Let's Fact-Check Train's Super Blatant Update Of "We Didn't Start The Fire"!


You might as well accept that Train's new track "This'll Be My Year" is probably going to be huge with or without your endorsement. It's got a massive power-pop chorus that starts with a shouted no! more!, namechecks Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and is close enough to all the other massive power-pop choruses that get endless airplay that it is practically a hit already. That wouldn't be unprecedented, as everyone who heard "Hey, Soul Sister" (i.e. almost everyone) can attest. It's very possible to start liking "This'll Be My Year" despite yourself. The office has played it three times. Those two sentences aren't necessarily related.

And there's one other thing, one that's either a huge point in its favor or hugely tiresome, depending on your thoughts on Train: the song is essentially Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." (Or, because it's a love song, this, but that'd be getting into super-obscure territory.) Both song's verses are long lists of world events from the past, and there's enough overlap (the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Ronald Reagan's presidential tenure, the very structure, come on) that it's probably--hopefully--a deliberate homage.

But did all these things really happen when Train said they did? We decided to fact-check them, because someone had to do it. This isn't a strict fact-check, mind you--I limited myself to Google, YouTube, etc. and not the phone, because calling people up about minute details of a Train song wasn't something I wanted to become the second most esoteric/nerdy interview request I'd have ever done.* And since Google couldn't tell us when Pat Monahan felt most alone in life or when exactly he and the woman here got to first base and/or whether it was before or after they met the parents, we stuck to history. How'd Train do? Listen to the track, then scroll down.


Route 66 is gone: TRUE-ISH. The legendary highway was indeed decertified on June 27, 1985, although it didn't go away, per se. Parts of it still exist. This is vague songwriting, buddy.

Reagan is here: TRUE. If by "here" you mean "in office" and not "here on planet Earth" (which'd be true) or "here in Pat Monahan's presence" (which we can't really fact-check but will assume would be false."

Nintendo comes: TRUE, BUT VAGUE SONGWRITING, BUDDY. Nintendo, the company, had existed since the 1800s; 1985's just when the NES was introduced in the U.S.

Live Aid, too: TRUE. July 13.

"I spent all my days in Catholic school": FALSE, if you assume this song's Pat Monahan speaking, which is plausible. He went to McDowell High School, a public school in Erie, Pennsylvania.


Pete Rose banned for good: TRUE. August 24.

The Simpsons come to Hollywood: TRUE-ISH. But this isn't talking about the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2000) or the Simpsons film (2007), or even the box set The Simpsons Go Hollywood, but the show's debut in December 1989. (Technically, Matt Groening had some shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show two years earlier, hence "ish.")

Russia leaves Afghanistan: TRUE, February 15.

Flight 103 ends Pan Am: FALSE. Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in December 21, 1988, and Pan Am didn't shut down until 1991.

Bush is here: TRUE, with the same caveat as Reagan.


Boris Yeltsin chills: TRUE, PROBABLY. He was in office. And being in Russia, he probably did chill at some point.

Freddie dies, but Queen is still: FALSE. Freddie Mercury died on November 24, 1991. Technically, they could be talking about the massively televised tribute concert in 1992, but that's not the criterion. The criterion's "Queen is still," which could apply to any year. Ask Adam Lambert.

Barcelona has the (Olympic) Games: TRUE; the 1992 Summer Olympics were held there.

Lady Di is single again: TRUE. Diana and Prince Charles announced their separation in December 1992.

Clinton wins: TRUE. Presumably Clinton is also "here."


Tony Blair tips the scales: TRUE; he won that year's election in a landslide. That said, he didn't tip the scales in the other sense. Proof.

Elton sings for the Princess of Wales: TRUE; "Candle in the Wind" was released with new lyrics as a tribute to Diana.

Microsoft buys into Mac: TRUE. The computing rival bought $150 million of Apple stock in 1997, which was a pretty big deal.

Train leaves San Francisco in a thousand-dollar van: TRUE, at least the "leaves San Francisco" part; they started there and started touring nationally in '97. No info was available on the cost of their van.


The towers fell: TRUE.

The artificial heart is born: SEMI-FALSE. The world's first artificial heart was implanted in 1969; what Train's referring to is a newer model several breakthroughs after that. In other words, an artificial heart was born, but it wasn't the first. (Incidentally, you'll find the line after this one either really touching or really bad. We won't spoil it.)


Facebook joins the Internet: TRUE, MOSTLY. Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com on February 4, 2004, but its precursor Facemash had existed a year before.

Oldsmobile joins the cassette: TRUE; they "joined the cassette," i.e. went out of business/became obsolete, in 2004.

TOTAL: Two things that are just wrong, one thing that's biographically wrong, one thing that's misleading. Enh, everyone's memory smokes up sometimes. We didn't start that fire. It was always burning, since the world's been turning.

* No. 1 being my unsuccessful quest to track down the baby in Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody." It's a stock sound. That's as far as I got.

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