The lyrics leave a lot of wiggle room for interpretation, but the video lays out a pretty clear story: the singer is an auto mechanic who desires the upper class married woman who keeps bringing her car in to him for service. One night, he drops off her car, considers ringing her bell, then thinks better of it.
This was the first time Springsteen acted in a music video, and it had a similar theme to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl
" clip, where Christie Brinkley plays the socialite Joel's mechanic is after.
Springsteen was just getting comfortable with music videos, and with the clip's director John Sayles, who he worked with on "Born In The U.S.A.
" The music-less intro worked in part because the song is so short, so adding the dialogue made it about average video length. MTV is based in New York and was run by rock radio veterans who thought very highly of Springsteen, so it wasn't too surprising when "I'm On Fire" won for Best Male Video at the second MTV Video Music Awards
, held in 1985. It was just the second awards ceremony - "Uptown Girl" was nominated for the award the previous year, but lost to David Bowie's "China Girl