Most of us know The Doors as history, but there’s a living history, not only in the members of the band, but also a history fans participate in. There’s a generation of Doors fans who saw the band in the ’60s and there’s also the generation of fans that lived through The Doors’ history, and virtually participated in it when Doors drummer John Densmore filed suit on February 4, 2003 against The Doors of the 21st Century.
The Doors are famous among fans for operating as a democracy where any member of the band could veto any proposed business activity. A famous example was Jim Morrison’s objection to The Doors allowing “Light My Fire” be used for a Buick commercial. In March of 1971 The Doors formalized this arrangement in anticipation of Morrison going to Paris. It’s unclear whether this was an attorney’s idea to safeguard all members of the band or if the other members of The Doors feared Morrison would try to form a new band called The Doors once he was in Paris.
The rift leading to the lawsuit probably started because of Ray Manzarek’s and Robby Krieger’s appearance at the 100th anniversary celebration at the Fontana Speedway on September 6th, 2002. No doubt they were encouraged by their appearance on VH-1’s Storytellers TV series (November 22, 2000) in which they appeared with different lead singers including Perry Farrell, Scott Stapp, Scott Weiland, and Ian Astbury (this also coincided with the CD release of “Stoned Immaculate”). At the Fontana Speedway Ray and Robby appeared with Stewart Copeland on drums in place of John Densmore, who wasn’t present either because of tinnitis or because he wasn’t asked, while Ian Astbury of The Cult handled the lead vocals. The band was billed as “The Doors of the 21st Century” but was introduced as “The Doors”. In January of 2003 the band appeared on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show” and again were introduced as “The Doors”. The following month John Densmore filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the band from being billed as “The Doors” as he had not agreed to it.
As with any lawsuit, the accusations, countersuits and counteractions soon become complicated, and by June of 2003 Copeland was suing the band (later losing the case). The Estate of Jim Morrison and Pam Courson later joined Densmore in the suit and asked for compensation from Manzarek and Krieger for their use of The Doors’ name. In May 2005 the court ruled in favor of Densmore and the Morrison/Courson estates. Since then Manzarek and Krieger have appeared as “Riders on the Storm” (which was taken as a slap at Densmore who had titled his autobiography that). They’ve gone through a string of singers and now appear as “The Manzarek-Krieger Band” with Dave Brock from The Doors tribute band “Wild Child” handling the vocals.
Originally published February 4, 2012.