When the Music’s Over: One Last Trip With Ray Manzarek

Art by indigo_girl I don’t feel like repeating old words and I don’t know if there are any new ones to add. Ray Manzarek of The Doors has died at 74 years old. You’ve seen it on...
By    May 23, 2013

Art by indigo_girl

I don’t feel like repeating old words and I don’t know if there are any new ones to add. Ray Manzarek of The Doors has died at 74 years old. You’ve seen it on Twitter and in the creaky testimonies and tributes fluttering all over the Internet like one final organ solo. Last January, I wrote a 5,000 word feature on The Doors and “LA Woman.” It’s both a celebration and a defense of the band, specifically within the context of the 40th Anniversary of their best record, “L.A. Woman.

It wasn’t the first time that I interviewed Manzarek. We spoke in 2010 for an LA Times feature I wrote on the release of “People Are Strange,” a rather remarkable documentary cobbled together using previously unseen footage and uh, Johnny Depp narration. For whatever reason, my notes on that interview are nowhere to be found. I remember Ray wearing a sweater vest and speaking for the better part of an hour. He looked like he’d just stepped out of a tailor shop and had a voice so rich it felt like it had been carved out of ebony. Whenever Morrison was too drunk to perform, Manzarek assumed lead singer duties, and while his larynx lacked it the grit and range of the Lizard King, it was probably the next best thing (apologies to that guy from The Cult).

My main takeaways from the first 2010 interview were that Ray hated Oliver Stone’s portrayal of Jim and his belief that acid explicitly caused the psychic and sonic rupture of the 60s. He also hinted that Jim might still be alive, which I dismissed as the sentiment of a sweet senior citizen who had never recovered from the death of his best friend and musical shared mind. Thankfully, the transcript from my 2012 interview survived. I almost drove up to Ray’s home in Napa Valley to do the interview, an opportunity I deeply regret right now. In spite of my error, Manzarek was an all-time great interview, eloquent, funny, theatrical, and slightly absurd. He was also an incredibly intelligent man well-versed in film, religion, literature, blues, and jazz. Pretentious, sure. But he’d earned the right many times over and done the math. He was the classic post-Beat bohemian that this city stopped churning out when one bedrooms in Venice started to rent for $2,500 a month. The Q&A is here. The sadness is implied. Those organ solos will always be non-secular. RIP Ray.

What are you doing right now?

Sipping a new cocktail, the new cocktails for the new writers. We drink wine, my wife and I. Maybe the occasional cocktail and the occasional puff of grass.

When did you stop smoking heavily?

Grass? I suppose when I got to about 40 — around when Pablo [his son] was young. You can’t get be stoned around the house. You switch over from being an irresponsible adolescent to an adult.

You lived in Beverly Hills at that time, right?

Yes for 10 years in the flats — 232 Rodeo Dr.

How did you like living there?

That was a great time. You could walk to Barney’s any time to hit the seasonal changeover for clothes. It was great to live in the city.

So what led you to move up to Napa?

It was just time for the country. In East Indian culture, after you’ve done your household duties, you give up everything and move to the forest. We always wanted to go to the country. My wife and I are country hippies and Napa is gorgeous. I recently played a gig with [Beat poet] Michael McClure. I played the piano and it was an evening of beat poetry and jazz– lots of improv — sometimes our performances were jazzy, sometimes they were more rock.

We came up to Napa one April, the weather was warm, there were big cumulus clouds in the sky, the mustard was in bloom and everything went all yellow with it growing between the vines.  The vines act as a fertilizer enriching the soil, they let it bloom. We found a little farm house on a couple acres — a little old modern farm house the architect called it when we remodeled it. It’s a just a cool little place on a hectacre.

I’ve had all the LA stimulation I need for one lifetime. Both [his wife] Dorothy and I have had enough of that. We’re looking for the earth, the soil. We wanted to put our hands in the soil and grow.

What do you grow?

So many things. We started growing tomatoes in our backyard in Beverly Hills, the little house in the flats with just a little bit of dirt. We made a compost of amended soil and only had room for five tomato plants, our own homegrown fresh heirloom tomatoes. But there were so many, they were so fecund, we took little bags of tomatoes to our friends. They were so delicious.

We’re growing everything right now — all the winter crops — broccoli, cabbage, Chinese bok choy, salad greens, lots of tomatoes, corn. We can just snap off a couple ears of corn, bring em in the husk, and throw them in the boiling pot.

So switching topics to LA Woman…

Speaking of LA Woman, when I was down in LA, sometime in the last 10 years, maybe earlier than that, I was at a newsstand buying an LA Times. There were two guys standing there reading magazines and one says, ‘Are you Ray, man, from The Doors? We just downloaded LA Woman. We love it.’ I said, ‘Hey that’s great, now give me a dollar because the price of the record divided four ways makes about 5 bucks per disc, so I’d get about a dollar.” [He laughs].

I don’t know what I’d do if I was in a young band. How can they pay their rents or put gas in their car? How can one nowadays have the leisure to create music. How do I do it, do I have to get a full time job just to give my creations away for free?

It was like a revelation to them. But this is what I do. There’s no compensation for the artist anymore and you always had to pay the artist going back to court musicians, court painters, court poets, all across the royal courts of Europe. They’d give them a place to live, give them some food, and an allowance.

What sort of head space were you in when you recorded LA Woman?

I was in a divine head space after I took LSD and it opened up the doors of perception. You realized that you were at one with the planet and everything was God — the creation, the energy, the energy is god. We are the energy, ergo the energy of god is in my mind and everyone else’s.

We had created a rock band after graduating from UCLA. The rock band was accepted and successful. We recorded and people loved our music. Everything was working out great, except that Jim had been seduced by games and the luxury and indulgences of fame.

What was he like at that time?

[Ray makes an imitation of a street hustler] It was like “Hey man, I got pills, I got grass, I got girls.” He even does that in American Prayer. He had everything he could want. He could do everything he wanted and he was surrounded by a crew of pretend friends who took advantage of him. They forgave any boorish behavior, the more boorish the better they liked it. And then there were all those girls who  were like “Hi, Jim, Hi Jimmy, we love you [imitates a young girl’s voice.]

How long can a 24 year old stand up to that temptation? If you’re Jim, you wanted to try everything. He was all about the experience. He wanted to experience everything and he did. Unfortunately, a demon lurked. There are drug monsters that hid within the drug — not necessarily marijuana and LSD. I was all in favor of them. But I’m talking about the white powders that you might snort or stick in your asshole, that will get you high as a suppository.  The demons became more insidious and more monstrous and eventually he succumbed to them. That’s what did him in — it was the tragedy of Jim.

Did these demons all come to a head by the time of LA Woman?

Before LA Woman, everything was great, except for Jim’s self abuse and not in the Catholic church sense. He had abused himself and I had to come down hard on him. But still, it hadn’t affected his literary output or his songwriting; it was affecting his health and him the man. We had a little confrontation and he was like, ‘I know.’

We said, ‘you’re drinking too much, it’s ruining your health.’ He said, ‘I’m trying to quit.’ We said, ‘just call us and let us know when you want help.’

But he didn’t quit. Maybe he quit for a few days, but by the end of the week, it was like, ‘jeez I need a drink.’ Jim had been a guy who said, ‘I feel lousy, I need a drink.’ Conversely, he was like, ‘I feel great I need a drink.’ That’s a problem. But we didn’t know what alcoholism was. We were all stoners in the 60s and in that generation, we were all heads. For someone to be an alcoholic, it was inconceivable.

We had no knowledge of the signs of alcoholism. 20 years later, we would have known. There was no sin Anon, no Betty Ford clinic at the time. All of them could have helped. Rehan was a place synonymous with jazz musicians and 50s heroin. Jim wasn’t a junkie, just an alcoholic, but who knows what he was dabbling in? That’s where we were in our heads.

What about from a musical standpoint? Where did you see the band?

From a musical standpoint, we were free from Elektra after that album. We had three albums to begin with, then two more and then two after that with increasing royalties on each LP. That was the completion of our contractual obligation and there was a sense of liberation and freedom at the end of it and during the recording. It was because we were doing it ourselves. Our producer, Paul Rothchild had bailed. He was a really good guy, not a taskmaster and not a slave driver as his reputation has become. He was very intellectual, very musical, another stoner himself, only five years older than us. He was a very important cog in the wheel.

What happened was, we played very badly when we had a session at Sunset Sound studios. We wanted to just show what we had created, but we were dragging and everyone’s biorhythms were down. Paul told us, ‘I don’t like it. I love everything you do, but you’re bored, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do. If you want to record, do it yourself, because frankly, I quit.’

He said it sounds like cocktail jazz, right?

He did. We were so listless that first attempt. Our mysterious brooding danger that you could hear on ‘Riders on the Storm,’ had reduced itself to fender Rhodes piano cool cocktail jazz, b minor 9th chord, cool chord depending on how much passion we put into the song.

He was right too.  Afterwards, he said to me a few years later — we stayed friends and worked on projects, you know. He said to me, ‘Ray, I knew I was taking a chance but it was the only move that I had the chance to make that would give the band a kick in the as and allow you guys to take a great existential leap, so I said, ‘you guys do it yourself.”

And we were very excited. We had Bruce Botnick, our long-time engineer to help us produce. And then Morrison says, ‘let’s not do it at Sunset Sound. Let’s do it ourselves in our studio, on the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega– right behind the Phone Booth extension strip club. There’s a Mexican restaurant in our building now [since gone out of business.] We recorded downstairs in the rehearsal studio and Bruce went upstairs and listening in from there.

Was he a lot looser than Paul as a producer?

Everyone remembers Paul as the perfectionist. I don’t know where that came from — there was one track that we did a lot of takes on on Waiting for the Sun. I believe it was ‘Unknown Soldier.’  Paul did say when something wasn’t ‘it.”  He was trying to get something that had it — Clara Bow, ‘the It Girl.’ What is it? You know it when you see it and hear it. We didn’t have it. There were a lot of people int the band who were complaining about all the takers we had to do. That all of a sudden has morphed into Paul Rothchild was a dictator and made us do a loto of takes.

But you can’t be a dictator to The Doors. We’re The Doors. You can assist us, work with us, be part of the team. But The Doors are the general. We do what we want to do and we always did. We improvised in the studio, fucked around in the studio. Paul was the guy who would say, ‘that one doesn’t make it. Try something else — that isn’t working.

Why do you think that idea of Paul as the dictator spread?

It’s just the legend. The idea of Jim being bossed around — the myth that they were free of the producer who was on top of the artist. But you can’t ride The Doors horse. The Doors horse controls itself. It’s taking you on a journey and you don’t know where you’re going. ‘We’re going forward into the light into infinity into eternity, that great golden light, shining everything over a layer of darkness. LA Woman is ‘LA at night. Raymond Chandler. The  City of Night by John Rechy.

So the only thing new in LA Woman was that we were free, we doing it ourselves, we were the ultimate arbiters of what would happen, what takes were the takes to go with. We finished the whole thing in no more of two weeks of recording. It was a lot of fun. We only had maybe four takes of the song, ‘LA Woman.’ Most were only done in only one or two takes.

How was Jim acting during those sessions?

Jim had a great time. He was tired physically tired from his abuse of alcohol and burning the candle on both ends, but he was on top of it. All I remember was the energy in that little room. We had Jerry Scheff, Elvis’ bassist, playing bass. We were six guys making the music right then and right there. Some of the tracks that Jim sang, we kept the live vocal. Sometimes we’d overdub and keep all those noises. It was fabulous. It went smooth and had energy.

The title track has become a quintessential LA anthem. Did you sense it would become that at the time?

Listen to ‘LA Woman.’ Physically, we couldn’t cant play that more than four times. You’re hauling ass on the 405, either coming into Hollywood or leaving, just smoking on the freeway. That’s Jack Kerouac, Dean Moriarty, Sal Paradise heading up to San Francisco after a week of partying in LA. You’re in ’49 mercury on the road, going as fast as it can, with Allen Ginsberg in the backseat, you’re burning at 65-70, maybe pushing 80, going down the freeway.

What’s the title of the album? LA Woman.  It is Los Angeles as a character — all the sides of LA. Cars hissing by my window…the waves on the beach, a cold girl will kill you, dark Venice beach songs. It’s 4 a.m., you can’t sleep, your girl is passed out, who knows what arguments you’ve gone through. You take that from Venice and stick that into Hollywood. It’s our Day of the Locust. And Jerry Scheff is playing bass lines, ‘ba bam bum, bum.’

The music is throbbing. Densmore is hitting the snare drum. Robby and I are play together on the opening signature line, just playing great. I’ve transcended playing that song and had entered that space where you’re just starting to hallucinate on the throbbing beat and ride out on the music. You hear the fade out. Keroauc, Ginsberg., Cassady heading off into the distance for more fun. There’s a little girl in the Hollywoood Bungalow and then it goes to half time, motel money murder madness…it does go into the back alleys of Hollywood…who knows what nasty things they’re into back there. You’re looking for drugs, maybe there’s a killing, a knife fight. Maybe someone pulled out a Roscoe and blasted him right between the eyes. The victim falls hard and fast. There’s blood splashing everywhere. They shoulder the Roscoe and get the fuck out of there.

Do you remember the address of the building where Jim lived on the rooftop that first summer the band formed.

I don’t remember the address. It was on the boardwalk, a four or five story apt building. He was at the top. You couldn’t go any higher. It was the building of a film school buddy, Dennis Cobb. Jim was crashing at his apartment after graduation. It was smack dab in the heart of Venice. There were no trinket stores then. The hippies weren’t down there yet. No one had discovered how cheap and cool Venice was. The only people down there at the time were the old Jewish retired ladies and maybe a few old time Beats still hanging around. There was a little Jewish market, a few storefront synagoues and some osher meat markets. It was mainly the old ladies, the bums, and the drunks, and us.

Hadn’t it been the main hangout for the Beat Scene of The Holy Barbarians just before?

The Beats had been there, but they were mostly gone and the UCLA film students took it over. Half of my friends from UCLA were living down in Venice within a five block area. Dorothy and I had a little one bedroom in an adobe building with a garage on the second floor. We could look out over the Palm trees and watch the sunset. We were in heaven, smoking dope for the first time. I had my girl beside me. I loved her, she loved me. We had put a rock n roll band together. We had Jim’s words, what I could do musically to them. We were psychedelic. Acid had blossomed there and in San Francisco and no one else knew yet.

What about New York?

We played New York, but they were still doing heroin and booze. They were like, ‘what are you young people doing?’ It wasn’t the 1930s or 1920s, we were like, this is the future.’ You couldn’t believe people were doing heroin there.  We were trying to find out who we were and why we were on the planet. Who am I? Where am I going? If you’re not going to do LSD and mushrooms, then you got to go.

How important was LSD to the formation of the band and the creativity of that generation?

It was part of it. It’s not totally responsible for the existence of the doors. It was responsible for the new Ray Manzarek on planet earth. I played the way I played. I came out of playing a keyboard, growing up in Chicago and listening to the blues— then I got into the whole modal jazz thing, that Bill Evans tip. The LSD made you lock into the power of existence, the power of music and you could tap into that power and be one with it. When you have three other guys and Jim floating over the top, when you could all lock into that power because of LSD, that made the energy of The Doors almost tangible. You could touch it in the audience. We were projecting that energy and that power. But musical energy is hard work and practice. You don’t get that from LSD. It just allowed us to become aware of the energy and power. It was overwhelming and glorious.

Why do you think the band has stayed resonant to young people for 40 years?

Gosh, you probably have to ask the kids, they’d even have a tough time explaining that. We offered them an alternative to organized society. It wasn’t that we wanted to tear down organized society. It was that we wanted to change it and make it more conducive to human beings. Human beings themselves become the part of the pyramid that we’ve created and we were were at the eye of the pyramid —  on the dollar bill, what’s at the top, it’s us, not commerce, not dollar bills.

I think the young people think that there’s a sense of freedom. It always comes down to that sense of freedom. You don’t have to slavishly follow dictates of religion, politics, or school. You don’t have to slavishly follow the things that adults have told you, you find out what works for you. What you’ll find out is that 75 percent of the old dictates, ‘Jesus said, ‘love thy neighbor as yourself,’ might lead to finding freedom too.  It was like what Joseph Campbell the philosopher says: ‘follow your bliss, what you like is what you should be doing.’ What an existential leap to dare to be a musician or a writer or an artist.

Did you ever consider a different path?

I did Law School for a few weeks and switched to make the existential leap to go into film school. It was a Eureka moment becauase of that existential leap of madness courage and love. Then I met Dorothy Fujikawa, my future wife, in an art class. Then I met Jim Morrison, one of my fellow students, a stoner buddy of mine. I always knew he was a poet. It felt like he went to UCLA so we could meet. I knew he was a poet, a future rock and roll star who was going to tell the story of the Native Americans and the prophecy of our new tribe. There was a period right after we formed the band where the three of us were all living together.

We’d take Dorothy to work and she was supporting us. We had a student apartment and we gave him the bedroom. We took the living room by the heater. We’d put the songs together in the day and pick her up and have something to eat. We’d eat at the Lucky U, which was right across the street from where the Nuart is now. It was Fellini-esque or like John Rechy. There were veterans from the War who would go down there, the proverbial dwarf on a blind guys shoulders scene — or like Buenel. It was a  strange place of WWII and Korean war vets and damaged people living in the nearby Vet’s home and UCLA film students.

What was LA like at the time?

I don’t know if everyone was more paranoid or if it was just LA that had lost its innocence. It began with JFK getting shot down, but we still went into the light. We walked onto the beach in Venice, all sun and light, our father in the sky, our mother the sky, father sun and mother water. We were totally into the globalness of the earth, the end point of western civilization, 20 miles out in international water, whatever that is.  After that, Morrison said, ‘see that sun setting, that’s dawn in Asia, it was like ‘whoa fuck.’

We’d talk philosophy and global consciousness. We felt there was a new age beginning right here at the end of western civilization. The future was absolute wide open, we were going to change the world and make the world a more harmonious place. We wanted to stop fertilizers and pesticides from ruining the soil, find other means of propelling autombiles, cut down on the smog. The music was going to leave that 1950s Peggy Lee, ‘How much is that doggy in the window,’ stuff in the dust.

It was an age of rock and roll and jazz. But by 1970, Manson had come along and MLK and RFK were dead. It was like ‘holy shit.’ And Kent St. and you knew there is such a thing as madness and they will kill us to stop us. We knew that they were willing to assassinate the leaders who were bringing a message of peace and love. It was like “what the fuck are they killing RFK and MLK– his message was one of love. He was a Christian man in a Christian country and Christians have shot them down.

Then there was Manson, a howling little demon of hell, totally insane and proof that LSD could make you mad too. Up until that point, we figured it was wonderful drug, a sacrament communion. Let’s eat God’s body and drink the blood of the God. We’d think to ourselves, how weird, this is a religion? This is what’s done every Sunday. Okay, let’s eat God. If transubstantiation is impossible if god is love, why are we eating god. So we ate LSD to open the doors of perception. People would say that’s not god, it’s a substance that openes the doors but it will also let out the madness.

So there was a disillusionment, the knowledge that they will kill you. Kent State proved the fathers would shoot the children. It was the opposite of Oediupus Rex, the opposite of ‘The End.’ After all, what did they say to Jim at New Haven, they said, ‘you’ve gone too far, young man.’ if you go any further, we’ll fucking kill you, everyone had lost that great golden glow, they had retreated into safe spaces behind closed doors.

Where you living during the making of LA Woman?

I was living in West Hollywood. Dorothy and I had bought a nice little place, a two bedroom, nicely appointed, easy to maintain and about four blocks from the Whiskey A Go Go. We also had a small New York penthouse apartment on the Upper West side.

What about the songs on the record? What can you tell me about “the Changeling?

‘The Changeling’ is a New York city funk and R&B soul song. The beat the music is funky R&B. The lyrics are very prophetic. I live uptown…I live downtown. I’ve never been so broke that I couldn’t leave town. What he’s doing with that you is giving you a hint that’s he’s out of here. Jim lived here on the beach and had nothing. He lived in the hills and had money in the bank. He can leave any time. Had we known that he was going to Paris at the time, maybe it would have changed things. I don’t know. In retrospect, he’s dropping a hint. I’ve had my LA adventure. I don’t know if I’m out of here for good. Maybe. Meanwhile, the band is playing funky ass Stax volt, white boys getting funky.

What about ‘Love Her Madly?’

We new that right away it was a hit single. We would get put down for the ability to write pop songs. With a song like ‘Love Her Madly,’ it was like ‘Hello I Love You.’ Let’s write a ditty. It was to contrast songs like ‘The End’ or ‘When The Music’s Over.’ Those were heavy long songs. We wanted to know if we were good enough to write a three minute song for the radio. Radio is very silly and only plays stuff in a certain format.

Although ‘When the Music’s Over’ had become a hit on Late Nights with Jim Ladd. But it wasn’t played on the AM radio. You couldn’t get on the radio unless you had a three minute song. The Beatles were the masters of that. They wrote clever songs with a Tin Pan Alley structure.

[The interview is interrupted when his wife walks in the room.]

There’s my wife looking gorgeous. Where are you going? I’ll go with you to Shackford’s.

[Returns to interview]

We’ve been married longer than Jim was alive. It was the four of us, Jim and Pam, when Dorothy and I got married in city hall, one at a time in the judge’s chambers. Wednesday is marriage day and there was a holding pen with all the couples, Mexican couples dressed to the nine, guys in blue tuxedos. There were lots of African Americans getting married that day, some in tuxes. Then there was this hippie quartet, long haired white kids and Dorothy being Japanese. We were all dressed up and afterwards, we went to Olvera Street for enchiladas and margaritas. After that, Pam was on Jim’s ass for the rest of his life. ‘When are we gonna get married like Dorothy and Ray?’ [Laughs].

For ‘Love Her Madly,’ I put in the Mendeoino organ for my solos. We called it the Mendocino organ because of the song ‘Mendocino’ featured the Vox continental. I heard the sound and said, I’ve got to use that. That organ blew my mind. It had a good hard chugging rhythm and it was written for Robbie’s song about his wife Lynn walking out the door.

What about ‘Been Down So Long?’

That was a book title that Jim made a song out of. In retrospect, it’s another prophetic song. ‘I’ve been down so long.’ I’ve been so tired, so worn out. I made the decision to get the fuck out of LA. I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me. I’m going to go to Paris. Pam was already over there looking to secure an apartment and she did. They were in secret communication about it. They didn’t tell any of us. She found her place in Le Marais, which is now a hip district, but at the time it was like the Venice beach of Paris — very out of the way and quiet. It wasn’t a trend setting neighborhood, but had a quietness abut it.

How much do you consider LA Woman a blues record?

There’s a very strong sense of the blues. I grew up in Chicago and heard lots of black blues on the radio. When I turned 12, I found the black radio station and grew up with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Reed. Radio was unbelievable and it was again during the British Invasion. It was the only place to hear The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and them all those white cats.

LA had pretty much been a jazz and surf rock town until that point, correct?

LA was the surfs up capital for sure, but on the other side, if you had some musical knowledge, was also west coast jazz. That was cool. That was Johannes Sebastian jazz. You could listen to Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. Bach has a book of two part inventions and I played the two part invention that was exactly what the same thing. I developed a steady metronomic beat and Bach does that same metronomic beat. Jazz has to have that too. I first heard that in Chicago. In the Doors, you could hear the air and the light and you could hear the beach in that music.

Were you going to jazz shows a lot when you first came to LA?

When I got out here, there was the Howard Rumsey lighthouse where I saw Shelley Mann, Short Rodgers, Chico Hamilton. There were two hazz stations playing west coast jazz. Basically, this was not a rock and roll town, it was a jazz town. The only rock and roll was the Beach Boys. They were terrific. And then you had surf music — Dick Dale. He had that sound that was unique to LA.

What about L’ America?

That was for an Antononi film. He didn’t use it and we scared him. We played it for him one evening in the studio. He had his interpreter there — probably the producer of the film and the studio executive. He just couldn’t take it. We played it live for him. It was so loud it blasted him, pinned him up against the wall. He had never been in a rock and roll rehearsal; we were so fucking loud and he was an older man. So he sort of fled. There was a sliding glass door with drapes, and he opened the sliding glass and thanked us and got out of there.

We were big film buffs as far as his stuff. He made very dark maudlin existential movies of loss and loss of love and post WWII Europe trying to find itself in the ennui of modern life.

We had created it six months earlier for the movie. Once it wasn’t included, I started to see the opening of the whole thing — the sun rising on the desert. The song starts with Robbie’s big fat eerie guitar, the sun rising on the desert. I play strange tingling keys.  As the sun rises, we realized where we are. I might have described this to him during the record and he might have been like, ‘who the fuck is this guy to tell me how to start my movie.’ I saw the pan across death valley.’

So Antonini turned to Pink Floyd — as the Europeans often do.

How often were you rehearsing at this point?

We always rehearsed. We’d create songs and get together three times a week. We spent our whole time being creative and then would take breaks  to eat food from Duke’s, which used to be right across the street at the old Sandy Koufax motel. It was a great organic coffee shop, not like a California Googie architecture. It wasn’t Norms. We’d always get the Sandy’s Special, which was omelettes with whole wheat toast. Jim always ate something else – we all ate the same, but it was his obligation to stay apart.

The neighborhood was a mix then — a lot of hookers, tourists, and gays. It was a wonderful place. Right across the street was the Phone Booth strip club. Jim would go there to eat dinner sometimes. Sometimes he’d just drink or go home with a stripper. He kept a room at the Alta Cienega motel across the street. It was a tiny little monk’s cell of a room.  A bed, little table, little dresses, overhead light, a chair, sitting chair and a little bathroom.

What about Riders on the Storm?

That was built off ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’ There was that cowboy bottom lick to it. Originally, Robby and Jim played it, and I said, ‘no, we’re not adding it to ‘LA Woman.‘ Not this cowboy song. Then I started to play with it. I put in a B-minor 9, played my version of the bass line, cocktail jazz cool and hip and dark little bar in new york city, waiting for some illegal thing, espionage or waiting for a blonde half hour after you got there. You’ve had a scotch and soda, waiting for this 1940s film noir blonde. You’re listening to this little trio, playing this moody dark music. The bass player playing a line on the left hand, keyboard on the right side. Maybe there’s even a singer, maybe even a girl singer, she’s singing Riders on the storm,….Like an actor out on loan

[He sings the whole song.]

And then in walks your blonde and everything is cool and dark and crisp.


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