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Book Review: The Doors Unhinged (Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial) by John Densmore

THE DOORS UNHINGED: JIM MORRISON’S LEGACY GOES ON TRIAL
by John Densmore. Percussive Press, 2013.

-Bob Wilson

The 1960′s were a time that left America as torn asunder as any since the Civil War, whose reverberations still resound like a heavily struck drum. For some who have really sought answers to the questions posed in those times, the most frustrating part of the answers may well be lasting ambiguity. The dividing lines from the era seem to have sought reconciliation in two of the figures featured in the pages of THE DOORS UNHINGED, specifically in “peace frog” John Densmore and Jim Morrison’s father, Vietnam War veteran Admiral George Stephen Morrison. Ideologies once so diametrically opposed joined forces to defend the legacy of a brother, and a son.

Doors drummer John Densmore brought suit with the Lizard King Jim Morrison’s parents, and his late wife Pamela’s mother Penny Courson, against former Doors Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger. The two former members of the Doors sought to tour with ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland, and ex-lead singer of The Cult, Ian Astbury. Hoping to cash in one more time on the Door’s name, a faux-Doors was constructed. Densmore was invited to join in, but had declined. Use of the Doors name to advertise the tour resulted in Densmore’s initiation of the lawsuit. In response, Manzarek and Krieger sued Densmore for 40 million dollars, for blocking them from using the Doors name in several ad campaigns over the years.

The Doors toured and recorded three albums after the death of Jim Morrison on July 3rd, 1971. The remaining members disbanded calling it the end despite having a fortune still to be made from completing their contract with Elektra records. It was obvious that the spark and driving creative force behind the music was buried with Jim Morrison in Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Despite the best efforts of the other voices, the band recognized that the music was over.

Densmore had requested that Manzarek and Krieger use a new logo as THE DOORS OF THE 21st CENTURY, derived from the 1954 work of author Aldous Huxley. Advertisements for the new tour gave the impression that these new Doors were once again playing with Densmore on board. A huge visage of Jim Morrison also adorned the stage, and hung over the crowd the way infighting now hung over the remaining band members. Densmore sought to use a “veto” power available to any Doors member since they first played together as a garage band in California to halt proceedings. His former band mates sought one more tour where they would be traveling first class, proudly wearing their original colors again.

Morrison had become so irate at Doors music urging Buick to “light my fire”, that he threatened to smash a car onstage with a sledgehammer, and sue his mates for selling Krieger’s song to the company for use. Densmore’s loyalty to Morrison’s artistic purity afterwards led to the Doors forfeiting many millions of dollars over the years from potential ads. It would now prevent the Doors from playing again with their original name, and greatly lessen the sales power for a new tour.

In the late sixties, incidents in Hartford and Miami resulted in legal ugliness which helped to form the dark side to the legacy of the Doors, and were part of the environment that led to their implosion. The overall excess and chaos enveloping Morrison like a dark cloud led him to approach Manzarek, and state he was having a nervous breakdown leading him to want to end the band. Not long after, Morrison would lay dead in a bathtub in Paris, and the artistic force behind the group was gone.

The Doors myth stood for peace, unity, and decency. The reality of the lives of the band members was often a stark polar opposite to those ideals. The remaining Doors being involved in a personal legal tussle finding them at one another’s throats so many years after their dissolution is both somehow fitting to their existence, yet very sad. The Admiral and the drummer joining together gives the fan and reader something to hold onto, and a small token of healing from a confusing and painful era. In a perfect world, Morrison would have returned alive with tales remembering when he was in Africa, and the band would have reunited, reclaiming their namesake. People are strange, however, but we do have an interesting tome, and a wonderful soundtrack to listen to as we read.

To purchase The Doors Unhinged by John Densmore, click here.