Forty-eight years ago, The Doors single “Light My Fire” hit No. 1 on the US singles chart, a position the song held for three straight weeks. The original track from the band’s self-titled debut album was six minutes and fifty seconds long, due to an uncommonly long instrumental break, but what’s really special about “Light My Fire” is that it paved the way for The Doors to become psychedelic rock n roll stars.
The four-man band had reached a level of musicianship together that was undeniably magical. Specifically on “Light My Fire,” guitarist Robbie Krieger came up with the line “C’mon baby, light my fire…” which is the definitive line of the song everybody remembers even if they’ve only heard it once. Such a catchy hook requires an equally attractive beat, which drummer John Densmore provided with an irresistible Bossa Nova rhythm. Ray Manzarek, keyboardist and founding member of the Doors, incorporated unearthly and complicated leads while leaving space for Krieger’s amazingly provocative guitar solo. Top it all off with Jim Morrison’s glaringly obvious sexual lyrics, and the Doors had themselves a top-notch revolutionary song.
As with most revolutionary things, the song did not sit well with some of the American public at first. The infamous story goes, that when the Doors were set to perform the hit single live on the Ed Sullivan Show for a coast-to-coast broadcast, they promised to replace the word “higher” (which referenced being high on drugs). The renegade rock band, of course, did not follow through on their promise and thus were banned from appearing on the show again. The Doors’ move in this area influenced many bands to come, including Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live.
The performance of “Light My Fire,” whether live or on the studio recording, emphasizes just how well the band plays together. The effortlessly pass the catchy lead between each other, pushing and pulling each other through some extreme and emotionally charged adventure. This connection is most likely audible on the recording of the song due to the fact that the Doors had a live audience present at the time. The improvisation of the guitar, keys and drums never compete with Morrison’s vocals, but actually seem to support them. The result is an intensely passionate epic of a song that takes the listener on a journey every time it’s heard.