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of Doors

The web version of this exchange features one letter not included in the print edition!

About the Author

Our Readers
Letters submitted by our readers are read and published in the magazine.

Also by the Author

Bread, not bombs… too big to jail… feed the world? first end poverty… patriotic heresy…

Stats for our times… what will be left of Texas?… not a pearl in Ethiopia’s ear… Moscow, Kiev and Austin?… or, a Gandhian Gangsta…

Woodland Hills, Calif.

Thank you for your eloquent "rant" by John Densmore of The Doors on the subject of artists allowing their songs to be used in commercials ["Riders on the Storm," July 8]. I spoke out whenever possible on the topic even before the Frito Lay case (Waits v. Frito Lay), where they used a sound-alike version of my song "Step Right Up" so convincingly that I thought it was me. Ultimately, after much trial and tribulation, we prevailed and the court determined that my voice is my property.

Songs carry emotional information and some transport us back to a poignant time, place or event in our lives. It's no wonder a corporation would want to hitch a ride on the spell these songs cast and encourage you to buy soft drinks, underwear or automobiles while you're in the trance. Artists who take money for ads poison and pervert their songs. It reduces them to the level of a jingle, a word that describes the sound of change in your pocket, which is what your songs become. Remember, when you sell your songs for commercials, you are selling your audience as well.

When I was a kid, if I saw an artist I admired doing a commercial, I'd think, "Too bad, he must really need the money." But now it's so pervasive. It's a virus. Artists are lining up to do ads. The money and exposure are too tantalizing for most artists to decline. Corporations are hoping to hijack a culture's memories for their product. They want an artist's audience, credibility, good will and all the energy the songs have gathered as well as given over the years. They suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product.

Eventually, artists will be going onstage like race-car drivers covered in hundreds of logos. John, stay pure. Your credibility, your integrity and your honor are things no company should be able to buy.

TOM WAITS


Glenview, Ill.

John Densmore's article was a welcome relief to this former Who fan who cringes when he hears Roger Daltrey pushing cars. Thanks!

JOE POTOMIS


Dillon, Mont.

One ad that has to be the weirdest juxtaposition of cultural imagery is the Cadillac spot that uses a Led Zeppelin riff to get us jacked up over their new SUV. "Been a long time, been a long time..." indeed!

CYNTHIA McCULLOH


Oberlin, Ohio

With John Densmore's measured flagellation of pop stars turned hucksters, let us update the lyrics to Sting's "Be Still My Beating Heart," from more reflective days:

Sink like a stone that's
been thrown in the ocean,
I've reduced my art
to Jaguar promotion.

RANDAL DOANE


Sacramento, Calif.

On NPR's This American Life, a recruit aboard a naval aircraft carrier told Ira Glass she'd enlisted because of a Navy commercial, with a heavy-metal soundtrack by Godsmack, depicting Navy life at sea. Did Godsmack realize that because of their art young men and women signed up for the military? I'll take the integrity of Densmore and Krieger any day.

PAUL MANN


Oakland, Calif.

After reading John Densmore, I'm even prouder to say that as a teenager in Mexico in the late sixties I became a Doorhead instead of getting involved in Beatlemania--a reaction against the mass media infiltrating Mexico even before globalization. The Doors were one of the few big foreign bands who gave a free concert in the Alameda Park in Mexico City. It appears that The Doors continue to go against the flow of corporate takeovers of everything. I was disgusted to hear Beatles songs selling products on TV and am pleased that I won't have to suffer the same with The Doors.

CONNIE de la VEGA


Creston, Calif.

"We ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more!!" A rousing cheer for John Densmore! In 1965, I asked the English poet Basil Bunting (born in 1900) if he thought there was anything new in the twentieth century. His reply: "advertising." Now, when the aging artists of the sixties become willing lackeys of the black magicians of Madison Avenue, they unwittingly attach a virus to their messages. Morrison had the good karma to be associated with Densmore and the wisdom to make each one of the Doors responsible for each choice. You've got lots of brothers out here, John, and if you ever need a place to ride out the storm, you're welcome in our teepees.

BRIAN EARL LINDBERG


Salina, Kan.

Like John Densmore, I was stunned when I first heard The Beatles' music on a commercial. But the conclusion that The Beatles sold out to corporate greed is incorrect. Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney for the rights to the Beatles' songs several years ago. It was "Jacko" who sold them out.

BRYAN THOMPSON


Devon, Pa.

I can't remember the last time I was so moved and inspired by any one written piece or essay. John Densmore's passion, conviction and integrity are truly uplifting. Few of us are able to withstand the onslaught of the forces of money and greed. Thank you for helping me to reaffirm my own beliefs and convictions as well as restoring my faith in the higher principles of human nature.

DAVID B. SMITH


DENSMORE REPLIES

Los Angeles

A big thanks to Tom Waits for his eloquent letter. Cynthia McCulloh might be interested to know that in the Cadillac spot she mentions, Led Zeppelin was actually GM's second choice, after we (The Doors) turned down an amount of money that makes me weak in the knees. At the end you see their new SUV roar by, and it says, "Break Through," with the Caddie logo in between. They wanted it to say, "Break on Through"!

JOHN DENSMORE

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