Billy Joel

I loaded up a Billy Joel greatest hits album on my mp3 player the other day and have been revisiting his music. It occurs to me that in some ways he’s being forgotten compared to the other big music acts of his era, though it may be his own fault.

As a singer/songwriter his work is pretty amazing to me even now, at least up to a certain point. He started off in the early 1970s with stuff like Piano Man and New York State of Mind, then showed a different side with You May Be Right and Its Still Rock and Roll To Me. In the mid-80s he was still hitting #1 with songs like Tell Her About It and We Didn’t Start the Fire. He even reached #3 in 1993 with River of Dreams.

(A lot of videos for his hits are located at YouTube affiated Vevo here.)

But unlike most rock acts, he retired early, at least in terms of releasing albums. His last pop album was in 1994, when he was still just 45. Sure, he still tours, but it’s really a strange turn of events for someone who was such a good songwriter to just stop.

Don’t forget years of struggling with depression and substance abuse, including an attempted suicide by ingestion of furniture polish.

I like a lot of his stuff but everything from 1986’s The Bridge to 1993’s River of Dreams was very hit-or-miss. It is physically impossible for me to listen to Storm Front without skipping “When in Rome”. Man, just barf. I wasn’t surprised when he stopped recording in the early 90s as it seemed clear that creatively the spark wasn’t quite there anymore and he knew it.

Still, there are enough great songs spanning from The Stranger to An Innocent Man (and a few after) to have earned him a place alongside the pop music greats of that era (roughly mid 70s to mid 80s). Some of my favorites would be “All For Leyna”, the Songs in the Attic live take on “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” (or really, pretty much any of the songs from that album, all of which are far more energetic than the studio versions. Compare and contrast the turgid “Streetlife Serenader” studio version to its live counterpart on Attic, for example) and the epic schmaltz of “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”. Favorite album is probably The Nylon Curtain because Joel was stretching artistically and pulled it off better than one might have expected.

(BTW, that Vevo link doesn’t work in Canada. Yay regional blocking!)

For a minute there, I was worried that Billy Joel had died. Thanks for the scare, Sarkus!

Joel is awesome. My favourites would probably be Allentown and She’s Always a Woman, but I don’t think there’s a track by him that I don’t like.

I still love Honesty, Prelude/Angry Young Man, and Piano Man. But I have to admit, especially after seeing them both in concert a year or two ago, that Elton John has a much wider range of songs.

Oh wait, you didn’t want us to compare him to the others from his era. Billy Joel is better the earlier you get.

I’ll always love The Downeaster “Alexa”

Bosom Buddies associations notwithstanding, I think “My Life” is one of the most perfect pop songs I’ve ever heard – worthy of Paul McCartney.

My overall response to his stuff is uneven, but I love “For the Longest Time,” and very much like “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).”

I’m a huge fan of Billy Joel. I remember listening to the Stranger the summer of 77 on 8track over and over again. One of my favorite albums even today. I’ve seen him quite a number of times in concert. I like the albums Nylon Curtain on back. After Nylon Curtain, his work interests me less and less. Starting with An Innocent Man, his music lost something. Oddly enough this parallels my other favorite artist, Jeff Lynne. It seems like 1983 was poison.

PS: I thought I was the only other person liked “All For Leyna.” Everyone I know hates when that song comes up.

PSS: I also went to see his musical based on his music:
It was ok.

I’m also a huge fan of Billy Joel. My very first CD was one of his earlier albums, and I think at least something by him has been on every media player I’ve ever owned, including his two album original greatest hits on my iPhone (although I own it, I’m not as big a fan of the third greatest hits album.)

His earlier recordings are really a star in his prime, but the later they went the more baggage that came with them and I sometimes think you can hear some of that in his performances. Regardless though, a great singer, songwriter and performer.

I have a hard time forgiving him for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” but overall he’s ok.

I love Billy Joel but I always pretend he died in 1982.

I own every Joel album along with the My Lives and Greatest Hits boxed sets, love his unique lyrics to most of his songs (Bottle of Red Bottle of White anyone? :D). Truly one of those gifted performers who made it on talent and skill , not on looks (like today’s performers).

He still does write and still has it imho… One of his latest songs was Christmas in Fallujah.

He also did All my Life which was written for his wife who was too young for him (they are divorced now )

His pop stuff is considerably above the mark, but his bigger pieces are what I really like. Movin’ Out, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, etc. Lots of themes, key changes, etc. but in a cohesive whole that tells a story. Plus you get the great military songs from a guy who deserves to sing them.


Weird, I just revisited some old Billy Joel stuff. Pressure and My Life are probably my favorites.

I read an article about him not too long ago where he joked with the audience at yet another sold-out show that he didn’t know who they thought they were seeing, but that they paid a lot of money to see a bald, fat guy.

He probably says that every show, but it’s still funny.

I still dig Billy Joel, but I dig his music less as time goes by to the point where I barely listen to it anymore. I guess I find his lyrics worse in a lot of songs with each listening (Bum or a King!!!) especially compared to some of his quasi-contemporaries like Paul Simon. And like others have said, there are some songs on his albums that are just awful. But when he’s good, I think he’s really good even in later albums.

Piano Man will always be my favorite song of his.

My wife’s cousin’s husband, Darren Holden, was the Piano Man in that musical for a few years. Very very nice, very talented guy which makes it utterly perplexing that according to his Wikipedia page he was approached by Slash to be lead singer of Velvet Revolver and apparently recorded some songs. I meet him a couple of times a year and I’m tempted to ask him about this next time I see him.

I won’t rehash what’s been said above, except to mention that I’ve listened to every album of his probably 200 times at least in the last 40 years. But what nobody has mentioned is that, at least until he messed his hands up in his motorcycle accident, he was also one of the most talented piano players in popular music. Really quite the virtuoso.

Kind of unfair to compare most anyone to Paul Simon, though. With the exception of Bob Dylan, Simon is probably the preeminent songwriter of the past 50 years in terms of just pure lyrical ability.

Mama pajama rolled out of bed and she ran to the police station.