A "summer song" is a special category of pop hit -- it has to represent the freedom of summer, the holiday, the sun, the nakedness and the potential for romance. Summer songs typically aren't freighted with deeper meanings the way "Light My Fire" is. "Get Lucky" is more typical -- easy, steamy, nothing deeper, extolling the virtues of a mindless good time. But 1967, the year "Light My Fire" was a summer hit, wasn't like any other year. Call it the "Summer of Love" if you like, but innocence was already hard into the process of being thoroughly smashed, like Grandma's best porcelain. There was a small city within a city camped out and grooving on each other at Haight-Ashbury, that's true. But the Vietnam War was also in full swing (although we weren't allowed to call it a "war. Our teachers told us the correct term was "conflict"). Race riots rocked Newark and Detroit. Malcolm X had been assassinated in 1965 and into that void stepped a militant "black power" movement. Meanwhile, young people of every kind everywhere were being routinely treated as potential threats to society.
"Freedom" was the word of the day, infused in every aspect of the youth culture. Seizing the moment meant, in part, acknowledging that wide range of cultural influences, the freedom available at the turn of a radio dial. Manzarek's reference to LSD seems off-putting to those for whom drugs represent only addiction, criminality and self-delusion. But in 1967, LSD represented a liberation from old patterns of thought, a freedom to imagine new possibilities, breaking down boundaries to reveal new realities both beautiful and terrifying. It was all the more potent a symbol once the government made it illegal in 1966. The message of "Light My Fire" is hedonistic, yes -- push the sensational envelope, get higher, love without considering the consequence because death awaits us all. But all that also was emblematic of an important social distinction, a thrilling way of looking at a world where anything was possible, an anarchistic embrace of freedom that the Baby Boomers' parents, survivors of the Great Depression and World War II, struggled to understand or simply dismissed.