John Densmore acknowledges that over the years, the Doors have “cherry-picked” Feast of Friends, the unfinished documentary the group commissioned in 1968, “for lots of different film projects.” But on Nov. 11, the much-bootlegged film comes out as it was intended, with a few bonus pieces to, according to Densmore, “make it really good so [fans] will get a real deal and then some.”
Feast of Friends was funded by the band and directed primarily by Paul Ferrara, who went to film school with frontman Jim Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek and, Densmore says, “was hanging around anyway. We figured he might as well have a camera in his hands.” The film primarily captures the Doors on the road during the summer of 1968, both on stage and especially off stage and behind the scenes. “You can see how friendly it was, and there was, and no ego. It was four equal guys,” Densmore notes. The drummer adds he’s particularly fond of a scene where the group stages an impromptu performance in a backstage dressing room. “There was a piano and Ray starts playing and then Jim starts fooling around. It’s a nice moment; the (contract) rider didn’t have dancing girls or anything. We just had a cheese platter and there happened to be a piano, so you can see us just goofing around. We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously.”
The same can ultimately said for Feast of Friends, which was put on ice after the budget began running over and the band realized “oh God, we need a little more footage. Should we do this?’ And then we went on to something else.” Feast of Friends was shown at a few film festivals during 1968, and has been restored from the original negative for the DVD and Blu-ray release. “We tied it together as much as we could,” Densmore says, “and are putting it out as pure as possible, but with really good visual and sound quality.” The release is bolstered by “Feast of Friends, Encore,” taken from recording sessions, as well as “The End,” an August 1967 feature for “The O’Keefe Centre Presents: The Rock Scene — Like It Is,” and the 1968 BBC documentary The Doors Are Open, which Densmore says is “some of the best footage of us playing live, ever.”
The Doors’ vaults, of course, have been prodigious over the years, but Densmore says he’s not sure how much more remains beyond Feast of Friends. “So many times I’ve said to Bruce Botnick, our longtime engineer, ‘Is it the bottom of the barrel yet? Are we scraping bottom? Are we done? And he usually says we’re done and then there’s other little snippets that arrive. I think filmicly there’s no more, so I’ll answer this the way the late, great Ray Manzarek would talk; ‘We do releases not with the timing of what will sell when but with an alignment of the stars. It’s a cosmic experience…’ ”
These days Densmore is hoping to create some new musical experiences with his fellow surviving bandmate, Robby Krieger. Once estranged, the two have reconciled since Manzarek’s passing in May of 2013 — “Death trumps everything,” Densmore says — and the two played together at the premiere of “Mr. Mojo Rising” earlier this year. “And it was heaven,” Densmore recalls. “Our communication is music. I was real mad at Robby, but after four bars of ‘Love Me Two Times,’ I’m in love with him again.” He says the two “certainly want to” make more music together and are sworn to put together some sort of tribute to Manzarek.
“We’re just struggling with getting famous musicians together for one night in one city,” Densmore explains. “It’s very complicated and people are booked way ahead, but we will do that, either at the Whiskey (in Los Angeles) or Madison Square Garden. We’re working on it.”