80’s Blast::We Didn’t Start the Fire


(anyone who thinks otherwise can go jump in Lake Minnetonka)

Been “power-walking” (walking briskly on hilly roads while wearing 1-pound weighted hand gloves) 2-1/2 3 miles each morning before starting my normal 30-minute workout routine.

I tend to “walk to the beat” of whatever I’m listening to so I pick songs that have an upbeat tempo. I’ve already published a Post on one song I find especially suited to these walks, but there’s another that’s VERY fast-paced. In fact, I practically DANCE along to it!  (This must look hilarious to anyone who happens to see me passing by!)

Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire (1989)
from the album Storm Front (1989)

from Wikipedia
Joel got the idea for the song when he had just turned 40. He was in a recording studio and met a friend of Sean Lennon who had just turned 21 who said “It’s a terrible time to be 21!” Joel replied to him, “Yeah, I remember when I was 21 – I thought it was an awful time and we had Vietnam, and y’know, drug problems, and civil rights problems and everything seemed to be awful.” The friend replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s different for you. You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties”. Joel retorted, “Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?” Joel later said those headlines formed the basic framework for the song.

What I LOVE about “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is the juxtaposition of lyrical content (Billy Joel has said, “There’s an element of malevolence in the song; it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.”) and the crazy, upbeat melody (Joel’s admitted it’s one of the worst he’s ever written) – especially during the chorus.

The lyrics include brief, rapid-fire allusions to more than 100 headline events between 1949, the year of Joel’s birth, and 1989, when the song was released on his album Storm Front. link

1949
Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

1950
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

1951
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

1952
Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

Chorus:
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

1953
Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

1954
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”

1955
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett (Here’s a two-fer:  The nuclear device, Davy Crockett, also debuted.), Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

1956
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

Chorus

1957
Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

1958
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather homicide, children of Thalidomide

1959
Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

1960
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

Chorus

1961
Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

1962
“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

1963
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK blown away, what else do I have to say

Chorus

1965-1975
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, Punk Rock

1976-1979
Begin, Reagan (Another 2-fer:  Reagan’s 1976 Presidential campaign), Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

1981-1984
“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, Heavy Metal suicide
Foreign debts, Homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

Chorus

Chorus

ℳ –

Comment...

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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