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"I'm on Fire"
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Born in the U.S.A.
B-side "Johnny Bye Bye"
Released February 6, 1985
Format 7" single
Recorded February 1982
Genre Rock
Length 2:37
Label Columbia Records
Writer(s) Bruce Springsteen
Producer Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology
"Born in the U.S.A."
(1984)
"I'm on Fire"
(1985)
"Glory Days"
(1985)
Audio sample
file info · help

"I'm on Fire" is a song written and performed by American rock singer Bruce Springsteen. In 1985 it became the fourth single released from his massively successful album Born in the U.S.A..

Contents

History

"I'm on Fire" was recorded in February 1982 during the first wave of Born in the U.S.A. sessions. This took place in impromptu fashion when Springsteen started making up a slow tune on guitar for some lyrics he had, and drummer Max Weinberg and keyboardist Roy Bittan, hearing it for the first time, created an accompaniment on the spot. The result was a moody number that merges a soft rockabilly beat, lyrics built around sexual tension, and synthesizers into an effective whole; it was one of the first uses of that instrument in Springsteen's music.

The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles charts in early 1985. It was the fourth of a record-tying seven Top 10 hit singles to be released from Born in the U.S.A. It is also remarkable that the single reached #1 in the Netherlands for 3 weeks in August 1985, at the same time as 2 other Springsteen singles ("Dancing in the Dark" and "Born in the U.S.A.") were occupying the Top 12.

Unlike the first three singles from the album, no remixes were made for "I'm on Fire" (nor were any made for any of the subsequent singles released).

Chart performance

Country Peak
position
Australia 12
The Netherlands 1[1]
United Kingdom 5
United States 6

Music video

The music video for the song was shot in March 1985 in Los Angeles, and was directed by filmmaker John Sayles. Unlike the previous videos from the album, this video was not a performance clip but rather portrayed a dramatic storyline that alluded to some of the song's emotions. In it, Springsteen plays a working class automobile mechanic with an attractive, married, very well-to-do, mostly unseen female customer who brings her vintage Ford Thunderbird in for frequent servicing, always requesting that he does the work. She gives him all her keys, not just the ones for the car. Later that night, he drives the T-Bird up to her mansion high in the hills above the city. He is about to ring the bell, when he thinks better of it, smiles wistfully, drops her keys in the mailbox next to the door and walks away down towards the lights below.[2]

The video began airing in mid-April, received extensive MTV airplay, and later in the year won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video.

Track listing

  1. I'm on Fire - 2:36
  2. Johnny Bye Bye (Springsteen, Chuck Berry) - 1:50

The B-side of the single, "Johnny Bye Bye", was an adaptation of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny" that focused on the death of Elvis Presley. Springsteen had first started performing it in 1981 at the tail end of The River Tour. It was then recorded in early 1983 during the second phase of the Born in the U.S.A. recording sessions, but never considered for inclusion on the album.

Live performance history

"I'm on Fire" was performed only sporadically at the start of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, but a couple of months later, it settled into a regular place in the middle of the second set. It was usually preceded by a long musical introduction, during which Springsteen spoke about not being able to sleep at night back when he was young and his parents were struggling and the house was cold. The song was also given an extended coda of Springsteen's moans against waves of synthesizer. Such a rendition from an August 19, 1985 performance at Giants Stadium is included on the Live/1975-85 box set, but with the spoken part of the introduction edited out.

In some cases, red lighting from stage floor focused on Springsteen's face was used to further accentuate the song. On the Tunnel of Love Express, the song was still a regular. On the Human Rights Now! Tour, Springsteen conducted crowd sing-alongs during the chorus and coda parts. After some appearances on the "Other Band" Tour, the song went into a long retirement, not emerging again until occasional performances on 2005's solo Devils & Dust Tour, when he performed it on banjo with the red lighting back. With the E Street Band , the song has only been performed on four occasions since the Tunnel of Love tour: once on the Reunion Tour (June 17, 1999, Bremen), once on The Rising Tour (April 18, 2003, Ottawa) and three times on the Magic Tour (May 31, 2008, Emirates Stadium, London, June 18, 2008, Amsterdam and July 5, 2008, Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden). The song has made surprise return on a semi-regular basis during the European leg of the 2009 Working on a Dream tour.

Cover versions

  • Johnny Cash did a famous cover version for the 2000 tribute album Badlands: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.
  • New Zealand band HLAH (Head Like A Hole) did a cover of the song. It was included on their greatest hits compilation from 2000, Blood On the Honky Tonk Floor.
  • Harry Manx has covered this song on his 2007 In Good We Trust album, giving it a classic Indian edge using a 20 string Mohan veena slide guitar.
  • Chromatics covered the song in 2007, appearing on the B-side of the single "In the City".[3]. An audio sample can be heard on their official MySpace page.[4]
  • New York based singer-songwriter Swati recorded a cover of the song for her 2007 album Small Gods.[5]
  • Brooklyn-based pop folk quartet The Snow recorded a cover of the song which is available for download on the Internet.[6]
  • Kate Tucker & The Sons of Sweden covered the song on the 2009 compilation Sweetheart.
  • Graveyard BBQ recorded a cover of the song for their debut album, Graveyard BBQ Greatest Hits Volume One.
  • The Motorettes recorded a version for their self-tited debut album, released in 2006. The band also regularly played the version live
  • A.A. Bondy covered it on The American Hearts E.P. outtakes.
  • Waylon Jennings covered it on Sweet Mother Texas album.
  • Canadian jazz singer Sophie Milman included a cover on her 2009 album Take Love Easy.
  • John Mayer features a cover of the song on his 2009 album Battle Studies. (The song is an iTunes-exclusive bonus track.)

Live cover performances

  • Big Country included a recorded live cover of the song on their 1996 album Eclectic.
  • Tori Amos covered the song in concert and on the television program and CD release VH1 Crossroads in 1996.
  • Heather Nova is known to perform an ethereal wave style cover of the song at her live shows, often at the end of the set. It can be heard as the last track of her 2000 live album Wonderlust. She also performed the song as a duet with Sarah McLachlan during Lilith Fair.
  • Electrelane has covered the song live. It appears as a B-side on the On Parade single and their 2006 compilation album Singles, B-Sides & Live.
  • Bat For Lashes also covered the song live and included it as a bonus track on her 2006 debut album Fur and Gold.
  • Greg Dulli performed the song as a lead in to "The Killer" in Israel during the 2006 Twilight Singers tour in the first encore.
  • Jack's Mannequin did a cover of the song for AP on April 10, 2007 and on November 9, 2008 during their "Hammers and Strings: An Evening with Jack's Mannequin and The Glass Passenger" tour at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Singer-songwriter Ari Hest often performs the song live in concert.
  • Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem performed this song solo during their '08 German tour.
  • Sara Bareilles covered this song in April 2009 when she was in New York City for her three shows at Joe's Pub during her Gravity tour.[7] It was consequently included on a 7-song live EP from this tour, distributed for free in early 2010 via her website.
  • John Mayer is also known to cover this song occasionally during his live performances
  • Ben Harper & Jennifer Nettles performed the song in tribute at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors.[8]

Parodies

  • Christian comedian Tim Hawkins parodied the song on his album Extremely Madeover.
  • Roland Campos, who books all of the celebrity guests for The Opie & Anthony Show, is known to be obsessed with Bruce Springsteen and has recorded himself doing an "atrocious" cover of this song.

References

External links

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