You know that it would be untrue.
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn't get much higher.
Come on baby, light my fire!
Come on baby, light my fire!
Try to set the night on fire!
The time to hesitate is through.
No time to wallow in the mire.
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre.
[Repeat second verse]
[Repeat first verse]
[Chorus: Try to set the night on fire (4x)]
According to my research, Light My Fire was the best-selling psychedelic song in the USA of the psychedelic period. It stayed on the Billboard charts for fourteen weeks and remained at the top of the charts for three. It was the second best-selling song of 1967 in the U.S.; only To Sir With Love by Lulu was more popular. At the time of its appearance on the charts, early in the Summer of 1967, the Doors were not well known. Their album, released at the beginning of the year was suffering neglect. But the Doors agreed to cleanly cut the song’s break from the album track, which consisted of over four minutes of improvisation split between Manzerek’s organ and Krieger’s lead guitar. Since the verses had a strong musical introduction which was used to bring the song back from the break, the cut and splice was easy to do and a hit single was released. For those who wanted to hear the full version there was FM radio, “underground” radio. The long version of the song served as a strong early link to the FM radio market.
Why was this song so popular? When you look at the lyrics, they consist of two verses, a chorus, and a repeated reverse of the already stated verses. The sense of the lyric starts out from an ironic position, posing as a liar. The singer pleads to take either a drug induced ecstasy or the relationship with a girl to the next level. It is a song that wants to sacrifice all to passion and impulse, whatever the cost. This was certainly the mood of the time; the old ways seemed a “mire”. And for many young people, “losing” it all in possible destruction seemed preferable to the existence as it was, if it was done with the best intention, with love. However, the ironic footing that begins the song makes the singer appear to be a seducer rather than trying to appeal to ideals.
Jim Morrison’s singing style is distinctive, and to some ears there is darkness in his voice, a bad boy sexiness in his baritone that was absent in most of the rock music at the time. Eric Burdon of the Animals immediately comes to mind as a powerful baritone during the psychedelic period, but he evoked a working class point of view rather than a particularly erotic one. Other than that, as I recall, the major baritone voices were in adult pop--Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. Jim Morrison is said to have held Frank Sinatra in high esteem; Sinatra appeared to be the closest to what Morrison had in mind when singing. Jim Morrison’s voice and theatrical persona provided psychedelic music with a sexiness that it had previously lacked. It’s true that Mick Jagger sang racy lyrics, but his theatrical persona was androgynous. Jim Morrison was a man singing, his body stewing in LSD, alcohol and testosterone. He roared like James Brow; he was a lion for the freaks.
Light My Fire lit the sexual revolution on the radio; the sex no longer was in the words (such as sung in the Stone’s Let’s Spend the Night Together); it was found in the freedom of a new sexual way of being that changed context for the censors and made searching for innuendoes in the lyrics largely irrelevant. Another Dionysian fire would be lit that same Summer by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yes, with Light My Fire, there were critics at the time writing about Dionysian art, drawing from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy (1872) in an effort to come to terms with what was happening. Morrison himself talked about his art in Nietzshean terms, at least at the beginning of his fame.