Back in his hometown of Wilmette, Ill., Pete Wentz was known to locals as an all-state soccer player.
Soccer was what Wentz "did" growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, but it wasn't his only love. He also listened to music -- a lot of it.
Wentz recalled one of his earliest musical memories in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine: "My parents had a house on the Jersey Shore, so my mom and sister would fly there, and me and my dad would drive," he said. "I remember hearing 'Build Me Up Buttercup' [by the Foundations] in the back of my dad's car. He'd listen to oldies all the time."
For Wentz, listening to music quickly turned into wanting to play music. So when he was about 14 years old, Wentz stole his friend's brother's bass guitar and started to fiddle around. He began playing basement shows and soon formed his first band -- called First Born.
Wentz went on to play with a few more obscure bands in the Chicago punk rock scene throughout the 1990, including Arma Angelus, Yellow Road Priest and Racetraitor, but he also continued his education, enrolling at DePaul University in 1997 to major in political science.
Just one semester shy of graduating, Wentz dropped out of college to pursue his music career. And one year later, in 2001, he reconnected with Joe Trohman, whom he knew from the Chicago music scene. Along with a few other local musicians, the two formed a new band.
The group remained nameless for their first two shows until they asked the audience for some naming help. One audience member suggested "Fall Out Boy" -- a reference to the sidekick of the Simpsons cartoon character Radioactive Man -- and the name stuck. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fall Out Boy's music has largely been described as emo, a style of rock music, and Wentz, who also serves as the band's lyricist, has been credited with shaping the sound of the group. Wentz uses irony and other devices to narrate personal experiences, as reflected in the song "7 Minutes in Heaven," which was based on his own attempted suicide in 2005.
Pete Wentz isn't only a bass guitarist, a lyricist, and back-up vocalist. He's also now a published author, a New York City nightclub owner, and businessman. So when this young star isn't rockin' out, what is he listening to?
'Blowin' in the Wind'
Bob Dylan says it only took him 10 minutes to write "Blowin' in the Wind," in 1962 and called it a "work" song. Since then, it's garnered popularity as a protest song, posing questions about war and peace and freedom. For Pete Wentz, it's a song that made it onto his playlist because it triggers memories of comfort and safety. "I just remember hearing Bob Dylan a long time ago, you know, through friends, and uncles, and I'd be listening and it would be like…him playing 'The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind'…it felt like it was safe to be in nursery school or wherever it was being played or whatever, but the funny thing is how poignant, and, I kind of think, even how subversive some of the lyrics really are." Not only poignant for Wentz, but for a generation of people. In 2004, the song made it onto Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, listed as number 14.
'The Trapeze Swinger'
At the same time "Fall Out Boy" was making their way onto the mainstream music circuit, another band was trying to breakthrough with an indie folk sound of its own. Iron & Wine is the stage and recording name for singer-songwriter Sam Fine, and his song, "The Trapeze Swinger," made it onto Wentz' list of listened-to songs. "The Trapeze Swinger" was heard by many in the 2004 film, "In Good Company," and has Beam's signature acoustic guitar sound. "It's a cool narrative that follows these childhood ideas all the way to these metaphors about kind of the pearly gates," says Wentz, "and it's just a great song to listen to in the dark when you're falling asleep. And it reminds me of so many smells and places and summers growing up and, I mean, I can remember the smell of the shampoo on my babysitter's hair, anything, I mean, it's very weird and very specific."
'All Apologies'This past spring Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, and the rest of the Nirvana band released a Nirvana box set for collectors and Pete Wentz has been listening to the 4-disc set ever since. "I always listen to 'All Apologies' for the most part, which is, um, a great song," Wentz said. "I think Kurt Cobain and Nirvana represent this giant wave that came crashing in and turned music on its head again, and there's definitely something to be said for that." The song "All Apologies" was written by Cobain in 1990, four years before he committed suicide, and became a sort of swan song for Nirvana. "Beneath all the angst and beneath all of this, um, attempt to kind of sabotage music or the state of music at the time, there was this very simple notion of verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge-chorus, and 90 percent of Nirvana songs have them," said Wentz. "Kurt was writing anti-pop pop songs."
Pete Wentz' musical taste isn't all pop and rock. He also listens to American jazz singer and bandleader, Cab Calloway, made most famous for his recordings that accompanied 1930s Betty Boop animated shorts. Calloway not only performed for the cartoons, but he also leant his dance steps. One of his most famous performances was in Betty Boop's "Minnie the Moocher." Wentz explains that when Calloway "sings over those Betty Boop loops, I just go, my God, this guy is singing about drugs right now, this guy is singing about the situation in the ghetto right now, and no one knows he's singing over a cartoon.…it's just mind-boggling to me."
"I'm also listening to this band Gym Class Heroes," Wentz said. "They're a live band, hip hop, so they're a little bit too hip hop for rock, and a little bit too rock for hip hop. But they have this song called 'Clothes Off' that is a sample of a 70s song, and it was, uh, the original song was 'We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off to Have a Good Time.' They're version that they've sampled is 'We have to take our clothes off to have a good time.' And I think that one's great." And if you watch the 2007 video of "Clothes Off!!" you can see Pete Wentz himself as he makes a cameo as an Elvis impersonator.