The Doors: Unhinged, by John Densmore



(April 2013)
by John Densmore


There are some of us out there who still have principles and cannot be bought. John is one of them. He is not for sale and that is his gift to us. 
–Tom Waits
, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician

Those of us who were on the bus in the sixties and took that magical and dangerous trip, came out of that experience with a code that would guide us for the rest of our lives. The lesson was to live your life as if there were something bigger than your own mortality at stake. . . . Because the music that The Doors created is so important to so many people, its worth is much greater than the sum of its parts; and certainly greater than their commercial success. Because John Densmore believes this, we are all in his debt. Not only for renewing our belief in the transcendent magic of The Doors, but for staying true to the best ideals of our generation. Jim Ladd, Legendary DJ and author

In the late 1960s, America was in political and cultural revolt. The Doors weren’t just a soundtrack to that revolution. Their music gave it a voice. They lived by its ideals. And in a garage in Venice, CA, the four members of the band agreed to a business relationship that was also revolutionary; each member of the band would share equal songwriting credit and equal veto power. All for one, one for all. And for almost forty years, even after the death of lead singer Jim Morrison, that progressive 60s ethos guided the former band mates in all their decisions. Until one day the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll came up against its biggest nemesis—money—and the legendarily equal relationship between the remaining members of the Doors began to splinter.

Drummer John Densmore’s THE DOORS: UNHINGED (available through, ebooks through and Baker & Taylor, April 17, 2013) is the true story of the court case that put Jim Morrison’s legacy on trial and divided the former band mates in half, with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger on one side, and John Densmore and the estate of Jim Morrison on the other. In 1968, Morrison had castigated Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore for agreeing to let Buick use “Light My Fire” in a TV commercial when he had been out of town. The group had agreed that the use of the Doors’ music in commercials would undermine the meaning of the music, that using Morrison’s lyrics to sell products would be making a deal with the devil. “I know you, Ray,” Morrison had said. “You’re only in it for the money.” After Morrison threatened to smash a Buick onstage in protest, Densmore, Manzarek, and Krieger were ashamed by their own greed, and the band decided to ditch the Buick deal. But now thirty years later, the money was bigger, and Morrison was dead. When Cadillac approached the band with a $15 million dollar contract—the biggest deal in advertising history—Densmore was the lone holdout. Then Manzarek and Krieger decided to form a version of the Doors with Police drummer Stewart Copeland and the Cult singer Ian Astbury and market it with Morrison’s image and the name The Doors (big print) of the 21st Century (tiny print), Densmore took legal action. He next found himself in court, allied with the Morrison estate, facing a countersuit from his “musical family” and one of his best friends for over thirty years.

For three months in 2004, Densmore appeared onstage in another kind of show, this time in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. While Manzarek and Krieger were touring the globe under the misleading name The Doors of the 21st Century, Densmore got up at dawn each morning and drove to court where he, his self-professed “country lawyer” Jerry Mandel, and the members of the Morrison estate—Jim’s mother, father, and mother-in-law—stood together against the bigshot celebrity lawyers from Lavely & Singer hired by Manzarek and Krieger. Although Morrison’s 86-year-old father, a former US Navy admiral, had at the time symbolized everything the counterculture movement was rebelling against, Densmore was surprised and touched to witness Morrison’s father take the stand to defend his son’s legacy. But as the accusations flew and relationships unraveled, Densmore started to wonder if he’d lose it all in the fight for artistic integrity.

With cover quotes, endorsements and/or support from Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder, Jim Ladd, Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Jeff Bridges, Michael Blake, Tom Robbins, Michael Connelly, Anthony DeCurtis, Nigel Williamson, Pearl “Penny” Courson, and the Jim Morrison estate, in THE DOORS: UNHINGED, Densmore describes:
● How Jim Morrison threatened to smash a car onstage if Buick used a Doors song in a commercial;
● Being sued by his former band mates for $40 million, more than they collectively had ever made;
● The opposing lawyer’s bizarre attempts to label him a communist, anarchist & al-Qaeda supporter;
● How no one expected Stewart Copeland to appear in court & how his testimony changed the trial;
● Getting tossed in the paddywagon with Bonnie Raitt after a protest to protect old-growth trees;
● How even years after the Doors’ success, his excitement when he got to carry his hero Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones’ cymbals to his car;
● How Morrison’s father, a career Navy man, was thwarted in his career ambitions by his son’s rock star antics, but how he sided with his late son in court.

What is the true price of upholding artistic integrity? Is it $15 million for a Cadillac commercial? For Densmore it was a total of five and a half years of litigation, including three months of trial, a month of waiting for the jury’s verdict, six months till the judge’s final ruling, and half a year before the Supreme Court of California finally rejected Manzarek and Krieger’s appeal. It was the realization that his house and his savings were on the line. It was the loss of his relationship with his former band mates and friends. THE DOORS: UNHINGED is about the human and artistic cost of what happens when rock ‘n’ roll goes on trial. The book will be available April 17th on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats, in a hardcover version through Baker & Taylor, as an ebook via (through local, independent American Booksellers Association bookstores partnering with and in both paperback and hardcover formats at select independent bookstores. With previously unreleased photos of Jim Morrison, the band, the Morrison family, and the author himself, John Densmore’s second book is a touching, humorous, and often beautiful account of one unlikely hero’s fight to stand up for the spirit of music in the face of greed.

Bio for John Densmore
An original and founding member of the musical group The Doors, John Densmore co-wrote and produced numerous gold and platinum albums and toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. His autobiography, RIDERS ON THE STORM, was on the New York Times bestseller list. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He has written numerous articles for Rolling Stone, London’s The Guardian, the Nation, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post and the Utne Reader.

In film production, he co-produced “Road to Return,” narrated by Tim Robbins. It won several prestigious national awards and was screened for Congress, resulting in the writing of a bill. He also Executive Produced “Juvies,” narrated by Mark Wahlberg, which aired on HBO. It won numerous awards (2004 IDA for excellence, U.S. International Film Fest – creative excellence).

Learn more about John Densmore at He is also online at and