search out peyote. And they find it.

SB: Was writing the book a good experience then?

M: It was a very good experience and I will write more novels. This is the beginning of my new career as a novelist-composer-musician-filmmaker-gourmet.

SB: Sounds like you’ve got all the bases covered.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2002 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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