Today on our Off the Road series, HPR All Things Considered Host Dave Lawrence welcomes one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Doors, and drummer John Densmore. Subscribe to Off the Road on Apple and Spotify podcasts.
John recently released his latest book, The Seekers, Meetings with Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists). After documenting his time with The Doors in previous offerings, this one also tackles many Doors-related adventures, but also focuses on some of the other standout individuals he met along the way who have influenced his career and life. John joined us remotely from his home in Santa Monica, California.
The Doors were a groundbreaking rock band that fused poetry, blues, various styles of rock and other musical flavors into a composite like few bands before them. With sometimes darker overtones and singer Jim Morrison’s charismatic personality and stunning lyrics, they exploded into popularity in the late 1960’s, creating an enduring sound that decades later retains its power and freshness. John Densmore played drums on every Doors album and was there from the beginning. It’s hard to measure just how significant their body of work has become. The Doors have factored into rock music ever since, are an enduring part of radio programming around the world, and their music, recorded more than a half century ago, maintains a freshness, and timeless sound that defies it’s age. It’s still rebellious, psychedelic, tense and defiant. Jim’s incredible voice, Ray Manzarek’s signature keyboard work, Robby Krieger’s distinctive guitar sound, and John Densmore’s solid playing and jazzy drum licks continue to engage fans the world over. John, for his part, bore witness to numerous chapters of their short career, and has been reflecting on it ever since.
In part one of our radio feature, derived from a one-hour conversation, we start with chapter one, based around his mother, and some very personal experiences involving The Doors. We also dig into the chapter focused on John Coltrane’s legendary drummer Elvin Jones, and John’s encounters with him and ways his playing – and some Doors’ songs - were influenced by this musical heavyweight. We also cover John’s experiences connecting to Janis Joplin, which included venturing to the 1969 Woodstock concert (where The Doors did not appear).
Next week we’ll conclude with more insights into his relationship with his bandmates in The Doors, and more fascinating stories about Jim Morrison, including his last contact with Jim when he was in Paris, where he’d pass away in 1971. There is also a great story about time with Willie Nelson in Hawaii, which is both the final chapter in The Seekers, and where we wrap up our interview feature. We'll also post the complete hour+ interview with many more stories from John's life.
Off the Road is a series of interviews with musicians remotely sharing how they’ve been touched by the pandemic and other crises, discussing their latest projects, including hours of conversation and many exclusive musical performances, speaking to artists across the musical spectrum, including Al Di Meola, System Of A Down, Carlos Santana, 10,000 Maniacs, John McLaughlin, Third World, Linda Ronstadt, Deep Purple, and Heart.
The Doors live in 1968 in Europe:
The Doors in 1968 at the Hollywood Bowl:
The Doors on PBS in 1969:
The Doors at the Isle of Wight in 1970:
The Doors perform "The End" at the Isle of Wight in 1970:
John performing with Micah Nelson earlier this month: