How Did Billy Joel React to Fall Out Boy’s Updated ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ Cover?
Fall Out Boy recently turned some heads, providing an updated version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" with mostly new lyrics consisting of headline-making events taking place since Joel released the song in 1989. The song arrived to mixed reactions, but did manage to serve as a historical timeline much like the original did. But what does Billy Joel think of Fall Out Boy doing an update?
The "Piano Man" himself recently was a guest on BBC Radio 2's Zoe Ball's Breakfast Show, where he was asked about the updated version.
“Everybody’s been wanting to know when there’s going to be an updated version of it, because my song started in ’49 and ended in ’89 — it was a 40 year span. Everybody said, ‘Well, aren’t you going to do a part two?’ I said, ‘Nah, I’ve already done part one.’ So, Fall Our Boy, go ahead. Great, take it away.”
That said, Joel has some words of caution for Fall Out Boy after performing the track for the past 34 years.
"Sometimes I'm watching people sing along, hoping they'll guide me. Because you can get one word wrong and it's a train wreck, which happened to me," said the singer. "I was in Toronto and I forgot the words. And then I just stopped the song. 'Stop the music! Stop the...' And the crowd made this noise like, 'Eahhhh.' So it's walking on a tightrope with that thing."
You can hear Joel's original version which covers 1949-1989, while Fall Out Boy's version goes from 1989 forward. Both are posted below Joel's discussion with Zoe Ball.
Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire"
Fall Out Boy, "We Didn't Start the Fire"
Upon releasing their version of "We Didn't Start the Fire," Fall Out Boy had a sit down with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1. Bassist Pete Wentz explained, "I remember listening to the original when I was little and I was like, 'I don't know what half this stuff is.' and it made me look up a bunch of this stuff. So, it was just interesting thinking about the stuff we would include versus you wouldn't. Because there's some stuff that was in the original that kind of is lost to the sands of time. You know what I mean? So yeah, we just did it. We put it together. It's just a fun, goofy thing, you know what I mean?"
The bassist also revealed that he wasn't as necessarily worried about taking the swing on the song as he might have been earlier in the band's career. "It's just a little bit out of order, but it is what it is. Listen, we wanted the Internet to still have something to complain about," he adds. "I think that the beauty of the way that music and art works now is that you put something out there. If it misses, it kind of just doesn't go anywhere. And if people like it, then it becomes a thing. But you can put a lot more things kind of out into the ether and it just becomes white noise, if people don't like it. You know what I mean? People don't go, 'The Fall Out Boy cover of, 'We Didn't Start the Fire' ruined their career. They were good until then.' It just doesn't exist in that way anymore, really."
Of their version, he says, "There are triumphant characters and there's despair and it's just kind of the tapestry of human existence. And so, I think we kind of tried to do that. And people were like, 'Well, why no COVID?' It's like, that's all anybody talked... You know what I mean? I don't know. It felt like there was a couple of things that felt like a little on the nose. And then there were a couple of things where it was like Bush V. Gore, we needed the rhyme."
Though Fall Out Boy have primarily been promoting the single "Hold Me Like a Grudge" of late, their cover of "We Didn't Start the Fire" has cracked the MediaBase Alternative Chart, currently sitting at No. 43.