I Admit I Like Billy Joel

Billy Joel tells the story about when the instrumentation all drops out, it was an accident, when he was playing with the knobs and feared he’d ruined the recording.


One of my colleagues, knowing my affection for music, was telling me about a Billy Joel song called We Didn’t Start the Fire, which you can hear here, after a short ad. I was never a huge fan of the song. But she explained to me that the historical references in the piece made her want to look up the background behind those events. So, I have rethought the song and deem it OK, especially after I came across this teacher’s guide to it.

Actually, I rather like Billy Joel, even though it was never really cool to like Billy Joel. The only time I saw him live in New Paltz in 1974 (I think). Buzzy Linhart opened for him. Joel and the entourage got lost getting to New Paltz and was over two hours late. Billy was practically glued to his piano bench. The song I love most from that period was Captain Jack.

Subsequently, I bought several BJ albums. In fact, when I FINALLY bought a CD player, I bought a half dozen CDs to play on it, one of which was this album:

I got rather fond of much of his music, which seemed to dominate MTV in the early years.
Some favorites:
Big Shot, which I always thought was self-referential
Allentown, with the industrial sounds
Pressure, with the specific reference to Channel 13, the PBS station in NYC. He tells the story about when the instrumentation all drops out, it was an accident, when he was playing with the knobs and feared he’d ruined the recording.
But probably my second-favorite song, after Lullaby, is Big Man on Mulberry Street, probably because of that fantasy piece on the TV show Moonlighting, a program I loved early on *(and then not so much…)

There was a recent piece in Salon that called Billy Joel a Misunderstood American Master, and I think he is right.

I’ll end this with BJ’s rendition of New York State of Mind, a great version from right after 9/11/2001.

BJ turns 61 on Sunday.
ROG

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “I Admit I Like Billy Joel”

  1. I like Billy Joel too…and have several of his albums…always takes me to a good place when I listen to him…

  2. You’d have been right at home in the music department at my college. Billy Joel was revered there to such a degree that it actually made it hard for me to enjoy him for a number of years afterwards. I’ve never disliked him, though, and enjoy him quite a bit now.

  3. I find myself liking his music over the years. But I never found myself on the outside and not being cool. And spending nearly 10 years an hour north of Philly put me on the other side of the fence. Everyone in that area seems to love Billy Joel.

  4. I didn’t like him until “52nd Street” precisely because it wasn’t cool to like him. I got to see him (for free) in a concert in Auckland with Elton John. He still sounded like he did on his old albums, where Elton didn’t (and doesn’t). Oddly, that’s what I remember most about that concert.

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