Meaning of Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis & The Story

Young Jerry Lee Lewis didn’t look like a true Christian. Who would believe in the piety of a guy who bangs his head on piano keys at concerts, marries his thirteen-year-old niece, and gets arrested for gun incidents? But The Killer really considered himself a believer, which almost prevented him from recording one of the greatest rock and roll songs.

We are talking about Great Balls of Fire (“Huge fireballs”), which is one of the best-selling singles in the history of popular music. Jerry, who grew up in a religious family, refused to record it because he found the lyrics to be blasphemous.

Story of the song Great Balls of Fire

The composition was written by Otis Blackwell (Otis Blackwell), a longtime collaborator with Elvis Presley, and Jack Hammer (Jack Hammer), also known as a member of The Platters.

Sun Records owner Sam Philips had high hopes for Jerry. In May 1957 they recorded the hit Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Phillips was confident in the success of the Great Balls of Fire. But there was a catch: Lewis did not want to perform the song, considering it unworthy of a Christian.

Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam PhillipsJerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips

Nick Toshes, Lewis biographer, said:

At one session, everyone in the studio was drinking. Jerry Lee was filled with the Holy Spirit and decided that the song Great Balls of Fire came from the devil, and therefore it was a sin to perform it.

Meaning of Great Balls of Fire

What does this expression mean? In the southern states where Lewis is from, the phrase great balls of fire has been known since the nineteenth century. It has a biblical origin, referring to the numerous references to fire as God’s punishment.

It is used colloquially to express surprise. For example, in the movie Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara exclaims: “Great balls of fire! It’s Rhett!”

In the song Great Balls of Fire, the phrase is ambiguous. The authors did not explain what they meant by “huge fireballs” (share versions in the comments), but in the fifties, biblical allusions in a composition with obvious sexual overtones seemed unacceptable even to Lewis.

Recording and release

So, a scandal broke out in the studio between the head of Sun Records and Lewis. His witness was drummer JM van Eaton. He later recalled:

It seemed funny to me because I could watch both. Sam was extremely serious, and Jerry was extremely nervous.

Uncut, 2012

The religious debate between the musician and the producer was accidentally taped.

In the end, Phillips convinced Lewis to perform the song. On October 8, 1957, Jerry sat down at the piano and recorded Great Balls of Fire in a few takes.

In the US, the single was released on November 11, the day before the release of the film Jamboree, in which the song is featured, which was additional advertising for the track. Great Balls of Fire topped the Billboard country charts and climbed to number two on the Hot 100. It also reached the top of the UK charts.

In the first ten days, the record sold a million copies. In total, over five million singles have been sold.

Rolling Stone magazine included Great Balls of Fire in the list of the five hundred greatest songs of all time.

Cover versions

The song was performed by The Crickets, The Kingsmen, Aerosmith, ELO, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac and many other famous musicians.

Interesting Facts

  • In the UK, the song was released before Lewis by Georgia Gibbs, but her version didn’t even chart.
  • The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film Top Gun (1986).
  • A 1989 biographical picture of the life of Jerry Lewis is called Great Balls of Fire.
  • In the movie Great Balls of Fire, a piano is set on fire during a song. Lewis claimed that it was true, but none of the musician’s entourage confirmed its authenticity.

Great Balls of Fire Lyrics Jerry Lee Lewis

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

I laughed at love cause I thought it was funny
You came along and you moved me honey
I changed my mind, this love is fine
goodness gracious great balls of fire

Kiss me baby, it feels good
Hold me baby
Let me love you like a lover should
You’re fine, so kind
I’m gonna tell the world that you’re mine

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

Lyrics Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis Alternative

You get on my nerves and blow my mind
Too much love drives a person crazy
You have robbed me of will power – how exciting!
Good God! Huge fireballs!

I laughed at love, thinking it was funny
But you showed up and excited me baby
I changed my mind: love is good
Good God! Huge fireballs!

Kiss me baby, how good
Hold me baby
Let me love you like a lover should
You are so good, so kind
I’ll tell the whole world that you are mine

I bite my nails and twist my fingers
I get nervous but of course it’s fun
Come on baby you drive me crazy
Good God! Huge fireballs!

Song Quotes

A person talks at least a little about himself in every song he writes.

Jerry Lee Lewis

I remember the first rock and roll I saw on TV was Jerry Lee Lewis doing Great Balls of Fire. It struck me as if I saw someone from outer space.

Eric Clapton

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