CHRISTMAS IN FALLUJAH SMACKDOWN: BILLY JOEL VS. JEFFERSON PEPPER
In this corner, the popular favorite from Long Island, N.Y., Billy “The Piano Man” Joel. More than three years after frustrated U.S. forces reduced the ancient Iraqi city of Fallujah into a 19th century collection of archeological rubble, and more than four years after George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished,” the 58-year-old Joel arrives on the scene with an anti-war anthem, “Christmas in Fallujah.” Joel did not write it for himself, but for 21-year-old rising star (if Billy Joel’s writing songs for you, Columbia Records says you’re a budding star) named Cass Dillon.
In the other corner Jefferson “Spritzie” Pepper, a scrappy songster and a former high school wrestler from Newberrytown, Pa. In 2005, when Billy Joel was drying out at the Betty Ford Center in California, Mr. Pepper was hard at work on his debut album, Christmas in Fallujah. Title track was inspired by the saga of 21-year-old David Maples, a friend and neighbor whom the writer watched mature from a sweet, innocent boy into a war-weary Army medic. Special guest judge for this main event is deceased R&B legend and wife-beater extraordinaire Ike Turner.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Up first: Battling Billy Joel
SPORTS CONNECTION: Credited with performing the first rock concert at Yankee Stadium, though people with any blood left in their veins might take exception to the categorization of Joel’s music as “rock.” First singer to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl twice. Has banner hanging in Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center commemorating 46 sold-out shows.
DAY JOB: Banging 26-year-old wife Katie, writing songs for 21-year-old male ingenue, avoiding the liquor cabinet at all costs.
GOOGLE POWER: Nearly 8.4 million hits.
CLAIMS TO FAME: Member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, once married to Christie Brinkley, six-time Grammy winner
DEFINING EARLY HIT: The Piano Man
BAND: Billy Joel and His Nameless Lackeys
LABEL: Columbia Records
REASON FOR WRITING CHRISTMAS IN FALLUJAH: God knows. Or as one uncharitable Internet critic said, “Wow. Thanks for weighing in, drunken has-been. I guess we can end the war now.” Really, aren’t there any other devastated cities in the Iraqi wasteland that would make a nice backdrop for a comeback-from-irrelevance Christmas anthem? Christmas in Kirkuk? Basra? Samarra? Najaf? Tikrit, for God’s sake? Perhaps it was a simple as the chance to rhyme Fallujah with hallelujah.
CHORUS: It’s Christmas in Fallujah, Billy Joel’s safe at home, we’re killing Iraqis in the desert, we’re the legionnaires of Rome
BEST LINE: There is no justice in the desert because there is no God in hell
GRUNT’S-EYE VIEW: It’s evening in the desert, I’m tired and I am cold; But I am just a soldier, I do what I am told
OSAMA REFERENCE: They say Osama’s in the mountains, deep in a cave in Pakistan, but there’s a sea of blood in Baghdad, a sea of oil in the sand
YOUTUBE VIDEO: Aside from an introduction from the songwriting legend himself and the bizarre stage presence of a company of soldiers in desert camoflauge chanting a disturbing “hoo-rah” or some such nonsense, mostly forgettable.
IKE SAYS: Sad and sweet, nearly liked him complete when he wore a younger man’s clothes. Unfortunately, I went to my grave wanting to bitch-slap the little pussy for “Honesty” and “Just the Way You Are,” two infernal pieces of treacly dogshit that my ears never quite recovered from.
Get this, my bitches: He’s down, and I’m out.
The challenger: Joltin’ Jefferson Pepper
SPORTS CONNECTION: Turned down invitation to sing national anthem at the annual “Dirt Duel to the Death” at Susquehanna Speedway in May 2005, citing longheld belief that “Sports creates an Us vs. Them mentality which conditions men to kill and die for their countries, often in grotesque and meaningless fashion.”
DAY JOB: Landscaping contractor, door-to-door daylily salesman
GOOGLE POWER: 2,560 hits
BAND: Jefferson Pepper and the Varmints in Heaven
LABEL: American Fallout Records
CLAIMS TO FAME: Built awe-inspiring Beer Can Museum, which artfully houses a collection of more the 50,000 different cans, the second largest such brewerania exhibit in the world. First singer-songwriter-radical-commie-pinko to write and record a song titled “Christmas in Fallujah.” Founder and host of the annual Newberry Bash. Architect of Rocky Point Crab Colisseum.
DEFINING EARLY HIT: The Dungeness Gimp
REASON FOR WRITING CHRISTMAS IN FALLUJAH: Got fucking pissed off and wanted to hurt somebody. Bad. His therapist, a hopeless, out-of-touch idealist, told him the pen was mightier than the sword.
CHORUS: Uncle Sam’s made a list, he’s checkin’ it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice; But sometimes the names they get mixed up, if we get ’em right half the time that’s close enough
BEST LINE: That’s not the sound of reindeer up on your roof at night, we’re coming down your chimney with guns and blinding lights
GRUNT’S-EYE VIEW: Don’t blame it on us soldiers, we’re only doing what we’re told; Never had a spoon of silver, now I’ve got a broken heart of gold
OSAMA REFERENCE: And I’m going to have to live with all these nightmares that I’ve seen; Never taught to know the difference between Osama and Hussein
YOUTUBE VIDEO: Not to be watched on a full stomach or an empty conscience.
IKE SAYS: “Badass. This hombre is one batshit crazy motherfucker. Not to be messed with in any condition, especially stay clear after he throws down a fifth of potato vodka. More dangerous than Ray Lewis with a machete.
Get this, my bitches: J-Pep bitch-slaps Billy-J and reigns as Dead Ike’s new and indisputed Christmas in Fallujah champion.”