As keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger prepare for a sold-out show Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, drummer John Densmore has filed suit over their use of the band's name and logo. The suit alleges breach of contract, unfair competition and trademark violation -- and seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.
The suit also names singer Ian Astbury and drummer Stewart Copeland as defendants.
Astbury, formerly of the British band The Cult, and Copeland, formerly of The Police, have joined Manzarek and Krieger in a new incarnation of the band -- formerly fronted by Jim Morrison -- that turned out such rock classics as "Light My Fire," "Riders on the Storm" and "L.A. Woman."
The new lineup goes by the name of the Doors of the 21st Century. Densmore told Daily Variety he had no problem with Manzarek and Krieger identifying themselves as former members of The Doors, but he objected to the new band using the old name.
"I want to get the word out that it's misleading to call them The Doors," said Densmore. "I'm sad and hurt that they misused our name and logo."
Manzarek told United Press International he had hoped that Densmore would be part of the new project, rather than party to a lawsuit.
"He's got to do what he feels he's got to do," said Manzarek. "He was asked to play. Robbie, Tom (Vitorino, the band's manager), Ian and I -- we all asked John to play. He refused every time."
Manzarek said he still hoped Densmore would change his mind.
"We want John to come and play with us any time he feels like it," said Manzarek. "Come on John, join us and play."
Densmore said Astbury and Copeland are excellent musicians, but the new lineup just isn't The Doors.
"It's no disrespect to Ian," said Densmore, "but I don't like him filling Jim's leather pants."
Manzarek said no one expects the new lineup to pass for The Doors, or for Astbury to pass for Morrison, who died at 27 in 1971.
"I don't think anyone out there is going to be confused that maybe Jim Morrison will appear," he said. "I think Jim would be the first one to say, 'Go do it. Sing my words. Let people hear it the way we used to do it in a live situation.'"
Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore performed in 2001 on "VH1 Storytellers," with singers including Astbury, Perry Farrell, Scott Weiland and Scott Stapp standing more or less where Morrison used to stand. When Manzarek and Krieger took the act on the road last year for a show at a Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary event in Fontana, Calif., Densmore did not participate due to ear problems, and was replaced by Copeland.
According to Densmore's complaint, the four original band members agreed that they would share equally in the commercial exploitation of the band's music, that no one member would have the right to use the band's name, and that all business decisions would require unanimous agreement. The suit claimed that each member had the power to veto any use of the name.
Over the years, Densmore said he has often vetoed the use of Doors music in commercials. In an article in The Nation last year, he said that kind of exploitation would violate the spirit of the band.
Manzarek said the spirit of the band is alive and well.
"It's interesting that The Doors reconvened as we are about to go to war," he said. "The '60s changed everything, yet here we are still fighting that battle. We're here to help."
Manzarek said the band is negotiating to play future dates in "a lot of different cities" -- including New York, Boston and Philadelphia. He's also hoping they can set up a gig at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
There are also plans to play at several European festivals this summer, and to record a new album of what Manzarek called "new Doors music."