Book Reviews

Published on April 26th, 2015 | by Nigel Cartner


The Doors: Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes On Trial by John Densmore

The Doors: Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes On Trial is a book written in 2013 by Doors drummer, John Densmore, documenting the 2004 legal battle between himself and the other surviving Doors members at the time, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger.

On face value the book may sound a little tedious when you’re reading about one of the most iconic rock n roll bands being thrust into the unfamiliar territory of a court room over the use of The Doors’ name, logo and commercial interests. In actual fact it has quite the opposite effect, going above and beyond the court room to bring into question so much more around greed, corporate thinking, politics, integrity, and parts of history and culture that we can learn from and use in today’s society.

The preserving of Jim Morrison’s legacy and philosophy is central to the story. Doors fans will know only too well his opinions on the Buick commercial incident back in the 1960s, where he refused to sell the rights of ‘Light My Fire’, regardless of the amount of money offered. It’s that incident which left such an impression on Densmore thirty five years later that led to this situation.

The argument began to unfold when Densmore rightfully complained about Manzarek and Krieger using The Doors name and logo for forthcoming tours, which didn’t include two original members of the band. Absurdly, this then led to a counter sue over the use of The Doors music for commercial exploitation, which Densmore continually vetoed against Manzarek’s wishes to preserve the importance of their music, exactly how Morrison had reacted against Buick decades earlier. A $15million declined offer from Cadillac was pivotal in leading to the attempted counter sue.

The veto arrangement is a key component to the argument, which Manzarek, Krieger and their lawyers continuously try to demean. It was Morrison’s suggestion that they all have an equal 25% sharing, as well as the notion that decisions have to be unanimous. If one doesn’t agree, they all don’t agree. This contract held them in good stead for decades, making them millionaires in the process, so why it was brought into contention years later is beyond comprehension. To simplify the case, one of the main reasons Densmore found himself embroiled in this battle is because he refused to accept $15 million from Cadillac. Amazing when you think about it that way!

The story continues to unravel and there are some comical moments too, not least when Manzarek and Krieger’s lawyer states, “Do you think Stevie Nicks thinks of his music as a jingle …..” which causes much amusement in the courtroom. His tales of attending a peaceful protest with Bonnie Raitt which led to them being arrested is also a great anecdote, especially as it happened later in life, not as fresh faced revolutionaries in the 1960s.

johndensmoreWith Morrison having passed in 1971, his and Pamela Courson’s (Morrison’s girlfriend) parents are the benefactors of the other 25% of the pie, and it was a heartfelt moment to read about his Father, Admiral Steve Morrison, giving evidence to support Densmore’s cause. It was no secret of the difficulties Jim had with his parents, but reading about how his Father stuck up for the music his son created, which he may not have found any connection with, was quite moving. In some ways it felt that a peace had finally been made on his Father’s part, which I’m sure deep down is what Morrison would’ve wanted throughout his life.

Whilst Morrison’s legacy remains intact, Manzarek’s and Krieger’s could be called into question. Densmore on the otherhand has been elevated to hero status in my opinion. A man of such principles who manages to shame today’s consumer driven society, protecting what he believes to be important, and not for any financial gain. Some of the ideals based around other cultures and teachings that he suggests and enlightens us with could be found carved in stone such is the poignancy and strength of its meanings in how the human race should really be functioning. It really opens up the mind in much the same way his music once did…. and still does!

The Doors: Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes On Trial is an addictive book that offers a great insight into what happened during the court case, as well as a look into the mind of John Densmore, who states that he wrote the book to clear his name after he felt he had been unfairly portrayed in a negative way by his former bandmates.

It is highly recommended for any music fan, and for anyone who wants evidence that not everyone has a price. John Densmore certainly doesn’t and that is an inspiration in itself in a world where it’s hard to hold onto that sort of integrity against money! Huge compliments to him for not adhering to the demands of corporate moguls. Some things go way beyond money, and The Doors’ music along with Jim Morrison’s philosophies certainly go way beyond something so shallow.

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About the Author

Nigel is a huge fan of music from the 60s and 70s with an emphasis on rock, psych, blues and indie. This spreads to music of the same genre into the modern era. Being a Manchester lad he also has an affiliation with local music past and present. He has also recently released his debut novel, 'Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas' which is available on amazon or

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