In 1967 The Doors lit the U.S. on fire with their hit single “Light My Fire.” The band recorded the song in August 1966, and it was released on the band’s debut album in January 1967 before it was chosen as a single in April. From there the song climbed into the top of the Billboard charts where it reached number one on July 29, 1967. The rich tapestry that went into the song’s craftsmanship not only propelled the song into the top of the crafts, but elevated the band as one of the late 60s’ sonically and visually appreciated bands.
The Los Angeles home based group formed in1965 with Jim Morrison handling vocals and Ray Manzarek playing the keyboard and organ and was quickly joined by Robby Krieger on guitar and John Densmore providing percussion. The band started to compose songs but my March 1966 the band was running short on material. Manzarek recalled Morrison giving everyone a weekend homework assignment, “Everyone go home this weekend and write at least one song.” At the next band rehearsal only Krieger had come up with a song which he called “Light My Fire.” Previously Morrison was supplying lyrical content and ideas. The band started to hash out the sonic composition and Morrison contributed more lyrics. Originally Krieger’s composition had a folk rock sound, but Densmore offered a Latin beat instead, and Morrison altered the melody with his second verse “the time to hesitate is through/No time to wallow in the mire….” Manzarek tosses up the introduction to the song to “the better angles of my unconscious mind.” The organ introduction came from Bach’s “Two and Three Part Inventions.” The song’s bass line, played on Manzarek’s Fender Rhodes keyboard bass, was inspired by Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” Both Krieger and Manzarek play long solos on the song, a rather unprecedented event for rock albums. Bob Dylan had only broken the three minute barrier prior with “Like a Rolling Stone.” With the song lyrically and instrumentally composed it was time to step into the studio to put the song on tape.
In the recording studio with Paul A. Rothchild the band played the song as they had been performing it live. The band made two takes with both reaching pass seven minutes. The album version is 7:05 minutes long, but for the song to be a radio single it had to be cut down. To reach the two and half minute marker the song’s long solos were removed. The single and album sold well with The Doors debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, trumped by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The success of the single and the album propelled the band into stardom as did a television performance on the national watched Ed Sullivan Show.
You’ll never work The Ed Sullivan Show again.
The Doors were booked to play on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 17, 1967, and it was the first and last time they would play on the program. Before the band made their on debut on television one of the show’s producers came to the band’s dressing room with a problem about a song lyric. The man said the band could not say “higher” in the lyric “girl we couldn’t get much higher.” After agreeing to change the lyric the producer left the dressing rooming, and the band gathered together and agreed they were not changing the lyric.
After their performance the producer came to the band, “you promise you wouldn’t say higher,” and Manzarek explained that they got caught up in the excitement of the performance. It did not matter the producer said “you’ll never work The Ed Sullivan Show ever again. We were going to book you for six more performances, and you’ll never work The Ed Sullivan Show again.” The Doors were banned from The Ed Sullivan Show, but they were now a national known band.
In 1991 Oliver Stone released a movie about the band titled The Doors. In the portrayal of the Sullivan performance Jim Morrison, played by Val Kilmer, emphasizes the word “higher” contrary to the historical account of the performance.
“Light My Fire propelled The Doors into national stardom with its rich instrumental work and provoking lyricism. While The Doors never did play on the Sullivan Show again the band continued to put out chart topping songs. Other notable chart hits include “Hello, I Love You,” and “Touch Me.” The “Light My Fire became a staple of live performances and the group’s most well know song. The song is layered in history and memories for the band members and fans.