Doors Drummer John Densmore: "Maybe Jim's Ghost Will Haunt Me Forever"
There are several reasons why the Doors were the archetypical band of the late '60s. A singular, shamanistic lead singer, for one; a unique, indelible sound that was magical, mystical and mesmerizing; and a career path that involved drugs, decadence, and the kind of drama that was intrinsic to the times.
After the death of the Doors' frontman, Jim Morrison, in a Paris bathtub in 1971, it was only natural that the three remaining members -- late keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, and drummer John Densmore -- would attempt to carry on. It was also apparent that it would be futile without Morrison at the fore.
Yet despite Morrison's fury at the fact that his colleagues had considered selling rights to their song "Light My Fire" to a car company in 1968, more than three decades later, Krieger and Manzarek leaped at the chance to trade their song "Break on Through" to Cadillac for $15 million. But when the opportunity came to regroup for a tour under the thinly veiled moniker "The Doors of the 21st Century," enough was enough for Densmore.
Determined to preserve the band's legacy in a way he believed Morrison would have wanted, he and the singer's aging parents took his former colleagues to court in 2004. They endured a five year trial, a year and a half appeal, the scorn of fans and former friends, possible financial disaster, and the isolation and uncertainties of standing alone for a cause they believed in.
Densmore documented his struggles in his book Doors Unhinged, published last year, approximately two decades after his best-selling autobiography Riders on the Storm. He's about to begin a series of book readings that will bring him to Fort Lauderdale's Radio-Active Records. We recently caught up with Densmore at home in California and asked him to provide us with a preview.
New Times: This book of yours could be a major motion picture. It's got the drama, the suspense, the intrigue...
John Densmore: Yeah! That's what I want to hear! Why don't you become a movie producer and make it happen? I've heard that comment a lot. There's only two Doors left so Robbie would have to be comfortable with it.
Have you and he reconciled? Any hard feelings?
Before the book was published, I sent the last chapter to Robbie and Ray with a note saying, "This will probably be a hard pill to swallow, but I wanted to be sure you got this last chapter where I say I love you guys." How could I not? We created magic in a garage and we're musical brothers forever.
Our relationship had become quite strained with this mess. And then when I heard Ray had become quite sick, I called him and I was very thankful he picked up. I didn't know at the time it would be our closing phone call, but it was. And we had it. Nothing specific was discussed at the time about the struggle. It was about his struggle with cancer.
After he passed, I said to Robbie, let's play together and do a tribute to Ray and a benefit to raise funds for cancer research. So we're trying to get this together, hopefully next spring.
So it appears that you and Robbie are friends again.
Yeah, we're OK.
Nevertheless, this whole court ordeal must have been really difficult.
Litigation always is. I had no idea how crazy it is.