The news of the passing of Ray Manzarek, keyboard player of The Doors, has got me thinking of just how important music has been in my life’s journey.
The foundations of my love of music were prepared and cemented in the seventies and eighties in north west Kent (or South East London if I’m after a bit more street cred).
I was exposed to a diet of Top of The Pops (let’s remember the music not the presenters), both the programme and those cover LPs with scantily clad ladies adorning the sleeves, along with my mother’s love of Elvis, Glenn Campbell and John Denver and my father’s singles collection of The Beatles, The Hollies and The Everly Brothers.
The first singles I bought were Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO in 1979, closely followed by Someone’s Looking At You by The Boomtown Rats. Moving through secondary school The Beatles were all I could think about until bands like The Jam, The Cure, U2, REM, The Smiths, The Pogues, Billy Bragg and Echo & The Bunnymen all began sinking their hooks into my forming musical consciousness.
Somewhere along the line the music of The Doors snuck in and grabbed me around the earlobes. I think it may have been my older cousin in County Mayo, who first introduced me to them on one of my many childhood visits to the west of Ireland as a youngster.
I can remember sitting in the sixth form of my secondary school sharing sounds on the communal record player during yet another ‘free period’…. no wonder the exam results went down the toilet. All of a sudden it seemed everyone I knew was listening to The Doors. This was twenty years after the fact, yet somehow they spoke to those of us who were becoming obsessed with music.
The initial appeal was obvious; Jim Morrison’s cool front man snaking his way into your brain, all bravado, poetry, sex appeal and of course the rock ‘n’ roll death only added to his draw. Then there was the music, those wonderful keyboard lines, providing cascading melodies that carried the songs, both underpinning and sometimes outshining the brooding vocals. It’s worth remembering Ray was also responsible for many of The Doors’ bass lines, both on the earlier recordings and live, playing these parts on an alternative keyboard, a master of counterpoint.
In the late eighties my first band tried to copy Echo & The Bunnymen and U2’s habit of breaking into other artists’ songs during the middle of one of their own, doing a very poor version of Break on Through (To The Other Side) – I shudder at the thought.
So, fast forward twenty five years and the news is reporting the death of Ray Manzarek. His legacy is one of melody, and melody has been the driving force in my love of music, inspiring me to seek out new music and to continue to play for the joy it can bring.
DS, The Janskys, Sheffield