Fire as a Metaphor in Rock Music by Tim Jeffreys

Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Tim Jeffreys, author of “Combustible,” featured in our new anthology ON FIRE, out now.


When Caleb Followill of the band Kings of Leon hollered that his sex was on fire, was he singing about a bad urinary tract infection or STDs?  Well, no.  One hopes and presumes not.  Most likely, he’s following a long line of rock and pop singers who have used fire as a metaphor for love and desire, something that at times provides heat and invigoration, and at other times – or perhaps the same time – is all-consuming and destructive.  And who doesn’t understand love and passion on those terms?

Back in the days when sex couldn’t be mentioned in song lyrics without being dressed in metaphor, Jim Morrison sang ‘Light My Fire’.  Try to set the night on fire, yeah!  What else could he be singing about?  Arson?  The same goes for Jimi Hendrix, when he sang ‘let me sit next to your fire’ in ‘Fire’.  Both artists wrote about this fire as something desirous.  They wanted to burn.  Metaphorically speaking of course.  If you stand too close to that fire, there’s a chance you might get hurt, which is what seems to have happened to Johnny Cash in ‘Ring of Fire’ where love or desire has become a torment which ‘burns, burns, burns’.  (Unless it’s…could it be about?…STDs?…)

Moving on.  Other things burn.  Like hatred.  Like revenge.  ‘Wheels on fire,’ Bob Dylan wrote. ‘Rolling down the road.’  In other words, there’s something burning and it’s coming for you.  ‘Hot, hot, hot!!!’ screamed Robert Smith of The Cure in the song of the same name, as if someone had just tossed him a cinder.  What he actually appears to be shrieking about, though, is the thrill of danger.  ‘I like it when that lightning comes’ he sings.  And the Prodigy’s demented ‘Firestarter’ also uses fire as a non-literal threat.  Yet, the lyric, ‘I’m the pain you tasted, fell intoxicated,’ harks back to the desirous nature of fire, as if that nutcase Keith Flint knew something none of us will admit.  Despite the destructive nature of fire, sometimes, we all just wanna burn.  Right?

As for Adele setting fire to the rain.  Don’t ask me what that’s all about because I’ve no idea.

How would that even work?


Tim Jeffreys is the author of five collections of short stories, the most recent being ‘Another Shore’. His novella, ‘Voids’, co-written with Martin Greaves was be published Omnium Gatherum Media in 2016.  His short fiction has appeared in various international anthologies and magazines.  He also edits and compiles the Dark Lane Anthologies where he gets to publish talented writers from all over the world.  In his own work, he incorporates elements of horror, fantasy, absurdist humour, science-fiction and anything else he wants to toss into the pot to create his own brand of weird fiction.  Visit him online at

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ali says:

    I suspect the Adele lyrics were originally : l set fire to Lorraine, watched her burn as I scratched her face

    And the PR guys said nope, change it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s