John Densmore

johndensmoreI’m going to let you mentally chew on that name for a bit…

Cue up the Jeopardy music …

do dee do do, do dee do …

wump wump…

Give up? John was the drummer in the Doors. He was in Austin last week to promote his latest book, The Doors Unhinged. What it is exactly about, I am not sure so I won’t guess but I will read it. We were very fortunate too. John is only visiting 16 locations.

Now those who’ve known me since Marquette University through the Nineties are thinking, “But Steve, you despise Classic Rock!” Well…I’ve had a reconciliation with most of it. Turning off the radio in my car helped immensely. The problem wasn’t always the songs, it was having to hear the same few ad nauseum. Besides, John is a pretty upright guy as I’ll explain in the next couple sentences. The Doors’ legacy much like the Beatles stuff requires a unanimous vote of ex-members on what will be licensed or marketed. John feels he has enough money, hence he often vetoes attempts to have Doors’ hits’ rights whored out to commercials. I can imagine the Kingsford Charcoal people have wanted to use “Light My Fire” for decades and champagne maker Cristal could find a way to integrate “Crystal Ship” with terrible Hip Hop. There was also a reunion tour with Ian Astbury as the singer he eight-sixed. John is right about this one, Jim Morrison is pretty dead, calling themselves the Doors is misleading.

In short, John is a person who uses his Rock n’ Roll powers for good like Jack White and Dave Grohl; the latter two via the promotion of other bands/acts.

I was rather excited to meet him because he represents a key touchstone in Western Music and Pop Culture. Lately I’ve been piecing together little history dinner/discussions for my friend John. A while back, we covered the British Invasion…OK, it was more along the lines of lectured and he asked questions. I cribbed the seeds from an excellent article from the Onion‘s AV Club, then expanded it. John oddly was kept away from most traditional Classic Rock until a later point in his life. He is well-versed in Jazz, Blues and Motown thanks to his father.

My point though? The Doors were a key American band that helped pluck the Rock n’ Roll crown away from the British as the Sixties were ending. Afterwards, it has been shared with neither country having exclusivity to the title. By no means were the Doors solely responsible. This was achieved with other American acts:

  • The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds primarily)
  • The Rascals
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • The Byrds (Sweetheart of the Rodeo is the foundation to what the Eagles perfected for better or worse)

The Doors stand out above most acts I listed for numerous reasons but if I were forced to pick the strongest, I would say it was their more unique sound amongst the Beatles/Stones imitators. This explains their longevity, deeper hit list (much is debatable) and lucrative (by today’s standards) back catalog sales. More people under 30 know songs by the Doors while The Rascals would get a puzzled lookI do have two minor, personal connections to the Doors through their album Waiting for the Sun, this has the hit “Hello, I Love You.” First, two of my favorite Eighties acts have covered the song: Adam Ant and Eurythmics. The former’s version is pretty close to the original, Adam just added horns to it; the latter’s pace is a tad jarring for most listeners. Second, when I was a teenager and started to co-opt my parents’ record collection for stuff to listen to, I couldn’t believe my mother owned Waiting. Her Rock tastes were more pedestrian since she stopped collecting the Beatles after Sgt. Pepper and I think every aspect of the Sixties® passed her by. The day I recognized the album, I recall Mom got rather defensive and said someone gave it to her as a gift. Maybe she feared I thought she tried smoking weed.

On to my interaction with John. It was cordial and memorable. Obviously I wore my Doors Chucks to show him. I wanted to make sure the shoes received his blessing. John’s response (paraphrasing), “I’m good with those. They didn’t involve licensing a song, it’s not deodorant.” What a relief. I was willing to honor his wishes if he wanted them destroyed.

Now his book is in my huge reading queue. I may score an E version because I had a minor incident damaging the Simon Pegg bio; it’s 99% alright, I managed to remove the ruined, thankfully, unimportant page. I’m sure there will be a review in the next couple years at the pace I read.

I’ll close with a great Kids in the Hall bit someone reminded me about.

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