When Fall Out Boy decided to record their cover version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” they had one goal in mind: to make a song so triumphant that it would somehow convince the King of Pop to come out of hiding and join them on the road for an epic (and costly) world tour.
Actually, we’re lying. There was no goal. Truth be told, the whole thing was pretty much just an accident.
“We never really planned this to happen,” Fall Out frontman Patrick Stump laughed. “Basically, I just started playing the riff in sound-check one day, and then we all started playing it, and then we started playing it live, and then we figured we’d record it and put it out with our live DVD. And so we put it out, and then radio started playing it, and then it got huge on iTunes. It was on the top 10 there, and so we were like, ‘Psssh, I guess it’s a single then.’ ”
“It was kind of a snowball,” bassist Pete Wentz added. “We didn’t plan on it being a single, but I hate when bands put out DVDs and they’re basically an excuse to have you buy the record twice. We wanted our DVD to have real value, so we did this … and it sort of spiraled into iTunes and all that stuff. And that’s why we’re doing this video, because I should be at my house eating honeydew melon.”
It bears mentioning that this conversation took place on the set of the “Beat It” video, a super-secret shoot that took place last week in Los Angeles and featured a karate-dance squad, oversize bodyguards in designer shades and a cameo by “Arrested Development” star Tony Hale. And if that weren’t proof enough that FOB know only one way to do things — big — consider the fact that their version of “Beat It” also features a white-hot guitar solo from none other than John Mayer, because, well … just because.
“Back in the day, Eddie Van Halen played on ‘Beat It,’ and I don’t believe he was in the video,” Wentz explained. “And we were trying to think about who is a contemporary guitar guy who’s going to go down as a legend. And to be honest with you, there aren’t as many high-profile young ones. And John really is. … He’s a prolific guitarist. And so I hit him up and asked if he’d want to do it, and he said, ‘Yeah.’ … And then he just did it. He’s like, ‘I’m gonna do it,’ and then he e-mailed me five minutes later and was like, ‘You wanna hear it?’ It was that quick.”
So with a high-profile video and an even higher-profile cameo, aren’t Fall Out Boy the least bit excited to hear what Michael thinks of their take on his hit? Well, yeah. Even though they’re a huge rock band, they’re also MJ fans. But they’re also realists, and as such, they’re not expecting to hear a word from the King of Pop.
“I don’t even know if he’s even heard our cover of his song, or even heard of my band or anything, so he is absolutely not involved in this in any way, shape or form,” Stump said. “I absolutely love Michael Jackson’s music, but the likelihood of that happening … well, let’s just say that will not happen. At best, maybe he’ll be sitting around, flipping through channels, and he might see the video and go, ‘Oh, this is OK.’ That’s the most I can hope to get out of the Gloved One. I’m not expecting a big ‘Let’s go on tour together’ thing.”