October 9-14 this year is Fire Prevention Week in the US, “established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.”
Each year has a theme. 2016’s theme is Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.
Watching the terrible fires in California, and elsewhere in the western United States, following the severe drought conditions, was sobering. Yet, as is often the case, it also reminded me of music. Specifically of three songs that are all in my collection called Fire, but which are very different pieces of music.
The earliest is a 1968 song, originally credited to Arthur Brown and Vincent Crane, and performed by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. “The single reached #1 in the UK and in Canada, #2 in the US Billboard charts,” and Top 10 in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Ireland.
Though its lack of guitars or bass guitar, relying instead on the Hammond organ, it was considered “an example of the psychedelic rock of the period… Mike Finesilver and Peter Ker successfully sued for co-credit and royalties based on melodic similarities to their song ‘Baby, You’re a Long Way Behind'”, which I’ve never heard. The song was covered on Pete Townshend’s The Iron Man collection.
Fire is ALSO “a hit song by R&B/funk band Ohio Players. The song was the opening track from the album of the same name and hit #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Soul Singles chart in early 1975. It spent five weeks atop the soul chart. Fire was the Ohio Players’ only entry on the new disco/dance chart, where it peaked at #10. The tune is considered to be the band’s signature song along with Love Rollercoaster.”
Fire is ALSO a song written by Bruce Springsteen in 1977, which did not appear on his June 2, 1978 album release Darkness on the Edge of Town, because of its “inconsistency with Springsteen’s ultimate thematic vision for that album.” But it showed up in the live shows from the period, and as a live single nearly a decade later.
Robert Gordon recorded a version with Link Wray in 1978. But it is the inaugural single by the Pointer Sisters as the trio (Anita, June, and Ruth) that became the big hit: #2 on Billboard Hot 100 (February 1979), #14, and #22 on the magazine’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts, respectively, and #1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, and New Zealand, #3 in Canada, #7 in Australia, and #10 in Austria, plus Top 40 in Germany and the UK.