“We Didn’t Start the Fire” vs. Its 21st Birthday Update

Children of the ’80s, prepare to feel old: It’s been nearly 21 years since Billy Joel’s wildly referential, four-decade-spanning magnum opus “We Didn’t Start the Fire” dropped. Since then, there have been tons of tributes, from lowbrow (College Humor’s computer-nerd parody “We Didn’t Start the Flame War“) to high art (The Bruce High Quality Foundation‘s installation piece that loops the song and borrows its title).

But today, the Fader posted a version that may become our favorite: King Charles, who just won the International Songwriters Competition, has done an updated cover. Unlike the original, which covers American pop culture and politics from 1949 (the year of Joel’s birth) to 1989, the new version takes on 21st-century issues and icons. After the jump, watch both videos (simultaneously, side by side!) and follow along as we compare their points of reference.

YouTube Doubler

Femme fatale
Billy Joel — Marilyn Monroe
King Charles — Kate Moss

Sports hero
Billy Joel — Joe DiMaggio
King Charles — David Beckham

Inspirational American president
Billy Joel — Kennedy
King Charles — Obama

Political outrage
Billy Joel — “JFK blown away, what else do I have to say?”
King Charles — “Labour government, you embarrassed us all”

Musical genres
Billy Joel — punk rock, heavy metal, British Beatlemania
King Charles — New rave

Peace and love
Billy Joel — Woodstock
King Charles — “Love is just a hippie notion”

Gay icons
Billy Joel — Liberace
King Charles — “Tom Cruise is [bleep]”

TV show
Billy Joel — Peyton Place
King Charles — The X Factor

Billy Joel — television, birth control
King Charles — Facebook

Billy Joel — crack
King Charles — ketamine, ecstasy

Environmental issues
Billy Joel — hypodermic needles on beaches
King Charles — climate change

British monarchy
Billy Joel — “Britain’s got a new queen”
King Charles — “I’m still loyal to the queen, and she’s still loyal to you and me”

Russian/Soviet leaders
Billy Joel — Khruschev, Josef Stalin
King Charles — Putin

Billy Joel — Dylan
King Charles — Laura Marling

Foreign conflicts
Billy Joel — “Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan”
King Charles — “troops to Afghanistan”

Did we miss any other interesting parallels? And which era’s fire would you have preferred to burn in: Joel’s or King Charles’?