In The Doors, the former Rolling Stone editor weaves together interviews with the band's remaining members.
Why this book now?
With any rock band whose reputation has survived, the powers-that-be on the business level are always watching the calendar for every goddamned. So this is the 40th anniversary of their formation and ascendance to heights in Hollywood. But for me as a writer, this was a chance to debunk some of the myths about the band.
What were some of the myths?
Well, Morrison got the Elvis treatment. At Rolling Stone we came to understand that he was a brilliant, smart, articulate guy...a very serious artist.
It's surprising how collaborative the band was.
You go to any library and you find two dozen books about Jim Morrison, of which half of those are about the scandals and "Is he still alive?" So my goal was to focus on The Doors as a group. They were a team from the very beginning. They all shared songwriting duties—they made sure that credit and money was spread out and that made them very different from other bands.
What was it like working with the surviving Doors?
Not easy. They have been involved in legal tussles in recent years involving two of them going out on the road under the name, the Doors. But they did agree to do this book.
You did the last American interview with Morrison. Tell us about it.
It was either late January or February 1971 in Los Angeles. I was hanging out in an apartment downstairs from Pamela Courson's [Morrison's longtime girlfriend] when Jim came by. When I asked him to do the interview, he was agreeable. He said, "Let's do it like a TV talk show." So I took the role of a Dick Cavett character. Jim started off by telling some obscene jokes, but we kept talking. At one point I asked him why he'd gotten so fat; at another point he went on the phone and ordered a fifth of Jack Daniels and potato chips.
Well, there's your explanation.
Yeah. He said, "I enjoy beer in the studio, it keeps me loose." He had a technical reason for boozing. The tape begins with him apologizing. I'm Chinese-American, and Morrison said, "Oh, you're with Rolling Stone. I thought you were a foreign exchange student with the Rolling Stones doing a study of rock bands." But he figured out I knew more about music than an exchange student from Hong Kong. And that turned out to be his last American testament.