This week 49 years ago, a spark was lit that changed musical history forever. Here are ten things you may not know about the song that catapulted The Doors into the eternal hall of fame.
1. ‘Light My Fire’ was the first song written by guitarist Robby Krieger, though the entire band received writing credits.
2. It was recorded in August 1966, and released in May 1967, selling over one million copies and becoming the first single from Elektra Records to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
3. The song itself re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 again in 1968, carried by the success of Jose Feliciano’s latin-style cover of the song. Subsequently, Feliciano won two 1968 Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Male Pop Performance.
4. The instrumental solos that ‘Light My Fire’ is propelled by were inspired by the chord structure in John Coltrane’s jazz cover of ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music. Particularly, the interplay between keyboardist Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger’s organ and guitar is similar to that between Coltrane’s soprano sax and McCoy Tyner’s piano.
5. Manzarek also admitted on his BBC Radio 2’s program Ray Manzarek’s Summer of Love that the bass line was inspired by Fats Domino’s ‘Blueberry Hill’.
6. The original version of the song was over 7 minutes long. The Doors’ record company, Elektra, thought this was too long to put on radio. In 2010, in an interview with Mojo magazine, Elektra founder Jaz Holzman stated
“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 [producer Paul] 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 ended up boosting sales of the album, as fans had to purchase the record to hear the extended mix.
7. Due to the fact that the Doors didn’t have a bass player, mystery surrounds the question of who played the bass on ‘Light My Fire’. When performing live, Ray Manzarek played the song’s bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, while performing the other keyboard parts on a Vox Continental with his right.
However, the question remains as to who played on the recording. Session musicians were not credited at the time, but Carol Kaye – a renowned LA bass goddess of the time – claims it was her. She stated
“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.”
Larry Knechtel, member of session group The Wrecking Crew, also lays claim to the credit, saying that producer Paul Rothchild brought him in for the recording session.
8. When appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, the producers of the show asked the band to change their line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” to something more family appropriate. Morrison agreed, but sung the original lyrics anyway. Despite claiming that he was nervous and forgot to change the line, the controversial move prevented The Doors from being invited back on the show.
9. The Doors were offered $100,000 by Buick to use the song in a commercial, with the lyrics “Come on Buick, light my fire.” Krieger, Densmore and Manzarek agreed while Morrison was away. However, each member of the band were in agreement to have veto power on big decisions, and when Morrison learned of the deal he killed it.
10. On December 12, 1970 at the Warehouse in New Orleans, ‘Light My Fire’ became the last song Jim Morrison ever performed before his death in Paris on July 3, 1971.