I'm on Fire
|"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|
|Bruce Springsteen singles chronology|
"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, some of which had been written for "Spanish Eyes", which would later surface on The Promise, 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). The song was not included in the album The Essential Bruce Springsteen despite the inclusion of 2 CDs.
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||9|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||1|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||10|
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||5|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||6|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||95|
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, the video was not a performance clip, but rather a dramatic interpretation of the song's themes.
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 leaves a small bunch of keys with him when she leaves in her car, possibly including house keys implying that she wishes to start an affair with him, but declines his offer to bring the car out to her house when it's ready. Later that night, he drives the car up to her mansion high in the hills above the city. He looks to a second floor window with the light on and is about to ring the bell, when he thinks better of it and drops her keys in the mailbox next to the door. He smiles wistfully and walks away down towards the city lights below.
- "I'm on Fire" - 2:36
- "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 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. As of November 2009, it has been performed live 245 times.
- 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 as a b-side to their single "A Crying Shame". It is a staple of HLAH's live set and had a video made by NZ's Flying Fish productions. The video was made after the head of Flying Fish heard the song and offered to make a video which is highly ironic as the video had a production cost of about $150,000 whereas the song was recorded by band member Nigel Regan in his home studio 'The Stench room' on a broken Fostex 8-track (reel to reel) for zero cost. 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". An audio sample can be heard on their official Myspace page.
- New York based singer-songwriter Swati recorded a cover of the song for her 2007 album Small Gods.
- Kenny Chesney covered the song on the bonus tracks in his 2004 album, When the Sun Goes Down.
- 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-titled 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 his Sweet Mother Texas album.
- Russell Robertson covered the song in his 2008 album Higher.
- Town Mountain covered the song on their 2008 album Heroes and Heretics.
- 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.)
- The Guana Batz recorded a psychobilly cover of the song.
- Whitey Morgan and the 78's covered it on their debut album, Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels.
- Electrelane covered it on their EP On Parade with a decidedly punk edge.
- Buzz Campbell covered it on his EP Buzz Campbell, released in only 300 copies, in 2010. On this album, the song is called only "Fire".
- Lindi Ortega covered it on her album Little Red Boots in 2011. This album is available as an iTunes exclusive bonus track.
- Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet on the album Whitehorse.
- The Finches recorded an a cappella cover of it in 2011. It is currently streaming on their Bandcamp page and inclusion is anticipated on a later release.
- BoDeans included a cover of the song on their 2012 album American Made.
- Slightly Stoopid covers the song on their 2012 album Top of the World
- The Heartbreaks recorded a cover in 2012, released as a B-side of their "Polly" EP.
- Bat For Lashes recorded a cover of the song.
- Gabrielle Aplin recorded a cover of the song in 2013.
- Low recovered a cover of the song, released on the compilation album Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A.
- American electronic rock band Awolnation did a cover of the song for the soundtrack of the film Fifty Shades of Grey.
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 folk 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.
- Jack's Mannequin did a cover of the song for AP on April 10, 2007 and have covered the song at numerous live shows.
- 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. It was consequently included on a 7-song live EP from this tour, distributed for free in early 2010 via her website.
- Ben Harper & Jennifer Nettles performed the song in tribute at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. Tori Amos Feat Jono
- Born Ruffians performed the song live at The Loft At UCSD on September 20, 2010. Frontman Luke Lalonde also performed the song for The Fader.
- Matt Andersen performed this song on his live album Live at Liberty Hotel. This album was recorded in 2007.
- Philip Quast performed part of the song with "Every Breath You Take" in 2002, as part of his "Live at the Donmar" showcase and subsequent album.
- Mumford & Sons performed this song in concert as part of their Summer Stampede 2013 tour.
- Tegan and Sara have performed part of this song as a live medley with their song "Not Tonight" at several shows in 2012 and 2013.
- Barry Gibb is performing it as a part of the setlist of the Mythology Tour in the US, as a thank to Springsteen who before had done a powerful and spectacular version of "Stayin' Alive" in Brisbane, the childhood place of the Brothers Gibb in Australia.
- Calle Hellevang-Larsen performed a Johnny Cash-style version live on the Ylvis show 4 Nov 2014, with a fake nose, and complete with burning suit jacket and pants.
In popular culture
Christian comedian Tim Hawkins parodied the song on his album Extremely Madeover.
"I'm on Fire" is mentioned in the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.
The song is also mentioned in Eric Church's song titled "Springsteen".
The line "at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet/its a pretty good song baby do you know the rest?" appears in The Gaslight Anthem's "High Lonesome".
"I'm on Fire" is referenced in the Victor Pelevin's The Sacred Book of the Werewolf novel.
- Richard Buskin (March 2010). "Bruce Springsteen ‘Born In The USA’ – Classic Tracks". Sound on Sound. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
Recorded with Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan, this moodily atmospheric, synth-based rockabilly track would be added to the album and released as its fourth single.
- Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
- "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 29, 1985". Archived from the original on 2007-06-17. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- "Officialcharts.de – Bruce Springsteen – I'm On Fire". GfK Entertainment.
- Bruce Springsteen (1986). I'm on Fire (Videotape). Sony BMG.
- "Pitchfork Forkcast: New Music: Chromatics: "I'm On Fire" (Bruce Springsteen cover) [MP3/Stream]". PitchforkMedia.com. 2009-01-14. Archived from the original on 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "CHROMATICS on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads". Myspace.com. Archived from the original on 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "Swati: Small Gods - Music Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "The Finches". Thefinches.bandcamp.com. 2011-12-31. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- "Hangin' On E Street: brucespringsteen.net". Bruce Springsteen. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- "The Kennedy Center Honors". Kennedy-center.org. 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- "FADER TV: At The Bar With Southern Comfort: Born Ruffians, "I'm On Fire"". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- Appleford,Steve (2013-02-02). "Tegan and Sara Explore New Territory in L.A. Show". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
- In Country (1989) - Soundtracks