Bruce Springsteen was such an enigmatic songwriter that he could easily pen tunes for the greatest pop stars around and let the acclaim go on by. In fact, arguably one of his finest ever songs was given to Patti Smith as he felt that ‘Because The Night’ was a track a little too far out of his wheelhouse. Another such track that Springsteen was desperate to give away was ‘Fire’.
An obvious love song, the track was never intended for Springsteen. One of the songs The Boss had written for somebody else, ‘Fire,’ was originally intended for The King himself, Elvis Presley. Eventually picked up by the Pointer Sisters in 1978, ‘Fire’ is now a key part of Springsteen’s live sets. While the Pointer Sisters relied on their magnetic vocal performances to seal their own connection to the song, Springsteen’s version is simply dripping with machismo. Charged with testosterone and brimming with The Boss’ passion, the song feels as close to its title as possible when under his guidance. There’s perhaps no better performance of the song than this rendition from 1978.
Not many artists dwarf Bruce Springsteen, but the mercurial talent of Elvis Presley was certainly one of them. It makes the idea that The Boss wrote this song with him in mind all the more interesting. Springsteen was an unashamed fanboy of The King and has often shared his love for the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ singer, even once famously breaking into Graceland to try and speak with his idol.
As a child growing up in New Jersey, Springsteen attributed Elvis’ 1956 smash hit ‘Hound Dog’ as being a major turning point in his life. “When I heard it, it just shot straight through to my brain,” he recalled. “I realised, suddenly, that there was more to life than what I’d been living. I was then in pursuit of something, and there’d been a vision laid out before me. You were dealing with the pure thrust, the pure energy of the music itself. I was so very young, but it still hit me like a thunderbolt.”
This dedication to Presley continued well into his adult life. On May 28, 1977, Springsteen and bandmate Steve Van Zandt were finally able to see The King’s performance at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Unaware just how long gone Presley’s golden days were at the time, much to his disappointment, Springsteen later recalled of the show, “It was not a good night.” To come to terms with his sadness, he supposedly went home and wrote a song titled ‘Fire,’ which he intended to give to Presley. But unfortunately, Presley passed away before the demo reached him.
Instead, the song ended up in the hands of rockabilly menace Robert Gordon and the aforementioned R&B stylings of The Pointer Sisters. Never featuring on a straight studio album, Springsteen and the E Street Band’s take on the song is all the rarer and gratifying for it. Below, we can a taste of exactly how Springsteen had wanted the song to sound, even if he thought there should be another person singing it.
Watch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform ‘Fire’ at a rare show in 1978.