Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970. Most of the song was written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, who wanted to write about one of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. He recalled to Uncut: "I was living with my parents in Pacific Palisades – I had my amp and SG. I asked Jim, what should I write about? He said, 'Something universal, which won't disappear two years from now. Something that people can interpret themselves.' I said to myself I'd write about the four elements; earth, air, fire, water, I picked fire, as I loved the Stones song, 'Play With Fire,' and that's how that came about." Krieger came up with the melody and wrote most of the lyrics, which are about leaving inhibitions behind in flames of passion.
At first, the song had a folk flavor, but it ignited when Jim Morrison wrote the second verse ("our love become a funeral pyre...") and Ray Manzarek came up with the famous organ intro. Drummer John Densmore also contributed, coming up with the rhythm. Like all Doors songs of this era, the band shared composer credits.
This became The Doors' signature song. Included on their first album, it was a huge hit and launched them to stardom. Before it was released, The Doors were an underground band popular in the Los Angeles area, but "Light My Fire" got the attention of a mass audience.
On the album, which was released in January 1967, the song runs 6:50. The group's first single, "Break On Through (To The Other Side)," reached just #126 in America. "Light My Fire" was deemed too long for airplay, but radio stations (especially in Los Angeles) got requests for the song from listeners who heard it off the album. Their label, Elektra Records decided to release a shorter version so they had producer Paul Rothchild do an edit. By chopping out the guitar solos, he whittled it down to 2:52. This version was released as a single in April, and the song took off, giving The Doors their first big hit.
To many fans, the single edit was an abomination, and many DJs played the album version once the song took off.
Elektra founder Jaz Holzman recalled to Mojo magazine November 2010: "We had that huge problem with the time length - seven-and-a-half minutes. Nobody could figure out how to cut it. Finally I said to Rothchild, 'Nobody can cut it but you.' When he cut out the solo, there were screams. Except from Jim. Jim said, 'Imagine a kid in Minneapolis hearing even the cut version over the radio, it's going to turn his head around.' So they said, 'Go ahead, release it.' We released it with the full version on the other side."
This was the first song Robby Krieger wrote to completion. Jim Morrison did most of the songwriting for the album, but he needed some help and asked Krieger to step in. The 20-year-old guitarist asked him what to write about, and Morrison replied, "Something universal."