The Doors of the 21st Century are at work on a new album they hope to release by the middle of this year. "We want to say something about the human condition in the twenty-first century, just like the Doors in the twentieth century said something about the human condition," says keyboardist Ray Manzarek. "If it doesn't have weight to it, it's not worth doing. That's why we're back together."
The band -- which features Doors vets Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, as well as former Cult frontman Ian Astbury on vocals -- is enlisting poets and songwriters to take over the late Jim Morrison's lyric-writing duties. Jim Carroll, Michael McClure, X's John Doe and Warren Zevon have already contributed.
Zevon penned the six-line stanza "There's a River of Madness Running Through Los Angeles" shortly before his death last year. "I talked to Warren about six months before he entered the ether," says Manzarek. "I said, 'Listen man, we want to do new Doors songs and we'd like you to write one of them.' I told him Jim Carroll and Michael McClure were doing it and he said, 'Oh, distinguished company. Let me send you something.' Then he said, 'Ray, I don't know how to tell you this, but I think I have only six months to live.' I said, 'Oh shit, no.'"
Other songs in progress include "Cops Talk," "Street of Crocodiles" and "The Eagle in the Whirlpool."
Last month, Manzarek and Krieger paid tribute to Morrison on what would have been his sixtieth birthday by attending a memorial for the singer at his Paris grave site. That night they played a secret show at the city's La Scene. The set focused on material from L.A. Woman, the Doors' final album, recorded just before Morrison's death in 1971.
"We never got to play those live," says Manzarek, "so we wanted to play them for Jim. It was like being back at the Whisky. It was Morrison's birthday and a full moon. People were howling, literally howling."
Doors drummer John Densmore, who is involved in pending litigation against his former band mates over their reunion, did not attend the events. "We were saddened Densmore didn't come," says Manzarek. "We wish he would have been there. We're hoping in 2004 John will put aside his differences and come play live. We'll see what happens."