Great Balls of Fire

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"Great Balls of Fire"
JLL Great Balls single cover.jpg
Single by Jerry Lee Lewis
B-side "You Win Again"
Released November 11, 1957
Recorded October 8, 1957
Studio Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Genre Rock and roll, rockabilly, country[1][2]
Length 1:52
Label Sun 281
Songwriter(s) Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer[3]
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 popular song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records[4] 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.[5] 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,[4] on October 8, 1957, using three personnel: Lewis (piano/vocals), Sidney Stokes (bass), and a session drummer, name unknown, instead of the usual Sun backups Jimmy Van Eaton (drums) and Roland Janes (guitar). Lewis was quoted in the book JLL: His Own Story by Rick Bragg, (pg 133), as saying "I knew Sidney Stokes but I didnt know him that well either, and I don't know what happened to them people. That's the last time I ever seen 'em. That's strange isnt it?" . It was 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,[6] and No. 1 on the country charts.[2] It also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart,[7][8] 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.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1957–1958) Peak
position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[9] 30
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[10] 8
UK Singles Chart (The Official Charts Company)[7] 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 was performed by Levi Kreis in the 2010 musical Million Dollar Quartet, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis.[11][12]
  • In the fantasy novel, Temptress of the Flame, a character exclaims "Goodness gracious. Great balls of fire?" after being informed about stars.[13]
  • In the 1986 film Top Gun, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Portrayed by Anthony Edwards) plays the song in a bar with his family and Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise). The song is available on the Top Gun Soundtrack special edition released in 1999.
  • The 1989 biopic, Great Balls of Fire! about Lewis, played by Dennis Quaid, is derived from the song.
  • The Tempest, a unit added in the game StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, will reply "Goodness gracious, big balls of lightning" when selected repeatedly, a reference to the song and to the energy attack that the unit uses.
  • On September 17, 2015, Andrew Burnes posted a review of Great Balls of Fire on The East Texan's website which started great controversy and brought elders to the site in droves to defend the honor of their favorite artist.[14]
  • One of the Detours on the first leg of The Amazing Race 28 is named "Great Bulls of Fire", a play on the song's title.
  • In 2017, WWE held a professional wrestling event titled Great Balls of Fire, referencing the song. Jerry Lawler's personal attorney, who also represents Jerry Lee Lewis, informed him that the singer had actually trademarked the phrase, prompting Lawler to inform them of this. He stated that he "put him in touch with the WWE people, gave him a name. Apparently he called them and got everything worked out. Not only are they using the name, they are using Jerry Lee's song, which is awesome."[15]
  • Ric Flair revealed he started using his iconic ‘Wooo!’ catchphrase in 1974 after he heard Jerry Lee Lewis sing the lyric, “Goodness gracious, great balls of fire, woo!”[16]

Other recordings[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard, 18 November 1957, p. 52
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 200. 
  3. ^ "Jack Hammer". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  4. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 8 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. 
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 347. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 80. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  9. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Jerry Lee Lewis" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  10. ^ "Charts.nz – Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire)". Top 40 Singles.
  11. ^ "Photo Coverage: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Opens on Broadway". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  12. ^ "Rocker-Turned-Broadway Star Levi Kreis Wins Tony for Million Dollar Quartet | Tony Awards 2010". Broadway.com. 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  13. ^ "Temptress of the Flame". Play.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  14. ^ "The East Texan : A Limited Legacy". Tamuceasttexan.com. 2015-09-17. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  15. ^ "WWE Had Reportedly Received Copyright Complaint Over 'Great Balls Of Fire' Name - WrestlingInc.com". Wrestling Inc. Retrieved 2017-07-22. 
  16. ^ "Ric Flair Reveals The Origin Of His Infamous 'Woo' Catchphrase". Providr.com. 2016-12-13. Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  17. ^ The Newbeats, "Thou Shalt Not Steal" single release Retrieved April 25, 2015
  18. ^ Erikkson, Cristoffer. "SONGS THAT AEROSMITH HAS COVERED". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Eder, Bruce. "The Night the Lights Went On (In Long Beach) - Electric Light Orchestra : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  20. ^ "Ronnie Dio's Early Years". Padavona.com. 1963-02-24. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  21. ^ Alex Lux released via; youtube.com produced by: Monster D - February 27th., 2015.