Fifty years to the day after their self-titled debut record was released, the surviving members of The Doors, guitarist-songwriter Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, are seated in a hotel room at the Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, sharing a laugh while Densmore recounts a Jim Morrison anecdote.
“One time Jim, in hysteria, said, 'I want to be bigger than The Beatles,' right?”
“Well, not in hysteria,” Krieger says.
“Well, I thought that was a little over the top, but he said it,” Densmore says.
“Well, it might still happen,” Krieger says wryly, which makes Densmore laugh.
The legendary rock quartet that formed in Venice Beach more than five decades ago (lead singer Jim Morrison died in 1971, keyboardist Ray Manzarek died in 2013) are an hour away from being bestowed with the honor of their own designated day in Los Angeles. From this year forward, Jan. 4 will forever be known locally as “Day of The Doors.”
“It's about time,” Krieger says. “Fifty years is enough time. It should have been 40 years ago.” Densmore, who initially jokes that it simply makes him feel old, adds, “It's great. We started here and and it's all very cool. Jim and Ray would love it.”
“The music kept staying around,” Krieger says. “That's the real reason we're here today, because the music still means something to people.”
Asked what he misses the most about being in the iconic band, Densmore says excitedly, “I miss the synchronicity between four people. I don't care if it's a 40-piece orchestra or a four-piece band, man, we were tight some nights … just goosebumps. That's what makes it bigger than the ensemble, and I miss that.” He says not a day goes by that he doesn't think about Morrison.
An hour later, shortly after the the mostly nonexistent sun sets on a dark, cloudy and wet day, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin takes to the outdoor stage set up at the corner of Pacific and Windward, just beneath the famous Venice sign, (affixed with a Doors sign for the week), and addresses the approximately 500 people who have gathered to witness the ceremony. “The Doors put Venice on the map,” Bonin says before joking that 99 percent of the crowd was not born at the time. “When you listen to The Doors, you don't just hear music. You get taken to a land of imagination, fantasy and delight.”
After Bonin presents the band with the resolution making Jan. 4 the Day of The Doors, Krieger jokes, “On Jan. 4, forevermore, everybody gets off of school — in Venice, anyway — and off work.” Densmore talks about the band's roots and refers to a nearby loft once owned by Jim Morrison before asking Krieger to get out his guitar. Krieger plays the first guitar licks for “Moonlight Drive” (written by Morrison at the previously mentioned loft) before the pair launch into “L.A. Woman.” The adoring and wild crowd are so enraptured by the performance that they seem oblivious to the steady stream of rain.
“The Doors are the best band from Los Angeles and I listen to them all of the time, even though I am only 27,” says local musician Josh Landau of rock band The Shrine, standing in the crowd. “I'm forever inspired by The Doors.”
“I've been waiting for this for a very long time,” says actor Tom Fugedi, who is standing nearby. “I've lived in Venice for 20 years, and the whole reason I moved here is that I am a diehard Doors fan and skateboarder, so I gravitated to Venice because of Jim and The Doors.”
Though the event is quick, finishing within 20 minutes, the crowd seems more than satisfied with having been a part of a history-making day and getting treated to Krieger and Densmore's live performance. Fans of The Doors still love them madly — and now, every year on Jan. 4, the city of Los Angeles has set aside a day to honor that.