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John Densmore

John Densmore


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John Densmore was born on 25th November 1877. He became a lawyer and William Bauchop Wilson, America's first Secretary of Labor, appointed him as Director of General Employment.

On 22nd July, 1916, employers in San Francisco organized a march through the streets in favour of an improvement in national defence. During the march a bomb went off in Steuart Street killing six people (four more died later). Two witnesses described two dark-skinned men, probably Mexicans, carrying a heavy suitcase near to where the bomb exploded.

The police ignored this information and charged two trade union leaders, Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, with the crime. The two men were found guilty and Mooney was sentenced to death and Billings received a life sentence.

The American government also became concerned about the Mooney and Billings Case and the Secretary of Labor, William Bauchop Wilson, delegated Densmore to investigate the case. By secretly installing a dictaphone in the private office of the District Attorney he was able to discover that Mooney and Billings had probably been framed by Charles Fickert. The report was leaked to Fremont Older who published it in the San Francisco Call on 23rd November 1917.

Armed with the information from Densmore's report, President Woodrow Wilson called on William Stephens, the Governor of California, to look again at the case. Two weeks before Mooney was scheduled to hang, Stephens commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in San Quentin.

John Densmore died on 29th July 1937.

As one reads the testimony and studies the way in which the cases were conducted one is apt to wonder at many things - at the apparent failure of the district attorney's office to conduct a real investigation at the scene of the crime; at the easy adaptability of some of the star witnesses; at the irregular methods pursued by the prosecution in identifying the various defendants; at the sorry type of men and women brought forward to prove essential matters of fact in a case of the gravest importance; at the seeming inefficacy of even a well-established alibi; at the sangfroid with which the prosecution occasionally discarded an untenable theory to adopt another not quite so preposterous; at the refusal of the public prosecutor to call as witnesses people who actually saw the falling of the bomb; in short, at the general flimsiness and improbability of the testimony adduced, together with a total absence of anything that looks like a genuine effort to arrive at the facts in the case.

These things, as one reads and studies the complete record, are calculated to cause in the minds of even the most blase a decided mental rebellion. The plain truth is, there is nothing about the cases to produce a feeling of confidence that the dignity and majesty of the law have been upheld. There is nowhere anything even remotely resembling consistency, the effect being that of patchwork, of incongruous makeshift, of clumsy and often desperate expediency.

It is not the purpose of this report to enter into a detailed analysis of the evidence presented in these cases - evidence which, in its general outlines at least, is already familiar to you in your capacity as president, ex officio, of the Mediation Commission. It will be enough to remind you that Billings was tried first; that in September 1916, he was found guilty, owing largely to the testimony of Estelle Smith, John McDonald, Mellie and Sadie Edeau, and Louis Rominger, all of whom have long since been thoroughly discredited; that when Mooney was placed on trial, in January of the year following, the prosecution decided, for reasons which were obvious, not to use Rominger or Estelle Smith, but to add to the list of witnesses a certain Frank C. Oxman, whose testimony, corroborative of the testimony of the two Edeau women, formed the strongest link in the chain of evidence against the defendant; that on the strength of this testimony Mooney was found guilty; that on February 24, 1917, he was sentenced to death; and that subsequently, to wit, in April of the same year, it was demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that Oxman, the prosecution's star witness, had attempted to suborn perjury and had thus in effect destroyed his own credibility.

The exposure of Oxman's perfidy, involving as it did the district attorney's office, seemed at first to promise that Mooney would be granted a new trial. The district attorney himself, Mr. Charles M. Fickert, when confronted with the facts, acknowledged in the presence of reputable witnesses that he would agree to a new trial. His principal assistant, Mr. Edward A. Cunha, made a virtual confession of guilty knowledge of the facts relating to Oxman, and promised, in a spirit of contrition, to see that justice should be done the man who had been convicted through Oxman's testimony. The trial judge, Franklin A. Griffin, one of the first to recognize the terrible significance of the expose, and keenly jealous of his own honor, lost no time in officially suggesting the propriety of a new trial. The attorney general of the state, Hon. Ulysses S. Webb, urged similar action in a request filed with the Supreme Court of California.

Matters thus seemed in a fair way to be rectified, when two things occurred to upset the hopes of the defense. The first was a sudden change of front on the part of Fickert, who now denied that he had ever agreed to a new trial, and whose efforts henceforth were devoted to a clumsy attempt to whitewash Oxman and justify his own motives and conduct throughout. The second was a decision of the Supreme Court to the effect that it could not go outside the record in the case - in other words, that judgment could not be set aside merely for the reason that it was predicated upon perjured testimony.

There are excellent grounds for believing that Fickert's sudden change of attitude was prompted by emissaries from some of the local corporate interests most bitterly opposed to union labor. It was charged by the Mooney defendants, with considerable plausibility, that Fickert was the creature and tool of these powerful interests, chief among which are the Chamber of Commerce and the principal public-service utilities of the city of San Francisco. In this connection it is of the utmost significance that Fickert should have entrusted the major portion of the investigating work necessary in these cases to Martin Swanson, a corporation detective, who for some time prior to the bomb explosion had been vainly attempting to connect these same defendants with other crimes of violence.

Since the Oxman exposure, the district attorney's case has melted steadily away until there is little left but an unsavory record of manipulation and perjury, further revelations having impeached the credibility of practically all the principal witnesses for the prosecution. And if any additional confirmation were needed of the inherent weakness of the cases against these codefendants, the acquittal of Mrs. Mooney on July 26, 1917, and of Israel Weinberg on the 27th of the following October would seem to supply it.

These acquittals were followed by the investigation of the Mediation Commission and its report to the President under date of January 16, 1918. The Commission's report, while disregarding entirely the question of the guilt or innocence of the accused, nevertheless found in the attendant circumstances sufficient grounds for uneasiness and doubt as to whether the two men convicted had received fair and impartial trials.

Ordinarily the relentless persecution of four or five defendants, even though it resulted in unmerited punishment for them all, would conceivably have but a local effect, which would soon be obliterated and forgotten. But in the Mooney case, which is nothing but a phase of the old war between capital and organized labor, a miscarriage of justice would inflame the passions of laboring men everywhere and add to a conviction, already too widespread, that workingmen can expect no justice from an orderly appeal to the established courts.

Yet this miscarriage of justice is in process of rapid consummation. One man is about to be hanged; another is in prison for life; the remaining defendants are still in peril of their liberty or lives, one or the other of which they will surely lose if some check is not given to the activities of this most amazing of district attorneys.

Will you permit a suggestion from me in these troubled times which perhaps justify what I should feel hardly justifiable in other circumstances?

The suggestion is this: Would it not be possible to postpone the execution of the sentence of Mooney until he can be tried upon one of the other indictments against him, in order to give full weight and consideration to the important changes which I understand to have taken place in the evidence against him?

I urge this very respectfully indeed but very earnestly, because the case has assumed international importance and I feel free to make the suggestion because I am sure that you are as anxious as anyone can be to have no doubt or occasion of criticism of any sort attach itself to the case.

I beg that you will believe that I am moved only by a sense of public duty and of consciousness of the many and complicated interests involved when I again must respectfully suggest a commutation of the death sentence imposed upon Mooney. I would not venture again to call your attention to this case did I not know the international significance which attaches to it.


The Troubled History Of Jim Morrison

Whenever discussion turns to the greatest rock stars of all time, chances are someone will mention Jim Morrison before long. With his good looks, dark charisma, alluring voice, and poetic nature, the Doors frontman is the quintessential rock singer, and he certainly embraced the role. From his early days as a star in the making to his wild partying antics and ultimate, untimely demise, Jim Morrison unashamedly lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle until the very end.

Unfortunately, this was not necessarily a good thing. As in, the "very end" wasn't very far away at all, since Jim Morrison joined the infamous 27 Club thanks to living so completely like a rock star. Though there is little doubt that "Mr. Mojo Risin'" was an incredibly talented artist whose legacy as a rock legend is richly deserved, he also led a complicated and often tragic life that was full of misfortunes, many of which were completely of his own making. What exactly made the Lizard King tick? What hurdles did life throw in his way? Today, we take a look at the troubled history of Jim Morrison.


Densmore History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Pictish clans of ancient Scotland were the ancestors of the first people to use the name Densmore. It comes from on the lands of Dundemore in Fife where the family has a long and distinguished history dating back to the early Middle Ages. The name literally means "the fortified hill," and many old strongholds in Scotland are so called. [1]

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Early Origins of the Densmore family

The surname Densmore was first found in Fife, in the territories of Dundemore, near Lindores. One of the first records of the name was Henry de Dundemore who witnessed a confirmation charter by John, Earl of Huntigdoun of land in Kynalchmund to the Abbey of Arboirath c. 1219 and later witnessed another charter by the same earl granting lands of Lundors to the monks of Lindores (c.1232-1237.) [2]

In 1296, the Ragman Rolls listed Patrik de Dundemor and William de Dundemor as landholders in Fife.

Further to the south in England, Dinmore is an extra-parochial liberty, in the hundred of Grimsworth in Herefordshire. Here, "on Dinmore Hill was a commandery of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, founded by a brother of the order, in the reign of Henry II." [3]

Hope under Dinmore is found in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Originally recorded as Hope in the Domesday Book of 1086 [4] , it became in Latin, Hope sub Dinnemor in 1291. "Dinmore may be a Welsh name 'din mauer,' meaning 'great fort,' or alternatively 'marsh of a man called Dynna,' from the Old English personal name + "mor." [5]

Dinmore Manor House is a large rural house that dates back to 1189 when it was thought to have been built by Knights Templar.


The Doors’ John Densmore on His New Book About Musical Heroes

In his post-Doors life, drummer John Densmore is as much, if not more, of a writer than a musician. The author of two best-selling books, Riders On The Storm and The Doors Unhinged , he began working on his newest collection, The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (And Other Artists) , several years ago.

Inspired by the George Gurdjieff book Meetings With Remarkable Men , Densmore’s newest work, out on Nov. 17, focuses on the mentors and musicians he says “fed him” over the years. Each chapter highlights a different musical icon, weaving tales of his relationships with bandmates Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, alongside Bob Marley, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Janis Joplin and many more.

The collection is a joyful history lesson for music geeks: Densmore is equally candid, like in discussing an unfortunate experience with Van Morrison, and conversational, documenting hangouts with Willie Nelson.

SPIN spoke with Densmore about the book, reexamining his relationship with the other Doors members and being there countless times for musical history.

SPIN: I like that you start with your mom, then music teachers. Did you write these chronologically or put them in order after the fact, like sequencing a record?
John Densmore: I wrote them individually and then put them in order. I thought, “Oh, I’m gonna start with my mom because she supported my drumming and my piano playing and encouraged me. So that’s a good place to start.” Then I think it’s in the Elvin Joes chapter that I start talking about drummers and everyone else — the first drum beat we ever hear is in the womb, our mother’s heartbeat. And then I thought, “Well, of course you started with your mom because you came from her womb [Laughs].”

Do you see a unifying theme in the artists you chose?
I wrote a few chapters on some of these icons who fed me. Then I started to think, “OK, let’s try to make this chronological.” And then I started piecing that together. I was struggling with what unifies all these people. And I got to the love of sound — like painters see the world, musicians hear it. That’s why they’re all connected. If you watch Bob Marley and you watch Gustavo Dudamel, the L.A. [Philharmonic] conductor, they’re connected — what you’re seeing is their entire body emanating the sound ‘cause they’re so gone and so into it.

How did you decide on the artists you included?
My intuition told me the big ones, the ones that influenced me the most. Elvin Jones was my idol, and he still feeds me, so he’s gotta be in there obviously. And then Ravi Shankar was very important to me, and I studied with him, so he has to be in there. Then a little later I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, Jerry Lee Lewis.” We were really proud to help jumpstart [a comeback] – looking back at the 󈧶s rockers, nobody did that before. Well, the Stones got B.B. King on tour — that was very cool. And very early, they got Howlin’ Wolf on a TV show or something. But as you read, we tried to get Johnny Cash and they said he was a felon. “OK, you just wait a year or so. He’s gonna be a giant American icon, you jerks.” I like helping the music lovers understand we’re all on the shoulders of previous generations of music-makers.

It was also interesting you chose to include the Van Morrison chapter after having the negative experience at the Hollywood Bowl.
I still, as I said, hear “Into The Mystic” and go, “Oh my god.” Those in the biz know his personality. I said what I had to say because I was annoyed and I also admire his talent. Jim could be an asshole — that’s for sure.

And you address that in the Paul Simon chapter, where you talk about Paul remembering Jim being rude to him at the Forest Hills show.
It was 50 years later, and I could not believe that Paul remembered it. It stuck with him because he was trying to help a young band, encourage us to do well, opening for them. And to see the lead singer, after being kind of dismissed by him, become this giant icon, I’m sure he was scratching his head for those 50 years, going, “Wow, what is that?” And it felt kind of healing to discuss it. It was kind of insightful, the two of us figuring out that maybe [Morrison] was nervous like Trump, who gets defensive when he’s nervous and doubles down on being an asshole.

Did writing about these relationships, like Jim and Ray, give you a new perspective?
Oh, man, I miss Ray, musically more than ever. It really hit me how, god, he’s a bass player and a musician who plays lines that get etched on our foreheads forever ‘cause they’re so melodic and catchy, [like] the Bach “Circle Of Fifths” intro in “Light My Fire.” Ray even said, “We admire Herbie Hancock, but we’re not as proficient as these guys.” But they feed us because we admire them. But Ray’s unique lines that he wrote — that’s the gift. Obviously there would be no Doors without Ray.

I like how you interweave personal anecdotes too, like making up with Ray.
Well, the perspective is kind of like what I saw last night when I YouTubed the Beatles’ acceptance speech for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. George [Harrison] was saying, “I wish John [Lennon] was here. I know he would be here, and we love John.” They had their struggles, John and George, not as heavy as me having a lawsuit against Ray and Robby [Krieger]. But if you’re one of the Fab Four, or one of the fab Doors, then you’ve gone through this hurricane, and only those four have lived it and really feel the camaraderie that no one else can. Even with all the trials and tribulations, wow, there’s a deep, deep bond. I’ve been married three times, and I am going to get married again, but, gosh, my relationship with the Doors is obviously the longest of my entire life, and the deepest. I did Charlie Rose for my last book, and I remember a quote that was pretty good that he loved. I said being in a rock band is polygamy without the sex. So you’re married.

Is it hard for you revisiting your relationship with Jim again after so many years?
If it’s all guys, a band is definitely a band of brothers. It’s your brother. It’s sibling rivalry, so when Jim first passed, I was sad, but it took me a few years to deeply mourn ‘cause I was mad at him. I couldn’t accept that creativity and self-destruction came in the same package with him. It doesn’t necessarily have to with an artist. And now, I’ll still hear some obscure line — last night I was thinking of “Land Ho!” because something of the navy and I thought of Jim and his dad. And I’m still picking up stuff, and the love is deeper. I get a little metaphysical in this book and say I’m having a lot of conversations with Ray and Jim now. Well, why not? I love that [George] Harrison line about how he has a deep relationship with John — and if you can’t have that then how are you going to have it with Jesus or whoever you think you’re gonna see in Heaven?

You mention art and self-destruction, but then you talk in here to guys like Willie Nelson and Paul Simon who are still thriving in their 70s and 80s. How does it inspire you?
Yeah, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson are mentors for me in the area of aging because Jim went at 27 and I’m 76 in a month. There’s Jim’s road, and there’s my road, which is less self-destructive as an example for young people, which I like. But I also get fed by how Willie and Paul are doing it. They’re still incredibly creative and vibrant. They’re not in a rest home. That’s a real turn-on, and maybe that’s the key to their longevity and vibrancy: being engaged.

One of the cool things I think to come out of the book is there is no right path. You mention that you were surprised when Patti Smith moved to the midwest but then found it heroic. And now she is more vibrant and relevant than ever.
What a mentor for me as a writer. My god, it’s one thing that she made this incredible contribution to really jumpstart the entire punk movement. Then she gets the National Book Award for writing [ Just Kids ] — what the fuck? Whoa. So maybe she’s channeling that energy, whatever it is that makes her do music or write. Or the energy that comes through Willie or Paul Simon, she’s just channeling it. And she can almost do anything if you tap it without ego.

When you first saw Bob Marley, did you know that he was that special right away?
Yeah, I was really blessed on that one. When I saw them second-billed to Cheech & Chong at the Roxy — oh, my god. It was culture shock. I just knew, “This is coming.” Me and Robby were in Jamaica before. I’ve been so blessed to be on the front end of all this stuff, like reggae and Marley. I meet Gustavo Dudamel when he’s guest conducting and know something’s coming. I meet Jim and know he’s gifted at something. You see Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary ? I’m in there, and I have this sense: I’m a teenager, and I don’t know that Coltrane is going to be a giant icon, but I know there’s something here. I stumbled into the incubation period of all these things, Coltrane and reggae and classical music at the L.A. Phil. I’m so lucky to be sensing the incubation period of all these different powerful musical movements.

Is it luck or being open to them, though?
Open and interested — and maybe this sounds a little [egotistical] but [having] an intuitive sense. I trust my intuition, and I’ve got a pretty good intuitive sense to sniff out creative movements.

But you are also honest about the opposite, like admitting you didn’t get Lou Reed at first.
Yeah, right — even Patti I didn’t quite get at first. There are many roads to Jerusalem’s wall. That’s out of a poem.

Was this book easier to do because of the subject matter?
Oh, that’s a really good, good way to finish this up. The first two books I wrote were written in blood. This one was written in love. A loving tip of the hat.


The Doors’ John Densmore on the Time Van Morrison Left Him Hanging Onstage

On the night The Doors were fired from our first club gig, Ronnie Harran, the booker for the famous Whisky a Go Go, saw us and offered us the “house band” slot up the street. The London Fog Club had dumped us not because Jim was in a fog that night (which he sometimes was), but because a fight broke out and they blamed the band. Fortunately, Ronnie had good ears and knew we were headed somewhere. She also headed with the handsome lead singer to her boudoir, but that’s another story.

The first set at the Whisky was at 9 pm, when nobody was in the club. The headliner came next, then we did our second set, and finally the headliner closed the night.

We were quite nervous those first few weeks. The result was a horrible review from Pete Johnson of the LA Times. It was so horrible that, as I told the rest of the band, maybe it was good negative PR, since it made us sound like something interesting to see. After getting our feet wet, we jumped in full throttle and tried to blow off the stage each of the famous acts that had the big billing. The Rascals, Paul Butterfield, The Turtles, The Seeds, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, The Animals, The Beau Brummels, Buffalo Springfield, Captain Beefheart—all of them had to deal with us. I mean, of course we loved and admired all of these creative musicians, but we also were a force to be reckoned with ourselves.

We started to develop a following, freaks who loved freeform dancing and would show up for our first set each night. The great owner-promoter Elmer Valentine smartly took down the go-go dancing cages, sensing the new movement of “hippies” forming. It was our turf now. After we finished some of our songs, instead of applause, silence filled the room.

Most people are afraid of silence. We weren’t. The astrophysicist [Neil deGrasse] Tyson says that “dark matter”—the spaces in between the stars and the planets—is as important as matter, and perhaps even more important. Likewise, it’s the space the musician makes in between the notes that gives music the human element. When drum machines were first invented many years ago, they had a “human” button, which, when pressed, sped up or slowed down the machine. I guess human error is a good thing, or at least something that elicits compassion. So something scary, but very attractive to humans, resides in that “dark matter” space where sound gets swallowed up by silence. Complete emptiness. The Void. It was hard for some acts to follow us because of the ominous vibe we left in the air.

We heard that Elmer booked Them, the Irish band whose lead singer, Van Morrison, had penned “Gloria” and “Mystic Eyes” and so compellingly adapted “Baby, Please Don’t Go” to suit his voice and band. We were in awe. As the date approached, the decision to take our cover version of “Gloria” out of our set seemed wise. We thought our take of the song was pretty good, but it was not cool to step on the originator’s toes.

On opening night for the “boys from Belfast,” The Doors started with a nervous first set. During intermission, I situated myself at my usual spot on the stairway to the upper balcony. My first book, Riders on the Storm, sets the tone:

Them brashly took the stage. They slammed through several songs one right after another, making them indistinguishable. Van seemed drunk and very uptight, crashing the mike stand down on the stage. But when he dropped his lower jaw and tongue and let out one of those yells of rage, something Irish in me made my skin crawl with goose bumps. Ancient angst.

I was confused about this singer having so much talent while being so self-conscious. Ronnie drove me, Van, and a few other people to a small party at her apartment at 2 am. Most of us made small talk, while Van glowered in the corner. Then all of a sudden he grabbed Ronnie’s guitar and blasted into vocals, singing about being a stranger in this world and wanting to be reincarnated into another time with another face. Ultimately, these lyrics would end up on the transcendental Astral Weeks album. Riders tells what happened next:

It was as if Van couldn’t communicate on a small-talk party level, so he just burst into his songs. We were mesmerized. It didn’t seem appropriate to shower him with compliments, because his music came from such a deep place. So when he finished there was silence for a minute or so. A sacred silence.

I had been somewhat aware of the quiet in between the sounds way back in the sixties. Back then, I hadn’t figured out the importance of both silence and sound in music. I had only an intuitive understanding of it. Once we started getting to know the Irish lads during that magical week, The Doors put “Gloria” back into our set list. The very last night before Van and his crew went back to the Old Sod we all played “Gloria” together. Two drummers, two keyboards, two of everything. Even two Morrisons. After about twenty minutes, we all put “Gloria” to bed after a glorious night.

Van went on to pen many, many important songs. “Brown Eyed Girl, “Crazy Love,” and “Moondance,” to name just a few. With “Into the Mystic,” he seemed to be pointed in a more spiritual direction, which culminated with the hypnotic Astral Weeks. Using jazz musicians and not rehearsing beforehand, Astral Weeks is an impressionistic stream of consciousness. It remains a cult favorite to this day, despite the fact that it failed to achieve significant mainstream sales success for decades. After thirty-three years, it finally achieved gold in 2001. I’ve always said that Astral Weeks is one of my all-time favorite albums, and that sentiment seems widely shared, considering how many lists of “Greatest Albums of All Time” include it.

On November 6, 2008, I got a phone call from “Van’s people,” inquiring whether I wanted to play “Gloria” with him and his band at the Hollywood Bowl. “The Man” would perform some of his oldies up to intermission, then the brilliant album Astral Weeks in the second half. Hell yes! After all, I’d already played “Gloria” with him, his band, and my band at the Whisky in 1966.

I went to the afternoon rehearsal for “Gloria” at the Bowl. There were about fifteen musicians onstage, which is an unusually large group. I guessed that, for the second half, Van needed extra players, strings and the like, to replicate the sound of Astral Weeks. Bobby Ruggiero waved his hand for me to sit down on his drum stool. I did so, then looked out at the thousands of empty seats. Having played this venue twice, I was comfortable sitting on the drum riser and excited about the night that lay ahead. I tested out each drum. It felt easy, which was a relief. With drum sets, the angles are all different for each player, and playing on your own kit feels like wearing a comfortable glove.

Van was nowhere in sight, but they wanted to rehearse. We jumped into the song, and the backup singers sang Van’s lead parts. It was a groove kicking this big band on a tune I knew very well. I threw in my own signature licks, and the musicians turned around, acknowledging me with big smiles.

Then they stopped and said, “We might do a Bo Diddley section in the middle.”

“Okay,” I responded. “I should know that ahead of time.”

I could feel a very pregnant pause, and then tension mounting among the players. No one was getting up to go ask Van about the arrangement. It was awkward, because if I didn’t know how they were going to play that section, I could fuck it up and that would be embarrassing for all concerned. I had heard horror stories about Van, like the time he screamed at one of his roadies for bringing him the wrong vintage of wine, but I had a long history with the guy, so I wasn’t going to let that deter me.

“Okay, fine! I’ll ask him!” I said getting up from the drum stool. The musicians looked at me with amazement as I headed toward the dressing rooms. They seemed to actually be afraid of their lead vocalist.

I put my ear up to one of the dressing room doors and could hear Van on the phone. I rapped. He didn’t respond. I rapped harder. Nothing. Then I banged hard, and he finally responded. “Yeah, what?”

“Van, it’s John Densmore. Are you going to do the Bo Diddley section in the middle of ‘Gloria?’”

“Whatever you want” was his response, as he went back to his conversation.

We finished rehearsing, and I went home. When I came back in the evening with my girlfriend Ildiko, we went backstage, since Van had already started. His manager told me the plan was for “Gloria” to be the encore just before intermission. I would walk out with Van, he would introduce me, and then we’d play the song. Easy enough.

We walked out together on that magnificent stage under the shell at the Hollywood Bowl, but I could tell that Van couldn’t take in the applause he was getting. Something was torturing him. Then he began to torture me, though not on purpose, I think.

Ildiko and I listened to several songs from the side of the stage. They sounded good, although up close, it was clear that Van wasn’t relaxed. Something inside him seemed to be always on pins and needles.

They finished the last song, and Van the Man exited stage right. Later, Ildiko would say that she could feel Van’s nervous energy. I stood beside him as we waited for our cue. He asked about Ray and Robby, which was sweet. I was reminded of that time a few months after he finished the Whisky gig years ago when I saw him in town and he asked, “How’s Jim doing?” Two Morrisons caring about each other.

We walked out together on that magnificent stage under the shell at the Hollywood Bowl, but I could tell that Van couldn’t take in the applause he was getting. Something was torturing him. Then he began to torture me, though not on purpose, I think. In his preoccupied state of mind, he forgot to introduce me. The band was waiting for their cue to start the song, and it didn’t come. The awkward silence needed to be broken, so the guitar player started the opening chords to “Gloria.” After a few bars, the rest of the band had to kick in, so they did.

Leaving me standing there in front of ten thousand people, wondering what to do. Walking off would have been weird. I spotted a tambourine under the backup singers’ riser, so I walked over, picked it up, and started playing it as if that had been part of the plan. Needless to say, I was not happy. At that moment, I didn’t give a shit about how talented Van was. This was humiliating.

No one in the audience knew that anything was wrong, but yours truly felt tremendously awkward as I worked my way over to Bobby, the drummer. We were trying to figure out how to switch—him jumping up and grabbing the tambourine, me grabbing his sticks and sitting down without missing a beat. It couldn’t be done. If we tried it, the beat would definitely drop for a few bars, and Van the Man would have definitely been pulled out of his “flow.” He would have turned around with a big frown on his face, even though he himself had caused the problem. So I just continued to play the tambourine with a fake smile.

At the finish, we all headed for the wings, with the roaring crowd fading as we exited. Van seemed to disappear. His manager came up to me expounding major apologies. No one would dare try to go look for “The Man” to get his take, let alone an apology.

Ildiko gave me a big hug when I met her at our box seats for the second half. Only she and the Doors’ manager, Jeff Jampol, knew what I had been through. After a few songs from one of my favorite albums of all time, Astral Weeks, we left. The performance wasn’t bad, but the vibe, which only Jeff, me, and our two girlfriends knew about, had taken the wind out of our Van Morrison sails.

Since then, I’ve reduced the capital letter “M” to lowercase “m” when I write about him: Van the man. Also, this book is subtitled Meetings with Remarkable Musicians, not Meetings with Remarkable Men, for a reason. Van blew it. I was going to pay him a compliment in front of ten thousand people, but he didn’t remember to introduce me, so he didn’t get that compliment. I was going to say, “It’s a great honor to be playing with a Morrison again.”

It took me a year or so to get over what had happened because, when someone you know behaves badly, it can cloud your appreciation of their work. Anytime one of Van’s songs came on the radio, I had to change the station. Later, admiration for his gifts crept back into my psyche. “Into the Mystic” won me over again. I just can’t resist the spiritually brilliant music The Man has produced.

When Van Morrison sings, “We were born before the wind, / Also younger than the sun,” he is talking about “the flow.” Even with all his phobias, he usually taps into the jet stream of sound circling the planet. Van has described that feeling in interviews: “It’s just plugging in and going with the flow and then sourcing that energy.”

Jay-Z speaks of getting into “the flow” while rapping. It’s the rapper’s choice whether to go fast with an amazing cadence, like Eminem, or wonderfully slow, like Snoop Dogg. It’s how the rap sits on top of the beats, just as it’s a drummer’s choice whether to push the feel or to lay back. Singers make choices through their phrasing, deciding when to start a line and how long to drag it out.

Van, who obviously listened to early R&B, is impeccable when he’s into his flow. Randy Lewis, the esteemed music critic for the LA Times, hit the nail on the head: “Van Morrison strives to reach a special space through music, an ethereal place perhaps best summarized in the title of his 1970 song ‘Into the Mystic.’ ‘Just like way back in the days of old, [and] magnificently we will float into the mystic.’”

Excerpted from The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists) copyright © 2020 by John Densmore, reprinted with permission of Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


The Doors influential drummer John Densmore turns 76 today

John Densmore is one of Rock’s most unique drummers, he has developed a personal technique in which he blends among other styles Jazz, Tribal beats and Rock. With The Doors he became famous and scored several hits during the late 1960’s. We look back at his life and career

Early Life and The Doors

John was born John Paul Densmore on December 1st, 1944 in Los Angeles, California, he learned music from an early age, starting by the piano and later took up drums/percussion for the marching band at his school. He also played timpani in orchestra. Densmore also studied ethnic music under jazz cellist Fred Katz which proved to be a very big influence on his work as a professional musician that lasts to this day. In the mid-1960’s he joined guitarist Robby Krieger in a band called The Psychedelic Rangers shortly thereafter he began rehearsals with keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Manzarek’s two brothers and Jim Morrison in the group Rick & the Ravens. On the brothers’ departure from the band, Densmore recommended Krieger join them, thus forming The Doors in 1965, with Densmore on drums, Jim Morrison on vocals, Ray Manzarek on the keyboards and bass and Robby Krieger on guitar. The band played intensevely on the Sunset Strip circuit in Los Angeles for almost two years. In late 1966, after several rejections from record labels due to their odd sound which was interpreted as lack of commercial potential, they were signed to Elektra by Jac Holtzman, the label’s founder that wasn’t afraid to take chances on new bands with unusual music. Their first album “The Doors” was released in January 1967, along with their debut single “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” which made it only as a local Los Angeles hit. Shortly after, on July 1967, The Doors reached No.1 on the Hot 100 with their Jazz-Rock fusion song “Light My Fire”. The band quickly become worldwide famous with songs such as “People Are Strange”, “Love Me Two Times”, “Hello, I Love You”, “Touch Me” and “Roadhouse Blues” among many others. However, despite the success, Jim Morrison’s wild life style that involved consuming large amounts of drugs and alcohol as well as his on stage antics that made him being arrested on stage in December 1967, and the infamous 1969 Miami concert, where a out of control Morrison shout profanities to the audience and reportedly exposed himself, pushed The Doors successful career to a fast end. John Densmore temporally quit the band in 1968 during the recording sessions of their third album “Waiting For The Sun” due to Morrison’s increasingly self-destructive behavior, although Densmore returned the next day. Densmore repeatedly suggested that the band stop touring, but Krieger and Manzarek were resistant to this notion. After the Doors’ disastrous performance with a gibberish-spouting Morrison in New Orleans on December 12, 1970, the band agreed to stop performing live, and the New Orleans concert would be the band’s last public appearance as a quartet. Morrison died in 1971, though the surviving trio recorded two more albums of songs “Other Voices” in 1971 and “Full Circle” in 1972, the band dissolved in 1973. They would get together again as a band to record music for the posthumous Jim Morrison album and poetry project “An American Prayer” where they played for the late singer’s isolated vocals in 1978.

Solo Career

Densmore formed a band with fellow ex-Doors Robby Krieger in 1973 called Butts Band. The band released two albums with two different lineups but disbanded in 1975. Densmore left rock and roll in the 1980s, moving to the world of dance as he performed with Bess Snyder and Co., touring the United States for two years. During most of the 1980’s he pursued an acting career, one of his film credits includes playing the role of a recording studio engineer on the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic “The Doors” based on the band’s career. Densmore wrote his best-selling autobiography, Riders on the Storm (1990), about his life and the time he spent with Morrison and the Doors. In the first chapter Densmore describes the solemn day on which he and the band finally visited Morrison’s grave around three years after Morrison’s death. After Jim Morrison’s death, Densmore, Manzarek and Krieger, allowed “Riders on the Storm” to be used to sell Pirelli Tyres, but in the United Kingdom only. Densmore later stated that he “heard Jim’s voice” in his ears and ended up donating his share of the money earned to charity. In 2003, Densmore vetoed an offer by Cadillac of $15 million for “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” citing Morrison’s historic and vehement opposition to licensing the Doors’ music, notably their best-selling single “Light My Fire” for a Buick television commercial,as well as Densmore’s own development of strong personal views on the subject. In a subsequent court trial against his former bandmates Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger for the non-authorized use of The Doors name (Manzarek and Krieger rehashed The Doors by putting up together a successful tour being the only two original band members of the band and named themselves The Doors Of The 21st Century), in which Densmore was joined by the Morrison estate, opposing lawyers attempted to portray Densmore as an eco-terrorist. Notable musicians who testified in support of Densmore included Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Eddie Vedder and Tom Waits. In 2013 Densmore released “The Doors Unhinged”, a book covering his lengthy but victorious legal battle with Krieger and Manzarek and Densmore’s veto of the Cadillac commercial offer and recently he released another book, “The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists)”. Densmore is politically outspoken and in 2015, he backed the U.S. presidential run of Bernie Sanders. Densmore remains a very active artist in many fields including the already mentioned music, writing, acting but also on movie making and performing arts. John Densmore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Doors in 1993, today he turns 76.

Watch John Densmore talking about his drumming technique and studio recording

Watch Densmore drumming with The Doors, “When The Music’s Over”, Live at The Hollywood Bowl,
1968


The Doors defined California cool in the ’60s. How does their legacy stack up 50 years later?

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The Doors — from left, singer Jim Morrison, drummer John Densmore, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and lead guitarist Robby Krieger — pose for a publicity photo in the 1960s. Fifty years ago, the band released its self-titled debut album. (Elektra Records)

LOS ANGELES — The door to the Doors is numbered 420. A quirk of circumstance that feels comically ordained.

Technically, this is the entrance to the Doors Music Co., the licensed legal corporation in a fourth-floor suite of a flavorless glass rectangle in West Hollywood. Should you take 2,000 steps east, you’ll find yourself at the world-famous Whisky a Go Go, the nightclub at which the Doors reigned a half-century ago as they became the sinistral emissaries of sex and death at the center of the Summer of Love.

This air-conditioned shrine is consecrated with artifacts of the past and faint reminders of its perpendicular intersections with the present. Platinum and gold plaques occupy almost every square inch of available wall space. Portrait photos depict the Doors at their Aquarian zenith, shaggy and seditious, without time to wallow in the mire. Jim Morrison, now dead 46 years, leers, taunts and preens from every angle.

In the conference room, Robby Krieger remains very much alive. For much of the past year, the lead guitarist has busied himself with the promotional cycle surrounding the self-proclaimed “Year of the Doors,” commemorating the semicentennial of the quartet’s self-titled debut and follow-up “Strange Days,” released a mere nine months apart in 1967. Festivities included Los Angeles proclaiming a “Day of the Doors,” Krieger throwing out the first pitch at Dodgers Stadium, and the remastered vinyl reissues and re-packagings that have become pro forma around the anniversaries of iconic boomer bands.

It’s been 50 years since the first song Krieger ever wrote, “Light My Fire,” topped the Billboard charts, but he still quietly mourns the loss of Morrison, who was interred at Paris’s Pére Lachaise cemetery a short four years after the band’s career took off.

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Ray Manzarek, right, and Robby Krieger light candles at Jim Morrison’s gravesite at Paris’s Pére Lachaise cemetery in 2011. (Jacques Brinon/AP)

“It’s pretty tough to get away from it because pretty much every day something reminds you of him,” Krieger says, underscoring the sepulchral reality that has shrouded Morrison since 1971.

Krieger, a native of Southern California whose earliest guitar playing was steeped in flamenco, was the band’s youngest member and just 25 when Morrison died. Now 71, grandfatherly and silver-haired, he’s dedicated almost his entire adult life to burnishing the legacy of his youth and attempting to transcend it. He tried first with a pair of Doors albums, without Morrison, before the band finally split up. In the intervening decades, Krieger has released half a dozen records of jazz-rock fusion, several of which included contributions from Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who died in 2013, and drummer John Densmore. He still writes most nights.

“It’s my dream to write a hit instrumental song that people will always remember,” he says.

Adopting a “one for all, all for one” mantra, the Doors split equal songwriting credit among the four members. But when Jim Morrison is your lead singer, it’s inevitable that less oxygen exists for the other members. Few know that Krieger wrote three of the band’s highest-charting singles (“Love Her Madly,” “Touch Me,” “Light My Fire”).

Even though it’s a story he’s retold thousands of times, there’s a certain simplistic thrill to hear Krieger explain the spark behind the band’s biggest hit, inauspiciously composed late one night on the piano bench at his parents’ house, where he lived until the band’s career became the grist for an Oliver Stone biopic.

“I asked Jim what should I write about and he said, ‘Write about something universal,’ so I decided to write about earth, air, fire or water,” Krieger says.

“I picked fire because I liked that song by the Stones, ‘Play With Fire,’” he says. “The words just came to me. I’d never heard anyone say those three words together before.”

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The Doors in 1967. (Bobby Klein/Doors Property, LLC/Rhino Entertainment)

Krieger was just 20 when he wrote the song that has endured for half a century. This idea of youth is central to the mythology and perpetual vitality of the Doors, a group that sold you on the supernatural dream that permanent enlightenment was a short trip away, in any direction that deranged the senses.

Every generation of eighth-graders is seduced anew by the Doors’ autonomic rebelliousness, grandiosity and epic sweep that encompassed French Symbolist poetry, Bavarian beer-hall stomp, Athenian drama, alluvial Southern blues, Iberian guitar and the occasional indecent exposure charge. Merely reciting a list of those influences induces eye rolls from skeptics, flashbacks to acne and regrettable haircuts, insufferable teenage poetry and bootleg T-shirts hawked on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

For many, the Doors remind us of our worst selves. One pretentious boor in a dorm room convinced that he’s the reincarnation of Jim Morrison can ruin the band forever. And they aren’t wholly absolved from inspiring thousands of would-be mystics who returned from Burning Man “pretty sure” that they’re shamans. In the parlance of our times, they seem basic. When the influential website Pitchfork ranked the 200 best albums of the 1960s, “The Doors” was the lone entrant and it barely cracked the top 100.

Among their canonized peers, the Grateful Dead’s long, strange trip ended with the countercultural kings slowly being submerged into the corporate infrastructure they once existed in opposition to the Velvet Underground turned obscurity in the ’60s into post-breakup notoriety as ground zero for the sneering rise of punk and alternative rock and Jimi Hendrix remained frozen in tie-dye as a psychedelic sage, whose guitar is less easily ridiculed than some of Morrison’s more overwrought lyrics.

But this critical revisionism doesn’t square with the band’s sustained influence. Any artist in thrall to Iggy Pop, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Nick Cave or Patti Smith owes at least a secondhand debt to the Doors. Lana Del Rey name-checked Jim Morrison on “Gods and Monsters” and once covered “Roadhouse Blues.” Marilyn Manson has repeatedly declared the band’s formative and continued impact upon him.

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Cover art for The Doors' 1967 eponymous debut. (Rhino Entertainment)

“The Doors were what made me want to become a rock star,” Manson says. “If you separate all the ingredients, the vocals and the guitars and the rhythm, it wouldn’t make sense. But together, there’s magic in those songs.”

Morrison’s patrilineal heritage directly extends from Manson to Lil Uzi Vert, a rapper whose emergence this past year has partially redefined the rock-star archetype for a new generation.

The Doors’ reputation in rock circles may have declined over the years, but it’s in rap where you can see the Doors’ modern influence most dramatically. Kanye West famously sampled “Five to One” for Jay-Z’s “Takeover.” The unhinged showmanship and ­codeine-fueled rampage of Lil Wayne’s historic 2005-2008 streak reminded many of Morrison. (During his stint on Rikers Island, Weezy read a Doors biography.)

In Los Angeles, where 2Pac still exists as gangsta rap’s patron deity, Morrison levitates just above him in the civic hagiography. The parallels are unmistakable, from the Christ-like poses and books of poetry to the attacks from authorities and preponderance of leather. Snoop Dogg covered “Riders on the Storm.” Members of the Pharcyde selected their group name after an afternoon eating mushrooms and watching Stone’s “The Doors.”

“I got introduced to the Doors by a documentary,” says South Central’s G Perico, one of Los Angeles’s best and fastest-rising new gangsta rappers. “I immediately became a fan of how real Jim Morrison was. Even though he was long gone, I was still drawn to his energy.”

It’s unquantifiable and orphic energy, one best experienced through vibe than a clinical deconstruction of the band’s (impressive) discography. The Doors induce chimerical feelings of ominous sunshine, primordial serpents and peculiar creatures communing in Laurel Canyon. At their best, they conjure moods that language can’t label — the interstitial half-remembered transmissions of an acid trip, the deja vu when the bloodshed of the past interferes with the dystopian frequencies of the present.

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Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, left, Remo Belli, founder and chief executive of Remo Inc., center, and John Densmore, the drummer of the the Doors, take part in a giant drum circle in 2012. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

“The ’60s was only two years: ’65 to ’67. That was it. That was the pure across-the-board renaissance of music, art and film before it got co-opted, the assassinations started and Vietnam polarized everything,” John Densmore says.

If you’re searching for the subversive streak that defined the Doors, Densmore is where the journey ends. At 72, he’s retained a seeker’s curiosity, the poetic spirit that set them apart and the atavistic energy found in most great drummers.

“A lot of the time, I sit around depressed about the current situation with a few maniacs running the world and then I think, ‘How . . . did I ever get through seeing a little girl napalmed on television every night?’ ” he says.

“It was just horrific, but our [generation’s] protests helped stop the war, and if we got through that, we can get through Trump. So I try to look at him as the catalyst coalescing everyone who’s been semi-asleep — and that assuages my depression.”

It’s a summer morning at the tribal-art-decorated house in the Pacific Palisades where Densmore lives with his son and a big, white, affable dog named Conch. He wears athletic shorts and a loose black T-shirt. His hair and goatee are entirely gray, but a studded earring exaggerates an ageless trickster glint in his eyes. There is no drum circle he couldn’t lead.

Doors lore often wrongly stereotypes Densmore as needlessly contentious. In Stone’s mystic caricature, Densmore (played by future “Entourage” star Kevin Dillon) furiously storms out due to Morrison’s sodden outlandishness. In 2003, when Cadillac offered $15 million to license “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” Densmore vetoed the commercial. When Manzarek, Krieger, Ian Astbury of the Cult and Police drummer Stewart Copeland formed the Doors of the 21st Century, Densmore successfully sued to keep them from using the band’s name.

In the ensuing trial, Densmore claimed that Manzarek and Krieger’s legal team depicted him as an eco-terrorist (he once was arrested alongside Bonnie Raitt for protesting corporate clearing of ancient rain forests). Raitt, Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, Tom Petty, Tom Waits and Randy Newman all supported Densmore during the case. But despite this once-seismic rift, Densmore and Krieger, the lone survivors, briefly reunited to play “L.A. Woman” at the Day of the Doors celebration.

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Cover art for The Doors' 1971 album "L.A. Woman." (Rhino Entertainment)

“It’s because of the music. We created something together bigger than us,” Densmore says. “The muse comes in, and it’s not yours, and that’s huge. So our differ­ences can go aside. As time goes on, it’s easier.”

In conversation, Densmore radiates a creative integrity that frequently feels endangered. Royalties have made him a multi­millionaire, but he has also turned down more than most of us will make in this lifetime. There’s an engagement and curiosity about the present that feels more palpable than with most of his peers. If the fire still burns, it’s partially because he hasn’t lost the ability to stay outraged.

“In different stages of life, you do start to see [things] you didn’t see before. What makes me so crazy is we’re [hurting] the youth,” Densmore says. “Can’t we not only financially but emotionally invest in the youth? That’s what an elder is supposed to do. My friend Michael Mead, the mythologist, said, ‘Everybody gets older, but not everybody gets elder.’ That’s it, which means look around, help the youth, show gratitude, don’t just be an old prick.”

Accordingly, he’s devoted himself to political action, philanthropy and the arts. Since distancing himself from the rock world in the 1980s, he’s performed with a touring dancing company, acted in plays and television shows, and written several books. He recently completed the book “Meetings With Remarkable Musicians,” which chronicles his interactions with Ravi Shankar, Patti Smith, Gustavo Dudamel and Elvin Jones. As he breaks down the concept and chapters, his excitement builds, his syllables accelerate you catch that alchemical symphony that buoyed those immemorial songs. And maybe that’s all there is. Maybe the simple answer is that you just need to stay true and keep searching.

“I’m still looking for the music in between the sentences,” Densmore says, taking a quick quarter note rest, perfectly paced. “Same as you.”

This article has been updated to note the musicians who supported Densmore at the the Doors of the 21st Century trial were not, in fact, present for the proceedings.


Doors’ Densmore remembers Jim Morrison and band’s heated feud ahead of his book signing in Boulder

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It’s 1968, one of the most pivotal years for America in the 21st century. The Vietnam war is reaching its bloody crescendo and a hard-fought presidential campaign is underway.

Jim Morrison, legendary singer and poet of the Los Angeles rock band, the Doors, is out of town when his three bandmates, drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robbie Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, agree to a tentative deal allowing the use of their number-one-hit song, “Light My Fire,” in a television commercial for Buick cars.

This, despite band members’ unusual decision to share equal songwriting credit and make all decisions by consensus. This, despite the fact that the members had previously agreed that allowing their music to be used to sell a product, any product, would be akin to making a deal with the devil.

When Morrison, the personification of the Doors’ jazz-influenced, psychedelic, catchy and often political rock, found out, he was outraged. He accused his bandmates, who first jammed together in a garage in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, of selling out and threatened to smash a Buick, live onstage, in protest.

Ashamed, the three agreed to uphold their famous “all for one, one for all” partnership, and abandoned the Buick deal. (The band did allow their 1971 hit, “Riders on the Storm,” to be used in a British commercial for Parelli tires, the only time they did so, but donated the money they received to charity.)

“Jim did not primarily write ‘Light My Fire.’ He only wrote a line or two,” said Densmore, now 74. “He said ‘f-you’ to the rest of us, because we were considering ‘Come on Buick, Light my Fire.’ What does that say? That he cared about the whole catalog, all our songs, what we all represented.”

Fast forward three decades. Morrison is long gone, having died in Paris in 1971. Krieger and Manzarek are eager to sign a $15 million deal with Cadillac to use “Break on Through” in a commercial.

But this time, it’s Densmore who says no. He also balks at Krieger and Manzarek touring with Police drummer Stewart Copeland and Cult singer Ian Astbury as “The Doors of the 21st Century” (the last four words in decidedly small print) and using Morrison’s image to promote shows.

John Densmore. (Scott Mitchell Photography / Courtesy photo)

“That’s when,” Densmore said, “I made the very difficult decision to sue my bandmates for running off with the name. My premise was, the Doors without Jim is ludicrous, just as ludicrous as The Police without Sting, the Stones without Mick.”

Krieger and Manzarek countersued, and “all for one, one for all” looked as if it had been irrevocably shattered — forever.

Densmore recounts the story of the lengthy legal wrangling that followed, as Morrison’s parents — estranged from their talented, mercurial and troubled son during his rise to fame — joined the drummer’s suit, setting up a monumental battle that split the band in half, in his self-published book, “The Doors: Unhinged” (subtitled, “Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial”). Densmore will speak about and sign the book during his first visit to Boulder on Saturday.

“What I’m doing is going to places I’ve always wanted to go that I have never been to,” said Densmore, who first published the book in 2013. “I just did Santa Cruz, and since I’d never been to Boulder, I’m coming there.”

Densmore’s 1991 memoir “Riders on the Storm” was a New York Times bestseller. The story of the long legal wrangling over Morrison’s legacy, which also shines light on Densmore’s long-time political activism — he was once tossed in a paddy wagon with Bonnie Raitt for protesting the destruction of old-growth forests — has drawn accolades from numerous rock and roll legends.

On the back cover of Densmore’s book is a quote from Tom Waits: “John Densmore is not for sale and that is his gift to us.”

“Eddie Vedder said he hopes someone like me will be there to protect his legacy,” Densmore said.

At first, many fans viewed Densmore as a traitor. But the legal cases eventually were resolved in his favor and, he said, true fans see his act of rebellion for what it is.

“They know I’m trying to preserve John, Ray, Robbie and Jim,” he said, “not Fred or Tom or whoever.”

Talk-show host and author Tavis Smiley once told Densmore, “You’re either a saint, or you’re crazy,” to turn down a cool $5 million for the Cadillac commercial. Densmore said he was “just trying to listen to Jim’s ghost.”

“I just didn’t want to have ‘Break on Through’ used to sell a gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade,” he said. “I said to the guys, ‘We’ve all got a nice house, a couple cars. What do you need to buy so badly to sell out Jim’s legacy?’ They didn’t have any answer to that.”

The split was acrimonious, but Densmore wrote the final chapter as a plea to his former bandmates, whose friendship he couldn’t imagine living without.

“I wrote, basically, ‘Hey guys, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but please read this. How could I not love you guys for creating magic in a garage all those years ago?’” he said.

It took a few years, but both Manzarek and Krieger came around. When Densmore heard Manzarek was ill, the two spoke by phone. Manzarek died in May 2013.

“It was a short conversation, but healing. We had closure, thank God,” Densmore said.

And these days, he and Krieger get together to play music occasionally, including a recent rendition of “Hello, I Love You” — the band’s only other chart-topping hit — at a benefit event, with Jack Black on vocals.

“We were blessed by the muse. Something happened in that garage that was bigger than the four of us,” Densmore said. “We’ve got to honor that.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Densmore believes Morrison was an alcoholic. In his seminal band bio, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” Danny Sugarman describes an outraged Densmore following the infamous concert in Miami, where a drunken Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure onstage.

“I gripped the sticks so hard my knuckles turned white,” Densmore said. “What Danny didn’t understand was, that’s called ‘tough love.’ Something in my young psyche knew there was an elephant in the room, alcoholism, that no one was talking about. … Everybody wanted to keep playing, and the ‘greed gene’ kicked in. Me, I didn’t give a s**t if we had one less album, if (Morrison) would live.”

Densmore likes to believe that Morrison would be clean and sober today. He also believes that the painful decision to confront his bandmates resulted in a symbolic “healing of the ‘60s,” with Morrison’s parents coming together to celebrate and protect their estranged son’s legacy.

“Polar opposites, coming together for the common good,” he said. “It’s so touching. We entered this horrible situation, but we all came together for Jim.”

If you go

What: John Densmore, legendary drummer of The Doors, will speak and sign his book, “The Doors: Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial”

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder

Tickets: Purchase the book for $27.16 for a spot in the signing line books also will be on sale at the event


If John Densmore didn’t have braces, his life could have been very different

In the mid-’60s, he reconnected with a friend from high school and formed a band. The friend was guitarist Robby Krieger. They met keyboardist Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison and became The Doors. The iconic band is best known for their songs “Hello, I Love You,” “Touch Me,” “Light My Fire,” “Love Her Madly,” and many more.

Now, John is retired and lives in Santa Monica near the ocean. He looks back at playing with The Doors as very fond memories. Sadly, John and Ray are the only band members that are still alive at the time of posting.


The Doors’ John Densmore Talks About the Band’s Ugly, Six-Year Feud

In his new book The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial, Doors drummer John Densmore spins a funny yet lurid, behind-the-scenes tale of his six-year feud with former bandmates Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek &ndash a greed-filled courtroom battle in which he was accused of being an anti-American, card-carrying communist who supports al Qaeda.

Densmore said the rift started in 2003, when Cadillac offered the band a record-breaking $15 million deal. Krieger and Manzarek wanted the deal but Densmore balked, recalling a studio session in 1968 when Jim Morrison, the band’s enigmatic lead singer who died in 1971, discovered the band was considering taking $75,000 for a Buick ad. In that commercial, the car company would use the band’s hit “Light My Fire,” changing the lyrics from “Come on baby light my fire” to “Come on Buick light my fire.”

“Jim told us he couldn’t trust us anymore,” Densmore tells Rolling Stone. “We had agreed that we would never use our music in any commercial, but the money Buick offered us had been hard to refuse. Jim accused us of making a deal with the devil and said he would smash a Buick with a sledgehammer onstage if we let them [change the lyrics].”

Then Krieger and Manzarek started touring under the Doors name. The band advertised themselves as The Doors of the 21st Century, with “The Doors” appearing in big, bold letters and everything else in small fine print.

“They started using the name the Doors,” Densmore says. “I sent some example of the ad to the estate and said, “Hey, your deceased son has been resurrected and has been performing. Apparently I am, too.” I asked Robby to stop and he said he would. But he didn’t.”

As far as Densmore was concerned, the Doors died in a bathtub in Paris in 1971. It was crucial to honor Morrison’s absence. “I was not trying to stop them from playing,” Densmore said. “They were great. Anyone can play Doors songs, unless it’s for an ad for some product. I just wanted them to be clear [that it wasn’t the Doors].”

Densmore and the Morrison estate, which includes Morrison’s parents and his widow, sued Krieger and Manzarek to prevent them from using the name or taking the Cadillac deal. Krieger and Manzarek counter-sued, claiming they were being hamstrung by the estate and prevented from making a living as musicians.

Based on courtroom transcripts, Densmore works up a cautionary tale of the ugly collision of art and money. Densmore writes that the opposing legal team attacked his character and labeled him un-American and a communist for not taking the Cadillac deal.

“They tried to convince the jury I was an eco-terrorist because I am involved with a handful of peaceful, credible environmental organizations,” said Densmore, who was once arrested with Bonnie Raitt for protesting the cutting down of old-growth trees. “I couldn’t believe some of things I heard them say. I felt betrayed, hurt and very alone. . . Now, you can probably google my name and al Qaeda will come up. Great, let’s go to Abu Ghraib! It was really disturbing.”

During the trial, several musicians &ndashincluding Raitt, Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, Tom Petty, Tom Waits and Randy Newman &ndash all showed support for Densmore.

“Though it’s something I don’t like to think about, there will come a time when I will be a Dead Rock Star,” wrote Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on the book. “I can only hope that in my inevitable absence there will be someone with the integrity and principled behavior of Mr. Densmore looking after whatever legacy our group may leave behind.” Petty said the book was a must-read for any musician who feels their work is worth more than money.

In a shocking turn of events, Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who played with Krieger and Manzarek in the Doors of the 21st Century, took the stand to speak out against the misuse of the name. “Copeland told the truth,” Densmore said, “which exposed lies. Copeland challenged their use of the Doors name. He said that it wouldn’t be appropriate to call themselves the Doors. But if they didn’t, the limos and big arenas might disappear.”

In speaking with Densmore and reading his book, Manzarek comes across as an arrogant control-freak, while there is a genuine feeling of loss for Krieger as a friend. Yet, Densmore said he’s now on speaking terms with both of them. (“I just talked to Robby a few days ago,” he says cheerfully.) Yet despite years of in-fighting and ugly accusations, Densmore would still consider a Doors reunion.

“Being in a band is like polygamy, only without the sex,” Densmore said. “Things happen. But I’d get together for a one-off if there’s a good reason &ndash but it would have to be for charity, not for money.”


Watch the video: John Densmore Drum Lesson - Riders On The Storm (May 2022).