When Doors drummer John Densmore gets offers to sell the legendary band’s music for commercial purposes, he asks himself one simple question: What would Jim Morrison do?
The lead singer, who died in 1971, was adamant that the band’s music never be used for unseemly reasons.
“I understand the difficult musical situation,” Densmore said in a recent telephone interview. “I get that. It’s hard out there. … But money is like fertilizer. When hoarded, it stinks.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will be at the Taylorsville Graywhale store on Saturday signing copies of his new book, The Doors: Unhinged. The book is a philosophical treatise on money and integrity, as well as a fascinating behind-the-scenes narrative of his often-acrimonious legal battles with the band’s two other members, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek, who died on May 20.
The trio fought over the use of The Doors’ name for a tour that included Krieger and Manzarek; they also battled when Densmore vetoed a reported $15 million offer by Cadillac to use “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” in a car commercial.
Cadillac ended up using Led Zeppelin for its “Break Through” marketing campaign.
“All I have to go on was how [Morrison] was when he was alive,” Densmore said. “He was hoping that his lyrics said something about the human condition, not ‘Break On Through’ [being the name] of a new deodorant.”
It’s not the first time a carmaker has wanted to use The Doors’ music for commercial purposes. In 1968, Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek wanted to deal with Buick for the rights to “Light My Fire.” But Morrison threatened to sue General Motors and destroy a Buick with a sledgehammer if they went through with the deal. The song, of course, was never used.
After that, the band agreed to split everything equally and gave each member veto power — if only three of the members agreed on something, they would not go through with it.
“Jim went ballistic about Buick,” Densmore said, adding that Krieger was actually the primary writer of “Light My Fire.”
“Jim cared about the catalog.”
For Densmore, writing the book was “cathartic.” He said he has no animosity toward Manzarek and Krieger. In fact, after Manzarek was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer, Densmore sent him and Krieger the final chapter of The Doors: Unhinged, an acknowledgment of how much he appreciated them.
Before Manzarek passed, the two talked by telephone. It was a “good conversation. … Fortunately, we had closure.”
Densmore acknowledged that all this talk about “selling out” seems ironic, seeing as how he is traveling the country trying to sell a book about The Doors. But, he pointed out, his limited book-promotion tour stops only at independent record stores.
Of course, Graywhale was happy to host Densmore.
Dustin Hansen, general manager of Graywhale Entertainment, said Densmore has been a big supporter of national Record Store Day, when independent record stores are given the opportunity to sell special releases.
“It blew my mind,” Densmore said of learning about Record Store Day. “Borders came to town and kicked out the independent stores. And then they got their karma.”
The Doors: Unhinged
Doors drummer John Densmore will sign copies of his new book.
Where • Graywhale, 1775 W. 4700 South, Taylorsville
When • Saturday, July 27, at 2 p.m.
Cost • Fans must purchase a book to attend the signing. Books are $24.99 for a hard cover, $14.99 paperback.
Info • Densmore will sign books and one other Doors-related item.