The Doors: Un­hinged – Jim Mor­ri­son’s Legacy Goes On Trial

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John Dens­more, erst­while drum­mer for The Doors, and man who never wanted any part of a late-ca­reer re­union as The 21st Century Doors or any other Doors-re­lated name with a band sans Jim – is, it has to be said, right here at the start, an ap­palling writer. And I say that be­cause he spends a good por­tion of this book telling the reader that he has a gift for writ­ing, that he’s so for­tu­nate to have dis­cov­ered writ­ing. Etc. His good for­tune is of course bad luck for most read­ers – he’s heavy-handed us­ing clunky phrases and his dream-diary dis­course (“As the day starts I cast my mind back...”) is tired. And tir­ing.

It’s al­most un­for­give­able the lack of aware­ness he shows and of­ten down­right em­bar­rass­ing.

What saves it – al­most – is that this earnest ac­count is a re-script­ing of the court­room drama that sur­faced when Dens­more and the Mor­ri­son Es­tate went head to head with Rob­bie Krieger and Ray Man­zarek. They in turn coun­ter­sued Dens­more. And that makes for some in­ter­est­ing read­ing. Al­most.

The drum­mer labours over what he states – and re­states – was Jim Mor­ri­son’s wish, that the band be equal, they all share in pub­lish­ing, in song­writ­ing credit, and they pro­tect the in­ter­ests of the band’s mu­sic with­out sell­ing out to the evil of ad­ver­tis­ing.

So Dens­more has two is­sues with Ray and Rob­bie – and it’s mostly with Ray. It’s per­haps un­for­tu­nate that Man­zarek is painted as the true evil here, well, un­for­tu­nate tim­ing any­way given his re­cent pass­ing so soon af­ter this book was re­leased. But the is­sues are with the band mem­bers try­ing to per­form their trib­ute act as The Doors, and then as The Doors of The 21st Century. And then there’s the is­sue of lost rev­enue from ad­ver­tis­ing – the power of veto to sug­gest that a cre­ative use for the band’s mu­sic was not okay. There comes the coun­ter­sue claims from Man­zarek sug­gest­ing a lost rev­enue of some $40m for brand tar­nish­ing and missed money-mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Cue pages and pages of Dens­more’s cod-hip­pie phi­los­o­phy and near new-age ide­al­ism be­ing bat­tered by the big evil RayRay

Cue pages and pages of soft-fo­cus six­ties mem­o­ries in and around this – of con­stant name-drop­ping of “like” minded souls, Tom Waits and Dy­lan and Tom Petty and so on…

Some­where in here is an al­most-fas­ci­nat­ing book about the power-strug­gles post-band; about the evils of ad­ver­tis­ing in terms of how the filthy lu­cre and the con­stant lure of it will al­ways trou­ble any hope­ful op­ti­mism around dated clean-green prin­ci­ples that aren’t ever quite sound in the real (cur­rent) world; about how for some people too much is never enough.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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