Fire Lake

Album: Against the Wind (1980)
Charted: 6
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  • For years, Seger never publicly commented on the actual place this song was written about. There were theories that it is symbolic of the biblical Lake of Fire, and it was noted there is an actual Fire Lake in Iron County, Michigan (the state where Seger grew up), as well.

    Seger eventually stated that it is about a lake in Michigan called Silver Lake. He told Toledo Free Press in March 2011: "It was written about Silver Lake in Dexter, about being in the Pinckney-Hell-Dexter area."
  • His good friends Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles sang backup for Seger on this song. A year earlier, Seger came up with the chorus to the Eagles hit "Heartache Tonight."
  • Seger has said that this lyric is one of his favorites. As a song about taking risks, Seger says this song broke away from his past efforts in style and content, which proved serendipitous.
  • This song was written 7 years before its inclusion on the Against the Wind album. It was originally intended for Beautiful Loser, but was left off that album as it had a different sound and didn't quite mesh with the rest of the cuts - and that is also specifically why it was chosen as the first single off Against the Wind.
  • This is one of the songs Seger recorded in Alabama at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, where the studio owners, Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar), backed him up. Seger recorded some of his most memorable songs at MSSS, including his hit "Old Time Rock And Roll." Many Soul artists recorded at the studio in the '60s and '70s, but the disco era slowed this business considerably. Seger helped keep the studio in business, as he gave them a production credit on his songs that was quite profitable. David Hood explained in our interview: "Everything we recorded with Bob Seger, we get a production royalty on. And as it turns out, we recorded 'Fire Lake,' and 'Old Time Rock and Roll,' and 'Mainstreet,' just a whole bunch of things with them. And so that became a very lucrative thing. We don't even have a real contract on that, but he's always paid us for the records that we played on, we were co-producers on, as well. And that's what I think about Bob Seger. He's a very honest man. He and Punch Andrews are honest people who stick to their word. That's rare in the music business."

Comments: 21

  • Mike Hott Art from San Diego, California"...afraid to cut the cake..." the cutting up cocaine... remember the Average White Band song "Cut The Cake" COCAINE...
    Uncle Joe was reluctant to take cocaine.
  • Andy Curran from Cincinnati, OhOne line says it all: He was afraid to "cut the cake." What does a bride & groom do at their wedding? They CUT THE WEDDING CAKE! DUH! Joe didn't really want to get married, but somehow went through with it, as lots of guys (and ladies) do. He realized that he wanted out and snuck out on his wife, Aunt Sarah. He went off to Fire Lake, which says is a substitute name for a real lake in Michigan to get away from the drudgery of his marriage.
  • Oliver Rojas from Washington DcI thought Uncle Joe was afraid to have a relationship with a woman, "afraid to cut the cake". Who want's to ride that chrome three wheeler, "Chrome Three Wheeler's distinguish a person from a pack, " and in that sense implies, going out on a limb. FireLake - appears to be a about death, or taking a dip in a lake composed of hot water. Among the different guitar chord melodies there's one with a 3 note bass guitar rise in tonality which hints of a moment when someone makes a decision to do something risky or damming". I am so impressed with how such a young Bob Seger deliberated and created lyrical content of such depth in so few phrases.
  • Wolf Montey from Victoria B.c. CanadaWhatever the meaning of the song is i have known it for years and have always loved it even tho my adoptive parents were seriously biased against it when i was a kid.
    I like to believe its about cutting loose and finally being free. But its always been one of my favorite songs.
  • Dlc from NcI absolutely love the way the public tells the artist and everyone else what lyrics actually mean. It can mean whatever you want it to. TO YOU. but that doesn’t make it what the artist meant when they wrote it. Hint Hint THEY WROTE IT. not you not me. Them.
  • Nina from MiamiThe best songs are those that the listener can interpret in his or her own way, and therefore make it personal. Think about the two kids who were “throwing something off of Choctaw Bridge”, if you’re old enough for that one. Unless Bob Seger himself tells me what his song is about, it’s just gonna be whatever I make of it. Art is in the eye of the beholder, ain’t it?
  • Regina Helzerman from Pinckney MiBob Seger sang “Fire Lake in reference to silver lake in dexter/Pinckney, Michigan. I grew up there..
  • Jeff K from Bainbridge Island, WaAlways imagined that this was crossing over at life's end - where Joe's gone off to.... a better place with bronze beauties lyin' in the sun. Play your 8s and Aces ("Deadman's Hand") and you're there. Sarah is Joe's mother - otherwise, it would his "old lady" not everyone's "old aunt."
  • Daver from TacomaI always thought it was a gauntlet run once a year, where some idiot wears a gypsy cut, too get a huge payoff if he makes it alive to Fire Lake. I like my explanation best.
  • Glenn Murray from Saskatchewan, CanadaSorry for the long post, but one more thing. The referral to not wanting to cut the cut, I believe means the persons age and they know that time is slipping away, so it's now or never. When Seger says, "who's going to tell aunt Sandra Joe's run off to Fire Lake? It simply means who wants the painful chore of telling Sandra that her husband is gay and he has left for Fire lake."
  • Glenn Murray from Saskatchewan, CanadaHello, I do know that a lot of people ahem their opinion on what they think this song means, unfortunately they are wrong. There is a super social significance to this song, of proportions people just do not understand. This is one of the things that made Seger such an amazing artist. He could slip something like this in, to express his artistic gift to the world, and not get absolutely crucified for it in the media. Had most of his fans knew the topic of this song, it's hard to say what would have happened. It represents a time in the 60's and mostly' 70's. As a matter of fact, I think the time he is singing about, had it occurred differently, would have dramatically changed the future and possibly eliminated the need for an LBTGP or LBTGQ, sorry, I'm not 100%, but you know what I mean. This song is about someone, anyone who is willing to take such a huge underdog shot at being happy that they will entire crack the foundation of their life, knowing there is nothing the same to come back to if this fails. Fire Lake is an island in New York where thousands and thousands of gay men congregated. They came from all over the country, most full of men saying, 'f--k it, my life is s--t right now, I'm tired of living a lie, but if I come out here in my home, my life is f--ked forever, so to hell with it, I'm taking the one shot to be happy, because if it fails, my life will never be the same and I will endure misery for many years." (This is because the worlds view on male homosexuality was such that most men 'caught' being gay ended up being a cautionary tale because their life was ruined, job was gone, harassment and may times violent attacks by homophobes, divorce, kids hate you, etc etc.....). You can look up escapades of Fire Lake. Now, why I say these events were monumental in history is because it was from videos and interactions at Fire Lake (and many gay bars in SF, NYC, etc ) were quite eclectic and unique in nature. Orgy's, multiple partners, random partners, anonymous partners, and many other types of partners became well known and then well known to the already homophobic public. This is where gay men got tagged with the labels of pedophiles, sex freaks, and deviants...then came AIDS. There is no mistaking what the song is about (unless Bob Seger himself says differently), but my personal opinion is that had the events of Fire Lake, or even the notion of a Fire Lake not happened, and male homosexuality occurred slowly and almost grass roots, there would never have been decades of absolute hate towards the male gay community. Without that hate, there would not have been so much cultural stigmatism over the years and over the course of time, much like gay women, gay men would have been exponentially more acceptable to a generally slow, yet overreacting general public when it came to social perceptions. Had the transition to accepting homosexuals been a less undulating road, radical extremists would never have sprung up, and I also relive that we would have never seen the AIDS Virus. (**That last bit is my own conspiracy theory. Do not let it take from the focus of this writing. I am one who will probably never accept that the AIDS virus wasn't intentionally discharged by arrogant people who believed that they could control the nature of a virus).
  • AnonymousWho was Uncle Joe and why was he afraid to cut the cake?!
  • Boris from MichiganIt is my understanding that most including Bob have the meaning of the lyrics wrong. Fire Lake is actually Lake of Fire which Joe will be off to after committing adultery.
  • Jack from Bay City Texasfire lake is, lake of fire, chrome three wheeler is a old time serene with 3 finger holes, gypsy leathers is what one ties off with, cut the cake was his first time to try drugs, got to tell Aunt Sarah he over dosed Eight and aces, Joe's dead.
  • Bob from (just Another) Dead Coal Town, WvI see it as kind of a puzzle a little, as different things are pieced together. But one that I always think on is the "bronzed beauties" section, like when a musician from the midwest, anywhere else really, suddenly finding himself on the beaches in LA with those women "that will lay you down so fast". Just my take there.
  • Kathy from Connecticut I see that many are reading very deep meaning into the song. But, I never thought it was any mystery. On its face it’s about a man having a midlife crisis who gets on his motorcycle and runs off to the place known for beautiful young women where a man can get lucky easily. The reference to being afraid to cut the cake I believe refers to his struggles with getting older. No one wants to tell aunt Sarah where he’s gone because she’ll likely figure out what he’s up to given the reputation of Fire Lake. This place appears to be every man’s version of heaven on earth. The reference to the girls “laying you down so fast” I think is self-explanatory. The man looking up as he’s laying there with said girls and saying “ oh Lord am I really here at last“ makes me think that he feels like he’s died and gone to heaven. LOL
    Woven through the whole song is the theme of taking a risk as others have stated. In this case the man’s risk could be losing his family if he’s running off to fool around with other women.
  • Joe from PittsburghJoe’s run off to fire lake. He died. Either suicide or a motorcycle accident. That’s what they are going to tell Aunt Sara. “Oh lord! Are we really here at last”? That means they have arrived in Valhalla.
  • Mike Lombardi from Northeast, UsI struggled to understand the meaning of Fire Lake for a long time but came to my own conclusion. Now I am glad to know from our man Mr. Bob Seger, a true legend in rock and roll history version. Hats off to Bob Seger

    Hmm! I am somewhat disappointed to hear my interpretation of Fire Lake’s lyrics is wrong. But I am very happy knowing the true meaning of the song and what Fire Lake refers to. If you like to follow along to see where my understanding arose please feel free to shoot me a line so I can see if you could also understand how I came to my faulty interpretation.

    Line 2. Who's gonna make that first mistake. Knowing the song as well as I do one might consider ‘who’ might this person be. Is it Joe? Or anyone in gypsy leather (GL)? If so; which one? Might you guess Uncle Joe since he runs off to Fire Lake at the end of the song alone?

    Line 5. Who wants to break the news about Uncle Joe. This line jumps right to a specific person who I assume is in GL. I ask what news. And is that news good or bad news? For me (FM) from Bob’s vocals in the recorded and live versions that I have heard, the news is not good.

    Lines 6 + 7. You remember Uncle Joe +7. He was the one afraid to cut the cake. These two lines tell me Joe is not known as risk taker. Joe appears to have trouble with his fears involved with his group of brave boys and possibly the girls too. What is Joe afraid of?

    Line 8. Who wants to tell poor Aunt Sarah This is the critical point in my interpretation. I do not sense at this time my bad news is Joe's infidelity or that she doesn't know Joe went riding off with his GL riders. What is more, motorcycle riders that I know would not consider involving themselves in Joe’s infidelity or running around loose. They'd leave that business for Joe and Sarah to work out and hope for the best.

    Lines 11 Who wants to brave those bronze beauties 12. Lying in the sun Hmmm? Most guys I know love to brave young bronze beauties. But I don't know any who FEAR them. Again a reference to fear and to beauties? What fear and what beauties? So ask yourself why he would fear lovey young women.

    Line 17 And they lay you down so fast This one is a tricky line and 'You' is the optimal term in the line FM. Who or what is ‘You’ referring to in this line? Maybe it is Joe or maybe me, you or any man or woman or everybody for that matter but likely they wear GL. And what is the meaning of "lay you down"? Is it copulation or sleeping or taking a rest or might it be Sarah's bad news about her guy that is afraid to cut the cake? Now the cake needs meaning for me. What the hell is the symbolic nature of ‘cutting the cake’ referring to here? FM it is not good for anyone to cut the cake. It is highly risky FM.

    Lines 18 19 and 20 Till you look straight up and say 19. Oh lord 20. Am I really here at last At last, why? wooo! These words have no abstract meaning FM but directly refer to the Lord and where he is and what is more ‘at last with his Lord’, meaning finally.

    Line 21. Who wants to play those eights and aces This the tipping point that completed my version. Where else in your life have you heard the terms aces and eights together like that? If nothing comes to mind, Google ‘Eight and aces’ and you'll learn a true history story will surface first. These two terms together in this order have a meaning all their own. That phase is commonly known as “The dead man’s hand”

    Lines 22, 23 and 24 Who wants a raise 23. Who needs a stake 24. Who wants to take that long shot gamble Who do you know in the song that might want a stake and gamble? Is he referring directly to a card game as in the our history lesson? Or is it an a metaphor an analogy to our history lesson? And who in our story needs to make his stake, rise up and take a long shot gamble?

    Line 25 And head out to Fire Lake It is Joe who heads out to Fire Lake; no one else. Where is Fire Lake? Or what is Fire Lake? It makes me think we have an analogy here; symbolism FM. That analogy FM is a colloquial expression for Michigan riders in gypsy leather and not a specific lake in Michigan as some may say about Centralia, PA where the town has been on fire since 1962. People talk about lakes of fire in that town. Not for me is it a lake on fire.

    Last line. Who's gonna do it Who is going to do what? One guess guys who and what are we talking about here?

    My version

    Sarah did NOT go with the group on their trip to maybe nowhere special. Joe is frisky to shake his fear and Fire Lake is a big fear for Joe. Nobody wants to break this news that Joe went off to Fire Lake; not any other in gypsy leathers. FM that is certainty for my version
    And ‘Oh Lord am I really here’ is no metaphor. It is his Joe’s mortality from a gambling biker’s accident where he took a risk and met his fate and young bronze beauties lying in the Sun. He wants to know from his Lord f he is really here with Him. So what might fire lake mean? A personal short story: I never rode cycles because unlike Joe. I am a maverick with little fear especially speed and heights and other thrills. However when I was 12 and again at 14 years of age, a very impressionable age, two close relatives were seriously injured from cycle accidents. One's accident created a small lake of gas that sparks ignited from the accident. Good for me but bad for my relatives. I'm would likely be enjoying bronze bodies prematurely. So in my story Joe’s long shot gamble was met with a gasoline fire that kill him and he met his Lord and asked Am I really here at last.

    I do karaoke from time to time and Fire Lake is one of my favorites of Seger’s to cover.
  • Mike from San Carlos, CaOne of my top five Seger songs. I find it ironic Seger wrote a song about "taking risks," when he later admitted taking a risk with this song's new sound and placing as the first song on the Against the Wind album. I agree with Terry about the mid-life crisis, but not with "gypsy leathers," comment. Gypsy leathers means the rider wears no patches and has no claim to a club. And "afraid to cut the cake" means he stayed away from marriage.
  • Terry from Sydney, AustraliaI'm pretty sure this song is about a guy going thru a mid life crisis. Uncle Joe is afraid to cut the cake, runs off from his wife to fire lake on some chrome 3 wheeler, (trike) joins a biker group (wears gypsy leathers). cool song anyway, as is all of Seger's work.
  • Lisa from Eveleth, MnI love this song, loved it for twenty years, and its awesome that the eagles are singing since I love them too!
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