The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists)
John Densmore was a pretty good drummer but he’s a really bad writer. So it’s remarkable that he’s now up to book number three! The first was a given – a book about his time in The Doors; no one could argue that he has a story there. But the second. A bitter, hollow, almost comical account of lawsuits against his former band members and announcements that he had a gift for writing (and no exchange card).
Well book number three is at least positive. Overwhelmingly in fact. And somewhere in here hides a great idea: Densmore has been blessed to intersect with some truly amazing creatives – he’s got a few bon mots and some nice diary-like stories to tell. So he does. Only problem…the fucking way he tells them! Geez, he’s bad. How bad? Well, in talking about Ravi Shankar he actually uses the line, “early on Mr. Shankar had his creative impulses dipped in spiritual curry sauce of the highest calibre”. No seriously. You did just read that. He did, fairly recently, write that. He’s like one of those well-meaning boomers that doesn’t realise they’re racist. But the sentence is clunky-as-all-fuck also, a right twofer in the bad writing sweepstake. Fuck.
He also quotes heavily from his previous two books – meaning this wasn’t ever really a book, it was a feature article or podcast episode someone else could have skilfully pulled from him. But the meandering way that Densmore has with a word means it’s in and out of rooms and down corridors in search of the point of what he was supposed to be saying.
Since he last wrote, Ray is dead – joining Jim. So the hollowness is obvious here in a chapter eulogising Manzarek (who he was all but calling a piece of shit in the last book) but Robby Krieger is not only still with us he’s still creating (new music very recently) and Densmore doesn’t have any kind words to say about him. Petty.
The basic idea – bad band baggage aside – was for him to spread some positivity in an uncertain world. That’s a nice premise. And he has gathered some experiences. He’s 70 and he’s been around famous people for some 50+ years. So there are first-hand accounts of meeting Lou Reed and Elvin Jones, Ravi Shankar and visual artists, writers and creatives that work outside of the obvious rock-music sphere.
The chapter about Elvin Jones is lovely; Coltrane’s best drummer was one of Densmore’s heroes and he tells the tale of how they finally got to meet – it drips with anticipation. It also sets up some of Densmore’s wisdom; he writes well about drumming and rhythm and the role of the timekeeper in the band. It’s just a shame these passages are few and far between and we have to wade through rivers of shitty prose to get to them.
A weak, thin book that is easy enough to blaze through but just as easily its contents could have and probably should have been left right off the page.
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