I had a paralysis from analysis moment that led me to this song choice. Originally, my next up was “Fire” by The Ohio Players. I sat with that choice for a while, ultimately asking myself if I was picking that song because it’s such a legendary funk song or because I legitimately love it. I eventually decided that while I love the sirens and Sugarfoot and the Ohio Players’ album covers, “Fire” stops a bit short of the five star mark for me. But there’s another song called “Fire” that gets the nod for this blog. Hello Anita. Hello June. Hello Ruth. Hello…Bruce?
This “Fire” song came from the pen of the great New Jersey poet Bruce Springsteen. The Boss allegedly wrote “Fire” for Elvis Presley, but The King died before the song could get into his ringed hands. Bruce passed on releasing “Fire” himself and the song somehow landed in the hands of producer Richard Perry, who passed it on to The Pointer Sisters. It became the second Bruce Springsteen composition to hit the pop top 10, although Bruce didn’t hit the top 10 as an artist until “Hungry Heart” in 1980, two years after “Fire” peaked at #2 and four years after Manfred Mann’s Earth Band topped the charts with his “Blinded By The Light”.
Listening to The Pointers’ version vs. Bruce’s “original”, I’m struck by how much better “Fire”‘s lyrics work when sung by women. The Pointers also change the perspective of the song. In Bruce’s version, he is the aggressor and the cajoler. The Pointers put themselves (literally and figuratively) in the passenger’s seat. They’re playing coy, but they’re clearly turned on. It’s almost like their minds are telling them “no”, but their bodies! Their bodies are…oops, not gonna go there. That shift in perspective (and the fact that the tempo is dropped a step from Bruce’s original) gives “Fire” an extra blast of sex appeal that puts it over the top, even though it stopped just short of the top of the charts. For what it’s worth, Bruce never had a Number One under his own name, either.