"Great Balls of Fire" is a 1957 song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records and featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It was written by Otis Blackwell (under the pseudonym Jack Hammer). The Jerry Lee Lewis 1957 recording was ranked as the 96th greatest song ever by Rolling Stone. The song is in AABA form. The song sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release in the United States and would go on to sell over 5 million copies, making it both one of the best-selling singles in the United States as well as one of the world's best-selling singles of all time.
Song information[edit source | edit]Edit
The song is best known for Jerry Lee Lewis's original recording, which was recorded in the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 8, 1957, and released as a 45rpm single on Sun 281 in November 1957. It reached #2 on the Billboard pop charts, #3 on the R&B charts, and #1 on the country charts. It also reached #1 on the UK pop charts, appeared on the New Zealand Singles Chart, and the Dutch Top 40.
The song was featured in a performance by Jerry Lee Lewis and his band in the 1957 Warner Brothers rock and roll film Jamboree, which also featured Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Knox, and Dick Clark. The recording was also released in the UK on London Records.
The song title is derived from a Southern expression, which some Christians consider blasphemous, that refers to the Pentecost's defining moment when the Holy Spirit manifested as "cloven tongues as of fire" and the Apostles spoke in tongues.
Chart performance[edit source | edit]Edit
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||30|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||8|
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||2|
Legacy[edit source | edit]Edit
- Monty Python references the song's title in the "World Forum" sketch, a fake game show, as heard on the live album Monty Python Live at City Center. Terry Gilliam, portraying Mao Zedong, says the song title as the only correct answer the "distinguished panel" offers in the early rounds. The song was used for the New York City audience in place of "Sing, Little Birdie," which was the song title used in the original sketch.
- The song is featured in the 1989 jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
- This song is also performed by Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap in the episode called Miss Deep South in Season 3.
- Levi Kreis, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, sang "Great Balls of Fire" in the Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," which opened in New York in April, 2010; and Kreis covered the song on the "Million Dollar Quartet" original Broadway cast recording (copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC). Levi Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet.”
- In the fantasy novel Temptress of the Flame, a character exclaims "Goodness gracious. Great balls of fire?" after being informed about stars. </ref>
- In the 1986 film, Top Gun, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Portrayed by Anthony Edwards) sang this song in a bar with his family and Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise)
Other recordings[edit source | edit]Edit
- The Crickets released their version of the song in 1960 on their album, "In Style With The Crickets."
- A version by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas was on the "Little Children" album in 1964.
- Gary Lewis and the Playboys released a cover of this song in 1970 as the B-Side to the song "I'm On The Right Road Now."
- Aerosmith performed a cover of this song at Nipmuc Regional High School's prom on Nov. 6, 1970.
- New Grass Revival recorded a high-speed bluegrass version of the song on their 1972 album The Arrival of the New Grass Revival.
- Electric Light Orchestra recorded a version for their 1974 The Night the Light Went On in Long Beach live album.
- Dolly Parton recorded a version in 1979, releasing her cover as the title song of her Great Ball of Fire album; her recording was released as the "B" side of her "Sweet Summer Lovin'" single, and it received a moderate amount of radio airplay during the fall of 1979. Parton still often includes the song in her concert set lists.
- Amii Stewart recorded a version on her 1981 album Images.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded a version for "The Amazing Chipmunks," a 1988 episode of their TV series.
- OV7, originally called "La Onda Vaselina" made a version in Spanish called "Grandes luces de fuego" in 1989.
- Fleetwood Mac, included the track on the 1999 release of the Shrine '69 live album which was recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in 1969
- The Misfits recorded a version in 2003 for their Project 1950 album.
- Teitur recorded a version in 2006, released on the Stay Under the Stars album.
- The French singer Dorothée recorded a duet with Jerry Lee Lewis in 1992, released on the Une histoire d'amour album.
- Offenbach included the song on the live DVD of the album Ultime (2007).
- Dean Delannoit, record the song for his debut album (2007).
- Tiny Tim recorded a version as the b-side to "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."
- Alan Merrill recorded a version on his "Double Shot Rocks" album in 2003.
- American Doo Wop band The Flamingos recorded a version on their album "Unspoken Emotions."
- Johnny Winter, recorded a version on the album "Johnny Winter And.... Live."
- Seamus, a stereotyped pirate from the animated show "Family Guy," performed the song in a church organist audition as seen on the episode "Boys Do Cry" (season 5).
- A version of the song served as the theme song for the Madballs animated series.
- Mae West did a version on the album titled with the same name Great Balls of Fire.
- The Jolly Boys covered this song for the Old Jamaica Ginger Beer advert in 2010 and is also on their album Great Expectation.
- Top Gun "Goose" and "Maverick" perform this song while Goose plays the piano.
- Ronnie Dio & the Prophets recorded this song for the "Live at Domino's" Album on February 24th, 1963.