The Los Angeles Rock bands, Love, and the Doors, were poetry recitals. I came so close to closing my eyes next to Rena, and together we have visions of ‘Love Dance’ that we would choreograph together. I could illustrate a storyboard.
Posted 07 August 2006 – 08:52 AM
1965, the Strip and Arthur Lee
Love’s singer was a man in style and substance ahead of his time, a rock hall of famer recalls.
By John Densmore, Special to The Times
August 7, 2006
It was 1965 when I rushed down to the Whisky a Go-Go to stand out front and listen to a group called Love. My band, the Doors, was playing in a dumpy club up the street, and we were on a break. I craned my neck past Mario, the doorman, to get a glimpse of a band that was so far ahead of its time, the public still hasn’t caught up.
The first time I saw Love, I was shocked. They were bizarre. Arthur Lee, the African American lead singer, wore rose-tinted granny glasses, and they had a guitar player whose pants were so tight, it looked like he had a sock stuffed inside his crotch. It was a racially mixed group who seemed to be friends. After experiencing Love, I knew I had a ways to go before being hip. Wearing leather capes and pin-striped pants, suede moccasins, paisley shirts and jackets with fringe everywhere, I wondered if they went out on the street like that. Not that they were fashion without substance; as Lee told us all: “And the things that I must do consist of more than style.”
This was a revolutionary band, way before Jimi Hendrix. No black man had crossed over from “soul music” into rock before Arthur. I desperately wanted to be in this band. Arthur clearly had tons of talent and charisma, a quality that our singer, Jim Morrison, hadn’t developed yet.
When we finally became the house band at the Whisky, Arthur graciously suggested to Jac Holzman, the president of Love’s record company, that Jac check out the Doors. Due to Arthur’s jump-starting, we got a record deal.
Jim and I would drive down from Laurel Canyon to the Chinese restaurant next to Greenblatt’s Deli to get egg fried rice for breakfast. On one of those excursions “My Little Red Book” came on the radio, Love’s cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song. “If we could make a record as good as that,” Jim said, “I’d be happy.”
Love went on to make several albums for Elektra Records, one of which, “Forever Changes,” is a masterpiece (and, it should be noted, was produced and engineered by the vital Bruce Botnick). This album defined the ’60s and is the “Sgt. Pepper’s” of the West Coast, the “Pet Sounds” of psychedelia. One title from that album, “Maybe the People Would Be the Times, or Between Clark and Hilldale,” reflects the street life on the Strip, the Whisky being located on Sunset Boulevard “between Clark and Hilldale.”
John Paul Densmore (born December 1, 1944) is an American musician and songwriter. He is best known as the drummer of the rock group The Doorsn
Early life and The Doors
Born in Los Angeles on December 1, 1944, Densmore grew up playing piano and later took up drums/percussion for the marching band at his school. Densmore attended Santa Monica City College and California State University, Northridge; at the latter he studied ethnic music under jazz cellist Fred Katz.
He joined The Doors in 1965 and remained a member until the band’s dissolution in 1973. Densmore met keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger at a Transcendental Meditation lecture. Densmore says, “There wouldn’t be any Doors without Maharishi.” According to Densmore’s own book, he quit the band on one occasion in reaction to Jim Morrison’s increasingly self-destructive behavior, although he returned the next day. He repeatedly suggested that the band stop touring, but Krieger and Manzarek were resistant to this notion. After the Doors’ final, disastrous performance with Morrison in New Orleans on December 12, 1970, the band agreed to discontinue performing live. The New Orleans debacle would be the band’s last public performance as a quartet.
Densmore allowed “Riders on the Storm” to be used to sell Pirelli Tires, in England only. Densmore later stated that he “heard Jim’s voice” in his ears and ended up donating the money earned to charity. In 2002, Densmore vetoed an offer by Cadillac for $15 million for “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” because of his strong views to conserve the environment.
Densmore formed a band with fellow ex-Doors Robby Krieger in 1973 called Butts Band. The band released two albums with two different lineups but disbanded in 1975. Densmore left rock and roll in the 1980s, moving to the world of dance as he performed with Bess Snyder and Co., touring the United States for two years.
In 1984, at La Mama Theatre in New York, he made his stage acting debut in Skins, a one-act play he had written. In 1985, he won the LA Weekly Theater Award for music with Methusalem, directed by Tim Robbins. The play Rounds, which he co-produced, won the NAACP award for theatre in 1987. In 1988, he played a feature role in Band Dreams and Bebop at the Gene Dynarski Theatre. He developed and performed a one-man piece from the short story, The King of Jazz, at the Wallenboyd Theatre in 1989. With Adam Ant, he co-produced Be Bop A Lula at Theatre Theatre in 1992. He has acted in numerous TV shows, most memorably as himself in the show Square Pegs, working as a drummer for Johnny Slash’s band Open 24 Hours. His film credits include: Get Crazy with Malcolm McDowell, Dudes directed by Penelope Spheeris, and The Doors directed by Oliver Stone.
Densmore wrote his best-selling autobiography, Riders On The Storm (1990), about his life and the time he spent with Morrison and The Doors. In the first chapter Densmore describes the solemn day on which he and the band finally visited Morrison’s grave around three years after he had died. As the drummer and an influential member of The Doors, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He worked as a technical adviser on the 1991 film The Doors, and was very impressed with Val Kilmer’s performance as Morrison and overall was quite happy with the film.
In 2006, his band, Tribaljazz, released their first album of original work.
Densmore appears alongside Krieger and Manzarek in 2012’s RE:GENERATION, a documentary directed by Amir Bar-Lev. It features Densmore collaborating on a new song with Skrillex.
In 2013 Densmore released “The Doors Unhinged”, a book covering his legal battle with Krieger and Manzarek over the use of the name The Doors for a tour they were doing, and Densmore’s veto over a 2003 offer by Cadillac to buy the rights to The Doors music.