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After almost 40 years, The Doors are big as ever

Morrison an icon to yet another generation; reissues, deals are planned
/ Source: Billboard

In his book "Riders on the Storm," Doors drummer John Densmore writes, "As long as there's young people, they can look to Jim to help them cut the umbilical chord."

But even Densmore is surprised that the Los Angeles band and its iconic leader, Jim Morrison, who died in 1971, have such potent appeal to recent generations. After all, it has been almost 40 years since Elektra released the quartet's first album in January 1967.

"I'm astounded," he says. "There must be some magic that was captured in a garage in Venice (Calif.)

"We've had our disputes," Densmore says of his well-publicized differences with fellow surviving Doors Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, "but I'm honored that whatever came through us, that was bigger than us. If each generation seems to glean some inspiration from that, I'm available."

Densmore and his bandmates will have many demands on their time over the next few years as their management team rolls out a 40th anniversary campaign with the intention to appeal to fans old and new.

"We're not trying to remake them or spin the Doors, just expose them to the next generation," Doors manager Jeff Jampol says. He has partnered with the Firm, which represents the Doors for licensing and assists in other management issues.

The Doors' appeal to younger generations could be due to the band being frozen in its prime, says the Firm's Jeff Rabhan.

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"(The Doors) were not able to grow old in front of the eyes of the world like the Stones (or) the Who. The Doors that people know are forever young, and the image of Morrison is that of young rock god," he says. "With that image in hand, and the legacy being what it is, our entire outreach is simple exposure and basic education as the history will sell itself."

That means spreading word to the younger market through remixes, videogames, high-end clothing and online and mobile platforms. Meanwhile, the older, existing audience will be targeted through coffee-table books, boxed sets featuring 5.1 surround-sound versions of the group's first six studio albums and more.

An interactive experience in Las Vegas, a touring memorabilia attraction and a filmed documentary are intended to appeal to all fans.

Naturally, a rollout of the Doors' studio albums also plays into the birthday plans. By September, Rhino/Elektra will delete the existing Doors' catalog to make way for a 12-disc boxed set, priced at $149.98. The fall release will include the Doors' first six studio albums remastered with bonus tracks and paired with six DVDs featuring 5.1 remixes of the studio albums and bonus material. There will also be a vinyl boxed set of the first six albums.

In January 2007, the studio albums will individually come out as double discs with the remastered original and the 5.1 DVD version.

As early as May, a deal with merchandise services company Music Today will allow Doors fans to go to the band's Web site and create their own virtual boxed sets, selecting from previously unreleased live tunes.

The Doors' catalog has already been licensed for mobile downloads, ringtones and ringbacks.

The Doors' merchandise business is already soaring. Dell Furano, CEO of merchandise company Signatures Network, says sales have boomed since the introduction of new lines over the last few years. "In 2005, we probably sold close to $8 million in Doors shirts and apparel at retail. It was $2 million in 2003."

Furano says the Doors are at the top of the merchandise heap alongside such acts as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

It has not hurt that celebrities like Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson have been photographed wearing Doors merchandise. "The amount of shirts we're selling to preteens and teenagers is staggering," Furano says.

Hilton and friends are likely buying from a high-end Doors line developed two years ago by Trunk Ltd. in partnership with Signatures. The line is sold through stores like Fred Segal, Barney's, Kitson and Nordstrom.

"The first piece, the Jim Morrison Lizard King image on one of our classic shirts, became one of our top sellers overnight," Trunk Ltd. founder and creative director Brad Beckerman says. He says teens respond to Morrison's "irreverence."

Signatures will launch another high-end line, 5:1, this fall. Last year, Signatures introduced a mainstream line, Love Street, which is carried in stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Hot Topic.

Furano expects the 40th anniversary activities to lift merchandise sales at least another 25 percent and has several new items planned.

For the 40th, Trunk designed a limited edition T-shirt featuring Blondie's Deborah Harry and Morrison, touting the new Blondie vs. the Doors mash-up "Rapture/Riders." The tune is featured on Blondie's new EMI greatest hits set.

But wait, there's more.

The Doors are planning an interactive attraction that will open in Las Vegas in 2008. Jampol says video director Jake Nava, who is working on the project, describes it as "a one-hour acid trip, but you don't come down."

"You won't see the Rockettes kicking their legs up in this show, I can assure you," Rabhan adds, noting management is in talks with several casinos to house the show. Sponsors, who "understand the deep-rooted, philosophical beliefs of this band toward the world" are being targeted.

There will also be a traveling Doors memorabilia museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will feature the Doors in a major, yearlong exhibit starting April 2007. (The group was inducted into the Hall in 1993.)

A slate of coffee-table books will accompany the 40th anniversary, including "The Doors by the Doors with Ben Fong-Torres," out in November; and "Jim Morrison: Treasures," by Rock Hall curator Jim Henke, due in 2007.

A Doors documentary directed by two-time Academy Award winner Bill Guttentag will hit theaters by year's end. The film includes new interviews with the band and Morrison's family.

There are also plans to develop a multinight TV special for summer 2007 called "Six Nights, Six Years, Six Records." Each night will highlight a Doors studio album.

While the remaining members have had their spats — Densmore and the Morrison estate won a 2003 lawsuit that prohibits Manzarek and Krieger from using the Doors name while touring ("The Doors are Ray, Robbie, Jim and John," Densmore says) — they all plan to promote the new projects, although it remains to be seen if they'll do so together.

"The three of them are bonded brothers," Jampol says. "They've had disagreements over a side issue, they're trying to sort that out ... (but) they've never let it stand in the way of letting the legacy move forward."