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I'm on Fire

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Title: I'm on Fire  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen song), Born in the U.S.A. (song), Born in the U.S.A. Tour, 19 (song)
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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
Format 7" single
Recorded February 1982
Length 2:37
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology
"Born in the U.S.A."
"I'm on Fire"
"Glory Days"
Born in the U.S.A. track listing
Audio sample

"I'm on Fire" is a song written and performed by American rock artist Bruce Springsteen. Released in 1985, it was the fourth single from his album Born in the U.S.A.[1]


  • History 1
  • Chart performance 2
  • Music video 3
  • Track listing 4
  • Live performance history 5
  • Cover versions 6
  • Live cover performances 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


"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.

Chart performance

Country Peak
Australia (ARIA) 12
Canada (RPM) 12
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[2] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40) 1[3]
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ) 10
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company) 5
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 6
Chart (2014) Peak
Germany (Official German Charts)[4] 95

Music video

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.[5]

The video began airing in mid-April, received extensive MTV airplay, and later in the year won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video.

Track listing

  1. "I'm on Fire" - 2:36
  2. "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.

Cover versions

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • 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.[14]

In popular culture

Director Norman Jewison featured the song on the soundtrack for his 1989 film In Country, starring Bruce Willis.[15]

Christian comedian Tim Hawkins parodied the song on his album Extremely Madeover.

The character Bob Freed, played by Christopher Reeve, quotes the song to Julia Mann, played by Geena Davis in the 1994 film Speechless.

In the 2011 Australian film The Hunter, after Willem Dafoe fixes the generator, the song begins to play on the record player, awakening someone sleeping inside the house.

It also sounded in the Nanni Moretti's film Palombella Rossa.

"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.


  1. ^ Richard Buskin (March 2010). "Bruce Springsteen ‘Born In The USA’ – Classic Tracks".  
  2. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi.  
  3. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 29, 1985". Archived from the original on 2007-06-17. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  4. ^ " – Bruce Springsteen – I'm On Fire". GfK Entertainment.
  5. ^ Bruce Springsteen (1986). I'm on Fire (Videotape).  
  6. ^ "Pitchfork Forkcast: New Music: Chromatics: "I'm On Fire" (Bruce Springsteen cover) [MP3/Stream]". 2009-01-14. Archived from the original on 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  7. ^ "CHROMATICS on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads". Archived from the original on 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  8. ^ "Swati: Small Gods - Music Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  9. ^ "The Finches". 2011-12-31. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  10. ^ "Hangin' On E Street:". Bruce Springsteen. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  11. ^ "The Kennedy Center Honors". 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  12. ^ """FADER TV: At The Bar With Southern Comfort: Born Ruffians, "I'm On Fire. YouTube. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  13. ^ Appleford,Steve (2013-02-02). "Tegan and Sara Explore New Territory in L.A. Show".  
  14. ^
  15. ^ In Country (1989) - Soundtracks
  • Born in the U.S.A. The World Tour (tour booklet, 1985), Tour chronology.
  • Marsh, Dave. Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s. Pantheon Books, 1987. ISBN 0-394-54668-7.

External links

  • Brucebase recording sessions history
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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