Doors – Light My Fire

The organ intro to this song by Ray Manzarek is one of most iconic intros in rock. I first heard this song as a kid and automatically loved it. It is the song that the Doors are most known by. I like the album version that is longer and has more of a solo.

This was included on their first album and it was a huge hit. The song launched them to stardom. Before it was released, The Doors were an underground band popular in the Los Angeles area, but “Light My Fire” got the attention of a mass audience.

The producers of The Ed Sullivan Show asked the band to change the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” for their appearance in 1967. Morrison said he would, but sang it anyway. Afterwards, he told Sullivan that he was nervous and simply forgot to change the line. No that didn’t fly, and The Doors were never invited back.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, #7 in New Zealand, and #7 in the UK in 1967. Frankly, that surprises me because I thought it would have been an international number 1.

This was the second single on their self-titled debut album. Break On Through (To The Other Side) was their debut single.

The four band members were credited for writing this song Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, John Densmore, and Ray Manzarek.

Jim Morrison indicated in his notebooks that he disliked this song and hated performing it. He also seemed to resent that the popularity of the band derived from this song, which he had just a small part in writing.

The Doors didn’t have a bass player and none was credited because studio musicians were not credited. Carol Kaye claims it was her.

From Songfacts

Most of the song was written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, who wanted to write about one of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. He recalled to Uncut: “I was living with my parents in Pacific Palisades – I had my amp and SG. I asked Jim, what should I write about? He said, ‘Something universal, which won’t disappear two years from now. Something that people can interpret themselves.’ I said to myself I’d write about the four elements; earth, air, fire, water, I picked fire, as I loved the Stones song, ‘Play With Fire,’ and that’s how that came about.”

Krieger came up with the melody and wrote most of the lyrics, which are about leaving inhibitions behind in flames of passion.

At first, the song had a folk flavor, but it ignited when Jim Morrison wrote the second verse (“our love become a funeral pyre…”) and Ray Manzarek came up with the famous organ intro. Drummer John Densmore also contributed, coming up with the rhythm. Like all Doors songs of this era, the band shared composer credits.

On the album, which was released in January 1967, the song runs 6:50. The group’s first single, “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” reached just #126 in America. “Light My Fire” was deemed too long for airplay, but radio stations (especially in Los Angeles) got requests for the song from listeners who heard it off the album. Their label, Elektra Records decided to release a shorter version so they had producer Paul Rothchild do an edit. By chopping out the guitar solos, he whittled it down to 2:52. This version was released as a single in April, and the song took off, giving The Doors their first big hit.

To many fans, the single edit was an abomination, and many DJs played the album version once the song took off.

Elektra founder Jaz Holzman recalled to Mojo magazine November 2010: “We had that huge problem with the time length – seven-and-a-half minutes. Nobody could figure out how to cut it. Finally I said to Rothchild, ‘Nobody can cut it but you.’ When he cut out the solo, there were screams. Except from Jim. Jim said, ‘Imagine a kid in Minneapolis hearing even the cut version over the radio, it’s going to turn his head around.’ So they said, ‘Go ahead, release it.’ We released it with the full version on the other side.”

This was the first song Robby Krieger wrote to completion. Jim Morrison did most of the songwriting for the album, but he needed some help and asked Krieger to step in. The 20-year-old guitarist asked him what to write about, and Morrison replied, “Something universal.”

There are some pretty basic, but effective, rhymes in this song:

fire
liar
higher
mire
pyre

A “funeral pyre” is a platform used in ceremonial cremations. The image evokes spirituality and ancient mythology, as well as death, one of Jim Morrison’s favorite topics. Robby Krieger objected to the line at first, but Morrison convinced him it would work in opposition to the love-based lyrics that dominate the song.

This was produced by Paul Rothchild and was recorded in late 1966 and then released in April 1967.

The song topped the Hot 100 for the first three weeks of July 1967. It sold over one million copies and was the first #1 hit for their record label Elektra. 

This was the first rock song to feature both a guitar and keyboard in the instrumental section.

A blind, Puerto Rican singer named Jose Feliciano recorded a Latin-tinged version of this song that reached #3 in 1968 and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance, Male. For Feliciano, who also won the Best New Artist Grammy that year, the song was his breakout hit and introduced his style of acoustic, woodwind-heavy arrangements. Based on his “Light My Fire” performance, Feliciano was asked to sing the The Star Spangled Banner before Game 5 of World Series between the Tigers and Cardinals. He delivered the first non-traditional take on the National Anthem at a major sporting event, doing a slow, acoustic version and causing an uproar. Feliciano capitalized on the controversy by releasing his Anthem performance as a single, and it reached #50 in the US.

In 1968, Buick offered The Doors $75,000 to use this song in a commercial as “Come on Buick, light my fire.” With Morrison away, Krieger, Densmore, and Manzarek agreed to allow it. When Morrison found out, he pitched a fit and killed the deal.

This was the last song Jim Morrison performed live. It took place at the Doors concert at The Warehouse in New Orleans on December 12, 1970. Midway through the song, Morrison became exasperated and smashed his microphone into the floor, ending the show.

It was also the last song The Doors played live as a trio, as they continued without Morrison after his death. Their final performance took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on September 10, 1972.

According to Ray Manzarek on BBC Radio 2’s program Ray Manzarek’s Summer of Love, the baseline to “Light My Fire” was inspired by Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.”

Manzarek told About.com how the keyboard solo came about: “It was exactly what we were doing at the time at Whisky a Go Go – letting the music take us wherever it might lead in a particular performance, just improvising. And that?s exactly the same way that solo came about.” 

She was a first-call studio pro at the time and had performed on a lot of the hits that were recorded in Los Angeles, including many of Phil Spector’s productions. She told Songfacts regarding her involvement: “The Doors weren’t there. Just a couple of the guys were there in the booth. We cut the track. I’m playing on that, but I don’t like to talk about it, because there’s too many fanatics about that stuff. I’m a prude. I don’t do drugs. I think it’s stupid. I think for people to be into drugs and to die on stage, I think that’s so stupid, and totally unnecessary. So I stay away from even talking about that. But I am on the contract, yeah, I played on the hit of that.” (Here’s our full Carol Kaye interview.)

The extended organ and guitar solos in the album version of the song are based on two of John Coltrane’s works: his 1961 track “Ole,” and his jazz cover of the song “My Favorite Things” from the motion picture The Sound of Music. 

Robby Krieger told Clash Music he put “every chord I knew into this song.” Most of the group’s songs to this point were three-chord compositions, so he wanted to do something more “adventurous.”

In concert, Robby Krieger never played the same guitar solo on this song. He would sometimes mix in bits of the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby.”

Train covered this on the 2000 Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate. Lead singer Pat Monahan sang with the remaining members (Manzarek, Krieger, Densmore) on the VH1’s Storytellers dedicated to the Doors. Other artists to cover the song include Jackie Wilson, Etta James, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Will Young, UB40, B. J. Thomas and Beastie Boys.

Light My Fire

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire, yeah

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire, yeah

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire
Try to set the night on fire
Try to set the night on fire
Try to set the night on fire

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

47 thoughts on “Doors – Light My Fire”

  1. When they performed this live, Ray Manzarek played the song’s bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, while performing the other keyboard parts on a Vox Continental with his right.

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  2. I get the feeling I would have liked this song a lot more if Jim had not been involved at all. Even without him, there’s a lot of drama and musicianship in the song’s back story. And there’s Carol Kaye again. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I felt so bad for the band because of Jim. Yea without him I dont’ know if they would have made it but he caused them so much grief.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim Morrison was a beautiful man in the same way that Narcissus was. He was in love with himself and with the power of his beauty. He thought he had a beautiful mind, but he was an average poet. He was a great showman, though; and as such he was a spectacular frontman. He was a good singer, too. There would have been no Doors without him. My opinion, anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I agree…they would have never made it without him…but I can’t help but feel for the other three…all good musicians who had to go through a lot for a live show.
      I did like his singing a lot. When I was a teen I thought he was the quintessential rock star.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh by the way, Max–I missed your guest post on The Beatles until late last night. Wow! What a great list. I hadn’t listened to Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude in such a long time…It’s so great. You did a fantastic job as guest blogger.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me neither. Now, you’re probably going to hate me for this, but I really love the Stars on 45 Beatles medley. I think it’s very well done. It’s an interesting story…the musicians were excellent. For example, the voice that emulated John Lennon’s was the lead singer for the group Smyle. The drummer was the drummer for Golden Earing (a band I love).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No I don’t hate it because it rejuvenated interest in the Beatles which wasn’t an easy thing in the 80s. For some people that was their first exposure and it got them looking deeper.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great song… like I was saying in Hans blog a few days back, almost an under-rated band these days though Morrison may be over-rated as a person. Wonder if Carol Kaye was on that? She was on so many hits of that era.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always heard that Ed Sullivan was furious and confronted Jim Morrison with “You’ll never do the Ed Sullivan Show again!” To which he replied, “We’ve already done the Ed Sullivan Show!” The remaining members tried to stick together after Morrison died, and they actually made another appearance on the show.

    I always thought it was weird that they didn’t have a bass player. I guess Ray Manzarek played the bass parts on the pedals. If Carol Kaye played bass on the record, she did a great job, which of course Carol always did. I had a couple of her instruction tapes, and they were pretty good. She played with a pick, which a lot of bass players say is wrong (I played with and without…)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That was a great line by Morrison…I have to give him that.
      Carol Kaye is one of the greats…I wish they would have kept better records back then on who was playing on sessions.

      I mostly play with with index finger, middle finger, ring finger and have occasionally worked in the pinky on the John Entwistle runs… I will play with a pick if I want a more direct sound.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. badfinger,

    I still remember when the unknown but very talented blind Jose Feliciano
    gave a guest performance in the Old Town School of Folk Music.

    Thanks for a memory. He was a master guitar player.

    Regards and goodwill blogging

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember how “groovy” this song was when it came out. I admire him for defying the despot Ed Sullivan. I know Eddy ordered The Stones to change their lyrics also. Oh what a hard-on that must have given the ghoulish Sullivan, to try and control the hottest rock stars of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morrison had that great reply after being told he wasn’t going to appear on the Ed Sullivan show anymore…”We have already done the Ed Sullivan show”….that was great.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your first sentence mentions one of the key reasons I love that song: Ray Manzarek’s organ! It’s just such a cool sound and the melody of that intro is truly iconic – great choice! Now I feel like listening to all of the tune’s mighty 7 minutes+plus!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dang I’m sorry…I wrote it 3 weeks ago at the time you had your dandelion post…I must have forgot.
      Oh yea…she worships moon… I told Bailey that is the woman for you! I found her around a year back

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      1. LOL…I know right! I can’t believe i forgot it while I got the words! I would understand both but not just the video…

        I’ll have to remember that saying.

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  9. A perfect song, it can be covered in any genre and still sound great. The Doors’ version was only a minor chart hit in the UK in 1967 and I don’t recall ever hearing it on the radio, the famous version was Jose Feliciano’s a year later and which I loved – this was the version Will Young copied in the 2000’s and topped the charts with. In 1979 Amii Stewart had a big UK hit with a pounding disco version which was also fab, and then in 1991 The Doors finally got the top 10 hit with the original and best, as the long version got released off the back of The Doors movie biog (though I prefer the short version, oops!). Only 24 years late!

    I’ve never heard a bad version of this song, I think it’s indestructible….!

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    1. I also like after the show when Sullivan told him “You will never play the Ed Sullivan show again” and he said…we already did the Ed Sullivan show.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Out of all of them he probably was my favorite member. He is a different kind of guitar player…I lik ethe jazz and blues elements he put in the songs.

      Like

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