“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” – William Blake.
Ray Manzarek, musician, radio and TV personality, and co-founder and keyboard player for the Doors, died Monday, May 20 in the town of Rosenheim, Germany, about 50 kilometers southeast of Munich, Germany.
1975 and the opening of my doors of perception.
In summer 1975 I was 15 and a child-man having experienced so many new perceptions after 18 months living around Mainz and Wiesbaden, West Germany in the Rheinland-Paltinate.
Mainz was established as a Roman fort city over 2,000 years ago.
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
The Doors – The End
Teenage Mediterranean vacation mania
My family took a summer 1975 road trip from Mainz, Germany to Barcelona, Spain and then across the Mediterranean coastal beaches to Pisa, Italy in a used 1972 Volvo sedan my mechanic dad was always working on. And he towed a travel trailer pop-up tent behind the Volvo that two adults and two kids could comfortably sleep in. I really don’t recall how five of us squeezed into the trailer tent to sleep when my older sister came to Germany during her California summer college breaks.
At the age of 15 this trip seemed like it might be unendurable. Spring 1975 had provided months of new experiences with so many interesting people I had met, helping me open new doors to thoughts of the world around me. The thought of spending two weeks with my parents, all day and night, well…
I had gotten use to having the privacy of my own room at home. Eighteen months in Germany with my own bedroom had been the longest period in
my 15.5 year life to have a space of my own to relax and read and listen to music without my younger sister being a noisy child around me.
Two weeks on a road trip sitting in the back seat of a car would require a minimum of 1,500 pages of reading material to occupy a good three
hours a day when I could tune out and fantasize. I packed the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to keep me occupied on the long two-week car camping trip to France, Spain and Italy. I had read it a couple years before and I wanted a re-read to take my teenage angst thoughts into dreams far away from my high school friends.
Wiesbaden High School, a US Armed Forces school, is where some 1,500 teenagers from a large radius of communities attended high school in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1975. The girl who captivated my eyes from Day 1 of English class had finally connected with me by the end of the school year.
Hello, I love you
Won’t you tell me your name?
Hello, I love you
Let me jump in your game
The Doors – Hello, I Love You
She was Swiss American and lived in the hills north of the Rhein River, some fifty miles away from where I lived. The small Army helicopter base where I lived nearly two years was ten miles south of Mainz on the south side of the Rhein. Summertime meant a bridge too far for two 15-year olds to maintain a relationship through high school summer break.
European Vacation 1975
My parents were frequent road travelers in Europe.
Once, while living in Germany, I asked my mom,
“Everyone else I know has a house in the States. Why don’t we own a house?”
My mother responded by asking me,
“Do you know any other kids who travel around Europe as much as you do?”
I ran through my mental catalog of people I knew and I had to confess.
She gave me back another reply saying something like,
“Would you rather we spend our money to keep a house we don’t live
in or do you want to travel?”
That was a no-brainer choice for me.
The Travel Music Bag
One of my travel bags was always filled with cassette tapes of music and I had a portable 8- inch high x 12-inch long x 3-inch wide cassette tape player. No belt strap for that piece of machinery. It was handheld or backpack material.
My 19-year-old sister, on summer vacation from University of California Santa Cruz, had brought a few dozen cassette recordings of rock albums with her to Germany. She was my conduit to music civilization. She had turned me on to early Rod Stewart, Laura Nyro, Bonnie Raitt, The Kinks, Yes, CSNY and in summer 1975, the Doors.
I think Lou Reed, an influential rock star for me at the time, is an artist I had found myself in 1975.
Jenny said, when she was just five years old
you know there’s nothin’ happening at all
Every time she put on the radio
there was nothin’ goin’ down at all
not at all
One fine mornin’, she puts on a New York station
and she couldn’t believe what she heard at all
She started dancin’ to that fine-fine-fine-fine music
ooohhh, her life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll
hey baby, rock ‘n’ roll
Lou Reed – Rock n’ Roll
Buying record albums or cassettes was expensive in Germany at the time and U.S. Armed Forces radio, even German radio, was virtually nonexistent for listening to rock music. That genre was not part of radio programming in 1975.
My good fortune is the Volvo had an 8-track player and my dad had a cassette tape adaptor for the 8-track player. The 8-track was already out of style in 1975 and I picked up a number of good rock albums on 8-track format in the dollar bargain bins at U.S. Army exchange stores in Germany. This was a time when regular vinyl albums were typically selling for $4 to $6.
My dad tolerated my 8-track tapes of John Lennon and Neil Young albums and gave me turns listening to my tapes when he was not listening to
musical soundtracks like Camelot and West Side Story and operas.
The summer 1975 Mediterranean vacation is most defined by my repeated listening of several Doors recordings on the beaches of Spain, France
and Italy. The Doors opened me to a new world of perception in 1975 .
Take a long holiday, let your children play
The Doors – Riders on the Storm
That trip took us to a mountain town in the French Alps where we camped surrounded by managed forest in a Heidi-like place. A week later we were on the beach in France where a baguette cost the equivalent of one U.S. penny, a liter of soda was 3 cents and a beach bonfire party across the road lasted most of the night.
This is the best part of the trip
This is the trip, the best part
I really like
What’d he say?
The Doors – The Soft Parade
The Doors’ use of words to create a dynamic fantasy with a musical soundtrack left an even deeper impression on me than reading Lord of the Rings on that trip through the French Alps and the Mediterranean beaches where we camped from Barcelona to Pisa, Italy.
Singer/poet Jim Morrison had already died four years earlier, July 3, 1971 in Paris.
My memories of 1975 sharing rainy days on Spanish beaches with the Doors is one where I was captivated by song lyrics, yet also turned on by the musical ingenuity compared to much of the rock music I had heard in the previous four years.
The second week of the 1975 European vacation was more socially engaging as a vacation experience when my sister, her boyfriend and I went to Rome without the parents.
But, that is another story.
Made the scene, week to week
Day to day, hour to hour
The gate is straight
Deep and wide
Break on through to the other side
The Doors – Break on Through
Ray Manzarek is the voice I personally associate with the Doors legacy. In many different cities and towns, on radios and on TVs over the intervening years since summer 1975, I caught Ray’s distinctive voice and listened to a man speak about life and music and spirituality as if he truly had a view through clean doors of perception.
Ray Manzarek’s life and his death meant something to me.
Successful hills are here to stay
Everything must be this way
Gentle streets where people play
Welcome to the soft parade
All our lives we sweat and save
Building for a shallow grave
The Doors – The Soft Parade