This became The Doors' signature song. Released on their first album, it was a huge hit and launched them to stardom. Before this was released, The Doors were an underground band popular in the Los Angeles area, but this got the attention of a mass audience.
The Doors' record company thought this was too long to get radio play, so the guitar solos were edited down for the single to make it considerably shorter. Many stations played the 6:50 album version anyway. Since the single was a shortened version, fans had to buy the album to get the extended mix, which helped spur sales of the album.
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 her 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.
Most of the lyrics were written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. He wanted to write about one of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. Jim Morrison wrote some of the second verse, and Ray Manzarek came up with the organ intro.
The extended organ and guitar solos in the album version of the song are based on John Coltrane's Jazz cover of the song "My Favorite Things
" from the motion picture The Sound of Music
. (thanks, Sam - Lincoln, NE)
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 writing. (thanks, John - Topeka, KS)
This was produced by Paul Rothchild and was recorded in late 1966 and then released in April 1967.
The song topped the chart for the first three weeks in July 1967. It sold over one million copies and was the first #1 hit for their record label Elektra. (thanks, Kain - Charleston, SC, for above 2)
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 sung it anyway. Afterwards, he told Sullivan that he was nervous and simply forgot to change the line. This didn't fly, and The Doors were never invited back.
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.
Buick offered The Doors $100,000 to use this 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 was a show at The Warehouse in New Orleans.
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.
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
." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
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 thats exactly the same way that solo came about." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The Doors didn't have a bass player, but there is some bass on this song. Determining who played it is an inexact science, as session musicians were not formally credited at the time, but Carol Kaye claims it was her. 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 us 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