Singer/songwriter Billy Joel turns 70

“Mr. Joel has encountered some resistance from rock critics.”

Billy JoelI 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

A New York Newspapers State of Mind

With any recording, there are two copyrights: one for the song, the composition, and another for the performance of that song, the recording.

There’s a line in a classic Billy Joel song New York State of Mind:
“But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, the Daily News.”

Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, I used to read those two New York City papers, even though I lived 150 miles away. The New York Times, “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” I’d read nearly every day. Even into the 1990s, I was at least devour the massive Sunday Times, which might take all week. In the earlier period, I also read the Daily News, a tabloid publication, on Sunday, mostly for the funnies and the sports.

I almost never read the other tabloid in New York City, the New York Post, which was terrible even before Rupert Murdock bought it in 1993. (Certainly, one of its low points was in 1980, when they showed a slain John Lennon in the morgue.)

It’s nice to see my old friends of the news IN the news:


Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura participated in the reenactment of the march 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama on March 7. Continue reading “A New York Newspapers State of Mind”

August Rambling: Deep dark secrets

I wrote this blog post about my ambivalence about blogging on the Times Union website.

The Hook-Up Culture Is Getting 20-Somethings Nowhere. On the other hand, Casual Love.

How we get through life every day.
Continue reading “August Rambling: Deep dark secrets”

The Kennedy Center Honors 2013

saw keyboardist/composer Herbie Hancock perform in the Albany area, perhaps in the 1990s at the Palace Theatre, though it could have been at the Troy Music Hall.

Right before they went off to South Africa to honor Nelson Mandela, Barack and Michelle Obama attended The Kennedy Center Honors. I always watch the broadcast, which this year is on December 29 on CBS-TV. Four of the five honorees I’m very familiar with.

Opera singer Martina Arroyo is a name I’ve heard, but to say I was familiar with her work would be a gross overstatement.

Actress Shirley MacLaine was in a number of movies I’ve seen over the years, including The Apartment (1960), the creepy The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972), The Turning Point (1977), the Oscar-winning Tears of InternmentTerms of Endearment (1983), Steel Magnolias (1989), Postcards from the Edge (1990), Guarding Tess (1994), and most recently in Bernie (2011), which I liked. I probably saw her sitcom in the early 1970s. But my favorite MacLaine vehicle has to be Continue reading “The Kennedy Center Honors 2013”

May Rambling: Faraway fire; faux news; second chances

I was noting in particular two Billy Joel songs, ‘Get It Right The First Time’ from 1977 and ‘Second Wind (You’re Only Human)’ from 1985, and how I prefer the latter sentiment.

Chuck Miller has taken on the task of promoting the work of his “fellow Times Union community bloggers, until that day when the Times Union itself will restore the ‘Best of Our Blogs’ feature to the print edition of the paper.” And one of those “well-written articles” was mine. Merci, Chuck.

The specter of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory looms over the garment factory that collapsed last month in Bangladesh, killing more than [1100] workers…. But the world is smaller than it was 102 years ago. Tragedies of this sort in the Third World aren’t engendered only by forces in their proximity, and they won’t be averted unless the responsibility for change is embraced globally. Also, Is Rana Disaster Bangladesh’s Triangle Fire? I wrote about the Triangle fire HERE.

Meryl’s quite reasonable concern: ‘truth’ is becoming ever-more illusive with advancing photoshop technology and our modern vehicles of ‘news resources’ and communication. Related: Since Twitter hasn’t built a correction feature, here are 3 things journalists can do instead. And Who’s The Biggest Liar?
Continue reading “May Rambling: Faraway fire; faux news; second chances”