Jimmy Fallon, who has made high art out of his impersonation of Neil Young, gets a shot at getting inside the mind -- and tight leather pants -- of another Rock and Roll Hall of Famemember on his show tonight when he fills in for the Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison during an appearance by the group’s original drummer, John Densmore.
With a lot of help from Fallon’s house band, the Roots, they plan to tackle the Doors’ rave-up “Roadhouse Blues,” in which Fallon will get to spout that classic opening line, “Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.”
Densmore, 68, is visiting Fallon’s show to discuss his new book, “The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial.”
No, it’s not an account of the notorious criminal case in Florida in which Morrison was charged with indecent exposure during a concert. It’s the saga of Densmore’s lawsuit against his fellow surviving band members, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, when they launched a new-millennium tour as "The Doors of the 21st Century," with the Cult singer Ian Astbury handling the lead vocals for Morrison, who died in 1971.
Densmore, who was not part of that iteration of the band, objected to the use of the Doors’ name and logo, and filed suit to stop what he felt was a misleading exploitation of the band’s legacy.
In the book, he writes of a phone call he put in to Krieger in which said, “OK, if you guys are going to tour, go ahead. But you have to change the name of the group. Without Jim, it’s not The Doors. Call it The New Doors if you want. Whatever. Just make it clear that this band is different from our original band.”
It’s an intriguing look inside a case that pits artistic integrity against commercialism, Densmore lobbying on behalf of the one-for-all-and-all-for-one spirit that Morrison tried to cultivate by insisting that all four band members share equally in songwriting credit and publishing royalties, even though he was the lead singer and primary lyricist.
Densmore also says the members had an agreement from early on that if any one of the four thought something presented to the group was a bad idea, he had the right to veto it -- a position Manzarek disputed during the court case.
Densmore also explores various requests to use the band’s songs in commercials, something he has steadfastly vetoed. That plays into the suit over the Doors of the 21st Century, in which Densmore gained the support of Morrison’s estate. A judge agreed with their contention and granted a permanent injunction preventing Manzarek and Krieger from using The Doors name.
The fracturing of friendships plays a central role, something you feel from the outset, which Densmore outlines with an anecdote about a Doors performance in which a deejay introduced them as “Jim Morrison and the Doors.”
“Our lead singer dragged the DJ back onstage by the ear,” he writes in the first chapter, “refusing to play until he reintroduced us as the Doors.
“Those were the good old days,” he writes. “Now, the remaining Doors are ready to tear asunder everything we stood for in the beginning. We used to be a collective body intent on making art, not a bunch of individuals mainly out for ourselves or for the money.
“Perhaps if Jim hadn’t made such a point of us being a ‘band of brothers,’ we wouldn’t be here in this historic courthouse at all. But he did, and it resonates with me still.”
What was the other part of the morning beer verse again? Oh, right: “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near -- let it roll, baby, roll.”
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2