Billy Joel Lyrics: "Rock and roller cola wars"?

I debated putting this in GQ.
I almost was going to, but then decided that if I did, the odds are it would be moved.

For years Billy Joel has been one of my favorite musical artists. I like most of his songs, including We Didn’t Start the Fire.
Not too long ago, I played this song over and over and tried to memorize it, and eventually, I did.

But one line in it always confused me. The one in the title. Near the end, he’s reached events of the 1980’s and mentions “Rock and roller cola wars”.

Now, I know that in the mid 1980s to the end, Pepsi and Coke did have a major war with one another. And of course, Rock and roll was big then too.

In fact, Pepsi and Coke even got some great rock and rollers of the time (Like Michael Jackson, who, at the time, I’d still consider a bit rock n’ rollish, and Ray Charles) to sing in these commericals.
But it still just doesn’t make sense to me. Something about putting rock and roller with cola wars.

Plus the cola wars weren’t all that major back then.

Here is what I think.

Now, I’ve searched lyrics for this all over…and they all, even the ones in the damn CD covercase booklet, claim it’s rock n’ roller cola wars…

but I happen to think that maybe these people who made the lyrics by listening to old BJ misunderstood him as he sung them. Yes, even those who made the CD booklet.
Would it not make more sense if the line was… “Rock and Roll. (pause) The Cold War?”

For those of you that know the song…sing it with this line. Couldn’t this actually be the line?
And you have to admit, it would make just a BIT more sense of this was the line. The cold war was still going on in the 80s and even ended in that decade.

Could it be that all this time the lyrics were misheard?
And so, one day, I replayed on my CD player this part over and over and over and over again. I listened closely and carefully. And again, it really COULD be that he’s saying “rock and roll. The cold war…I can’t take it any more.”
What do you all think?

I disagree. I think its obviously The COLA Wars. Saying they weren’t that big in the mid 80s is not true. That is probably the biggest time of the Cola Wars, where both big guys were stepping up and bringing on the hard hitters.

Try this site.

Longtime Billy Joel fan checking in. It’s “rock ‘n’ roller cola wars,” just as you initially surmised. That line comes at the end of the last verse, to align with the most recent events at that time. It’s also as printed in the lyric sheet on my CD.

(FWIW, I have a vague recollection of hearing rumors at the time – how’s that for a cite? – that BJ was going to be doing ads for Coke. That would have put me over the top, as in addition to being a BJ nut I was also a Coke-head [still am but I’m supposed to stay off the caffeine]. But I never saw any such advertising surface.)

There’s much more logic to “rock ‘n’ roller cola wars” than “rock and roll / the cold war,” which makes pretty much NO sense. Sorry to disagree, but there you have it.

If you will allow a hijack, why was Billy Joel on Inside the Actors Studio a few years back? Apart from his songs being on some soundtracks he doesn’t seem to have a strong movie career.

The key point is that line is at the end of the song. Surely if BJ in that song would have mentioned “Cold War”, he would have used that term around the time the Cold War was at its height. The song was released in 1989, and the Cold War was looking more and more like it was near the end. And why mention “Rock and Roll” at the end, rather then when it was more of a big phenomenon? Such as around the “Elvis Presley” reference?

What’s been said above, but to emphasize: the names/events in the song are in chronological order. So it makes sense for the then-current “cola wars” to be at the end.

Huh. I always thought it was ‘rock & roll, and colour wars’. Y’know, ‘colour war’ designating racial tension.

I’m actually pretty disappointed it’s as trivial as ‘cola war’. :frowning:

Don’t you remember the Neil Young song, “This Note’s for You”? The opening line was, “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for Coke”. The video for it won MTV’s 1989 Video of the Year.

During the late 80s both Coke and Pepsi began spending huge amounts on advertising (this was right after the ‘New Coke’ debacle). Eventually it began to include hiring bigger and bigger rock stars for their commercials.

BTW, I always thought the line was “Rock n’ roll in cola wars…”. Thinking about it, that’s a less clunky line than “Rock n’ roller cola wars”…

This is exactly how I’ve always heard it, only I thought he was saying “Rock and roll and cola wars.” Your line makes more sense, and for my money that’s what he’s saying.

"Rock n’ roller cola wars"sounded alien and awkward to me, when I first read the title to this thread, and I thought the OP was mistaken. But in Googling the lyrics I found the OP was quoting them correctly according to every site I checked, so I figured he/she must be correct and that I must have been mishearing the lyric all these years. Now that you’ve given me a new perspective, I’m going to go with it as I’ve always heard it (phonetically, that is): “Rock n’ roll n’ cola wars, I can’t take it anymore.”

Don’t forget the Michael Jackson incident. I believe that was a Pepsi commercial, and the buzz surrounding it was huge. Everyone was waiting for it to air. Then something went horribly wrong (or not, depending on how much you like or don’t like Jackson) and it wasn’t that good of a commercial anyway. Don’t know how much it was even aired.

Don’t forget, too, the Madonna Pepsi commercial. Remember it? Again, the buzz was huge. It had an air date and everything. Then it airs, and she’s doing some sacrilegous thing with Pepsi and Like a Prayer, IIRC. Lots of protests over that one.

Oh yeah, “rock -n- roller cola wars” makes perfect sense. It was big.

The previous posters are all correct; the line is “rock-n-roller cola wars, I can’t take it any more.” However, it wasn’t about Pepsi and Michael Jackson, or the rumored Coke/Bruce Springsteen liason.

Not many people know that in 1988, RC Cola was about to up the ante on the cola wars (and likely be declared the undisputed winner) by hiring Elvis Presley to do a series of ads. They had the ads written and storyboarded, and production was about to start. However, at that point RC Cola discovered that Presley had been dead for 11 years, which they (for some reason) considered a major setback to their plans. So the ads were scrapped.

Billy Joel found out about this, and realized how narrowly the cola industry had avoided a veritable thermonuclear bomb. RC Cola would have been king of the industry had those ads been produced and aired. It was escalation of the cola wars and complete domination in one fell swoop – like bringing a machine gun to a rockfight.

If those ads had aired, we’d all be speaking Southern right now.

Oh, that’s it. I simply couldn’t remember there being any wars over Cost Of Living Adjustments.

Around the same time Pepsi, as part of the whole “our cola is hipper than yours” battle, had an advert featuring David Bowie and Tina Turner. Along with their slogan at the time… “the choice of a new generation!”

Never failed to make me snort with laughter. Uncle Bowie and Granny Turner?? A new generation? :smiley:

But nobody called it that, so it would’ve been weird. It also would have been strange to place it in the '80s instead of the '50s or '60s.

I could hear it as “er” or “uh,” but no way is it “b” if you ask me. Sounds hard to sing, too.

I misheard it for years as “Rock and roll, a color war.” I wasn’t sure if these were meant to be two seperate items on the list or if Joel was denouncing racism in the music industry.

Either way, I was also rather disappointed when I found out what the lyrics really were. Mentioning the “Cola Wars” in the song is fine and fits in with the rest of the lyrics, but to make THAT the last thing in the list before the singer concludes “I can’t take it any more”? It makes it sound like Coke vs. Pepsi is what pushed him over the edge, which seems rather silly.

Damn it, that was supposed to be no way is it “n” if you ask me. Sounds hard to sing, too.

I’m not quite sure the commercial itself was the problem. I do remember that the video for Like a Prayerdrew a lot of flak, because Madge exhibited stigmata. And I think some people were upset at Christ being portrayed by a black man. IIRC, Pepsi withdrew the ad simply because they didn’t want to be associated with her, not because people found the commercial offensive.

I don’t consider it to be that silly. I mean you can see it as one of the major news items of the 80s was who could sell the most sugar water, and how absurb that actually is. The fact that so much money was flying around selling Coke and Pepsi could be the last thing that send you over the edge and realize humanity has just lost it.

Though if he sang it in the 90s, it may be a reference to the bottle water industry ;).

I always thought it was ‘Rock and roll in cola wars’.