Fire by Bruce Springsteen: Who Did it First?

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Song: Fire (1987)

Artist: Bruce Springsteen

Writer: Bruce Springsteen

Album: Live: 1975-85

Label: Columbia

I’m driving in my car, I turn on the radio…

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when not everything the Boss did rose to the top of the heap. While clawing his way to the top and become the Boss of everything boss, some of his songs were made hits by other artists, much to Springsteen’s frustration. We’ve already talked about one such instance with Manfred Mann’s recording of Blinded by the Light, which Springsteen performed very differently. But another of his songs, before he even recorded it, became a hit by a more unlikely group, The Pointer Sisters, with their recording of Fire.

Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Deliah

The thing is, if you’re a Springsteen fan, you probably know the song Fire, not to be confused with I’m on Fire, very well. Although, as a Robin Williams fan I can’t help but hear “I’m drivin’ in my car” in Elmer Fudd’s voice. If you’re a dedicated fan you may know that Springsteen never recorded it on an album, at least in the studio.

The Pointer Sisters were not the original artists either, however. The first person to record it was Springsteen’s friend Robert Gordon. His version didn’t make the Billboard (or Cashbox) charts but it did make the now-defunct Record World charts, rising to no. 106 in 1978 while also enjoying some airplay on the more album-oriented rock stations. You can listen below.

Notice that Gordon sings it a little bit Elvis? Well, that is another twist to the story. Bruce Springsteen had originally intended the song to be for Elvis. He sent it to him in 1977. Unfortunately, on a day I’ll never forget, and before he received the tape in the mail, August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died.

Springsteen then determined to record for his next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town but it didn’t seem to really fit in. That album was released in 1978 and Springsteen put Fire aside for the next one. Meanwhile, though, the Robert Gordon version was out and about meaning anybody could cover it. The Pointer Sisters did just that and went all the way to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 14 on the R&B charts (genres…go figure). Springsteen was struggling, meanwhile, to get to the top 20 with any of his songs (Born to Run was a no. 3 hit in 1975).

Alas, although Springsteen eventually amassed many top 20 hits, he only missed getting Fire to the top 40 by a hair. He released it as a live recording on the album Live: 1975-85 in 1987 and it went to no. 46 in February 1987. Still a hit!

The initial studio version of Fire, which Springsteen had not wanted to release on Darkness on the Edge of Town as it did not fit in with the theme of the album (and he didn’t want the label to push it as the first single release) was finally included on the box-set album The Promise in 2010. The original vocals, however, were replaced.

Rober Gordon performed the song often with Link Wray, and I’ve come across some sources calling Springsteen’s Fire “a cover of Robert Gordon and Link Wray’s ‘Fire.’ No, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t cover your own tune.

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