Tuesday, October 28, 2014

WHEN THE SONG WAS DONE, JOEL TURNED TO THE AUDIENCE AND SAID, “AND THEN WE GOT DIVORCED”:  It's critical reappraisal week for Billy Joel -- Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker, and David Brusie gives Glass Houses another listen in the AV Club. From the former:
[H]e had thirty-three Top Forty hits. That’s an awful lot—about twice as many as Springsteen, the Eagles, or Fleetwood Mac. Some were schmalz, others were novelties, but a crate of them are songs that have embedded themselves in the great American jukebox and aren’t going away anytime soon. If you hate them, fine. A lot of people, even some rock snobs, love them still. I’m tired of “Piano Man,” too, but “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” gets me every time. “Summer, Highland Falls” is for real. As for derivative, Joel won’t deny it; he loved the Beatles, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Smokey Robinson, so why not try to sound like them? At his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, in 1999, he was introduced by Ray Charles. Joel said, “I know I’ve been referred to as derivative. Well, I’m damn guilty. I’m derivative as hell.” He said that if the Hall of Fame disqualified candidates on the basis of being derivative, “there wouldn’t be any white people here.” 
...“People, including myself, generally found him too glib and slick,” [Jon] Landau told me. There was also a bias against hits. “As time has gone by, we’ve been proved wrong,” Landau said. “He’s one of the most musically astute composers of that era.” He said that when Springsteen joined Joel onstage for an Obama fund-raising concert, in 2008, and played a bunch of Joel’s songs with Joel’s band, he came off and told Landau, “Those songs—they’re built like the Rock of Gibraltar. Until you play them, you don’t realize how well they play.”


  1. Joseph Finn11:17 AM

    As LL said, don't call it a comeback. He's been here for years.

  2. Unabashed Billy Joel fan, at least of his work until about 1988 or so. Also high five for the "white people" comment.

  3. I've been a Billy Joel fan practically since birth,and never knew I was supposed to apologize for it until college. (That's what happens when you grow up on Long Island.) Saw him last year at MSG and thought it was a great show. I was thinking of going back again this year, but I'm not thrilled to hear how little the set list varies from show to show, given how much he has to choose from.

  4. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to not like him until I got to college either, and I'm from Chicago. Things seemed to change around "We Didn't Start the Fire." He went from a person you either liked or didn't to someone you just weren't supposed to like.

    Earlier this year, Sirius had a special Billy Joel station. I was bummed when they changed the format. A college friend and I would text each other about the songs that were on.

  5. Marsha11:02 AM

    Stand proud, little sister! Be not ashamed!