There are only a few songs that I really despise. One of them is the seven minutes of hell known as Light My Fire by Jim Morrison and The Doors. However, in a sense of fair play and not desiring to limit music for anyone, I’m posting Colette’s ode to said same song. Because I’m open-minded like dat. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure….I must say that I do love the Latino version. 🙂
Light That Fire!
Michael Johns singing “Light My Fire” on “American Idol” got me thinking about this song that knocked my socks off when I was a kid, and has a special place in rock history.
“Light My Fire” is one of those tunes many people find so haunting, they can remember where they were the first time they heard it. (Me: at a school friend’s house, in the basement away from parents, rocking out.)
The song was written by all the members of The Doors — Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek — and released on their first album in 1967. There were two versions: one with a five-minute long instrumental jam (unheard of at the time for a pop single), and a shorter version. Both got tremendous airplay, and the song zoomed to No. 1 and stayed on the Billboard chart for 17 weeks. Later, Rolling Stone named it #35 in its list of the 500 best rock tunes.
The impact of the song is musical and visceral. The delicate, mock-baroque keyboard part, the catchy melody and simple mythic lyric with its William Blake imagery, and the tremendous vocal by Jim Morrison, all merge to create this sense of psychedelic/sexual euphoria. The song builds and builds to a fantastic crescendo, and it’s almost impossible not to move your body while listening to it.
No one, but no one, can sing this song as well as Jim Morrison. It was his anthem, his legacy. According to the insider biography of Morrison, “No One Gets Out ALive,” Morrison had a terrible drinking problem from his early adolescence right up to his untimely death at age 27. Since then, so many rockers have been influenced by his musical style, his incredibly sexy lizard king -look (black leather pants and jacket, mop of unruly curls), his Dionysian stage charisma. But Morrison wasn’t just some rock dandy — he wrote poetry (pretentious stuff, but he took it seriously), had a beautiful Irish baritone voice (listen close), and believed in the power of music to changed consciousness — or at least ignite the Dionysian spark in all of us.
Whoever sings and hears “Light My Fire” makes contact with Morrison’s spirit — terminally crazy messed-up and wildly exhilarating as it was. Here are some versions of the tune, starting with the Doors’ famous performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. They were told they couldn’t sing the word “higher” (“Girl we couldn’t get much higher…”) because of the drug implications. (!). See how obedient they were (not!), and how Morrison builds the song to its final, crashing climax, then just drops his mike, spent…..
— Jim Morrison and the Doors, “Light My Fire” on Ed Sullivan Show (1967)
The song is actually harder to sing than you’d imagine. The first hit cover, and the best (IMO) is Jose Feliciano’s (whatever happened to HIM?) with his fantastic acoustic guitar riffs and smoldering vocal. This is a terrific live performance of Jose with Ricky Martin (sue me, but I do love that guy) and Carlos Santana on electric guitar:
— Jose Feliciano, Ricky Martin, Santana, live “Light My Fire”
The most kitschy, bizarre (and terrifying) cover, is by the hyper-intense English pop diva Shirley Bassey. She ain’t kidding about lighting fires, either….
— Shirley Bassey, “Light My Fire” live
The current rocker who reminds me most of Jim Morrison, but much saner, is Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Very similar look, voice and commitment. Here in a rare clip is the young, grungy Eddie at the Rock Hall of Fame with members of the Doors during their induction ceremony. Eddie seems a bit intimidated or something at the start, but after a long instrumental jam he finds his groove:
Finally, there’s Michael Johns. It’s not an unmitigated triumph, but it ain’t half bad: (this from someone who is really soured on AI…)