July 23, 2005

The ugly last gurglings of a band.

There are three surviving members of the Doors: Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore. Manzarek and Krieger want to tour and play, and they asked Densmore to join them, but he can't, because his ears are too damaged. So Densmore sues to prevent Manzarek and Krieger from using the Doors' name, and he wins because the three have a contract providing that they must all agree (along with Jim Morrison's estate) to any use of the name.

Densmore's all "I'm just so happy that the legacy of the true Doors, and Jim Morrison in particular, has been preserved by this decision."

Quite aside from his apparent legal right to prevent Manzarek and Krieger from using the name, don't you think Densmore's being a jerk? Or are you buying this "legacy of the true Doors" business?

28 comments:

katiebakes said...

I think that since Jim Morrison is dead, there isn't anyone out there who would go to a Doors concert thinking they were going to see the real thing.

As a result, no one is going to necessarily leave disappointed, which might be what could tarnish the Doors' "good name". If that's what he is truly trying to preserve, I don't think he has much of a case.

If I were him, I'd just demand a cut of the profits. :)

Ann Althouse said...

There might be more to the story: maybe Densmore sued because they wouldn't give him a cut.

AJ Lynch said...

Here's a vote for a jerk.

Robert said...

The Doors...didn't they used to be a band, or something?

Ron said...

Yeah...weren't they Oliver Stone's personal band?

Mark Daniels said...

Didn't Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore do a TV concert with the lead singer from Creed?

Haven't they toured before?

What's to stop Manzarek and Krieger from touring without using the name, 'The Doors'?

What's to keep the rest of us from not caring?

Ann Althouse said...

I care about the use of contractual disputes and litigation to express personal feelings. And the collision of art and law.

Ann Althouse said...

Their current lead singer is Ian Astbury of the Cult.

Dean said...

Although not a large sample, some of the groups I have heard from the 60's and 70's recently just haven't cut it for me, so I would go with Densmore.

Peter, Paul and Mary sounded atrocious to me at the Democratic convention and the touring "Grass Roots" just sound old.

Maybe they need the money. Maybe they miss touring. Maybe they just want to see if they still have it. Just go under a different name (like Paul McCartney did/does) and everybody will be happy.

Patrick said...

I think Katie Baker makes a good point about the unlikelihood of genuine audience confusion. And I think Ann makes a good point about using the legal system as a means of personal expression.

Nonetheless, these guys are not The Doors and in the name of accuracy I object to their calling themselves that. What they are is former members of The Doors, and if I understand the article correctly, nobody is objecting to their identifying themselves as that. I frankly don't give a rat's tail about Jim Morrison's legacy, but I would object to not-A calling itself A even if Densmore didn't.

miklos rosza said...

ann: if paul mccartney tours with a backup band (sans ringo) and calls himself the beatles would you object to that?

Ann Althouse said...

Miklos: The remnants of the Doors were calling themselves The Doors of the 21st Century, so the equivalent for McCartney would be something like the New Beatles. If he got a band together and wanted to play Beatles songs, I don't think Ringo should object and I don't think the estates of Lennon and Harrison should either. They probably have legal rights to assert, but I think it would be better to work it out amongst themselves, with some money changing hands. That said, McCartney wouldn't do it, because he's better than that. He's an artist who established his own career after the band died. Unlike Manzarek and Krieger, he made something of his post-band artistic life. They are rather lame, but Densmore is lamer. Still, I suspect Desmore just wanted more money and felt ripped off because his hearing loss was preventing him from cashing in and that he only sued because they weren't forking over a big enough share.

bill said...

Aside from the legal issues - and I think Densmore is being a jerk because he wasn't getting a cut - it's an interesting question when a band stops becoming the original band.

Can it be the Doors without Morrison? I don't think McCartney with a backup band would qualify as the Beatles, but what if McCartney, Ringo, and Harrison had reunited after Lennon's death and toured? We took my mother to see Kingston Trio. I think there was only one original member playing. Over the years, the other original members have drifted in and out and by now, many of the replacement players have spent more time in the Trio than they have.

It seems that there's often an overemphasis placed on the singer. He becomes identified as the leader of the band - it's his band and everyone else is just playing backup. Sometimes he's just the guy hired to sing songs. This is mostly why I can’t get worked up over the “Replace the dead guy for INXS” reality show. These other guys who didn’t feel the need to hang themselves still want to play and they need a singer…so why not?

Even though I think Peter Wolf made the band what it was, it was called the “J. Geils Band.” Likewise, it’s Van Halen, not David Lee Roth (or Hagar) and friends.

It would be interesting to do a survey of touring oldies bands from the 50s-70s and see just how many original members are playing. I mean Duke Ellington died in 1974 and his “orchestra” is still touring.

Dirty Harry said...

It's hard to buy the "legacy of the true Doors business" when Densmore says he can't because of his ears.

If it were truly about the band's legacy he'd have declined on that basis not his ears. The true Doors require him and Jim Morrison, not just him.

Great band. Great movie. Glad they won't be touring. Morrison was The Doors.

John R Henry said...

"I mean Duke Ellington died in 1974 and his “orchestra” is still touring."

Glenn Miller died in 1944 and his band is still touring and releaseing CD's.

I generally agree, there is a point at which it is no longer "The Doors". I think that point probably came when Morrison died.

John Henry

boringmadedull said...

Well, I don't think that anyone should be overly worried about the artistic legacy of the Doors. I also don't think that many fans would be confused by having 2 of the old Doors playing and fronted by David Lee Roth.

Densmore a jerk? Probably just wanted too much of the pie. That often leads people to act like jerks.

How bout some alternative names:

Some of the Doors
Not Quite the Doors
1/2 the Doors may be better than None
Don't make your checks payable to the Doors
One Less Door to Answer

David said...

Maybe Densmore is having a bad plaid pants year....sorry

Actually I agree with Katie, Morrison was the Doors. On the other hand, being a part of a previously famous band and being a jerk seem to go hand in hand

David said...

I went to see the Kingston Trio in Woodstock CT and that night there were four because a second original joined them. That was a fun, "laid back" concert. And Peter, et al are lame today.

David said...

Actually Ann, the Beatles do not own the rights to their songs anymore, so if McCartney tours singing Beatle songs I think only the copyright holders would get a cut.

Sorry for the three back to back comments

Ann Althouse said...

David: Performers get their cut of the ticket sales. Paying off the various copyright holders always must be done too, but the gate ought to be far more than that. Lots of people perform songs they don't own the copyright too. Manzarek and Krieger were trying to inflate the ticket prices and draw bigger crowds by trading on the Doors name, but Densmore had a contract dealing with that. They could tour, play Doors songs, but not call themselves the Doors, and then Densmore would get nothing (except to the extent that he might own part of the copyright).

Ann Althouse said...

Boringmadedull: I'd go with 2-Door Sedan.

David said...

I'm sorry I was unclear(and I was). THe point I made with McCartney was that Starr and the two estates would get nothing if he sang their stuff. The Lennon estate has made it perfectly clear there will be no Beatles band on tour.

It would be interesting to know what Densmore demands were. Apparently they must have been high. Just as a theoretical question, if there are two doors, two new Musicians and Densmore what would be a reasonable cut for Densmore. No matter what method I use in my head I always end up with 10% of the musicians cut (maybe 3% or 4% of the gross?).

And yes maybe they wouldn't give him a reasonable cut, but my statement would still apply, only to two other jerks.

Bottom line though, I wouldn't spend a plug nickle on a Doors concert without Jimmy, and he is understandably hard to sign on.

jeff said...

Doors-way
Windows

Chrees said...

"the legacy of the true Doors, and Jim Morrison in particular, has been preserved"

If Densmore showed way too drunk to perform, insulted everybody around him, pissed all over himself, then passed out...then I would say Morrison's legacy had been preserved.

Scipio said...

It's just nice to see Ray Manzarek take it on the chin for all his years of exploiting Jim Morrison's death. And I have to say I don't particularly like the Doors; the best Doors song ever was recorded by Led Zeppelin, after all.

Hazy Dave said...

Regarding the "true Doors", Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore released two albums of new material as "The Doors" in the early 70's following Morrison's death. And the "overdub new music over old recordings of Jim reading poetry" stuff they released subsequently didn't do much to "enhance the legacy of the true Doors" either, IMHO. So, from a purity standpoint, I'd say Densmore has a weak argument. But he may have real "artistic differences" as well as personality clashes with the others, so I don't know if "jerk" is necessarily the best summation of his position. He was a heck of a drummer in his day, though the organ and guitar may have been more significant components of their signature sound. In the end, I'm not in favor of mandatory retirement of old rock bands so long as the remnants aren't pretending to be something they're really not. Densmore more or less idolized Morrison, so maybe he just hates seeing these young wannabe Lizard King vocalists hogging the spotlight in his band...

Kev said...

I think it all depends on the band. Jim Morrison was certainly a strong personality, so it's hard to imagine the "real" Doors without him. However, I saw the Temptations earlier in the year, and I'm not sure that they had an original member left; their website listed around 25 different members over a 40-some-odd-year career. That works for them, but that's mostly because of the lack of a strong single personality. I mean, can anyone name an individual Temptation? (I can only think of two off the top of my head.) It's a totally different thing than the Morrison-less Doors.

And as for the Duke Elliington and Glenn Miller orchestras, the music may have been originally written to feature certain performers in the band, but its timeless quality allows the music to be played authentically even decades later when the original members have passed. There are also Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey orchestras running around (we call them "ghost bands" in the jazz world).

Brand New Day said...

its really sad to see the whole notion of what a real band is go down the drain with money being the primary evil driving individual behaviour.. this is totally against the spirit of the doors when they first decided to get together in venice beach..

maybe its moving on with times.. the remaining members had seen the better part of the last 4 decades of the previous century so its understandable how people change with time..

IMHO.. the whole notion of the money taking over is definitely making someone turn over in his grave far away in pere lachaise..