Dead On Arrival

Album: Take This To Your Grave (2003)

Songfacts®:

  • This was the first single from Fall Out Boy's debut studio album. One of the group's earliest compositions, it was one of three songs - including "Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today" and "Grand Theft Autumn" - originally intended for a split release with fellow Chicago punk band 504 Plan. When that project fell through, the tunes ended up on their Take This To Your Grave.
  • In the lyrics, the narrator seems to be stuck on a girl who has no romantic interest in him. Their relationship is so fractured, any conversation between them is "dead on arrival" and won't lead to any meaningful communication.
  • According to lead singer Patrick Stump, several record labels were interested in Fall Out Boy based on the strength of this song (which he wrote), but weren't convinced the band could write more songs that were just as good. The assumption lit a fire under the band to push harder and they landed a unique deal: Island Records fronted them money to release a one-off album with the indie label Fueled By Ramen before moving on to the major leagues with Island. This scenario allowed them to build their fanbase, and their credibility, before going to radio.
  • Fall Out Boy was the brainchild of bassist Pete Wentz, who had made a name for himself in the Chicago metalcore scene and - disillusioned by the genre's shift away from political activism - formed Fall Out Boy as a side project on a lark. He claimed it was a silly bit of escapism that was never meant to go big. "We weren't good: If it was an attempt at selling out, it was a very poor attempt," he told Alternative Press in 2013. But, in that same interview, Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath - who was a member of Wentz's metalcore band Arma Angelus - told a different story, claiming Wentz told him he was "starting a pop-punk band and they would be giant and take over the world."
  • Wentz and Stump suffered through the painful process of learning how to co-exist as songwriters. Stump, a self-described "artsy fartsy dude who didn't want to be in a pop-punk band" yet wrote most of the songs on their debut, was dismayed when Wentz announced he was quitting the group in the midst of the recording process. Stump begged him to reconsider. He did - with a vengeance. "When we got to the studio he started picking apart every word, every syllable. He started giving me notes," Stump told Alternative Press. "I got so exasperated at one point I was like, 'You just write the f--king lyrics, dude. Just give me your lyrics and I'll write around them,' kind of angrily. So he did."

    The pair clashed for nine days over their fundamentally different approach to songwriting, but, admitted Stump, it led to some of their best work. "The sound was always more important to me - the rhythm of the words, the alliteration, syncopation was all very exciting to me. Pete didn't care about any of that. He was all meaning. He didn't care how good the words sounded it they weren't amazing when you read them," he said. "It was one long argument, but I think that some of the best moments are the result of that."
  • The music video follows the band around on their tour of small venues throughout the US. At one point, the Arlington Heights Police Department show up and shut down a show in the band's native Chicago.
  • This was included in the 2007 video game Rock Band, which allowed players to emulate their favorite rock bands by playing their songs.

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