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

Doors – Riders On The Storm

Riders on the Storm sounds like a song some cool jazz midnight DJ (WKRP fans…think Venus Flytrap) would spin in the old days when they actually could pick what they played. It’s a song to chill out to and I’ve always liked it.

The song is off The Door’s last album with Jim Morrison…LA Woman. The song peaked at #14 in 1971 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, and #22 in the UK.

This song evolved out of a jam session when the band was messing around with “Ghost Riders In the Sky.” It was Jim Morrison’s idea to alter the title to “Riders On The Storm.”

This would be the last song Jim Morrison recorded. He went to France and died a few weeks later.

Ray Manzarek: “There’s a whisper voice on ‘Riders on the Storm,’ if you listen closely, a whispered overdub that Jim adds beneath his vocal. That’s the last thing he ever did. An ephemeral, whispered overdub.” 

From Songfacts

The song can be seen as an autobiographical account of Morrison’s life: he considered himself a “Rider on the storm.” The “killer on the road” is a reference to a screenplay he wrote called The Hitchhiker (An American Pastoral), where Morrison was going to play the part of a hitchhiker who goes on a murder spree. The lyrics, “Girl you gotta love your man” can be seen as a desperate plea to his long time girlfriend Pamela. 

As it says in Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis, in 1962, while Jim was attending Florida State University in Tallahassee, he was seeing a girl named Mary Werbelow who lived in Clearwater, 280 miles away. Jim would oftentimes hitchhike to see her. “Those solitary journeys on hot and dusty Florida two-lane blacktop roads, with his thumb out and his imagination on fire with lust and poetry and Nietzsche and God knows what else – taking chances on redneck truckers, fugitive homos, and predatory cruisers – left an indelible psychic scar on Jimmy, whose notebooks began to obsessively feature scrawls and drawings of a lone hitchhiker, an existential traveler, faceless and dangerous, a drifting stranger with violent fantasies, a mystery tramp: the killer on the road.” 

The Doors brought in bass players Marc Benno and Jerry Scheff to play on the album. Scheff came up with the distinctive bass line after Manzarek played him what he had in mind on his keyboard. It took a while to figure out, since it was much harder to play on a bass than a keyboard.

Ray Manzarek used a Fender Rhodes electric piano to create the effect of rain.

This was the last song on the last Doors album with Morrison. Fittingly, it ends with the storm fading slowly to silence. The remaining Doors released two more albums without Morrison before breaking up in 1972. In 2002, Kreiger and Manzarek reunited as “The Doors Of The 21st Century.” Densmore, who says he wasn’t invited to join them, went to court and eventually got a ruling preventing the group from using The Doors in its name, so they changed their name to “Riders On The Storm” after this song. 

The single was shortened for radio play. Some of the piano solo was cut out.

In 2000, the surviving members of The Doors taped a VH1 Storytellers episode with guest vocalists filling in for Morrison. Scott Stapp from Creed sang on this track.

Creed contributed a version of this to the 2000 Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate. Creed also performed it with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger at Woodstock ’99. Krieger sat in on Creed’s “What’s This Life For” during the set.

Doors drummer John Densmore wrote a book called Riders On The Storm about his life with Jim Morrison and The Doors. 

Eric Red, the screenwriter of the 1986 film The Hitcher, has said that his screenplay was inspired by this song. He said in an interview with DVD Active: “I thought the elements of the song – a killer on the road in a storm plus the cinematic feel of the music – would make an terrific opening for a film. I started with that scene and went from there.”

When the 71-year-old Ray Manzarak was asked by the Somerville Journal in March 2010 if he turns up or turns off Doors music when he hears it on the radio. Manzarek said, “Oh, God, turn it up! Are you kidding? Living up in northern California, it rains a lot, so they play the heck out of ‘Riders on the Storm.’ And when that comes on, I crank that sucker, man.” 

When he recorded this song, Jim Morrison had already decided that he was going to leave the band and go to Paris, where he would die. Some of the lyrics in this song (“girl, you gotta love your man…”) relate to his love for his girlfriend Pam Courson, who went with him to France.

At the end of this song, there are sound effects of thunder, and the faint voice of Jim Morrison whispering, “riders on the storm.” This was envisioned as his spirit whispering from the beyond.

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm.

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirming like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah.

Girl you gotta love your man
Girl you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah.

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm.

Riders on the storm (X4)