John Densmore


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“I play the drums,” says John Densmore, with tangible pride.

He may be belaboring the obvious, considering that, as the rhythmic engine of The Doors, he’s responsible for some of the most famous beats in rock history. But Densmore still bristles at what he calls the “dumb drummer” stereotype.

“The drum was the first fucking instrument,” he declares. “The reason people move and dance is that they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat. It’s the heartbeat you hear in the womb that started the whole deal. An orchestra, a four-piece rock band, whatever it is, they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat.”

The universal, ancient call of this heartbeat has been Densmore’s obsession since his childhood in Southern California.

“I took piano when I was eight, and I loved it,” he recalls. “I liked improvising on songs I had learned, rather than learning new ones. I got turned on by the piano. My teacher would give me songs to play, simplified classical and pop, and I got off on it.”

Eager to try his hand at another instrument, young John at first fixated on the clarinet. His orthodontist, however, strictly forbade him to wrap his wired mouth around any reed instruments. The world has this medical professional to thank, then, for the fact that John Densmore headed for the drums.

“I was in the orchestra and the marching band with those stupid uniforms,” Densmore recollects. “I got a rush from playing with 40 musicians, no matter how amateurish–there’s power in a marching band.”

He became enamored, in his teens, with jazz–and particularly with the playing of drummer Elvin Jones, whose evocative, muscular grooves with John Coltrane’s band influenced a multitude of rock musicians. He also became a habitué of the L.A. club scene, where bands like The Byrds and Love were a foretaste of things to come.

He met guitarist Robby Krieger, and the two began writing and playing together in a band called Psychedelic Rangers. Densmore next hooked up with Chicago-bred keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who was then playing in a group known as Rick and the Ravens with his brothers and a shy Floridian named Jim Morrison, who knew Manzarek from UCLA film school.

Eventually, Manzarek’s brothers left the band, and Densmore brought Krieger in. The foursome gelled, despite lacking an element most bands took for granted. “We couldn’t find a bass player,” Densmore remembers. “We tried once or twice, but we sounded like the Stones. A white blues band. Who cares? We wanted to be different.”

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Despite the pressure, I would say that was one of our most fun recording. First of all, we had written both albums before we even went in the studio - 30 or 40 songs. The first album, we were a little intimidated by the studio. It wasn't our turf. We had to learn how to make records. I would say by the second album we were more relaxed and we started using the studio as the fifth Door. I think we had an early copy of Sgt. Pepper and we were really turned on to the experimenting with the studio and doing backward piano tracks and having a lot of fun - john densmore ... See MoreSee Less

Despite the pressure, I would say that was one of our most fun recording.  First of all, we had written both albums before we even went in the studio - 30 or 40 songs.  The first album, we were a little intimidated by the studio.  It wasnt our turf.  We had to learn how to make records. I would say by the second album we were more relaxed and we started using the studio as the fifth Door.  I think we had an early copy of Sgt. Pepper and we were really turned on to the experimenting with the studio and doing backward piano tracks and having a lot of fun - john densmore

Martin Rivard, S.A. Miller and 23 others like this

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Dale JamesMost Favorite album of all-time!! Especially "When The Music's Over" John, your drumming accented Jim's vocals perfectly!! Your timing was so precise!! Being only 13 at the time it was most influential to me coming of age!! Thank you!!

5 days ago   ·  34

6 Replies

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Ginger CatapanoThanks for sharing your memories John; it is so nice to know that what I'm reading is true....and "Strange Days".....incredible album from start to finish and best cover ever. I remember the day my mom gave me money to buy my first Doors album (the first two had been released) and I chose Strange Days....luckily was able to get the first one a few weeks later...and luckier still was the night of Jan 17, 1970 at The Felt Forum! TG my parents let me go; seeing all of you was the highlight of my teen-aged years!

4 days ago   ·  11
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Robert KesslerJohn, the Doors were my favorite live band. Saw you twice in N.Y. Once at the Singer Bowl and then at MSG. It wasn't only Jim, but the rest of the group were fantastic. Thanks for the great music.

3 days ago
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Josh BastienAnything you guys did turned to Gold 🤗 Many moons later & Still the Doors sound brand new to me.. Songs I must have listened to a billion times & still I hear something fresh & exciting. I just wish I was born in that era & had the chance to see this live 😞

4 days ago   ·  12
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Karol MamotI love your confidence in play on Strange Days. But your lack of studio experience brought a positive raw power to the first album Bruce Botnick did a great work. The muddy sound revealed great band with great potential. If Strange Days was your debut album, the Doors would not skyrocketed so high.

4 days ago   ·  1

2 Replies

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Mike HicksMy favorite Doors album...and what a perfect album cover! Like someone else already mentioned, John your drumming accented Jim"s vocals so well. Your jazz inflected drumming made The Doors a truly a group of equals...

5 days ago   ·  4
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Charles ScottI always considered Strange Days your best album . Loved your guitar work on that album . Especially on Moonlight Drive . Thanks for sharing your memories , it stirred mine .

4 days ago
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Charlie PoirierBest percussion opening to any rock song on the last track. Sad when it’s time to turn out the lights at the end. True story I told my 10 year old daughter: I was 5 minutes late for home room my senior year in high school one morning. Received detention for my excuse not being valid. I was in the parking lot waiting for the end of When The Music’s Over. Worth it!

4 days ago   ·  3
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Donald RofulowitzThank God The Doors went through all the trials and tribulations of making Albums, Because I think by the time you got to Recording L.A Woman you had it down Pat , that is my most favorite Doors Album 👍

5 days ago   ·  2
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Alan SheldonJohn you were the engine room of one of the greatest bands of all time. I played percussion and drums in a band for a few years and even though the other band members could play well ,without the drummer they could not gel . You would understand.

4 days ago   ·  2
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Joel MarcinukMy favorite intro of any Doors song is "Unhappy Girl" . All you need to know on how talented they were was that Manzarek organ intro before the song even starts! Still the best American rock band of all time with a frontman that invented cool!😎

4 days ago   ·  2
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William BredinI lost most of my albums back in the late 90's due to a hurricane storm and flooding. Since "The Door's were, and still are, my all-time favorite group, I had, and lost all of their albums except two. The two survivors were "Other Voices" and "Full Circle." While these two albums were missing Jim's vocals, they were still great. And I still have them. Prized possessions.

2 days ago
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Asher McKinneyI performed a set of music of The Doors by request at an engagement last month. I sang and played organ with left hand Rhodes keyboard bass, accompanied by an electric guitarist and drummer/back up vocalist. The bithday girl, "Hippy Chick" turning 50 that night, had booked me in the springtime and advertised the show featuring two other bands also. When I got there to do my midnight set to close out the packed event, someone pointed out that a little person was there. I didn't want to be rude by trying to see and didn't, but later I thought about this album cover. I love that record! We performed "When The Music's Over," "People Are Strange," and "Love Me Two Times," in our twenty song list. Blessings! ONE!!!

4 days ago   ·  1
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Daniel MarshallAwesome sleeve design with some timeless songs! Would love to hear your thoughts on the soft parade as this was one of my personal favourites!

4 days ago   ·  2

1 Reply

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Mitch FarisI was 7 when you guys put that album out. Thank God my Mom was hip and listened to good tunes. I remember sitting and devouring that album with headphones. Definitely a mind-expander! Thanks John!!

4 days ago   ·  1
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Nick GriffithsLike kid's in a candy store. Thank you for this great memory. I love music history..and shall share this -so hoprfully young people can see..and learn.

5 days ago   ·  2
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Peter van MourikYesterday i saw a woman walking with the same dress or it did looked the same of the woman on the back cover from Strange Days,the same hair so i had too listen too the song too!

4 days ago
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Greg SchuckBoth lps absolute brilliance, no sophomore curse at all, and both have held up wonderfully through the years. How lucky we were to have had The Doors.

4 days ago   ·  1
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Karen MorganJohn, you never had a bad album. I've been a fan for 50 years. still listen everyday. Bless you, love you.

5 days ago   ·  4
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Dominic GiglioRegardless the apprehensions or how you were feeling during the studio sessions, I think it's very safe to say that you've done just fine, sir! ;)

4 days ago   ·  1
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Chris StalcupFunny I have an 8 and 10 yr old sons. Listen too my doors cds all the time actually have a few of their own now. Something's are timeless indeed.

4 days ago
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Judee CosentinoJohn - this is my fave Doors LP. choice tracks are "My Eyes Have Seen You" and "I Can't See Your Face In My Mind." <3 <3

5 days ago   ·  4
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Art SomozaAlready preordered the 50th Anniversary Edition. Looking forward to hearing the remastering. Absolutely loved this album. Brings back many great memories.

5 days ago   ·  1
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Declan MacGowanStill probably my favourite from beginning to end. "When The Music's Over" is one of the greatest songs of all time. Thanks JD.

4 days ago   ·  2
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Maraya MagasI love your work so much. I am so very grateful that you are walking this beautiful Earth right now....

5 days ago   ·  3
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Here's a video I did recently for the attendees at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Third World Press ... See MoreSee Less

John Densmore addresses the attendees at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Third World Press.

Robert Sheehan, Sabrina Navarro and 23 others like this

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Gayle WilmouthI love you and thanks for words of wisdom.

2 weeks ago
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Katy MurphyWell said...love n blessings John xx

2 weeks ago
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John CollinsJohn you never contacted me I'm a friend of Richie wright of jersey city

2 weeks ago
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Ryan WiegelKeeping it real,pushing it real good.

2 weeks ago
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Rean Nancoopolitical view psychedelic Drumming

2 weeks ago
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Ed JurzenskiWell worth watching, bluer than Blue...

2 weeks ago
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Michele TangredaYour sound, your rhythm it’s so cool for my soul! 🙏 God bless you..

2 weeks ago
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Idan RanAwesome man ✌🏻♥️

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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John DornWise words from wise man

2 weeks ago
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John CollinsHello John

2 weeks ago
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Nadia GinelleGrazie Jhon!

2 weeks ago
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Joan SeklerTerrific!

2 weeks ago
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Andon Baatiste👍

2 weeks ago
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Bruno Gaconsuper de nous rappeler la memoire de jim sur cette video 🦎🦎🦎

2 weeks ago
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Tamuna GogoladzeBeautiful guy <3

2 weeks ago
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Nick Griffithsgood cause-well done

2 weeks ago
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Peter van MourikHello.Mr. Densmore!

2 weeks ago
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Sal De La RosaHi John!

2 weeks ago
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Ismael CamargoLegend !!!

2 weeks ago
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João Daniel ZanellaQuintino Juarez

2 weeks ago
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