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14 July 2017

Celebrity Drive: Drummer John Densmore of The Doors

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Quick Stats: John Densmore drummer, The Doors
Daily Driver: 2014 Chevrolet Volt (John’s rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Los Angeles to Big Sur
Car he learned to drive in: 1955 Ford Fairlane
First car bought: Hillman Minx

As the surviving members of the legendary rock band The Doors celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary this year, drummer John Densmore is reflective about his more mature car choices now compared to his rock star car phase at the height of fame. Densmore’s car philosophy now is focused on being kinder to the environment.

“I drive a Chevy Volt and a Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid, both rated at an eight because the fossil fuel industry is over,” Densmore says. “I like driving at least a part-time electric car because there’s nothing coming out of the tailpipe. That’s very important to me.”

For now, Densmore loves driving plug-in hybrids, but he’s always on the lookout for other environmentally friendly cars. “I’m probably going to move on to the Tesla when they get onto the [less expensive Model 3],” he says. “I can’t drive a 100k car to the market and scratch it. Just can’t do it.”

The only thing he dislikes about his Chevrolet Volt is that it has a few blind spots. He decided to purchase the car because he initially thought it was good to help support American car companies.

“I was thinking, ‘OK, that’ll be good,’” he says. “But it’s a global village. If somebody makes a really wonderful, ecological car, I’m down, no matter where it comes from.”

As with many young people, he went through a phase of seeking out flashy cars such as a Mercedes and Jaguar, but Densmore’s view on car ownership has completely changed.

“When I was in my 20s I went through my testosterone phase and had a Mercedes to show that I’m rich, and they used to call me ‘Jaguar John,’” Densmore says. “I’m older now, and I’m concerned about the environment and … appreciate a car that doesn’t pollute.”

After having success with The Doors, Densmore bought a Jaguar XJ6, which was the first car he treated himself to. “I had the first XJ6 and then they became real popular with lawyers so I had to move on,” he says. “The only problem with Jaguar is that you have to go to the gas station every couple blocks, and a mechanic once told me that if you don’t have the right attitude when you walk up to a Jag, it won’t start.”

Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid

Rating: 8

A Ford C-Max Energi is shown here

Densmore’s Ford C-Max is a few years old. With some plug-in hybrids, “you get the sticker to go in the diamond lane solo,” he says. “And in this town, that’s very helpful because it’s gridlock.”

Densmore appreciates the good visibility on the C-Max Energi and likes having both the Ford and Chevrolet around. “If I just run around and do little errands, I can do all that on [the car’s electric range], come back home,” plug it in and then drive the other one, he says. “So I can drive all day without using any gas.”

Car he learned to drive in

Densmore learned to drive on the streets of West Los Angeles in his parents’ 1955 Ford Fairlane, which they gave him as a hand-me-down to drive.

“The house I grew up in is a freeway onramp now—kind of metaphoric,” he says. “Right at Pico and Bundy. The house is gone because they come along and give you some dough, and you have to move, although I wish they’d built one more freeway from the Westside to Hollywood, but, too late for that, And my dad taught me to drive in the Ford, and I had to have some pillows so I could see over the steering wheel. It was an automatic, thank God.”

First car bought

After the Fairlane, Densmore bought a Hillman Minx. “It was ugly, so I got an Earl Scheib paint job for 29 bucks, painted it black, like the Rolling Stone song,” Densmore says. “And they painted the hub cap, oh my God. That’s what happens when you cheap out.”

Densmore had various odd jobs including washing dishes and delivering papers so he could earn enough money to buy the Hillman Minx. “ “That was a nerd car, but the mileage was good,” he said. “I couldn’t afford anything cool yet.”

Favorite road trip

Densmore’s ultimate road trip is going up Highway 1 to Big Sur, a drive he used to do a lot.

“The road through Big Sur is one of the most harrowing in the country, short of a Road to Hana in Hawaii,” he says. “There’s so many curves and shear cliff drops into the ocean, you’d think you’re in Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean driving.”

For Densmore, it’s a thrilling drive. “And you’ve got to be alert. So it keeps you awake,” he says. “I don’t do it often enough and now the road is blocked due to [a massive landslide]. I will do it again when the road opens.”

The Doors’ 50th anniversary and The Doors: The Singles

To help celebrate the 50th anniversary, on September 15 Rhino records will release three new collections that feature every single and B-side the band released in the U.S. This set also features songs released after lead singer Jim Morrison’s passing in 1971. A limited edition 7-inch vinyl of “Light My Fire” was reissued last month.

For more information please visit JohnDensmore.com.

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