July 29, 1967: The Doors ‘Light My Fire’ Hits #1

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Doors Light My Fire 45 labelThe first and what was the biggest hit song by The Doors reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1967 and remained there for three weeks. (It was also the first #1 for the band’s label, Elektra Records). Originally clocking in at 7:06 on the Los Angeles band’s debut album, released in January, it was edited down to 2:52 to meet Top 40 AM radio’s three-minute time restriction, but some stations played the longer album version.

The song was largely written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. Singer Jim Morrison contributed to its second verse; like all Doors numbers its songwriting credited to the full band. Keyboard player Ray Manzarek’s intro was based on a Johann Sebastian Bach piece “Two and Three Part Inventions.” His and Krieger’s extended solos in the song’s midsection drew from keep-calm-and-light-my-fire-28John Coltrane’s jazz workout on the Rodgers and Hammerstein number “My Favorite Things” from their musical The Sound of Music. Its bass line took its cues from the one on the Ray Charles song “Blueberry Hill.” (There remains a debate on who played/dubbed it in on bass guitar; Manzarek played keyboard bass on the original recording, and both Los Angeles studio bassists Larry Knechtel and Carol Kaye have been attributed with/made claims to playing it.)

For all its various antecedents, the classic rock song’s style is nonetheless trademark Doors.

“Light My Fire” re-entered the lower reaches of the Hot 100 the following year on the strength of Jose Feliciano’s Latin-flavored Top Five cover. In 1991 it was rereleased in the U.K. and reached #7 in the wake of Oliver Stone’s biopic The Doors.

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