The Doors' John Densmore's Book Signing At Amoeba, Friday June 14th 2013
It seems that lines at Amoeba never take a break, after the morning chaos for Atoms for Piece ticket giveaway, another long line had formed on Friday night for John Densmore’s book signing.
The event had been scheduled earlier this month but rescheduled after the death of his bandmate Ray Manzarek. The Doors’ thin drummer looked happy and in good spirit when he sat down at the signing table around 6 pm and stayed there for a long time; when I left an hour later, he was still signing everything that was presented to him, books, vinyl, posters, drumsets,… He took a short break at one point and was regularly standing up to wave at the crowd, which was equally made of old and young people, without mentioning its usual dose of eccentrics who had stopped updating their wardrobe after the 70s. Among them, I noticed a blue-haired girl with a strange B-52s look, and another woman who totally cut the line and jumped at Densmore’s neck to have a private conversation with him for a few minutes. I wonder what was the story there, did she know him? Was she a groupie back in the days? She didn’t make him sign anything but looked so happy when she left.
The event was sold out, and the book, which was coming with the unavoidable Shepard Fairey print, isn’t entitled ‘The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial’ for nothing, as it is about Densmore’s legal battle against his former Doors bandmates. He decided to sue keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger when they decided to use the Doors’ name for touring long after Jim Morrison’s death. Densmore believed that Manzarek and Krieger, who had reconstituted ‘The Doors of the 21st Century’ with Cult singer Ian Astbury, Police drummer Stewart Copeland and others, should not have used this moniker to play Doors’ songs.
Bands’ aftermaths are never pretty, lawsuits are common techniques and in this case, the two guys sued Densmore back for $40 million, and both lawsuits ran at the same time in LA Superior Court in 2004. He recently talked to the LA Times about this bitter time exploring all this legal stuff:
‘I thought, God, what [an] ordeal — what did I put myself through, and why? Maybe I should try to figure out why’
‘I skimmed through 20,000 pages of transcripts and culled it down to very little, I thought about how I don’t want this to be just dry courtroom stuff, so I drift off and explore whatever, like sitting in with Eddie Vedder or Carlos Santana, or philosophizing about the George Bush administration.’
‘It wasn’t fun, but I tried to work some humor in.’
And here is the humor: Densmore suggested they called the band ‘the Windows’, or ‘the Hinges’, adding that ‘The Doors is Jim, Ray, Robbie and John — it’s not Ray, Robbie, Ian, Stewart, Shirley, Fred ‘or whatever’. Eventually, Densmore won and Manzarek and Krieger had to take the name D21C!
Fortunately, Densmore’s relationship with Manzarek was getting better before he died, he even called Ray when he got sick and had a ‘nice closure’.
‘The healing between me and Ray and Robbie had already begun before Ray passed, and that feels good. I just wanted to get this story out for those who are interested. Having that out, a kind of a cloud had lifted, because way back, some hardcore fans were saying things like ‘John is ruining our band.’ Now they get it. They completely get it.’
It seems that Densmore has been the most ardent defender of the Doors’ music, staying loyal to Morrison’s ethics and refusing to allow the use of a song in a Cadillac commercial, even when being offered $15 million. And he was sued for this!
‘I just kept thinking about Jim,, and how he blew up over [the proposed lyric revision] ‘Come on, Buick, light my fire.’ And he didn’t write it. What does that mean? That the whole catalog meant a lot to him. He’s our ancestor, as Ray is now, and I wasn’t going to forget that.’
I hope the Black Keys are listening…