About the song

Absolutely, let’s delve into the inferno of rock and roll with Jerry Lee Lewis’s immortal anthem, Great Balls of Fire! Released in 1957, this song is a cornerstone of the genre, a potent blend of raw energy, captivating piano play, and Lewis’s own unforgettable vocals.

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Great Balls of Fire! wasn’t born from Lewis himself, but rather came from the pens of songwriters Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. Blackwell, a key figure in early rock and roll, was known for crafting hits for artists like Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Blackwell understood the burgeoning rock and roll audience’s desire for something exciting, rebellious, and undeniably catchy.

Lewis, the “Killer” as he’d later be nicknamed, was a perfect vessel for this energy. Hailing from Ferriday, Louisiana, he brought a gospel-infused Southern style to his piano playing, pounding the keys with an almost violent intensity. His singing was equally unhinged, a thrilling mix of growls, shouts, and soulful pleas.

When Lewis stepped into Sun Studio in Memphis on October 8th, 1957, lightning struck. The session was reportedly short and furious, capturing the unbridled energy Lewis brought to the song. Accompanied by just a bass and drums, Lewis laid down a foundation of frenetic piano work, his vocals soaring and growling over the top. The lyrics themselves are simple, an ode to a woman who sets the singer ablaze with desire. Lines like “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain” and the infamous “Great Balls of Fire!” became instantly recognizable, pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable at the time.

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Great Balls of Fire! was a runaway success. It shot to number one on the Billboard R&B chart and number two on the pop chart, selling over a million copies within weeks. The song’s impact transcended the charts. Lewis’s electrifying performance on “The Steve Allen Show” cemented his status as a rock and roll icon. His wild stage presence, pounding the piano with his feet while playing, became a signature move, a testament to the untamed energy of the music.

Great Balls of Fire! wasn’t without controversy. The song’s suggestive title and lyrics caused a stir, with some radio stations refusing to play it. However, this only added to the song’s mystique and rebellious spirit.

Great Balls of Fire!‘s legacy is undeniable. It’s been covered by countless artists, from Queen to Bruce Springsteen. Rolling Stone ranked it number 96 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song remains a touchstone of rock and roll, a testament to the raw power and uninhibited passion that defined the genre’s early days. When those opening chords hit, and Lewis’s voice explodes onto the scene, you know you’re in for a wild ride. Great Balls of Fire! is more than just a song; it’s a sonic fireball that continues to ignite audiences over six decades later.

Video

Lyrics

“Great Balls Of Fire”

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, but what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

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I laughed at love when I thought it was funny
But you came along and you moved me honey
I’ve changed my mind, this love is fine
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

Kiss me baby, woo, it feels good
Hold me baby, ooh, yeah, you gonna love me like a lover should
You’re fine, so kind, I’m gonna tell this world that you’re mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

I chew my nails, I twiddle my thumbs
I’m really nervous but it sure is fun
Come on baby, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

Ohhh, kiss me baby, woo-oooooo, feels good, yeah
Let me love you like a lover should.
You’re fine. So kind.
I gonna tell this world that you’re mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

I chew my nails and I twiddle my thumbs
I’m real nervous but it sure is fun
Come on baby, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire