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

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The 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.

Listen to the radio edit

“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.

Watch an extended live performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970

Related: The #1 singles of 1967

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  1. Pierre Tremblay
    #1 Pierre Tremblay 29 July, 2020, 20:51

    Few years later, when Morrison was on vacation, the other members sold the song to Buick who used it for publicity (Come on Buick light my fire). Jim was pissed and made a fit on stage in Florida that got him arrested and charged with indecent exposure. He would have said: Now we’ll see if they’ll use the song”.

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  2. 122intheshade
    #2 122intheshade 1 August, 2021, 21:05

    Isn’t it interesting that about the same time Ray Manzarek came up with the intro to “Light My Fire”, Stevie Wonder used a similar motif for a melody he had written, but couldn’t come up with words to match the music. So he asked a co-worker to help him out.

    Then the co-worker recorded that song for an album he and his group put out in 1967. And the song sat as an album track for three years, before a UK Motown executive needed a single. “Tears of a Clown” ran right to #1 in Britain, and then US Motown saw the light and put it out as well.

    Three years after “Light My Fire” sizzled, “Tears of a Clown” made it to the big top as well.

    Gary Lewis beat ’em both, with “Everybody Loves a Clown” in the fall of 1965.

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