Light My Fire
"Light My Fire" is a song by the American rock band the Doors. It was recorded in August 1966 and released in January 1967 on their eponymous debut album. Released as an edited single on April 24, 1967, it spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (in July 29, August 5 and August 12, 1967), and one week on the Cash Box Top 100, nearly a year after its recording.
|"Light My Fire"|
|Single by the Doors|
|from the album The Doors|
|B-side||"The Crystal Ship"|
|Released||April 24, 1967|
|Producer(s)||Paul A. Rothchild|
|The Doors singles chronology|
A year later, it re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 following the success of José Feliciano's cover version of the song (which peaked at number three on the Billboard chart), peaking at number 87. The song was principally written by the band's guitarist, Robby Krieger, but was credited to the entire band.
Jim had been writing all the songs and then one day we realized we didn’t have enough tunes, so he said, "Hey, why don’t you guys try and write songs?" I wrote "Light My Fire" that night and brought it to the next rehearsal ... It's always kind of bugged me that so many people don’t know I was the composer.
– Robby Krieger discussing the song's writing during an interview.
"Light My Fire" originated in early 1966 as a composition by Robby Krieger, who said that he was inspired by the melody of "Hey Joe" and the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire". On taking his initial composition to the band, John Densmore suggested that it should have more of a Latin rhythm, Jim Morrison wrote the second verse, while Ray Manzarek added the Bach-influenced introductory organ motif; Densmore also suggested that it should open with a single snare drum hit. The extended solo arrangement was inspired by John Coltrane's cover version of "My Favorite Things", with some parts of it, containing polyrhythm vogue.
The band started playing the song in performances in April 1966, and extended it with a jazzy improvisation. When the Doors performed the song at live concerts, Manzarek played the song's bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, while performing the main keyboard lines on a Vox Continental using his right hand. When they came to record the song later in the year, producer Paul A. Rothchild brought in session musician Larry Knechtel to overdub a Fender Precision Bass guitar to double the keyboard bass line. Rothchild also suggested that the recording repeat the introductory motif at the end of the track.
Although the album version was just over seven minutes long, it was widely requested for radio play, notably by Los Angeles DJ Dave Diamond, and Elektra Records owner Jac Holzman asked that a shorter version be released as a single. Rothchild edited a single version, cut down to under three minutes with nearly all the instrumental break removed for airplay on AM radio.
The Ed Sullivan Show
The band appeared on various TV shows, such as American Bandstand, miming to a playback of the single. However, "Light My Fire" was performed live by the Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast on September 17, 1967. The Doors were asked by producer Bob Precht, Sullivan's son-in-law, to change the line "girl, we couldn't get much higher", as the sponsors were uncomfortable with the possible reference to drugs. However, the meaning of the line was confirmed to be literal, as in "high in the sky". The band agreed to do so, and did a rehearsal using the amended lyrics, "girl, we couldn't get much better". However, during the live performance, the band's lead singer Jim Morrison sang the original, unaltered lyrics. Ed Sullivan did not shake Jim Morrison's hand as he left the stage. The band had been negotiating a multi-episode deal with the producers; however, after violating the agreement not to perform the offending line, they were informed they would never perform on the show again. Morrison's response was "Hey man. We just did the Sullivan show."
Buick TV commercial
Drummer John Densmore recalled that Buick offered $75,000 in October 1968 to adapt the song for use in a Buick TV commercial ("Come on, Buick, light my fire"). Morrison, however, was still in London after a European tour had just ended on September 20, and could not be contacted by the other band members, who agreed to the deal in his absence. As the band had agreed in 1965 to both equal splits and everyone having veto power in decisions, Morrison consequently called Buick and threatened to personally smash a Buick with a sledgehammer on television, should the commercial be aired.
The 40th Anniversary mix of the debut album presents a stereo version of "Light My Fire" in speed-corrected form for the first time. The speed discrepancy (being about 3.5% slow) was brought to Bruce Botnick's attention by Brigham Young University professor Michael Hicks, who noted that all video and audio live performances of the Doors performing the song, the sheet music, and statements of band members show the song in a key almost a half step higher (key of A) than the stereo LP release (key of A♭/G♯). Until the 2006 remasters, only the original 45 RPM singles ("Light My Fire" and "Break On Through") were produced at the correct speed.
A live version was released in 1983 on their live album Alive, She Cried, the first of several live albums released in subsequent decades to include the song. "Light My Fire" achieved modest success in Australia, where it peaked at number 22 on the ARIA chart. The single originally reached number 49 in the UK in 1967, but experienced belated success in that country in 1991, when a reissue peaked at number seven. This reissue was more successful in Ireland, peaking atop the IRMA chart for two weeks in June. The reissue occurred due to revived interest in the band following Oliver Stone's film biopic The Doors.
The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in September 1967 for exceeding one million units shipped. As of December 1971, it was the band's best-selling single with over 927,000 copies sold. It was also certified Platinum by the RIAA in September 2018 for reaching 1,000,000 digital units. Billboard described the single as a "top discotheque offering" with an "infectious beat" that "really grooves from start to finish."
"Light My Fire" has since been widely viewed as among the Doors' greatest songs, and one of the quintessential works for the psychedelic rock genre. The song is ranked at number 35 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was included in RIAA's Songs of the Century list, ranking number 52. NME cited it as the second greatest song of all time. Feliciano's cover won the 1969 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, the same year he also won the Grammy for Best New Artist. In 1998, the track was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame under the category Rock (single).
- John Densmore – drums
- Robby Krieger – electric guitar
- Ray Manzarek – Vox Continental organ, piano bass
- Jim Morrison – vocals
- Larry Knechtel – bass guitar
Charts and certifications
José Feliciano cover
|"Light My Fire"|
|Single by José Feliciano|
|from the album Feliciano!|
|José Feliciano singles chronology|
Puerto Rican vocalist and guitarist José Feliciano enjoyed significant international success when he released his version of "Light My Fire" in 1968 as a single on the RCA Victor label. It is perhaps the best known cover of this song, reaching number 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts, only a year after the original had been a number-one hit on the same chart. His version became the bigger hit in Australia and also in Canada, where it reached number one.
Feliciano's remake blended Latin influences, including a mixture of classic Spanish guitar, and soul, with American pop. It contains proto-latin rock stylings, and a slower tempo than the Doors original version. In a 1969 interview, Feliciano said that he liked the song when he first heard it, but felt that he should wait a year before releasing the song. He also said that "California Dreamin'" was the original A-side of the single.
The single helped to spur the worldwide success of its album, Feliciano!, which was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards in 1969. Feliciano's arrangement of "Light My Fire" has influenced several subsequent versions, including that by Will Young. Songwriter Robby Krieger said in an interview about the cover: "It's really a great feeling to have written a classic. I think I owe a big debt to Jose Feliciano because he is actually the one, when he did it, everybody started doing it. He did a whole different arrangement on it."
Will Young cover
|"Light My Fire"|
|Single by Will Young|
|from the album From Now On|
|Released||May 27, 2002|
|Will Young singles chronology|
Pop Idol series 1 winner Will Young covered the song in 2002. He originally performed a piano version of the song in the final 50 of Pop Idol, and again, with a backing track, in the final 10. It was later released as his second single. It went straight to the number one spot in the UK Singles Chart, selling 177,000 copies in its first week of release. The single stayed at number one for two weeks. The cover version was recorded in the style of José Feliciano's version.
Young also performed the song on World Idol, where he came in fifth place.
Charts and certifications
|Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)||10|
|Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)||13|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)||8|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||44|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||35|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||21|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||76|
|UK Singles (OCC)||1|
|UK Singles (OCC)||16|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000^|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Other cover versions
|"Light My Fire"|
|Single by Amii Stewart|
|from the album Knock on Wood|
|B-side||"Bring It on Back to Me"|
|Amii Stewart singles chronology|
In 1979, Amii Stewart released a disco version of "Light My Fire", together with a medley titled "137 Disco Heaven". It was a big hit in the UK, where it reached No. 5, and a mild hit in Germany, peaking at No. 26. In the U.S., the song peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 36 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart.
- "Light My Fire" / "137 Disco Heaven" – 8:22
- "Bring It on Back to Me" – 3:58
1985 UK 12"
- "Knock on Wood" / "Ash 48" – 7:45
- "Light My Fire" / "137 Disco Heaven" – 7:35
|"Light My Fire"|
|Single by Shirley Bassey|
|Shirley Bassey singles chronology|
"Light My Fire Remix" is a single released by Shirley Bassey in 1999. This is a remix of the vocal recorded in 1970 for the album Something, which is also included on this release. The single was issued by Blue Note, EMI Music France in two formats a 12" single and a CD single.
In spring 1998, Blue Note France and Radio Nova organised a competition to find the best remix, created from the Groove and Jazz back catalogues. The DJ had to be an unknown, who had not yet had any work published. DJ Booster was the winner and the hip-hop and club dance remixes of "Light My Fire" were released to the public. French musician DJ Olivier Armbuster, alias Booster, has origins in the suburbs of Paris. He is a musician, who plays a variety of instruments and went on to release an album entitled Loop in 2001.
Bassey's original recording of the song was arranged by Johnny Harris, who also recorded his own instrumental version using a similar arrangement for his 1970 album Movements.
- "Light My Fire" (Booster-Remix Edit) – 3:17
- "Light My Fire" (Booster Mix) – 5:05
- "Light My Fire" (Shirley Bassey original version) – 3:23
- "Light My Fire" (Booster Jungle Mix) – 4:23
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