October 05, 2006

Horse 636 - We Didn't Start The Fire (But We Did Create a Lot of Confusion)

Billy Joel didn't start the fire, or so he says. If you look through the lyrics of his famous song, you soon realise that he didn't put things in chronological order either. Despite various attempts I've found to date the events, there are a number of outriders.

49 Harry Truman
49 Doris Day
49 Red China
49 Johnny Ray
49 South Pacific
48 Walter Winchell
49 Joe DiMaggio
50 Joe McCarthy
50 Richard Nixon
56 Studebaker
51 Television
50 North Korea
50 South Korea
53 Marilyn Monroe

51 Rosenbergs
51 H-bomb
51 Sugar Ray
53 Panmunjom
55 Brando
56 The King and I
51 And The Catcher In The Rye
53 Eisenhower
53 Vaccine
52 England's got a new queen
52 Marciano
53 Liberace
53 Santayana goodbye

53 Joseph Stalin
53 Malenkov
54 Nasser
53 Prokofiev
53 Rockefeller
58 Campanella
56 Communist Bloc
54 Roy Cohn
55 Juan Peron
54 Toscanini
41 Dacron
54 Dien Bien Phu Falls
52 Rock Around the Clock

55 Einstein
55 James Dean
55 Brooklyn's got a winning team
54 Davy Crockett
53 Peter Pan
56 Elvis Presley
55 Disneyland
52 Bardot
56 Budapest
56 Alabama
56 Khrushchev
56 Princess Grace
56 Peyton Place
56 Trouble in the Suez

57 Little Rock
57 Pasternak
56 Mickey Mantle
51 Kerouac
57 Sputnik
58 Chou En-Lai
57 Bridge On The River Kwai
58 Lebanon
58 Charles de Gaulle
58 California baseball
58 Starkweather homicides
62 Children of Thalidomide

59 Buddy Holly
59 Ben Hur
59 Space Monkey
59 Mafia
57 Hula Hoops
59 Castro
59 Edsel is a no-go
60 U2
60 Syngman Rhee
59 Payola
60 Kennedy
60 Chubby Checker
60 Psycho
60 Belgians in the Congo

61 Hemingway
61 Eichman
61 Stranger in a Strange Land
61 Dylan
61 Berlin
61 Bay of Pigs invasion
62 Lawrence of Arabia
64 British Beatlemania
62 Ole Miss
61 John Glenn
62 Liston beats Patterson
63 Pope Paul
63 Malcolm X
63 British Politician sex
63 J.F.K. blown away

60 Birth control
55 Ho Chi Minh
68 Richard Nixon back again
69 Moonshot
69 Woodstock
74 Watergate
74 Punk rock
77 Begin
81 Reagan
76 Palestine
76 Terror on the airline
79 Ayatollah's in Iran
79 Russians in Afghanistan

83 Wheel of Fortune
83 Sally Ride
83 Heavy metal suicide
82 Foreign debts
85 Homeless Vets
85 Crack
84 Bernie Goetz
88 Hypodermics on the shores
89 China's under martial law
85 Rock and Roller Cola wars

Now the things in bold are the events which for asthetic reason have been mushed and places swapped. For all you nerdy types out there, I've included an Excel chart which actually shows something perhaps not unexpected.
Nerdy People Please Click Here for the Excel spreadsheet
A graphical analysis of the dates shows that there is a marked spike in the values for things mentioned late in the song. Consequently this song dates as 1989 (which is also the last thing mentioned)

When you apply the theory to coin collecting you can date any given hoarde by the date of the last coin. With memory on the other hand, generally history books are written for things that have happened after the event; time acts as a filter and a lot of crap magically disappears. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that the things mentioned in the immediate past are only concepts rather than actual events.

For me this song sits in the same category as REM's It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues and of course Don McLean's American Pie. It is very difficult to find anyone who can actually sing all three songs from memory - this is a feat which not even I can do.

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