Now that the band fronted by two of the three surviving members of ’60s rock band the Doors cannot legally be called “The Doors of the 21st Century” anymore, its members have to come up with a new name. Original Doors drummer John Densmore won a permanent injunction last month prohibiting keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger from using the band’s old name. Curious as to what that name will be? Then head over to the Trump Taj Mahal on Friday, Aug. 5 for a live taping of VH1’s upcoming Decades Rock Live series.
The Doors tribute concert, the first to be taped for the VH1 TV series scheduled to begin airing in September, will feature original members Manzarek and Krieger, along with former singer of the U.K. band, the Cult, Ian Astbury, standing in for Jim Morrison, who died in 1971.
Also appearing at the show will be special musical guests like John Sebastian, Vanilla Fudge, Macy Gray and Perry Farrell.
Although the band has been referring to itself as the abbreviated D21C during their string of concerts this summer following the recent court decision, Decades Rock Live producer, Barry Summers, says the band, which also includes Ty Dennis on drums and Joel Chen on bass, will reveal its new name Friday night.
“Fortunately for us, our show is called VH1 Classic Presents Decades Rock Live – A Tribute to the Doors,” Summers tells AC Weekly. “This show pays tribute to the music of the Doors and the ’60s. We’re not going to get caught up in the legal jargon … The band will formally announce their official new name at the VH1 concert taping.”
The Doors offshoot band has been performing around the world for the past few years, following a successful reunion of sorts for a taping of another VH1 show, Storytellers. After more than three decades since Morrison’s death, Manzarek says the time felt right to bring the Doors songs back to a live audience.
“Just for the hell of it, man,” Manzarek tell us. “We’re going to play some music before we hang it up. We thought the 21st century would be a good time to bring back the Doors songs and play the Doors songs live for the audience for a few more years and then quit.”
Led by the sonorous voice of poet-lizard king Jim Morrison, the Doors’ music, with its psychedelic American rock punch fueled by Manzarek’s circus organ, Krieger’s melodic licks and Densmore’s jazz-trained sticks, stood apart from the band’s ’60s contemporaries – not simply in sound, but also in the lyrical realm. Instead of being bogged down by flower power silliness, the quartet from Los Angeles played music, thanks to Morrison’s lyrics, about butterfly screams, queens of the highway, blood on the streets and unknown soldiers.
The Doors’ bluesy, experimental rock ‘n’ roll catalogue, captured on six extremely powerful albums between the years of 1967-1971, includes the hits “Light My Fire,” “Break on Through,” “Touch Me,” “Riders on the Storm,” “Hello, I Love You” and “Love Her Madly.”
Following Morrison’s death in 1971 while in Paris, Manzarek and company released a couple of albums as the Doors, but eventually shut the band down. A few years back, the doors were opened again.
Of the band’s new incarnation, Manzarek says his old friend Morrison, whom he met in the mid-’60s at UCLA, would be happy that his songs were still being performed.
“He would be very excited,” says Manzarek. “Because his words are being sung. He’s a poet and that’s the important thing to a poet … So here we are doing the words of Jim Morrison. And he’s saying, ‘Yes, go out and do it Ray. Let them know that my words are still viable.'”
Of the new band’s lead singer, Astbury, Manzarek says he was the right guy for the job due to his similarities, not only in appearance, but also in aura, to Morrison.
“The dark, brooding, Celtic-Christian, Native American spirituality,” says Manzarek. “And a great voice.”
Over the last few years, the band has performed Doors classics like “Touch Me,” “People Are Strange,” “L.A. Woman,” “Five to One,” and “Break on Through” to audiences all over the world. Manzarek says sometimes he’ll close his eyes during a set and feel like he’s traveled back in time.
“It’s strange how that happens, but every once in a while I close my eyes and I feel like I’m performing with the original line-up,” he says.
According to Summers, the concept of the VH1 series, all concerts of which will be taped live at the Taj Mahal, is to bring back the experience of seeing classic artists live in concert, while incorporating today’s music stars into the mix.
“Decades Rock Live is the first televised concert series that features legendary artists performing live onstage with some of today’s hottest artists,” says Summers. “We want to bring back that ‘rock concert’ experience to diehard classic rockers, and introduce new audiences to some of the best classic and current music ever recorded from rock to soul.”
At Friday night’s event, Macy Gray, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros), Pat Travers, Antigone Rising and Vanilla Fudge will also appear. John Sebastian, who played harmonica on the 1970 recording of “Roadhouse Blues” under the pseudonym G. Puglese, is slated to join the band again for the tune.
Manzarek’s really been getting into playing the old Doors songs again, especially favorites like “When the Music’s Over,” “Light My Fire” and “Love Me Two Times.” Of the latter, Manzarek says he only recently discovered the meaning of Morrison’s lyrics in the song.
“It’s about sex!” says Manzarek. “I always thought it was about something [else].”
Although you’ll have the opportunity to hear many Doors songs performed live at the Taj Friday night, there’s one Doors song that won’t be played that night or any other, due to its special connection to the band’s one-time leader.
“We don’t play ‘The End,'” says Manzarek. “That’s sacred to Jim.”
As far as original drummer Densmore is concerned, he told Reuters last month that he’s content with the fact that Manzarek and Krieger continue to perform together for Doors fans – as long as the old name is kept out of the picture.
So what will they call themselves? Yes, the river knows.
D21C performs with Macy Gray, Perry Farrell, Vanilla Fudge, Pat Travers, Antigone Rising Friday, Aug. 5 at the Taj Mahal. Showtime is 9pm, tickets are $100, $75 and $50. This concert is being taped for the VH1 Classics series Decades Rock Live. To purchase tickets call Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420.