The song was an unexpected smash hit for the L.A band
The Doors peak to No.1 for the first time with “Light My Fire” in 1967
On April 24, 1967 The Doors released their second single “Light My Fire”, taken from their debut album “The Doors”. After failing to reach a wider audience with their first single “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”, the band and their record label Elektra, got notice that “Light My Fire” was in high demand by radio listeners, this surprised the band as they never thought about releasing it as a single, the album version was just over seven minutes long which made it unsuitable for airplay, but despite that it was widely requested. The Doors agreed to edit the song, primary written by Robby Krieger with Jim Morrison adding the second verse, to under three minute, in order to fit a a 45rpm single. Most of the solo (one of the highlights of the song) was gone on the edited version. On July 29, 1967, the song went No.1 and it became the band’s best selling single and their signature song. Although this was the song that sky rocketed The Doors to international success, Jim Morrison grew tired of performing it and towards the end of his time with The Doors he started to skip it from their live set. Ironically, it end up being the last song ever that he performed with The Doors, on New Orleans, 1970. Controversy sparked when “Light My Fire” was performed live by the Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast on September 17, 1967. The Doors were asked by producer Bob Precht, Sullivan’s son-in-law, to change the line “girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, as the sponsors were uncomfortable with the possible reference to drugs. The band agreed to do so, and did a rehearsal using the amended lyrics, “girl, we couldn’t get much better”; but during the live performance, Jim Morrison sang the original, unaltered lyrics. Ed Sullivan did not shake Jim Morrison’s hand as he left the stage. The band had been negotiating a multi-episode deal with the producers, but after violating the agreement not to perform the offending line, they were informed they would never do the Sullivan show again. Morrison’s response was “Hey man. We just did the Sullivan show”. In October 1968, The Doors were offered $75,000 by car manufacturer Buick to use the song in a TV commercial (“Come on, Buick, light my fire”). The band couldn’t get in touch with Morrison who was in London, England at the time, and agreed to the deal in his absence. As the band had agreed when they were formed to both equal splits and everyone having veto power in decisions, Morrison consequently called Buick and threatened to personally smash a Buick with a sledgehammer on television, should the commercial be aired. The “Light My Fire” single was backed with “The Crystal Ship”. In 1968 José Feliciano covered the song successfully and ever since, it has been covered extensively by many other artists from Shirley Bassey to Type O Negative.
Watch The Doors performing “Light My Fire” live at The Ed Sullivan Show, 1967
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