Let’s face it: A reunion of the Doors as we’d like to see it won’t be happening anytime soon. Due to the tragic death of lead shaman Jim Morrison in 1971, it would take some pretty heavy duty paranormal activity (or maybe holograms) to truly bring the four points of the diamond back together to make music once again. But the 2002 formation of keyboard player Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger with The Cult‘s singer Ian Astbury has struck a sour note with Doors drummer John Densmore, and the both the legal and ethical repercussions are still being felt over a decade later.
The 68-year old stick-man stopped by VH1 Classic On Tap recently to discuss his new tell-all memoir, The Doors: Unhinged. The book details the lawsuit he and Morrison’s family have launched against Manzarek and Krieger, claiming that use of the name “Doors of the 21st Century” and the Doors logo for the Astbury collaboration was a violation of their band agreement. Densmore had reportedly been asked to join his former bandmates on the road, yet he refused, feeling that it was essentially a cash grab that defrauded the public.
But that didn’t mean it wasn’t devastating to drag his musical brothers through a lawsuit. “It was retching,” he told us. “It was like, ‘Am I sabotaging here?’ I was trying to uphold Jim’s integrity and he’s not here and I don’t want to forget him. And I might lose my shirt doing this!” Luckily he kept his clothes, but did face accusations of being a “communist, anarchist a al-Qaeda supporter” in court. Rock ‘n’ roll, baby! Despite the unfortunate mudslinging, in 2005 a judge ruled in Densmore’s favor, and Manzarek and Krieger changed their name first to D21C, then Riders on the Storm, and finally Manzarek-Krieger.
The question many fans have is, “Why now?” Densmore has already participated in several Doors reunions in the past, with a host of lead singers stepping in to fill Jim’s leather pants. In 2000 he and his Doors brethren delivered the album Stoned Immaculate: The Music Of The Doors, featuring vocal help from Steven Tyler, Bo Diddley, Creed‘s Scott Stapp, Stone Temple Pilots‘ Scott Weiland, Ian Astbury, and even the disembodied voice of Morrison himself, among others. There was also the 1999 episode of VH1’s Storytellers featuring many of the same guests. So what made this Doors of the 21st Century tour any different?
“VH1 Storytellers was a great tribute, with five or six singers. So it was a tribute to Jim. But when you go on the road with one of those singers, I’ve got a problem with that.” He feels that, quite simply, The Doors without Jim Morrison at the front of the stage can not, should not, and will not be the Doors. “Stones without Mick? Nah,” he laughs. In the end, he blames it all on our innate “greed gene”.