John Densmore, erstwhile drummer for The Doors – and man who never wanted any part of a late-career reunion as The 21st Century Doors or any other Doors-related name with a band sans Jim – is, it has to be said, right here at the start, a fucking appalling writer. And I say that because he spends a good portion of this book telling the reader that he has a gift for writing; that he’s so fortunate to have discovered writing. Etc. His good fortune is of course bad luck for most readers – he’s heavy-handed using clunky phrases and his dream-diary discourse (“As the day starts I cast my mind back…”) is tired. And tiring.
It’s almost unforgiveable the lack of awareness he shows; often downright embarrassing.
What saves it – almost – is that this earnest account is a re-scripting of the courtroom drama that surfaced when Densmore and the Morrison Estate went head to head with Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek. They in turn countersued Densmore. And that makes for some interesting reading. Almost.
The drummer labours over what he states – and restates – was Jim Morrison’s wish, that the band be equal, they all share in publishing, in songwriting credit, and they protect the interests of the band’s music without selling out to the evil of advertising.
So Densmore has two issues with Ray and Robbie – and it’s mostly with Ray. It’s perhaps unfortunate that Manzarek is painted as the true evil here, well, unfortunate timing anyway given his recent passing so soon after this book was released. But the issues are with the band members trying to perform their tribute act as The Doors, and then as The Doors of The 21st Century. And then there’s the issue of lost revenue from advertising – the power of veto to suggest that a creative use for the band’s music was not okay. There comes the countersue claims from Manzarek suggesting a lost revenue of some $40m for brand tarnishing and missed money-making opportunities.
Cue pages – and pages – of Densmore’s cod-hippie philosophy and near new-age idealism being battered by the big evil Ray-Ray!
Cue pages – and pages – of soft-focus sixties memories in and around this – of constant name-dropping of “like” minded souls, Tom Waits and Dylan and Tom Petty and blah blah blah…
Somewhere in here is an almost-fascinating book about the power-struggles post-band; about the evils of advertising in terms of how the filthy lucre and the constant lure of it will always trouble any hopeful optimism around dated clean-green principles that aren’t ever quite sound in the real (current) world; about how for some people too much is never enough.
But for the most part it’s lost inside hackneyed phrases, awkward boasting and near-soullessness – strangely, in most cases, that’s all in an effort to channel just how soulful one drummer-turned-writer-turned-nitwit can be.
It was almost insufferable reading this – but the (presumably unintentional) comedy of it all got me through.