Wednesday, October 05, 2005

John Densmore Keeps the Doors out of Ads

From the L.A. Times:

Once, back when rock 'n' roll still seemed dangerous, [John] Densmore was the drummer for the Doors, the band with dark hits such as "Light My Fire" and "People Are Strange." That band more or less went into the grave with lead singer Jim Morrison in 1971, but, like all top classic-rock franchises, it now has the chance to exploit a lucrative afterlife in television commercials. Offers keep coming in, such as the $15 million dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song "Break On Through (to the Other Side)" to hawk its luxury SUVs.

To the surprise of the corporation and the chagrin of his former bandmates, Densmore vetoed the idea. He said he did the same when Apple Computer called with a $4-million offer, and every time "some deodorant company wants to use 'Light My Fire.' " The reason? Prepare to get a lump in your throat — or to roll your eyes.

"People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music," Densmore said. "I've had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn't commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent."

...Densmore relented once. Back in the 1970s, he agreed to let "Riders on the Storm" be used to sell Pirelli Tires in a TV spot in England. When he saw it he was sick. "I gave every cent to charity. Jim's ghost was in my ear, and I felt terrible. If I needed proof that it was the wrong thing to do, I got it."

..."We're all getting older," said [Ray] Manzarek, the band's eldest member, now 66. "We should, the three of us, be playing these songs because, hey, the end is always near. Morrison was a poet, and above all, a poet wants his words heard." Perhaps more years of life would have changed his view, but in 1969 it was quite clear that the poet of the Doors did not want to be a pitchman.

...If Densmore is a dinosaur, he is not the last surviving one. Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles continue to say no to commercials. So do Neil Young and Carlos Santana. But all of them still pull in concert revenues that make that choice far easier. Densmore himself points out that if he were poor he might make a different choice.

But his stance against commercialization has won a chorus of support from the true believers of rock. In the Nation, Tom Waits wrote a letter in praise of Densmore: Corporations "suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product. Eventually, artists will be going onstage like race-car drivers covered in hundreds of logos."
As you may know, I don't think there's anything wrong with allowing your music to be used in commercials because there's not much difference between letting Sony Records make money off your music than GE make money off it. But I think Densmore is doing what he thinks is right for himself, and that's great. I don't think this is an ego thing or anything like that. It just sounds like he has enough money to afford dignity (or his idea of it, anyway).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Densmore obviously has more regard and respect for the bands good old days and magical moments that made all 3 of them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Manzarek and Krieger although may claim to uphold that respect, they are breaching contracts (As proven in a court of law), and selling their music out for a boat load of money, while at the same time are accusing Densmore of greed. Did Ray and Robby forget that Buick thing they went through with Jim? It seems so.

Densmore is kind enough not to block Manzarek and Kriegers new band from using Doors song as a part of their gig, and in return Ray curses John on stage in front of a concert hall audience for uholding a verbal agreement they all made back when Jim was still alive and sticking too it.

What it all boils down to is this. Legalities. Densmore says, you (Ray and Robbie) agreed to do this, therefore you must do this like it or not. If you don't I'm taking you to court. I'm doing my part, you must do yours. In return, the others snub Densmore (And Morrison if the truth be told) and breach their agreement. You tell me whose the bad guy here!