At the recent Classic Rock Honours in Los Angeles, Doors drummer John Densmore was presented with the Inspiration Award by Henry Rollins. After the ceremony, he stood outside the Avalon mere feet from ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne. It was a very fitting setting for Densmore, who is looking to share his most memorable meetings with musicians in a new book.
“I’m playing around with Meetings With Remarkable Musicians. Each chapter is someone I met — George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Patti Smith. I’m playing around with that and writing is getting me off,” Densmore told Billboard of the book he is just beginning to work on and hopes to have out within a “year or two.”
Densmore, who’s previously authored Riders on the Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison And The Doors and The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes On Trial, was inspired by Meetings With Remarkable Men, by Greek-Armenian mystic George Ivanovich Gurdijeff. The 1963 book spawned a 1979 movie of the same name.
While Densmore has been around so many luminaries of rock — and fans have to be excited about the prospect of hearing of his encounters with rock icons like Harrison and Smith — this collection will celebrate eclecticism. “One chapter is on Elvin Jones, [John] Coltrane‘s drummer, he was my mentor. I was terrified to meet him, then I finally wrote my first autobiography and gave it to him. I said to him, ‘You gave me my hands,’ in this book.”
Recalling some of his other favorite meetings with musicians he talks of being on stage with Shankar. “Ravi Shankar was an incredible teacher. I sat on stage with Robby Krieger and studied at his school of Indian music here in L.A., so at Royce Hall we were sitting next to him watching his hands bleed while he got possessed,” Densmore says. “This is the highest level you can get.”
Another standout musician for him is Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic. “We’re buds, so I’m watching Dudamel conduct Mahler. I go backstage and he says, ‘Juan, Mahler is heavy metal,'” Densmore recalls. “That particular symphony kind of had a line like a lead guitar line from heavy metal, I’m not kidding. This guy is so hip he knows about jazz and salsa, all this stuff, rather than those rigid classical folks who only know their world. That’s why he’s a f—ing genius.”
Densmore was on hand at Avalon representing the Doors to collect the Inspiration honor. With so many artists over the years citing the Doors as an influence, we asked Densmore for one story that stood out to him.
“I love that line that Bono was mouthing off wonderfully about whatever cause he was into and he could tell someone was getting a little ruffled,” Densmore recalled. “He said, ‘Well, Jim Morrison said we’re supposed to be erotic politicians.'”
Fittingly for “erotic politicians,” the ceremony took place on Election Day. Staying true to his ’60s roots, Densmore had two issues on his mind on this night. “There’s a really good criminal justice [bill] that hopefully will help minorities not get so beat up,” he said. “Somebody said it’s great pot is legal now, but it’s interesting how people of color go to prison, thousands, and now some white guys figured out they can make money off it and now it’s gonna be legal. I’m one of those white guys who’s for it to be legal and get the freaking crime out of it.”