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Author Topic: Billy Joel  (Read 4786 times)
Ron
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« on: February 27, 2013, 09:00:42 PM »

How much longer are we going to have to wait until Billy Joel takes his rightful place as "legend" ?  I think once Paul Macca passes away, people are going to be looking straight at Billy Joel (and Elton John) as the resident "living legends" in the music industry.  I dont' know why Billy Joel never get mentioned whenever people are talking music, he's been incredibly successful and anybody would argue he's talented as hell but nobody ever really talks about him. 

I've always thought he was great.

My favorite Billy Joel song would be "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant". 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMij0UwhZU0

I just like everything about it.  He's like Mozart to Elton John's Beethoven. 

The "Innocent Man" album is awesome.  Every song is good; "Easy Money" and "Christie Lee" are the two weakest songs, but hell they're both pretty decent too.  The title song is awesome, and then of course there were all the hits... Check out "This Night".  I noticed when I was in music theory class back in the day that he lifted the melody from "Pathetique" by Beethoven. 

"This Night"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRvDvVu-Jzo


"Pathetique Sonata" (Beethoven)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly1iTD0zB1Y


The Innocent Man album was meant to be a tribute to the doo wop Music Billy loved when he was a kid.  Listen how complex the background harmonies are on Uptown Girl... have you ever paid attention?  Notice how they mix it up between the different verses, the haphazard way they fade in in the background, the way the hold notes, or repeat notes at whim.  Billy arranged all that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuMWrfXG4E

I'd love to hear a vocals only mix of that so I could pick everything out.  I never even noticed it the first 1000 times I heard it.  How amazing is that drum breakdown?  Wow.  Also, do you think Christie left him because she was taller?  Hmm.  Things to ponder. 




Or how about "I Go to Extremes" ?  Lyrically I think he's one of the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XQzLOe_l-4


Man, that ROCKS! 


Of course he also was masterful at ballads and piano pieces, I always liked "Summer, Highland Falls" although i can't explain why.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygNNpvzuNFA

Just masterful.  Even a loudmouth like me can't think of anything to say about this song except that it's great.  It makes the tip of my nose hurt a little bit everytime I hear it.



Famously, Billy stopped writing lyrics after his "River of Dreams" album, which featured the incredible "Lullabye", apparently written to his 8 year old daughter about his impending divorce from Christie Brinkley.  So not only was he amazing, he PEAKED at a moment when his talent finally proved useful to him in his personal life.   Stunning, honestly.  Then he quit?    Amazing.

"Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhxeOaFe7hc


That's how great he was when he stopped.  I don't know if I can think of another artist who purposefully stopped writing in their prime, at such a high calibre.
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Jason
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2013, 09:31:39 AM »

Billy Joel is surprisingly effective as an album artist. Up until 1985 or so his albums are pretty much all good stuff. Granted, the inevitable fall off occurred, but even then he was relatively consistent. A master craftsman for sure.

Billy Joel rules. Deal with it.
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2013, 12:20:04 PM »

I love "The Nylon Curtain" album from 1982; very beatlesque.
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the captain
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2013, 05:30:58 PM »

Ron, I have disagreed with you many times before ... but not this time.
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2013, 09:57:03 PM »

I was watching a 70's soul reunion show on t.v. last night, one of those pbs deals.  When I was a kid, all the pbs reunion shows were the artists from the 50's.  Then all the shows were the 60's artists.  Now all the shows are the 70's artists... the shows are always the same though, long forgotten musicians finally getting some respect for damn fine songs they recorded a long time ago, it's like the stuff has to age for people to come back around to them.  It was even like that for the Beatles, until about 1995 and the Anthology Albums they had been kind of swept into the bargain bins. 

Even "Wings".  Wings was an awesome band, but nobody but audio nerds talk about Wings.  It's like they're not quite old enough even with Paul's stature, to be something anybody gives much respect.

So I think Billy Joel is caught in that strange time where he's old enough to be a has been but not old enough to be a legend yet.  Of course he already is, but it's not popularly accepted yet like it should be.  I don't know what his personality is like, either, but he kind of seems like he's not a fame whore, I think he's content to do his appearances and tours whenever he feels like it, and doens't want to do the things Paul does like work the grammies, etc. 

Just a fantastic talent, it's such a shame that he hasn't written anything in 20 years. 
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Jason
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2013, 11:09:54 PM »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqY6mXULzpw

This is my favorite clip of him ever...this was when he played the Soviet Union in 1987. "LET ME DO MY SHOW, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!"
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Wild-Honey
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 01:37:46 AM »

I love Billy Joel.   I have a book about Synethesia called "Tasting the Universe", and there is a chapter and interview with  Billy and how he has this ability.   He can see the colours of the different musical notes, and grapheme to colour.  He also said his music comes to him in his dreams.  It's a fascinating book. 
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 03:12:34 AM »

If that's the case (the music in the dreams and such), then old Billy must not have closed his eyes since Uptown Gerl
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Wild-Honey
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 04:15:02 AM »

The River of Dreams Album Wink
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the captain
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 02:20:16 PM »

I've been thinking about this thread a little bit. While I'm not a huge Billy Joel fan or intimately familiar with his whole catalog, I was born in 1976 to a music-loving family that included four older siblings, so it would be impossible not to know a lot of those mega-hits. I'm not the most qualified person to write about him, but I'll give a shot to offering some thoughts

Billy Joel is the kind of musician who will always struggle to get critical respect in his own time because he was writing pop songs that were meant to be loved. (And it worked, obviously.) If there's one thing pop critics seem obsessed with, it's proving to themselves, to each other, and to the world that the least valuable part about pop is, well, pop. They're obsessed with proving it--and thus themselves--to be high art. Concepts, themes, challenges, as if an infectious melody about falling in love or having your heart broken were as easy to do as it is to hear. Well, it's not easy. Try it.

So you have someone like Joel who isn't challenging to listeners. The cleverness in his songs sounds like simplicity.

What might keep him from being truly legendary to me is that he isn't really changing things. I don't know of any innovations; rather, he was releasing great examples of what already existed stylistically. But maybe that's not true, or maybe it's a false criterion to being legendary.

As time passes, what one has to notice is a huge body of hits. You don't have to love them ... but plenty of people clearly do. What is a musician supposed to do, if not make music that people want to hear? The late '70s through early or mid-80s saw a run of really good, mostly unpretentious pop. And for whatever else critics or music snobs everywhere believe, want, or say, "it's still rock 'n' roll to me." I'm only recently, after a 25-year hiatus, admitting that this stuff is good and I want to listen to it. By the late '80s, I was too interested in the tough guy hair metal (oxymoron?) of the day. Then I fell into the very snobbishness about which I'm writing here. The past few years I've been climbing out and looking around at what it cost me in listening pleasure.

Right now, I've got An Innocent Man playing on Spotify as I get ready to head out for the evening ... and it's listening pleasure!



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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 03:44:46 PM »

I love Billy Joel.

One thing I really respect about him is, after he put out his River of Dreams album, he basically said, "that's it" and has never put out a studio album since (aside from the classical one). I recall reading somewhere that he said 'I've got no more songs in me' and that's what made him stop. A lot of artists would continue to write songs and put out albums long after they've run out of steam, simply because they can, or don't know what else to do with their lives, or some other reason. But I admire someone who knows when he's out of steam, and calls it quits before he starts producing a lot of mediocre stuff.
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 03:48:35 PM »

Interview on his last song here:
http://www.billyjoel.com/node/15819
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 03:55:16 PM »

BTW I like The Stranger album best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8Z6Yi_tlhs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI3MwwWYC3Q
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Ron
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2013, 03:23:25 PM »

Good comments, I agree with them. 

On the freaking out in concert post Real Beach Boy, that's awesome.  He also did the famous grammy thing, if nobody's heard it, I don't know if tape is floating around or not of it.

That year, Frank Sinatra was getting a lifetime achievement award from the Grammies.  He comes out to take his acceptance speech... he starts rambling a little bit, and THEY PLAYED BUMPER MUSIC AND WENT TO A COMMERCIAL!  The crowd was loudly booing while the music was playing, it was incredibly disrespectful to fucking FRANK SINATRA to 'walk out' on him. 

So later in the show, Billy Joel performed "River of Dreams" which was huge that year.  When he got to the breakdown at the end where he waits a few seconds... he prolonged it.  Slowly, he lifts his arm up and stares at his watch, and says "Valuable advertising time slipping by.... valuable advertising time slipping by...."... waited about 15 seconds, then broke back into the song. 


Class. Act. If you ask me. 


(BTW, later Frank said that he was glad they rolled the music because he was running out of things to say)
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Ron
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« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2013, 03:25:33 PM »

What might keep him from being truly legendary to me is that he isn't really changing things. I don't know of any innovations; rather, he was releasing great examples of what already existed stylistically. But maybe that's not true, or maybe it's a false criterion to being legendary.

Believe it or not, Billy addressed that very point in his rock and roll hall of fame induction speech.  Here's the text.

"Can you believe this?  That's the Washington Monument, you know? Thank you very much, Ray - Ray Charles.  This is a dream of mine.  I'm gonna wake up, "Oh, that was an amazing dream."  After so many people who wouldn't work with me for so long - I have a band, you know, I have a name, but the guys in the band have names.  

The drummer, Liberty's been with me going on 25 years.  The sax player Mark Avere has been with me since the earlier '80s.  Crystal Taniafare [?] has been with me through, like, six tours already.  I have a wonderful road crew.  Bobby Thresher is our production manager, and our tour's ending in April - I'm going to be passing these guys over to Bruce.  Bruce, you're taking them and, you know... these guys are the best, so that's why you want to work with them.  All the other people in the band, thank you so much.  And my soundman has been with me - Brian Ruggles has been with me 30 frickin' years.  I don't know how you can stand still listening to this stuff, 'cause I  got troubles myself some nights.  My production designer and lighting designer, Steve Comboom [?], 28 years.  

There are three women at my table I have to mention.  My mom, who gave me life.  Thank you, Mom.  My daughter, who changed my life - thank you, Alexa.  And my girlfriend, Caroline, who taught me how to dream again.  Anyway, this has been a great life; I've had the most amazing life, and it's mostly because of rock and roll music.  I love all kinds of music, and I'm right now writing what would be considered romantic mid-19th Century classical music, and Tommy's thrilled with this, I know.  Donny's going, "How do we market this stuff? You know, he won't even record it - he's just writing, you know?"  What am I going to do?  That's what I'm doing right now.  

This music has made such a wonderful life for me, and I want to thank you so much for doing the great job that you've done at Columbia Records - thank you so much.  Great company.  I just want to say this.  Now, I grew up in Levittown, OK?  Now... not exactly the epicenter of soul in America, you know?  And my parents were young people starting out; my Dad was an ex-GI, and they got a house for 40 bucks down, a quarter-acre, whatever it was - and they thought they were moving to the country, you know - they were getting out of the city.  And we kids growing up, we said, "This kind of sucks, you know?  There's gotta be something better than this."  And we, you know - it was nice to be out of Long Island, but - we didn't know this at the time - they would not sell Levittown homes to African American families.  We found this out later.  They would not sell homes to them.  

So where were we gonna find soul?  Where were we gonna find the soul of America?  You know where we got it?  We got it from the radio.  We got it from rock and roll music - that's where we got it from.  And I'm not talking about Pat Boone.  And I'm not talking about Fabian.  And I'm not talking about Frankie Avalon.  I'm talking about Ray Charles, and Little Richard, and Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino, and Wilson Pickett, and James Brown, and Otis Redding, and Little Anthony and the Imperials, and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers - that's where we got it.  So I wanna thank those people, 'cause they were the real pioneers.  And I know I've been referred to as derivative.  Well, I'm damn guilty.  I'm derivative as hell!  Let me just suggest this.  Anyone who is derivative like I'm derivative, who should be automatically excluded, would mean that there wouldn't be any white people here.   I know we're on TV, but we've gotta get some outrageous sh*t started here, you know what I mean?  Anyway, thank you very much.  Thank you."
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the captain
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2013, 04:06:08 PM »

That's an interesting speech. I wouldn't take it that far, myself (if I were making the argument), because someone can be largely derivative but introduce some new direction, tidbit, style, that makes it an innovation. You know, a 90-10 split, yet it's innovative for some reason. I'm not sure whether Billy Joel had that 10. But again, I don't care. There's something to be said for putting out work that shows mastery of the form, and that's what he did.
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2013, 04:34:21 PM »

It shows you his mindset.  It appears, that to him, innovation isn't even possible. 
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the captain
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2013, 04:48:33 PM »

I'd have to disagree with him on that--otherwise our music would sound exactly like the music of 10, 25, 50, and 100 (and so on) years ago. Gradual innovation is (I'd say obviously) a reality.
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2013, 07:57:40 PM »

Maybe Billy's listened to too much Beach Boys and thinks we're just singing That Same Song.
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2013, 08:45:44 PM »

He's an incredibly humble guy, but I don't think he gives himself enough credit.  Isn't pretty much everything in life derivative?    I love what's been posted in this thread about Billy in the Soviet Union and the Grammy's. 
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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2013, 11:33:43 PM »

I'll say this about Billy Joel- he's a terrific entertainer. Great to see live if'n you ever get the chance. His albums are good too.
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« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2013, 12:34:42 AM »

Quite a surprising thread. I've only heard Billy Joel's singles, I don't like any of them, and some of them I find positively terrible, especially the lyrics. "An Innocent Man" was on a various artists compilation we had on on a loop at work for a while and I have to say those are the most self-satisfied, self-righteous lyrics I've ever heard. 
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« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2013, 01:41:33 PM »

I flinch every time "The Longest Time" and "You're Only Human" are played at my local supermarket. Billy is a talent, but I don't need to hear him. Agree with previous poster re smug lyrical content. "Piano Man" is one of the most condescending songs ever written about an artist and his audience.
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Ron
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« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2013, 09:42:30 PM »

I'd have to disagree with him on that--otherwise our music would sound exactly like the music of 10, 25, 50, and 100 (and so on) years ago. Gradual innovation is (I'd say obviously) a reality.

Well his point was that he personally can't innovate, specifically because he's white. 
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Ron
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« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2013, 09:43:46 PM »

I'll say this about Billy Joel- he's a terrific entertainer. Great to see live if'n you ever get the chance. His albums are good too.

I saw him once with Elton, he stole the show with "We didn't start the Fire".  Here's a guy in his 50's, he plays just killer Rock & Roll piano the whole show, then stands up, straps on a guitar, and played "We Didn't Start The Fire", place went crazy.  Blew the roof off the place. 
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