I saw Billy Joel perform at New Paltz in 1974, as I recounted here. I wondered how one could get lost from Long Island unless the group came up the wrong side of the Hudson River.
I thought he was a bit stiff. Four and a half years later, he had his debut at Madison Square Garden, “three shows there that had sold out almost as soon as they went on sale.”
The reviewer noted the singer seemed unusually nervous. Also, “Mr. Joel has encountered some resistance from rock critics.” To say the least.
Someone gave me a book – I wouldn’t have bought it myself – entitled The Worst Rock ‘n Roll Records of All Time (1991). At the end, Jimmy Guterman and O’Donnell picked The Worst Rock and Rollers of All Time. After dissing Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, and Phil Collins, the “winner” was Billy Joel.
Now, he’s been performing sold-out shows at MSG once a month for over five years, always changing them up. He goes on the road about once a month, “even though the man hasn’t released an album of new pop songs since 1993.”
A couple dozen shows per year gives him time to help clean up beaches in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Given some of the travails of his career and life, I’m happy that he seems content.
Some songs – chart action US Billboard pop charts
Captain Jack (1973)- my first favorite song of his
Scandinavian Skies (1982)- overly earnest attempt to write a Beatles song
Baby Grand (#75 in 1986)- duet with Ray Charles, Alexa Ray, Joel’s daughter was named partly for the icon
Uptown Girl (#3 in 1983) – one of my wife’s favorites
You May Be Right (#7 in 1980) – “I MAY be crazy”
The River of Dreams (#3 in 1993) – title song of his last album
New York State of Mind (1976) – his Sinatra song, and I mean that in a good way
The Longest Time (#14 in 1984)- I love that doowop stuff; the song of his I’m most likely to sing along with
Goodnight Saigon (#56 in 1983) – I developed a greater regard when I saw it performed on the Kennedy Center Honors
Piano Man (#25 in 1974) – gets undervalued because it’s like McCartney doing Hey Jude, with everyone singing along
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (1977) – I didn’t appreciate this song nearly enough when it came out
Big Shot (#14 in 1979) – quasi-punk self-referential piece
Allentown (#17 in 1983)- we’re STILL living there
Pressure (#20 in 1982) – I relate
Big Man on Mulberry Street (1986)- this appeared on the TV show Moonlighting
Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (#77 in 1994) – I heard an a cappella group perform this in Binghamton, NY in the mid-1990s