On April 24, 1967, The Doors’ “Light My Fire” was released as a single and quickly pushed The Doors from a struggling L.A. band on a small label to a nationally known act with the song hitting number 1 on the Billboard Magazine charts by July 1967.
In the spring of 1967 The Doors were an L.A. band with a counterculture buzz around them, because of songs like “The End” and Morrison’s mercurial stage persona, as The Doors toured smaller clubs in support of their first album. As it appears on The Doors’ debut album, “Light My Fire” is a seven-minute song that showcases each of The Doors’ talents with a solo section for each. While “The Doors” was getting airplay on counterculture FM radio stations, The Doors were getting little airplay on the more conservative AM stations and Jac Holzman, the Elektra Records founder, wanted to break the band on AM radio.
Robby Krieger talks about writing “Light My Fire.” (The “Light My Fire” discussion starts around 4:07, but the whole interview is interesting.)
Following the stagnation of the first single, “Break on Through/End of the Night”, on the charts at 126, Elektra was planning on releasing “Twentieth Century Fox” as the second single. Holzman heard from L.A. DJ Jim Ladd that he was getting requests for “Light My Fire”, which he couldn’t play because the song was too long. Holzman decided to release a single of “Light My Fire” and told The Doors’ producer Paul Rothchild to make the edits. Within a half hour Rothchild had an edited version of the song and with some trepidation approached the band with a new 3-minute version. The band was reluctant to make the changes because “Light My Fire” depends heavily on the solos, but the edits Rothchild made worked and didn’t compromise the organic integrity of the song, so The Doors approved it. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, to this day, claims that when “Light My Fire” comes on the radio he can’t tell if it’s going to be the edited version or the full length version until it plays out.
“Light My Fire” in its original 45 RPM mono version
“Light My Fire” was released as a single with the B-side being “The Crystal Ship” and quickly put The Doors on the national map, giving them the success they needed to stay together and become the cultural phenomenon they are today.
“Light My Fire” entered Billboard’s Hot 100 on June 3rd 1967 and quickly drove its way to number one on the Billboard charts by early July 1967.
Originally published April 24, 2012. This article appears in “The Doors Examined”.