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Fire On High by Electric Light Orchestra

Album: Face The MusicReleased: 1975
  • This is an instrumental, but there are some lyrics in the intro that were recorded backwards (backmasking). When played backwards, it says: "The music is reversible, but time is not! Turn back, turn back, turn back."
  • This has been used numerous times as background "bumper music" for radio commercials and sporting events over the years. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Dave - Marieta, GA, for above 2
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Comments: 40

There is no need to be freaked out with this wonderful story. Lynne is simply retelling an old story in his own brilliant and unique way. In 1667, John Milton wrote 'Paradise Lost' and mirrored the Biblical story of man's fall and redemption. The concept is that we have all begun in our own hell, hoping to be redeemed to heaven, happiness, bliss, El Dorado, or, dare I say, our own Xanadu. In 'Fire on High', as with Milton, the Bible, and John Travolta dancing in 'Satan's Alley' in the movie, Stayin' Alive', we start in Hell. From the very beginning of the song [time stamp 0:01], we get tension with the violins and the backward-masking giving us the illusion of a demonic language (it's not, by the way, it is simply the words, "The music is reversible, but time isn't... turn back... turn back..." recorded backwards). We hear doors slamming, running footsteps, and other haunted-house staples but, interestingly, at [time stamp] 1:01, off in the distance, we hear "The Hallelujah Chorus" being sung by angels! There is hope! There is a way out! But that hope is snuffed out with atonal and asymmetrical violins [1:21] that try to overshadow Hope. At [1:30], a triumphant drum-beat begins followed by joy and hope mixed with confusion [1:34] of the lost; can I truly get out? Is there hope?. But the cadence continues and the confusion fades away. At [2:00] the Way Out appears and you, the Lost, begin walking out of your hell... slowly at first but with more and more confidence. At [2:43], the guitar ushers in Happiness to the traveler for the first time, giving you permission to smile. At [2:56], the drums then give us permission to dance and at [3:15], the violins proclaim 'Fire on High!' just before the Angel Choir actually says it. At [3:28], the violins of confusion that we heard earlier are transformed into violins of confidence and strength while still telling you that something Big is about to happen. The listener must now enter their Heaven with the 'Walk of the Redeemed' that begins at [3:51]. Choirs of Angels line your path; the cadence is set; you must walk this final path. Finally, after a lifetime in hell, we have made our way here and [4:22] tells us that we have arrived with guitars, drums, dancing, satisfaction, and happiness as we repeat our anthem of salvation... "Fire on High!, Fire on High!Max - Madison, Al
Michael in Lafayette CA I remember that too and none of my friends do. So cool that somebody else remembers that, everytime I go back to Rochester I think of that as I was only 8 years old or so.Tony - San Diego
Fire on high was also used as the 'soundtrack' for a scrambler ride at Seabreeze amusement park north of Rochester NY in the 1980's- 2000-ish. It may still be used. I used to LOVE hearing the song as it whipped you around and around.Michael - Lafayette, Ca
I heard this piece of music at an amusement park in the seventies, I did not know what it was. I heard it multiple times in the decades that followed. Finally in October 2011, while in Memphis, I heard it again with the DJ remarking that his station's phone always "rings off the hook" every time he plays this song, with people asking "What is that song?" I am so glad that I know now, mystery solved and on my loaded on itunes for the next few decades.John - South Jordan , Ut
Just for the record, the opening intro of 'Evil Woman' (minus lyrics) is in there backwards as well.John4521 - Newcastle, United Kingdom
I've loved this song for many years... one of my all-time favorites! Now that I have my little ones in the car with this song cranked, I can relate to those who say it's scary for them. I appreciate the translation of the words at the beginning posted here. I hope an explanation of that to them will help them with their fears.Todd - Brentwood, Ca
Matt isn't crazy, I think of Funeral for a Friend every time I hear this song. Also, that mix up is a good reason bands shouldn't name themselves after popular songs. It'd be like naming a band Breakfast in America or something, then never having a normal conversation about Supertramp ever again.Andrew - Orion, Il
For some reason I always interpreted this song as the soundtrack to the rebellion of Satan and his angels in Heaven. "Fire On High" would refer to Heaven being on fire from the terrible battle. The first part is the secret conspiracy and buildup to the revolt, then when the heavy guitars come in that is the beginning of the actual battle.Jeff - Boston, Ma
ELO was my first concert at the Keil Center in St. Louis. A W E S O M E Song, Band and atmosphere. I haven't forgotten this fantastic song since then & never will. Rock & Roll at it finest !K - St. Louis, Mo
a true epic..........timeless , and awesome!!!!!Terry - Mesa, Az
wow Mitchell and Bethany I know what both of you are taking about. I am from Biddeford. I actually asked the guy out front who talks really fast what the name of the song is and he said it so fast that I had to ask him again slowly....I cannot believe that they are taking out that ride! They already took out the Galaxi to make the Wild Mouse. And the Galaxi was my 4th favorite ride!Desiree - Biddeford, Me
What's Neil Young and Van Zandt got to do with ELO and "Fire on High"?K - Gilbert, Az
I thought Wide World of Sports used it in the 70'sGuy - Bensalem , Pa
For all you kiddies under 40 probably never had the chill of actually putting the turntable on neutral, putting the needle in the right spot and manually spinning the record backwards. Not only is there the spookiness of the words but there is also the speed up and slow down of the voice because you cannot keep a constant speed when you spin the record manually. when played forwards it sounds like "Nee-oxnid, orbizinna, BIZNEEMITH"Ed - Canton, Oh
This song is all-over the place an a true classic. The intro is zany and scares little children.Mitch - Crown Point, In
My god. INCREDIBLY MASTERFUL! I cannot get enough of this song. 4:18 to the end, is just so brilliantly perfect and excellent that it brings me to tears. Not really, but my god. The word epic has lost its meaning with the youtube generation, but this song. epic. epic doesn't begin to scratch the surface.Joe - Bellingham, Wa
The music is reversable,
Tme ian't,
Turn Back
Turn Back
Turn Back
Leo - Denver, Co
I heard this song the first time on the freeway rather intoxicated about 30 years ago. I was so impressed I have never forgotten it. It is a classic .Turn it up loud and hang on to your arse.Tom - Everett, Wa
Mr. Blue Sky was used for a commercial, or maybe even for Fame (the musical). Am I right? God, I love ELO.Melissa - Cuyahoga Falls, Oh
I just downloaded a bunch of ELO, and was reminded of how frightened I was by this song when I was little! Having seven older siblings, I heard a lot of classic rock, which I love. I forgot about this song, but now, of course I distinctly remember it from my childhood. It has been floating around in the fuzzy recesses of my brain. And, I am reminded about how much it scared me!!!Melissa - Cuyahoga Falls, Oh
Probably the most frightening song ever recorded. Last summer I was so desperate for work that I took a temp job at MIS. I woke up at 3 in the morning to drive out to the speedway during an intense thunderstorm (lightning as well). I was as scared as hell, and I had the local classic rock station on to cool my nerves. I was silently praying "Please don't play Fire on High, please don't play Fire on High" over and over. Guess what they played---while I was driving past a huge cemetery, no less?Aubrey - Jackson, Mi
Funeral For A Friend from the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John, 1973. (can be heard in it's entirety on You Tube) Are you talking about the keyboard flutter? Eh, maybe, except that technique is ages old. I would hardly call the song a rip off. Reminds me of when a friend way back when asked me if I thought Oasis sounded just like the Beatles...uh yeah, I replied, they both have English accents... Fire on High and Funeral both use synthesizers and there are echos of the same ideas but holy cow that's music, everyone takes inspiration from one another, there hasn't been anything completely original since cavemen were banging rocks and sticks together! lol Oh yeah, and they're both instrumentals with various movements both brooding and ecstatic, maybe that's what you meant? As for long "awkward" instrumentals - lol - that was the 70's buddy! :o)

(hey Benn from Arcola! I didn't know they had internet down there! ;o) j/k)
Josh - Champaign, Il
matt meant Funeral for a Friend by Elton John, not the band FFAFLogan - Flint, Mi
Matt, nyc, NY. Yes you are the only one who thinks this is a blatant rip-off of Funeral for a Friend. This song was written in 1975, FFAF didn't even exist until nearly THIRTY years later (2002)!Anonymous
Bethany, I know exactly what you're talking about!!! That ride got me into the song, and when I heard it on the radio for the first time, I was very surprised to hear the opening bit that was taken out of the ride. But that made me love it even more. It's really cool seeing another Portland, MEer on here :-P.Mitchell - Portland, Me
ben in arcola, fire on high was 'b' side to livin'thing ,so i gather it was .on stw in usJeff - Liverpool, England
When I was a teenager, this is one of the songs that my church used to pick on the most. Rock and roll being the devil's music and all, don't you know. It didn't help that "Fire On High" actually DOES have deliberately backmasked lyrics to it. Oh, they loved playing this song to creep us out (because, much as I ADORE this song, the first half is frickin' creepy). This one, "Stairway to Heaven", "One Vision" by Queen (also with distorted lyrics in the opening), and so on and so on. Of course, they just guaranteed I'd grow up to love these songs... ;)Jameson - Lexington, Ky
Ripoff of "Funeral for a Friend?" Don't think so. "Fire on High" came out first!Brendan - Cary, Nc
When I heard this song for the first time, my heart litterally stopped at the 12 string guitar part. I LOVE IT!!!Jimmy - Twinsburg, Oh
This song is frightening!Diane - Brooklyn, Ny
This song appeared as the B-side to "Sweet Talkin' Woman". However, the 45 version does not have the intro with the backmasking in it.Benn - Arcola, Il
The 1970-80's TV show "CBS Sports Spectacular" used the acoustic guitar section (Bill was very close!)Jim - Seattle, Wa
awesome song, my favorite instrumentalTravis - Phoenix, Ny
If you listen to the first part of the song were the Strings come in It sounds just like the Org Godzilla theam Song I wounder if Jeff Lynn is a Godzilla fan ???? fire on the high? lol But when I first heard this tune I had to go out and buy face the Music and the joker on the same LP is a awsome tune alsoPhil - Warren, Mi
This song is used in a ride called the Astrosphere at Funtown, USA in Saco, ME. It is a scrambler inside a large darkened dome - while it spins around - they project images onto the wall of the dome and play this song.Bethany - Portland, Me
am i the only one who thinks this song is a blatant rip-off of Funeral for a Friend? Two themes (one beginning at 2:15 in FOH, the other at 2:40), are strikingly similar, and they both use a long, quiet and somewhat awkward opening.Matt - Nyc, Ny
fire on high is to me one of the greatest instrumental songs out there, jeff lynn did a great jobDom - Stl, Mo
neil young wrote a song years later called walk away, fact lyric(your mama lived a simple life while your dada was a southern hype)Kevin - Dublin, Ireland
thats why van zant wrote the song simple man because his mother hated that fact that he was going to turn out like his fatherKevin - Dublin, Ireland
The flailing guitar part of this song was used by CBS Sports in the 1970s.Bill - Southeastern Part Of, Fl
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