We Didn’t Start The Fire Expanded Lyrics


A few months ago when Billy Joel was coming to town the History major in me couldn’t resist adding lyrics to the 25 years since We Didn’t Start the Fire came out for the New Times. The response was a solid silence and since I spent way too much on this I present it to you again on this forum loyal reader. Feel free to sing along.

George Bush, Noriega, Batman, Genesis by Sega

MC Hammer, Kuwait, Long Dong Silver Hi Ho

Wayne’s World, Right Said Fred, Cross Colours, Gennifer Flowers giving head

Hurricane Andrew, Somalia, Joey Buttafuoco


Tonya Harding, Kurt Cobain, Forrest Gump, Insane in the Membrane

Newt Gingrich, Pulp Fiction, OJ got away

Chupacabra, AOL, Bob Dole, Macarena goes to hell

Beanie Babies, Spice Girls, Jon Benet Ramsey


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


Seinfeld, Monica Lewinsky, Backstreet Boys, Elian set free

Y2K, Hipster chic, Cheney’s first name is Dick

Ralph Nader, Who Let The Dogs Out, Florida Recount

Anthrax letters, Nine Eleven, World’s gone sick


Sopranos, Al Queda, Bin Ladin playa hater

Lord of the Rings, Napster, Afghanistan

Condaleeza, Kobe/Shaq, Bush lies about Iraq

Napoleon Dynamite, John Kerry and Lindsay Lohan


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


TomKat, Kanye West, New Orleans gets wet

MySpace, Prius, President Barak Obama

IPhones, housing bubble, bank bailout, Kardashian trouble

Sarah Palin, Global Warming, GMO’s, Octomama


Guantamano, Arab Spring, Paul Ryan, Lebron wins a ring

Obamacare, Killer Drones, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones

Fukushima, Hunger Games, Books of binders women names

Selfies, twerking, Jersey Shore, I can’t take it any more!


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

Baby’s First Song


There is another description for the job of music writer, music snob. When you are repeatedly forced to form opinions on what makes music good or terrible, it becomes easy to confuse those opinions with fact. I am as guilty of this sin as anyone. I will argue to the death about how Digable Planets were robbed of the universal praise that The Fugees received for best Nineties bohemian Hip-Hop trio. I can assure you that Radiohead hasn’t put out a noteworthy recording since Kid A and I dare you to prove me wrong that Arcade Fire is the only band in the Ipod shuffle age that understood how an album can tell a story.

So pity my poor daughter.

Born earlier this month I was determined to raise good taste in music into her. We gave her a good start with her name. If she would have been a boy, her name would have been Jude. But since she is a girl, her name is Simone. As in Nina. I sang her Beatles songs when she was in her mother’s womb and made certain to switch the radio station if I heard the opening riff of a song that does not meet the cut.

Part of this concern is out of self-interest. I cringe at the thought that when I drive her around in ten years she will be asking me to turn off my Modest Mouse album so that she can hear whoever 2023’s edition of Justin Bieber might be, but there also still exists that high school mindset within me, that personality is molded by one’s taste in music.

I am unsure if taste in music comes from nature or nurture, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. The first song she ever heard might shape her entire ethos. So we thought long and hard about what should be the first song she ever heard. Mazzy Star’s I’ve Been Let Down? Maybe a little too negative. The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows? Might encourage her to join a Bible Study group.

We thought we had plenty of time, but childbirths are chaotic. Sometimes labor starts before you get a definitive playlist. There is a lot of pushing and assuring and little bodies coming out of orifices, suddenly the soundtrack is not the foremost thing on your mind.

There is now a new body in the universe. She is brought into the nursery where you look into her eyes and you can’t wait to play for her Leonard Cohen’s So Long Marianne or maybe Yo La Tengo’s version of Big Sky. And then you notice the nurse has turned on the radio to the easy listening station where the first lyrics your daughter is ever exposed to is Richard Marx singing Right Here Waiting For You.

There is a lesson to be learned here. One about parenting and expectations and control issues and most importantly when we get home to make sure the first movie she ever sees is Caddyshack.

This posting first ran in the New Times. To read my other music related postings click here.

The New Record Shop


When I heard Spec’s Records closed down, I couldn’t help but feel an era had ended even though the era  ended a long time ago. In all honesty it’s amazing a record shop lasted all the way to January 2013. I  can’t remember the last time I bought an album at an actual store. But I can also remember where I bought my first music. It was a cassette of the Beastie Boys License to Ill I purchased at Spec’s.

Spec’s were inescapable in South Florida in the 80s and 90s. It was where I bought my first concert ticket for Lollapalooza ’92. The branch in the Miracle Center was where I bought my last ever cassette Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (ignore the omission of my dated purchases like that of the cassette single for Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy).

Music is now fleeting. We download it out of thin air. It streams through the internet and in and out of our consciousness. There is no longer a need for a marketplace where one buys and sells artifacts of recorded music, but music’s value has always been greater than any tangible object like a record, cassette, or CD. Music has always been about camaraderie and a sharing of the human experience. With fewer and fewer record shops where now can an alienated teenager go to bond over a shared love of a subculture and a shared hatred for whatever is presently moving the masses?

There’s the aforementioned internet where even the most obscure bands have message boards and fan pages, but it’s nice to get out of the house and have actual human contact. Recently, I stumbled upon the obvious alternative.

My guitar had been gathering dust in the corner of the room, so I decided to get it strung. I made the far trek to Guitar Center, a store that sells musical instruments. where I learned the spirit of record shops never died. It was merely reincarnated. The place was overstaffed with kids too cool to help me out. Good music was playing on the speakers (Faith No More and Arcade Fire were overheard) and even though I was the only customer in the store they were too busy to restring my guitar until next week.

That’s fine. I’ll gladly strum off key chords for another week in exchange for the knowledge that our culture has shifted. No longer is there a mass audience where the selling of albums is economically feasible. We are now a culture of artists where everyone has their own band. And there are marketplaces to capitalize on that niche.

This was originally published in The New Times. If you liked it you can read my further musings about music by clicking here.

Sonic Baby Boom

I went to a Wilco concert the other night. It was great. They’re one of the last of my favorite bands that I can cross off my checklist for having finally seen live (Blur and Led Zepelin are the two most prominent possible members still active on said list). As I could see the wear and tear on singer, Jeff Tweedy’s face as he belted out his twangy, poetry about heavy metal drummers and impossible Germanys it got me thinking about my taste in music. Why have I yet to become a fan of a musician who is younger than me?

I’m 33. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain all died when they were six years younger  than me. Where are their counterparts? Why do I continue to only listen to the voices of my elders?

Maybe it’s a jealousy thing where I’m thinking I should be on that stage instead of them. But I’ve been comfortable rooting for young bucks in the arena of sports where my adulation for Glen Rice and Dan Marino continued toward those born after 1978 like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

But my fandom for post 1978  musicians is extremely limited. I got into the Strokes a bit and they’re a couple years younger than me. MGMT at the very least looked young. I also played a lot of the Dodos album  and they’re just out of puberty. But I don’t have that, “got to hear it, need to hear it now” sensation for any of these whippersnappers.

Maybe music only really hits you when you’re a teenager and I’ll be listening to the good time oldies station playing The Beastie Boys and Modest Mouse and heading to the race track to pay ten bucks to see an eighty year old Frank Black playing his hits.


The Beastie Boys and I go way back. In fact the  first music I ever bought was a cassette tape of the Beastie Boys License To Ill where their raunchy rhymes were perfect for a nine year old state of mind. Five years later the second concert I ever went to was the Beastie Boys at Bayfront Park. Cypress Hill and the Rollins Band opened which was kind of a perfect fusion for the Beastie Boys ethos. Hip-hop, hard core, goofy marijuana references, and sober political manifestos. In this mosh pit I learned that there were honest to goodness skinheads in South Florida who had no problem at all stomping their sweaty Doc Martens to a Jewish rapper’s lyrics.

But it wasn’t until 1994 when the Beastie Boys music almost became an obsession. Ill Communications came out and as we idled away the summer waiting for MTV to play the Sabotage video we’d discuss which member of the Beastie Boys was our favorite. The argument was usually between Ad Rock and Mike D. MCA was kind of the Geroge Harrison, the quiet, serious minded member of the rap/rock/ comedy troupe.

So it took me by quite a surprise how visceral my reaction was when I heard MCA died last week at 47. In 1994 47 seemed like too old for a rock star to die, now it seems too young.  Especially for a vegan Buddhst whose music we might have been ignoring but had just a year ago produced an excellent film in Exit Through The Gift Shop.

In tribute I drove around last week with the album Paul’s Boutique playing on constant loop. As the tracks ascended I couldn’t believe how many of the lyrics were still freshly imprinted in my head. And how the beats still turned my finger into a gun which I very Caucasionally shook up and down as I rapped along to their awsomely silly songs.  That’s why I loved the Beastie Boys so much. While in the early nineties Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan were singing about the heartbreak of angst, the Beastie Boys kept it real with their sense of humor.

Rapping about egging people, hooting and hollering over country music samples, throwing pies in their videos. They were/are the best and without MCA’s scratchy voice they will always be incomplete.

Aging Like A Fine Cheese

Driving by myself I can get lost in thought, so I turned on the radio to the classic rock station. Tom Petty’s Refugee was on. It made me think about how since I started listening to the classic rock format in 1992 nothing has changed. They still play the same songs. One could argue that a classic is a classic and so as time progresses the song content of a classic rock station shouldn’t change so much. But you’d think some new songs could be added to the canon.

Tom Petty’s Refugee was released in 1979 and by 1992 was already a staple of the station I listened to. So by that precedent any song from 1998 should be eligible for inclusion on their current playlist. Before I could think of what songs that would qualify, Refugee was over and a new track came on. I could tell from the production value that this was a song from the nineties. I was guessing The Black Crowes, but as the vocals began I realized it was a song I once hated, Aerosmith’s Cryin’.

As a twelve year old I loved Aerosmith with the scantily clad vixens in their videos and their singer Steven Tyler’s silly antics. But by the  time Cryin’ came out in 1993 I was fifteen and they were dinosaurs who had become extinct in my mind for the cooler A  Tribe Called Quest or the more angsty Smashing Pumpkins. Whenever Cryin’ would come on to MTV (which was quite often) I would groan and switch the station. But this time I left the song on and something strange happened, I found myself enjoying it.

Some of the pleasure was nostalgic as I remembered going into a pizza parlor from my youth when that song came on and a friend told me the nasty things he’d do to the girl in the video. But I also found myself actually liking the song for the song right down to the bluesier than I remembered harmonica solo.

I wonder what caused my change in taste. Was it because the song no longer had the values added to it from  its unfavorable status in a teenager’s hierarchy or was it because it reminded me of a time and place I will never be able to access again outside my memories? Or maybe a song is just a song and that’s why radio thinks they can play the same ones over and over for decades on end.

Hello Goodbye

If you’ve never seen that five disc documentary about The Beatles from 1995, The Beatles Anthology, I can’t recommend it enough. It tells the story of the greatest band ever so perfectly that it almost makes you think it’s made up. Their story is such a metaphor for youth and the sixties and the loss of innocence that comes with age that one comes to the conclusion that the Beatles were in fact literary devices.

But the end of the documentary always kills me. After spending ten hours watching the four lads from Liverpool catching STDs in Hamburg and running from screaming girls and experimenting with LSD and getting freaked out by Peter Fonda and travelling to India you see the three Beatles who were still alive in the nineties sitting on the grass of one of their estates reminiscing about the past. But then all of a sudden George says, “Well, I’ve got to get going” and Ringo says he’s got something to do and Paul also pretends he’s got some other pressing engagement. That moment captured on film still depresses me years after I last saw it.

Come on guys, you’re the Beatles. Who else do you have to be with that understands you better? Shouldn’t you guys be hanging out until the break of dawn laughing about who the walrus was and bitching about Yoko Ono? Perhaps like an art history professor who sees similarities between Etruscan friezes and the lyrics of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer I’m reading too much into this snippet of film. But if these three guys who shared so much and created such lasting works together can’t stand each other’s companies, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Perhaps Rock And Roll Is Not Dead

Well, to put it bluntly we goofed. If we could afford an editor at www.pablochiste.com we would delete the previous post. We would also fix the multitude of typos and factual errors (I would also probably be out of a job if she was in charge of weeding out uninteresting commentary).

In the previous posting I claimed rock and roll was dead. This has proven to be false, backed up by famed musicologist, Tab Bedeian. Mr. Bedeian has scoured the musical archives of Austin, Texas to find a band that proves the heart of rock and roll is still beating, however faintly it might be.

Not much is known about this band which has many different names, although now known as The Billionaires. There are many rumors. Some say they are cross dressing banditos, others that they are dot com tycoons. They are most probably not time travelling cavemen, but one can never be sure.

If you can find further proof of the continued existence of rock and roll please feel free to distribute links in the comment section, by e-mail or even via the old message in a bottle route.

And now ladies and gentlemen without further ado click on the picture below to hear…. The Billionaires.

R.I.P. Rock And Roll

The other day I took time out of my busy schedule to watch a documentary about the rock band, The Doors, called People Are Strange. It’s a solid piece of propaganda that glorifies the sixties in a way that would make Tom Wolfe and Oliver Stone proud. According to the movie it was an era where people earnestly believed in things from expanding your mind to blowing up your enemies. People Are Strange did a great job reenforcing the media message of my childhood from watching the television show The Wonder Years to the classic rock stations blasting Come Together that the sixties was the golden age of humanity. And even without living in that decade I’m inclined to believe them because the sixties had rock and roll.

I know there’s still rock and roll music. Music that would stand up with most anything that came out of the sixties is possibly still being produced today, but it lacks the resonance. Rock and roll is another niche in a culture with a million niches. In the movie People Are Strange when they show a bomb being dropped on Vietnam to the sounds of Riders On A Storm it was unclear whether the bomb inspired the music or the music inspired the bomb. Now I question whether our music inspires video games or video games inspire music.

Part of this could have been from the fragmentation of the media. People were limited with where they could get their information. There were a lot more newspapers, but there were only three television stations and no internet. So when a Jim Morrison came out everyone knew who he was. Today I’ve heard of Justin Bieber and Susan Boyle, but I’d be damned if I could name a song they sung.  With the onslaught of choices it’s hard for a figure to become mythologized and a movement to dominate the culture like rock and roll did.

Today could an Elvis represent danger or the Beatles youthful idealism or a Jim Morrison Dionysus come to Earth? No, instead you’d probably see some groupie posting photographs of their schlongs on TMZ.  Hedonism was a central tenet of the rock and roll era, but ours is an age where hedonism is publicized, but not feared or appreciated.

Some might say my epitaph for the rock and roll era is premature. In the seventies many argued that with the stadium tours and the commercialization of the music and the record labels being bought out by conglomerates also was a sign of the death of rock and roll. But then according to legend came punk rock which energized the movement. I think punk rock’s significance is overstated, but it was capable of producing new metaphors such as the one of Sid Vicious. MTV had greater importance in revitalizing rock and roll. It was a perfect outlet to get out to the youth new music and to create images that represented new stars.

And so after the autopsy I will pick 1994 as the endpoint of the rock and roll era. It is around the time when MTV began their slow escape from broadcasting actual music and instead relying on reality television. It is when the internet began taking off with the promotion of AOL and it is the year Kurt Cobain died. A lot of people say Nirvana was overrated. People say the same about the Doors and while I’ll debate the merits of both bands to the end of time what can’t be debated was that Kurt Cobain was the last figure in rock and roll to be mythologized. The martyr who’d rather die then let his music be exploited.

The closest musical moment that united our culture I’ve seen since then was when Michael Jackson, the man who represented youthful innocence gone awry, died. People reminisced about the music much more than the man, but all that music came from before 1994.

Rock and roll is dead. All we have left is the music.

Where Have All The Great Lyricists Gone?

Last week in a dose of nineties nostalgia I went to see Sonic Youth and Pavement, two of my favorite bands play at the Hollywood Bowl. I walked up Highland Avenue and negotiated a scalper down to thirty bucks for a ticket. My seat was somewhere close to the sky. I took one escalator after another to my section and then walked down as far as I could before I was asked by an usher for a ticket.

The opening band was called No Age, a local band heavy on distortion. At this point the ampitheater was a quarter full. No Age’s music was decent, but did not demand your attention which gave you time to look at the people around you. In the seat in front of me was an overweight middle aged Asian guy. In the row behind me was a bespectacled balding middle aged man who looked like a model for a Daniel Clowes comic book. I began a low scale panic attack. Is this who I am? An aging nerd who can’t get anyone to go see his favorite band with him on a Thursday night?

Sonic Youth was next. They are the great forgotten band in part because they never went away. The six albums they released between 1987- 1995 from Sister to Washing Machine rank up there with just about any band’s discography. Kim Gordon’s breathy voice fighting for space with loud feedback and beautiful melodies is timeless. Much of the music they played at the Hollywood Bowl I recognized which was surprising because I had not listened to any of their last five albums. The Asian guy in front of me probably showed the most enthusiasm of any audience member with his silent picture taking. The now half empty Hollywood Bowl was too enormous a venue for a band whose sound was meant for a grimy downtown club. 

Next up was Pavement. I expressed my love for them on this forum before. When I saw them in April it was their first show in the US in eleven years and had the urgency of a religious revival. This time in a venue with thousands of empty seats and at the tail end of a world tour the energy was lacking. It was nice to hear the old hits, but what excited me more about the last show was hearing the obscurer tunes. The songs I hadn’t expected to hear. Due to noise ordinances Pavement played an abbreviated set. All their weird songs skipped over for their semi-hits. A sixty year old man was loving it, dancing in his flowered shirt with his woman of a similar age. But what finally got me involved wasn’t a song, it was a joke.

The drummer announced, “This next song is ‘Rattled By The Rush'”. Then lead singer, Stephen Malkmus, one of the wittiest lyricists of the twentieth century said, “We’re going to dedicate this song to Matt Leinert.” Unless you’re a football fan you wouldn’t get it, but half the crowd did. The Asian guy chuckled as he zoomed in with his camera and the gawky man behind me sang along to the lyrics.

Oh, that I could bend my tongue outwards
Leave your lungs hurting
Tuckin’ my shirt in
Pants I wear so well
Cross your t shirt smells
Worse than your lyin’
Caught my dad cryin’

I was singing too. Was I to the outside eye also an uncool oddball loner? I more than accepted that I was. I relished in it. These were my people.