Drummer chats exclusively with Billboard about "The Doors: Unhinged" ... says he won't play with a "Jimitator," but a singer like Eddie Vedder? "I'm open to it"
While his new book may light some fires with his cohorts from the Doors, John Densmore is hoping it will also help fix the fractured state the iconic group's alumni are currently in.
In "The Doors: Unhinged (Jim Morrison's Legacy Goes on Trial)" -- due out April 17 online with a print-on-demand version available -- drummer Densmore writes about the lawsuit he and the late Morrison's family filed against keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger when the two launched their Doors of the 21st Century in 2002, claiming use of the group's name and logo violated established band agreements. Densmore and his allies won a permanent injunction in 2005, and Manzarek and Krieger continued as D21C and Riders on the Storm before settling into the current Manzarek-Krieger moniker. The book also discusses Densmore's steadfast resistance to using the Doors' music in ads, including a $15 million offer from Cadillac to license "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" for the same campaign that used Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," as well as Manzarek and Krieger's $40 million countersuit.
All of this has, of course, caused some splintering between the individual Doors, but Densmore tells Billboard he wrote "The Doors: Unhinged" to help repair some of the wounds.
"My relationship with Ray and Robbie has been rather strained, of course," acknowledges Densmore, whose previous Doors book, "Riders on the Storm," was published in 1990. "But at the end (of the book) I write about how I can't not love them for what we created together. It's bigger than all of us, so hopefully (the book) is a bit of an olive branch and we can head towards healing. They weren't there (in court). They were on tour. When we started out, my litigator said, 'This'll be a week' or whatever; it was three months, and they were there once or twice and I was there every day and a lot went on, and (the book) might illuminate them about what folks were saying on their behalf, ridiculous things, and I don't know whether they were aware of that.
"So I'm sending them the book and hoping to start a dialogue."
Densmore -- who was supported during the trial by Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, short-term Doors of the 21st Century drummer and Police alumnus Stewart Copeland and others -- says that a silver lining during the ordeal was a chance to get to know the Morrison family and particularly the singer's father, retired U.S. Navy Admiral Steve Morrison.
"That was such a gift," Densmore says. "First of all, (Jim Morrison) said they were dead in his (press) bio -- the ultimate cutting of the 60s umbilical cord with the parents, right? But they stepped up to the plate with me, which really pleased me because they were rather estranged from their son... and here comes the admiral and he's going to support his son's legacy, and it was really sweet. We were standing together and it was touching, and I was thrilled to hear his testimony that he really got that we were four equal parts. Jim was the one who said we should all have an equal say and an equal split, and Steve talked about that and how special that was and how, 'Well, wait a minute, two of them are going to call themselves the Doors? No, that's not right,' and I was very pleased about that."
Despite the bad blood, Densmore -- who did join his bandmates for the "Breakin' a Sweat" collaboration with Skrillex -- says he won't rule out playing with Manzarek and Krieger again in some form.
"They've been asking me for years, 'Please come out and play...,' " he says. "It can't be the Doors; that's like the Police without Sting, the Stones without Mick, so come on! I wouldn't go on tour with them and a Jimitator, but if there was some benefit, some Live Aid or whatever, like Pink Floyd came together a few years ago (for Live 8) or something like that and we got some great singer like Eddie Vedder or whoever, that would be kind of cool. So I'm open to it."
Densmore launches an author tour of mostly independent music stores for "The Doors: Unhinged" with an April 20 Record Store Day appearance at Bull Moose in Portland, Maine. Other dates on the tour include:
21 -- TBA, Boston, Mass.
22 -- Record Archive, Rochester, N.Y.
23 -- Vintage Vinyl, Fords, N.J.
2 -- The Sound Garden, Baltimore, Md.
6 -- Criminal Records, Atlanta, Ga.
7 -- Waterloo Records, Austin, Tx.
15 -- Independent, Denver, Colo.
16 -- Dimple Records, Sacramento, Calif.
17 -- Rasputin, San Francisco, Calif.
18 --Silver Platters and Elliot Bay Books (tentative), Seattle, Wash.
19 -- Music Millennium, Portland, Ore.
25 -- Fingerprints, Longbeach, Calif.