There is sometimes an odd synchronicity amongst bloggers. One time, blogger Runaway American Dream and I wrote about the long-gone (if not entirely forgotten) T. Rex on the same day. Recently I started dwelling on the idea of doing a Billy Joel six-pack and lo and behold, Aphoristic Album Reviews* did an evaluation of his albums. That is way too ambitious for me so I will instead lay down a few tunes of Joel’s that I dig.)
I’ve always liked Billy and in looking through his tunes, I found a good 25 or so I really liked. (That said, I could really live without ever hearing either “Piano Man” or “Just The Way You Are” ever again.)
First up, “The Stranger.” In listening to these tracks again, I realized how much I like Joel’s piano playing. (And he is a terrific lyricist.) The intro (and outro) to this song is one of my favorite pieces of music ever.
I get this movie in my head, film-noirish: Guy leaves a cheap bar at 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s raining. He takes a drag of a cigarette. On the corner is a woman who’d been flirting with him at the bar. She smiles; he grins. Maybe he’s married, maybe not. He throws his cigarette on the littered ground, stubs it out, looks at her for a moment ruefully, turns his collar up. And walks in the other direction.
No real secret what this song’s about. One of Billy’s darker tunes:
So you go to the village in your tie-dyed jeans
And you stare at the junkies and the closet queens
It’s like some pornographic magazine
And you smile
Captain Jack will get you high tonight
And take you to your special island
Captain Jack will get you by tonight
Just a little push, and you’ll be smilin’
I think maybe Springsteen gets more respect for his songwriting overall than Billy. Listen carefully to “An Innocent Man.” I don’t know where or how he ever heard it but my old man loved this tune:
I love this tune,”River of Dreams,” love its funkiness and that chorus that sings with him:
Billy is an old-school tunesmith. By that I mean he is more in the style of the old Brill Building songwriters. Born earlier, he would almost surely have been working in a cubicle cheek-by-jowl with the likes of Carole King.
And he is of an age to have sung and appreciated doo-wop. In “The Longest Time,” he does his best streetcorner singing. All the voices are Billy (except there’s also a bass as I’m guessing he can’t hit those notes. And a barely perceptible snare drum played with brushes.)
Where else could we end this tunefest but with a song by the man from Long Island (lawn guyland) celebrating his home.
It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, the Daily News
Who, oh, oh whoa
It comes down to reality, and it’s fine with me cause I’ve let it slide
I don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside
I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind
Wikipedia: Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). In 2001, Joel received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2013, Joel received the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation’s highest honor for influencing American culture through the arts.
*Aphoristic tells me Billy says his five favorite songs that he’s written are, And So It Goes, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Vienna, You May Be Right, and She’s Right on Time. Billy, stick to songwriting. We will tell you what your best songs are. 😀 Although those are pretty damn good.