Why John Mayer Played the Solo on Fall Out Boy’s Cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’

TLDR;

  • Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz asked John Mayer to play on Fall Out Boy’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and he quickly agreed.
  • Fall Out Boy wouldn’t perform the cover for some time.
  • The cover was a hit.
Michael Jackson smiling during the "Beat It" era
Michael Jackson | Chris Walter/WireImage

Eddie Van Halen famously played guitar on Michael Jackson‘s “Beat It.” When Fall Out Boy covered “Beat It,” the band recruited John Mayer to play guitar on the song. During an interview, a member of Fall Out Boy explained why Mayer performed on the cover.

What Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz thought of John Mayer as a guitarist

During a 2008 interview with MTV News, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz discussed his band’s cover of “Beat It.” “Back in the day, Eddie Van Halen played on ‘Beat It,’ and I don’t believe he was in the video,” Wentz said. “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.”

Wentz revealed his opinion on Mayer as a musician. “And John really is [a high-profile guitarist],” Wentz said. “He’s a prolific guitarist. And so I hit him up and asked if he’d want to do it, and he said, ‘Yeah.'”

Wentz revealed Mayer recorded the riff quickly. “And then he just did it,” Wentz said. “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.”

RELATED: How Michael Jackson Reacted When Eddie Van Halen Changed ‘Beat It’

The band stopped performing ‘Beat It’ for awhile following Michael Jackson’s death

Fall Out Boy released the cover in 2008 and Jackson died in 2009. According to Gigwise, Wentz discussed his cover during a 2009 interview with MusicRadar. He said the band decided to refrain from playing the track live. “We kind of recorded it on a whim, like, nine months before he passed away,” he said. “We’ve decided not to play it anymore. It’s his song, you know? We put it on the record because we did a video for it, but it’s definitely his song.” In more recent years, the band added the song back to its repertoire.

Joe Trohman and Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and John Mayer putting their arms around each other
Joe Trohman and Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy with John Mayer | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

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The way listeners in the United States and the United Kingdom reacted to Fall Out Boy’s cover

Fall Out Boy’s “Beat It” became a modest hit in the United States. It peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for seven weeks. The track appeared on Fall Out Boy’s Believers Never Die — Greatest HitsBelievers Never Die — Greatest Hits reached No. 77 on the Billboard 200. It lasted on the chart for 28 weeks.

The Official Charts Company reports Fall Out Boy’s “Beat It” was similarly successful in the United Kingdom. The tune reached No. 21 in the U.K. and remained on the chart for 21 weeks. Meanwhile, Believers Never Die — Greatest Hits reached No. 88 on the chart for one week.

Fall Out Boy’s “Beat It” became one of the most famous covers of a song by the King of Pop and it wouldn’t be the same without Mayer. 

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