I'm Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records and the lucky guy who signed the Doors in 1966. The Doors and I have had a very close relationship for over 47 years. I also signed Queen, Judy Collins, Tim Buckley, Love, The Butterfield Blues Band, Bread, Carly Simon, The Stooges and The MC-5 to Elektra.

As a celebration of the Doors, I spent over a year creating the ultimate Doors App which was released for iPad just last month. Ask me anything about the Doors, their career, rock n' roll, and the new app.

Proof is at @TheDoors on Twitter!

Also - you can download the app at www.smarturl.it/doorsapp

I know that there's some lag with the questions today, so appreciate your patience guys.

Edit: Thank you to everyone who came out to today's AMA!

Comments: 287 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

Sisaac30 karma

Hello, Mr. Holzman. We've evidently seen your amazing successes with several bands, and you've got a keen eye for talent, but i'd like to hear about some of your failures:

  • What bands did you think were "going to make it", and didn't actually take off?

  • What do you blame it on?

  • In retrospective, what would you have done differently in order to make them successful?

JacHolzman50 karma

That's an inspired question. Rhinoceros had a modest success, but the reason I don't think it happened was that the band was put together by Elektra producer Paul Rothchild rather than coming together organically. They had some notoriety, but did not have a central heart.

Elektra was not just about bands. We were well known for our singer-songwriters, including Carly Simon, Harry Chapin, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, David Ackles. I thought David was an extraordinary songwriter, but he really didn't want it enough. For some reason, I did not figure out until many years later where his passion lay. It was in the theater. I never should have done an album with David. (We did three.) I should have helped him create a theatrical show. I didn't get that at the time.

There are always things you hope for that do not work. And frequently it's because the artist does not want it badly enough and is not willing to do what it takes by way of travel and public appearances. Love is a perfect example--successful on records but nowhere near the acclaim they deserved.

ro_men10030 karma

What's the craziest story you've lived with the Doors? And thanks for signing them, they're a big part of my life!

JacHolzman57 karma

When we went to New York to do the Ed Sullivan show, just before the taping we had dinner at a deli nearby. Just the band and me. When we came out of the deli, fans chased us into the Ed Sullivan Theater. I never have been chased by a fan base before, and it was fun.

momocat21 karma

Any cool stories of Jim Morrison or Freddy Mercury?

JacHolzman70 karma

After the completion of Morrison Hotel, Jim and I went to a Mexican restaurant near the Elektra studios in Los Angeles. Jim ordered a vodka, and a tall vodka - an entire glass. I ordered the smallest beer and Jim turned to me and said: "C'mon! Have another drink. Come out where I am, on the edge." Knowing that I could not keep up with Jim, I said: "the edge is where we all want to be, the trick is not to bleed."

JacHolzman50 karma

Regarding Freddy Mercury, I didn't see the band that much because they were always traveling. But they remembered my birthday, and for many years after I left Elektra, until I was 65, they would send me a note signed by each member. They were decent people. They were always appreciative of what Elektra had done for them because they broke in America two months before they broke in Europe.

Ibeataseal18 karma

Hi Jac! I have to say thanks for doing this AMA, I'm a huge Doors fan. I was wondering if after a certain point in the band's history; did you ever feel as though you should drop them as an act? (such as the Miami incident)

And also what is your favourite Doors album? I'm curious.

JacHolzman42 karma

The answer is NEVER. I am not a band's hall room monitor. I am their friend, and my job is to help them through the rough spots, not to let them go.

TheBlower16 karma

Hi Jac! I just want to begin by saying thank you for signing so many of my favorite artists.

What I wanted to ask you, is that if Jim had never died, what would the future have held for The Doors? Would they be like The Stones today, still touring and churning out music?

JacHolzman45 karma

Interesting question and one I've often thought about. When I last saw Jim, my strong feeling was that if he came back to America, The Doors might have a brief history, but he would probably not choose the rock and roll life again. He saw himself differently.

fckyocouch16 karma

What went through your mind when you seen The Doors rise and fall?

JacHolzman48 karma

Most rock 'n' roll groups go through cycles. Following a meteoric rise, there frequently comes a period when things don't go so well. Sometimes, this is caused by the artist themselves. The Doors were doing great until Miami. After Miami, virtually every one of their live performances was cancelled, and the band felt terrible. The solution was not to lick our wounds, but go into the studio and do something great. That something: Morrison Hotel.

jnm24414 karma

What is your opinion on the Oliver stone movie?

JacHolzman43 karma

I'm not a fan of the Oliver Stone movie, but I respect where he was coming from. Imagine Oliver Stone is boots-deep in muddy Vietnam hearing the liberated music of The Doors and imagining sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll as it must have been in his imagination on a moon-dappled night in Santa Monica. I think the movie is a lot about his fantasy of what 1966 and 1967 in California was like.

Excaviliar13 karma

What's your personal favourite Doors song?

JacHolzman31 karma

Wow, that's a tough one. I'd say my top 3 favorites are "L.A. Woman", "Riders On The Storm", and "Alabama Song."

Boatakk12 karma

How did the controversy of MC-5's Kick Out The Jams affect your label? Was it good or bad?

Also how do you feel about the punk movement that happened in the late 70's, it seems like alot of bands on Elektra were very influential on the punk scene.

And finally, what's your favorite Doors record?

JacHolzman18 karma

It created problems, but the controversy was about the music; it was about an advertisement they had placed sticking it to the Nordstrom's store chain in the midwest. It caused problems for us, but nothing serious.

Remember that punk started with The Stooges in 1969. Although I didn't get The Stooges, Danny Fields from the Elektra staff urged me to work with them and I did because Danny's faith was so strong. I'm thrilled that Danny was right. Punk was inevitable. Just listen to some of the bands on Nuggets.

It's L.A. Woman, followed closely by the first album.

FarrokhDoesntApprove11 karma

Did you think much of queen (or the doors too) when you first heard of them?

JacHolzman21 karma

Well, I didn't see them. I never saw Queen before decided to sign them. An English studio gave me a tape to listen to which showed their production work. That studio was Trident. But instead of listening to the production, I heard the band and instantly started to pursue them even though they were allegedly signed to Columbia. I found out that the contracts hadn't even gone out from Columbia through Queen's manager whom I chased all over the globe 'til I got him to listen to me. He was impressed by what we had done for The Doors and when the Columbia contract came through, not as agreed, they decided to sign with us. When I finally got to see the band, they were disappointing live performers. But, as you know, I loved working with them. I loved working with Queen. They were all brilliant and fun to hang with.

IAmNorthKorea10 karma

I'd kill for some music recommendations from Jac Holzman! Any relatively unknown artists you listen to that need some more attention? What do you listen to these days?

JacHolzman16 karma

I listen to a lot of blues and acoustic musicians. I love the Caroline Chocolate Drops on Nonesuch, Geoff Muldaur, Amadou and Mariam, Amy Winehouse for her courage, Melody Gardot, and any of the solo albums by jazz pianist Don Lewis. Highly recommend the new Alligator Blues sampler.

ColonelPRumpRoast10 karma

Is he REALLY dead, Jac?

JacHolzman21 karma

In answer to EVERYONE who wonders whether Jim died, I believe he really did. Otherwise, he would have pulled off the biggest Houdini act since...Houdini.

turtleturtle1239 karma

Why do you think the Doors were so influential? Thanks for the AMA - what an amazing band.

JacHolzman24 karma

It's extraordinary music, superior lyrics, and they were intensely unique in who they were as musicians and communicators. The audience was everything to them.

dockersshoes9 karma

Hi Jac, I'm a huge fan of Nuggets. How did you and Lenny Kaye get together and decide to assemble this amazing collection?

JacHolzman14 karma

Pertinent question, thank you, especially since Nonesuch celebrated its 40th anniversary just last year. I used to visit Lenny at the Village record store at which he worked. I was fascinated by the garage bands of the early 60s who would have a single that was memorable over a short lifespan and no meaningful albums to speak of. So I thought, it might be fun to see if we could license all of these odd tracks, provide a frame of reference for them, and put them together in a 2-LP set. And I had a name. Namely, Nuggets -- simple and to the point. Later that same day, I ran into Lenny, mentioned this to him, asked him if he wanted to pull it together. Close friends ever since. It's the only compendium album not by a single artist that Rolling Stone recognized in the 250 best Rock Albums Of All Time. It's at 191. Nuggets was reissued in a special 40th anniversary edition by Rhino on CD and vinyl last year.

grayman129 karma

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a rock band in today's music industry?

JacHolzman26 karma

Tell the truth about your motivation. Do you want to play for people because you have something truly unique, and you just can't wait to get it out there? Are you willing to do all the hard work necessary? Write songs, hone your performance, and to be there for the fan. If your level of commitment falls below transcendent, don't waste anybody's time. When you have the passion, and you're willing to back it with irrevocable commitment, go out there. Oh, and it helps if you have great songs.

PonyDinner9 karma


JacHolzman21 karma

Yes. Sometimes you need clues to find an open door to a band's music. The song for me was "Alabama Song." When I heard what they could do with Brecht-Weill was like a key to my understanding of their music. Suddenly, everything became clear quickly. Clear that I had lucked into something special.

SurroundedByMachines9 karma

Since you had a close relationship with The Doors...could you describe your experience with each different member? I'm sure each person had wildly different personalities which contributed to the record making process - especially Jim.

JacHolzman31 karma

The interesting thing about The Doors is how those specific four musicians came together. Jim and Ray knew each other from film school, so that was a natural combination. Ray then picked John and John suggested Robby. So it was a natural coming together. Jim was the most intense and the most secretive. He held himself in reserve. It wasn't easy to get him to talk. Ray was far more open and loquacious and the constant billboard for the band. John and Robby were both very self contained. They expressed themselves primarily through their instruments. Even though the personalities were different, their respect for each other and for their music was a joy to experience.

PS: Don't ever go drinking with Jim either now or in the afterlife!!

xCassiopeiAx9 karma

I don't have a question for you, Mr Holzman, I just want to thank you for recognising the potential and signing the Doors.

My dad listening to them when I was a tiny little girl is one of my first memories and they are still my all time favourite band.

JacHolzman18 karma

To an independent record maker like myself, your words are exquisite validation of why we do what we do. Thank you.

Knotfloyd9 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, Mr. Holzman!

  1. You mentioned the recording session for "The End" to be a career highlight. Which parts (if any) of the track were recorded live as a group versus overdubs, I have always been curious.

  2. Going off the previous question, how often were tracks recorded simultaneously as a group? I have always been a fan of the very 'raw' and live feel of many Doors recordings.

  3. I am a huge fan of the recent "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" Bluray release, can we expect any other concert videos in the future?

  4. Robby Krieger. Incredible guitarist, wild sound. How is his sense of humor?

JacHolzman13 karma

There were very few minor overdubs, and "The End" is a pure live performance. The same is true for "L.A. Woman," recorded at The Doors Workshop in Hollywood.

Robby, in those days, stayed very much within himself. But I was just with him the other day and his sense of humor was full flower.

gloriastavers678 karma

Hi Jac! This is Karen from the Gloria Stavers website. Did you know Gloria? If so, what was your impression of her? Thank you.

JacHolzman15 karma

Hi Karen. Yes, I did know Gloria. She and Jim hung out a lot before she photographed him. She's also famous for an answer she gave to a question when Jim was in his "lion" phase, that great mane of hair surrounding that leonine face. The question: "Did he ever really look like that?" To which Gloria responded: "Absolutely. But for 20 minutes."

dropkickoz8 karma

Any plans for an android version of your app?

JacHolzman10 karma

That's a complicated question. Most android devices do not have a common chip set, and so you have to make alternative versions based upon whether it's a Samsung tablet or another tablet. Android is important. Once the android ecosystem smooths out, we're anxious to get going on this.

Lollipopsicord8 karma

What is the most significant moment you had while interacting with The Doors as both musicians and human beings?

JacHolzman31 karma

Recording "The End" in the studio. It was a magical moment where everything came together in what Ray would have called "cosmic thunderclap." We knew we had something special and that The Doors would be very significant.

tirename8 karma

Thanks for putting out all that great music! I think the late sixties definitely had the best music.
Forever Changes is my favorite album of all time! Do you have any rare Love recordings that haven't been released yet? Anything from what was going to be the album following Forever Changes?

JacHolzman11 karma

The album that followed Forever Changes was Four Sale. Then Arthur left to go to Blue Thumb Records. His wife recently released an album of heretofore undiscovered Love tracks which is available on vinyl and CD. It's worth finding for Love fans.

perfectpitchrob7 karma

Hello Jac, thanks for doing this AMA and for all the bands/artists you have signed over the years.

What were some of the superlatives and special talents you looked for when an artist or band wanted to be signed?

JacHolzman13 karma

I look for my personal reaction to a band. I ask myself the following questions: 1) Have I heard this before? 2) Do I like it? 3) Is this band sufficiently differentiated from everything else out there? 4) Will they be fun to work with? 5) (And this was true back in the 60s) Have I heard enough GREAT material for two albums?

Erreip1797 karma

Hi Jac big fan I had a few questions: 1. How does it feel knowing that you have signed some of the greatest musicians in all of time? 2. What was Jim Morrison like in person? 3. How did you take hearing about Ray Manzarek's death?

JacHolzman15 karma

The answer to the first question is humbling. I had an incredible run for which I'm enormously grateful. As for question 3, I knew Ray was ill, and I was on my honeymoon when my cell phone began ringing with requests for interviews. When I first saw The Doors and began to look at them carefully, Ray was the most impressive. But as they began to write songs together and emerged as a unit, the individual talents began to shine forth. John Densmore was the only drummer for Jim. He could follow Jim anywhere because of his jazz instincts. And Robby was so fluid on guitar with the ability to adapt his style of playing to the requirements of the music. The Doors were a heaven-sent band, and they changed the trajectory of my life.

luismanuu7 karma

Are there any unreleased Doors Recordings that aren't out but are comming out?

JacHolzman30 karma

Practically everything is out there, but there are some recordings from their early gigs at the London Fog that are crying to be released.

PsychedelicWalrus6 karma

What was your first thought when you herd the doors perform?

JacHolzman34 karma

I wasn't impressed. They were doing mostly blues, and not the songs for which they became so famous, but I was struck by Ray, especially. He played two keyboards as if his brain had been cleaved in two. I thought that was amazing and so I came back another night.

KidfromtheGo6 karma

What's the real reason The Doors didn't play Woodstock?

JacHolzman16 karma

They weren't asked. They didn't play Monterey either because they weren't asked.

Brad_Net6 karma

Do you believe that music today lacks the intelligence The Doors (the most intelligent band of all time) had?

JacHolzman24 karma

ABSOLUTELY. The richness that was the 60s was due to the aggressive experimentation artists were willing to risk. The result was that no two bands sounded alike. Unfortunately, that is no longer true.

makepeacej6 karma

Hi Jac!

I'm 22, and I properly discovered The Doors 2 years ago. Having grown up through the 90s and 00s, I've noticed that despite their enormous explosion of popularity during the 60s/70s, The Doors aren't nearly as prominent in modern culture as a lot of other bands of that era (ie Rolling Stones, Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Who, etc). I've always wondered why, and have reached my own conclusions, but why do you think this is?

JacHolzman35 karma

The Rolling Stones are pretty much playing the same repertoire they've been playing for years and it's a nostalgic experience to go see them. Bob Dylan once said "nostalgia is death." I think Jim would agree with him. The Doors' music demands attention. You must give yourself to it. That was the band's intention all along. The Doors are an acquired taste. You must meet them more than halfway.

anycolouryouwant5 karma

Hi Jac, thanks for doing this AMA. My band are in talks with a subsidiary of a major who want to sign us, the problem is we are already signed to an independent for four albums (the first of which we have just released) and they are not willing to buy us out of the contract we have signed. Any advice for how to get around this? And is it a good idea in the first place?

JacHolzman22 karma

Being signed to a major label, or a subsidiary of a major, is no guarantee of success. Whoever your original label is believed in you, so your job is to make the best record you possibly can, but that record needs to be wood-shedded by continuous performance in front of live audiences. Listen to your audience and their response.

ScoobyM5 karma

What's your zombie plan?

JacHolzman12 karma

I'm not a Zombies fan, nor am I a Rob Zombie fan.

Adlerfels4 karma


JacHolzman9 karma

There is nothing good or bad about major labels.

If you look at WMG, Elektra, Atlantic, and Warners came together over a common need to control our own domestic distribution and to improve our ability to connect our music to willing ears of people living overseas. No one forces anybody to sign with a major. Don't have to. It's a choice you make because you believe that the label is sufficiently enthusiastic and it can be helpful in your career. Bruno Mars would be a good example. Being on Elektra/Atlantic helped him.

Generally, labels own the copyrights to the recordings because they fully finance the making of the record and commit large sums to its marketing. The copyright is in the recording, not in the artists' material. That, the artist owns. And, in time, digital copyrights revert to the artists anyway. If you wanna own all your own material, and can finance it yourself, you may not need a major. I'm a personal believer in independent record making. Elektra came a major by virtue of luck, selection of our artists, and our ability over time to connect those artists. I encourage independent record making. It's a steep learning curve, but it's a great ride.

thesoundoholic4 karma

Who would you put in your ultimate super group? You have to pick from the artists you signed. Can be whole groups or individual artists. Go!

JacHolzman9 karma

That's a tough one. No two artists on Elektra sounded alike or came from similar life experiences. I think you could take Ray and put him in just about any band because of his versatility and broad music knowledge. When you're putting together a rhythm section, you have to make sure that drums and bass are simpatico and play on similar wavelengths. It's a question worth my thinking, but I don't have an answer now. I've always been amazed at how bands find each other, and no two stories are alike. But bands who do not come together naturally tend to implode quickly because there is not enough sharing of life experience or musical preferences.

twitter-SireOwl3 karma

You've probably been through countless audio setups in your lifetime... what brand or type of speakers/equipment do you think every hi-fi enthusiast should have?

JacHolzman8 karma

I prefer two power amplifiers and old speakers that age like Strads over time. Though my ears are a bit shot from flying airplanes, I use a tube amp with century 100 JBL speakers. They sound great. Speaker placement is a matter of taste. Try different parts of the room and also raising speakers above the floor 6-8 inches.

[deleted]3 karma


JacHolzman5 karma

Thanks! We're glad you're enjoying the app. (Copies for everyone else at http://smarturl.it/doorsapp)

thestrokesonfire3 karma

Is there ANY live recording of the song "Strange Days??" please tell me im dying to know!

JacHolzman8 karma

There is a live recording of "Strange Days" which may have been taped at the London Fog. A piece of that recording appears within the text of the section in The Doors App (available in the iTunes App store) devoted to their early days at the London Fog. You'll find it in the section following the prologue that deals with their first studio album.