Single Stories: The Doors, LIGHT MY FIRE

Friday, April 23, 2021

By April 1967, The Doors were among the hottest groups on the rock scene. The band's self-titled debut album had come out at the start of the year, sending fans and critics alike into a frenzy. The first single from the full-length, the manic "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" however, landed on the charts with a thud, failing to crack the Hot 100 chart.

When it came time for Elektra to release a second single, "Light My Fire" was the most obvious choice. The song was already being requested at rock radio stations, but the song's length--more than seven minutes--made it a hard sell for regular spins on pop stations. The only solution: cutting the song down to a radio-friendlier length.

"We had that huge problem with the time length," Elektra Records founder Jaz Holzman told Mojo magazine in 2010. "Nobody could figure out how to cut it. Finally I said to (The Doors producer Paul A.) 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.'"

"Light My Fire," now whittled down to just short of three minutes, was released as a single on April 24, 1967. The slimmed-down version of the track was an instant hit, climbing up the charts before finally peaking at #1 over the week of July 29, 1967. With American youth engrossed in 1967's "Summer of Love," "Light My Fire" held the #1 spot for three weeks in a row. The tune was dethroned on August 18, 1967, by the Beatles' "All You Need is Love."

"I was living with my parents in Pacific Palisades - I had my amp and SG," guitarist Robby Krieger told Uncut magazine about writing the song. "I asked Jim, 'What should I write about?' He said, 'Something universal, which won't disappear two years from now. Something that people can interpret themselves.' I said to myself I'd write about the four elements; earth, air, fire, water. I picked fire, as I loved the Stones song, 'Play With Fire,' and that's how that came about."

The Doors famously performed "Light My Fire" on The Ed Sullivan Show for an episode that was broadcast on September 17, 1967. Show producers uncomfortable with the line "Girl, we couldn't get much higher," and asked Morrison to change it for the show. Morrison agreed, only to sing the original lyric when the cameras were rolling. Classic Morrison.