January 08, 2020
When he was at the centre of the US counterculture, he lived in terror of his bandmate. Yet after the singer’s death, he fought ferociously to protect his legacy. But, he says, he still regrets not calling out Morrison out on his abusive relationships with women
Doors drummer John Densmore: ‘It took me years to forgive Jim Morrison’
It took the Doors’ drummer, John Densmore, three years to visit the grave of his bandmate Jim Morrison after he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971. He didn’t even go to the funeral. “Did I hate Jim?” Densmore pauses, although he is not obviously alarmed by the question. “No. I hated his self-destruction … He was a kamikaze who went out at 27 – what can I say?”
Quite a lot, it transpires. Morrison was a man who was spectacularly good at being a rock star – a lithe figure in leather trousers, prophesying about death, sex and magic on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s – Light My Fire, Break on Through and Hello, I Love You. But he was catastrophically bad at the rest of life. Like many alcoholics, he could be reckless, selfish and mercurial. “The Dionysian madman,” Densmore has called him – a “psychopath”, a “lunatic” and “the voice that struck terror in me”. He had lobbied to get Morrison off the road before his death, and even quit the band at one point. “Some people wanted to keep shovelling coal in the engine and I was like: ‘Wait a minute. So what if we have one less album? Maybe he’ll live?’” Why did he carry on? “Because I wasn’t mature enough to say that at the time. I wasn’t trying to enable him. It was another era. I used to answer the question: ‘If Jim was around today, would he be clean and sober?’ with a ‘no’. Kamikaze drunk. Now I’ve changed my mind. Of course he would be sober. Why wouldn’t he be? He was smart.”
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