Category Archives: history

We didn’t start the fire.

“”Harry Truman”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_S._Truman, “Doris day”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Day”
I had a hankering for some whisteling. “Whistler’s Delight”:http://www.boingboing.net/2005/01/22/whistlers_delight_ma.html wasn’t gonna cut it, no, I needed some good old-fashioned Billy Joel “exploring the nesting-doll school of songwriting” whistling. And that means one thing – “The Stranger” from, um… “The Stranger” (“Scenes from an Italian Restruant” also on that album, is, for my money, the best Billy Joel song ever). I looked on my iTunes, and shock of shocks, it wasn’t there.

While I downloaded it from my favorite quasi-legal, overseas site (relax, I’ve owned EVERY Billy Joel album multiple times, most on tape, vinyl, cd AND mp3), I fired up “Storm Front”, the Billy Joel album that changed my life. I started playing it casually, without regard for the rabbit hole I was about to fall into.

“And the “catcher and the rye”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Catcher_in_the_Rye”
As soon as I heard the swoosh that starts “We didn’t start the fire” move from speaker to speaker, I was right back to the summer of ’89 when I was 12. It was a great year, I was getting really good at Taekwondo, having started less then two years before. I was traveling all over the country (well the east coast) competing in (and winning) tournaments and really starting to grow up a little bit. Most of my friends were adults and for the first time in my life, I felt like one of them.
From the first time I heard that song in my mom’s ’88 Aerostar, I was hooked. It not only launched my obession with Billy Joel, but was the first time I ever had a song consume me so wholy that I had to know EVERYTHING about it.

“”Roy Cohn”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Cohn, “Juan Peron”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Peron, “Tsucanini”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Toscanini”
If there is a chance in hell you don’t know the song, It’s a fast-paced history lesson spanning 1949 (The year of Mr. Joel’s Birth, and a year after my parents’) through 1989 (the year the song was published). It was a huge hit for him, and everyone knew the chorus:
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning, since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
We didn’t light it, but we’re tryin’ to fight it.

Everyone also humed the verses. I learned every line, ever sound effect, ever nuance (There are 8 “and on..”‘s after the last verse). I used to have my same-aged friends (who were geeks like me) give me any lyric from anywhere in the song, and I’d recite the words from that point until the end. I was so disgusted with everyone else’s lack of dedication to the song, that I wouldn’t even sign the chorus, just the verses.

“Children of “Thalidomide”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide”
That song also taught me more about history then all my years in school. Every piece of trivia I didn’t know about, I’d ask my mom.
The Edsel
Bridge over river Kwai
Brooklyn’s got a wining team
The Rosenbergs
McCarthyism
(and on, and on, and on)
She’d either tell me, or we’d look it up on a PAPER enclyopedia. What would take an evening now (wikipedia, or “a site like THIS”:http://www.school-for-champions.com/history/start_fire_facts.htm), took weeks. And I loved it. We really bonded, and I started to realize that I knew more then most kids my age.

“”Pope Paul”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Paul_VI, “Malcom X”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_X”
The last memory that comes to mind is this: we had a tournament to go to in Charlotte, NC. Instead of flying, we decided to drive down. 8 of us. In an Aerostar. With a broken radio. All we had was ONE tape. Can you guess which one? By the end of the trip, everyone knew all the words to that song (and we all got really good at “I went to the store” – complete with inside jokes, “A TROLL”).

“Rock-n-roll cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!”

“And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.”