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How Jim Morrison’s New York Moment Inspired ‘People Are Strange’

The Doors
Express, Getty Images

Several stories circulate about the inspiration behind the Doors’ classic “People Are Strange” from their second album Strange Days. But keyboardist Ray Manzarek had a very clear version of his own.

In an archival interview with Uncle Joe Benson of the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show, Manzarek, who died in 2013, said singer Jim Morrison had come up with the idea after spending a night with Andy Warhol in the artist’s Factory studio.

“I don’t know if he even fell asleep or anything,” Manzarek said. “He got up about five o’clock, five-thirty in the morning, looked around, everybody’s passed out. [He] heads outside the Factory. We’re staying midtown, he’s downtown at Andy Warhol’s Factory, starts walking back. He said, ‘You know, the sun was just starting to come up … it was New York City and it was nice.’ It was late spring or something, maybe early fall. He said, ‘New York is great – it’s like empty, it’s deserted; there’s nobody around.’”

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Morrison wasn’t upset about the absence of cabs as he was enjoying the walk, Manzarek said. That’s when the singer began to see the city waking up. “Little by little, out of the subways … people started coming up there, coming up and up and up,” he recalled. “It was like creatures were crawling out from underground. … By the time he got to midtown the city was packed.”

He said that “People Are Strange” is “about the people coming out of the New York subway as Jim Morrison was walking back from Andy Warhol’s Factory to our hotel in midtown Manhattan.”

Be sure to listen to Ultimate Classic Rock Nights on more than 50 stations across the U.S. from 7PM until midnight, Monday through Friday. You can see the list of radio stations where it airs here.



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