Great Balls of Fire

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"Great Balls of Fire"
Single by Jerry Lee Lewis
B-side You Win Again
Released November 11, 1957
Recorded October 8, 1957, Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genre Rock and roll, rockabilly, country
Length 1:52
Label Sun 281
Writer(s) Otis Blackwell and (Jack Hammer)[1]
Producer(s) Sam Phillips
Jerry Lee Lewis singles chronology
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
(1957)
"Great Balls of Fire"
(1957)
"You Win Again"
(1957)

"Great Balls of Fire" is a 1957 song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records[2] and featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It was written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. The Jerry Lee Lewis 1957 recording was ranked as the 96th greatest song ever by Rolling Stone. The song is in AABA form.[3] The song sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release in the United States and sold over five million copies, making it both one of the best-selling singles in the United States, as well as one of the world's best-selling singles of all time.

Song information[edit]

The song is best known for Jerry Lee Lewis's original recording, which was recorded in the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee,[2] on October 8, 1957, and released as a 45rpm single on Sun 281 in November 1957. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts, No. 3 on the R&B charts, and No. 1 on the country charts. It also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart,[4][5] appeared on the New Zealand Singles Chart, and the Dutch Top 40.

The song was featured in a performance by Jerry Lee Lewis and his band in the 1957 Warner Brothers rock and roll film Jamboree, which also featured Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Knox, and Dick Clark. The recording was also released in the UK on London Records.

The song title is derived from a Southern expression, which some Christians consider blasphemous, that refers to the Pentecost's defining moment when the Holy Spirit manifested as "cloven tongues as of fire" and the Apostles spoke in tongues.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1957–1958) Peak
position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[6] 30
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[7] 8
UK Singles Chart (The Official Charts Company)[4] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2

Legacy[edit]

  • Monty Python references the song's title in the "World Forum" sketch, a fake game show, as heard on the live album Monty Python Live at City Center. Terry Gilliam, portraying Mao Zedong, says the song title as the only correct answer the "distinguished panel" offers in the early rounds. The song was used for the New York City audience in place of "Sing, Little Birdie," which was the song title used in the original sketch.
  • The song is featured in the 1989 jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
  • This song is also performed by Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap in the episode called Miss Deep South in Season 3.
  • Levi Kreis, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, sang "Great Balls of Fire" in the Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," which opened in New York in April, 2010;[8] and Kreis covered the song on the "Million Dollar Quartet" original Broadway cast recording (copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC).[9] Levi Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet.”[10]
  • In the fantasy novel, Temptress of the Flame, a character exclaims "Goodness gracious. Great balls of fire?" after being informed about stars.[11]
  • In the 1986 film, Top Gun, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Portrayed by Anthony Edwards) sang this song in a bar with his family and Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise)
  • The 1989 biopic, Great Balls of Fire! about Lewis, played by Dennis Quaid, is derived from the the song.

Other recordings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jack Hammer". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 8 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  3. ^ Covach, John (2005), "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah, Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, p.70, ISBN 0-19-517010-5
  4. ^ a b Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 80. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Jerry Lee Lewis search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  7. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire)". Top 40 Singles.
  8. ^ "Photo Coverage: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Opens on Broadway". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  9. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  10. ^ "Rocker-Turned-Broadway Star Levi Kreis Wins Tony for Million Dollar Quartet | Tony Awards 2010". Broadway.com. 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  11. ^ "Temptress of the Flame". Play.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  12. ^ Erikkson, Cristoffer. "SONGS THAT AEROSMITH HAS COVERED". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Eder, Bruce. "The Night the Lights Went On (In Long Beach) - Electric Light Orchestra : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  14. ^ "Ronnie Dio's Early Years". Padavona.com. 1963-02-24. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
Preceded by
"The Story of My Life" by Marty Robbins
C&W Best Sellers in Stores
number one single by Jerry Lee Lewis

January 6, 1958
(two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Ballad of a Teenage Queen" by Johnny Cash