September 2, 1965: The Nascent Doors Record Demos

The Doors' first demos, 1965

Before The Doors, there was Rick and the Ravens, fronted by Ray Manczarek (The Doors were not yet The Doors and Ray wasn’t yet Ray Manzarek) who performed as Screamin’ Ray Daniels. Rick and the Ravens also featured Ray’s brothers, Rick and Jim Manczarek. The band used to gig around UCLA hangouts like the Turkey Joint West, where Ray would sometimes invite his film school cohorts onstage to sing. One drunken sing-along included Jim Morrison performing “Gloria.”

By 1965, Rick and the Ravens had gotten themselves enough local notice to score a recording contract with Aura Records. The band cut a single that went nowhere, which led to Aura offering the band studio time to forget the rest of the contract. By that time, Ray had “bumped into” Jim on Venice Beach and John Densmore had joined the band. On September 2, 1965, Rick and the Ravens, the nascent Doors, went into World Pacific Studios to cut a demo of songs written by Morrison, which included “Hello, I Love You,” “End of the Night,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Summer’s Almost Gone,” “My Eyes Have Seen You,” and “Go Insane” (later to be incorporated into “Celebration of the Lizard“).

The demo doesn’t sound as darkly mysterious as The Doors would later become. However, the foundation of what The Doors and the songs would evolve into was there. Ray was carrying the vocals and playing piano, which at moments sounded a little tinny. Jim’s voice was still weak as he mostly did a lot of screaming. There’s a discernible ’50s feel or influence of Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran in the songs.

It was also during this session that the nascent Doors had a woman playing bass guitar, although in later interviews no one seemed to be able to remember her name [Patty Sullivan]. The recording took two to three hours. In the days afterward each member of the band would take a copy of the demo and visit record companies. Ray Manzarek reports in “Light My Fire” that he, Jim, and John went to the office of Lou Adler. Adler listened to about ten seconds of each cut on the album and handed the record back, saying “there’s nothing I can use here.” Ray says Jim replied, “That’s okay man. We don’t want to be used, anyway.” At this stage in their career, that was the reception they received at all the record companies they visited… rejection.

Originally published September 2, 2012, and appears in “The Doors Examined.”

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