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Na na na, na na na, Marilyn Monroe
March 25, 2014 2:03 AM   Subscribe


 
Joel proceeded to take a long swallow of amber liquid from a bottle. "I tell you what," he said. "I've had enough of this piano guy crap any way. Back at the hotel, we're going to fill the Jacuzzi with Stoli and listen to some fuckin' Guns n Roses!"
posted by thelonius at 2:15 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


"One of the worst melodies I ever wrote!"

I've always had a distinct dislike for Billy Joel's music, and that hasn't changed, but I like him a little better now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:21 AM on March 25 [9 favorites]


We used to sing Billy Joel songs in music class back in the late 70's. It was fun. But he kind of lost his way in the late 80's.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:39 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


There was a big Joel thread this summer, on, I think, a post linking an interview he gave, where many of us reluctantly paid homage to his hitsmanship. The guy could write a pop song, no doubt.
posted by thelonius at 2:44 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


His Vietnam song is the shit.

We (10 year olds) used to sing his 80s songs in the playground when they were in the charts.

He seems like an alright guy. I appreciate self-depracation in a star.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:56 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Ain't that the truth, KokuRyu. Joel is a New York Prick all right, but that's actually kind of his most endearing quality.

Yeah, I know I always link that one in Joel threads. It always fits.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:57 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I like him a little better now.

Competely agree. I'm even older than flapjax, but his music always seemed aimed at my parents generation -- some amalgam of tin pan alley, show tunes and ersatz rock and roll -- rather than anything I'd listen to.

But after someone here linked that video where he lets the student accompany him, I found it really hard to dislike the guy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:04 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


some amalgam of tin pan alley, show tunes and ersatz rock and roll

I once read a pretty convincing argument that the problem with Joel is that he's merely a stylist - that is, he just apes other people's styles rather than actually trying to be original.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:08 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]



The discography of Billy Joel consists of thirteen studio albums, five live albums, fifteen compilation albums, ten video albums, sixty-two singles, three promotional singles and fifty music videos. (thank you Wikipedia)....

The first release was in 1971, a year after my son was born, the year before I entered the Army, traveled overseas, had son #2. He created music while I returned to the states, got my Master's degree, bought my first house, got dogs # 1,2,3 and 4, learned everything (well, just almost learned some of it) that you're supposed to learn between the ages of 23 and 65... Went through 4 major careers, stayed with one of them for 27 years, retired and, then went back to work and, this year, was thrilled with the birth of my first grandchild. I'll spare you the details of all of those events, but suffice it to say that a lot of life happened between 1971 and 2014.

He created a significant proportion of the soundtrack of my adult life, many of his songs are burned into my brain, most of them elicit memories and images. Not all of those memories and images are wonderful, some are tragic and bring tears, some bring smiles and warm feelings.

So...thanks, Billy..... and, ain't no biggie messing up the lyrics, I still can't get through that correctly....

Carry on.....

(And, here he is with that student.)
posted by HuronBob at 3:13 AM on March 25 [36 favorites]


Ha, nice! I was there with my girlfriend and a very dear friend to celebrate my mum's first birthday since she passed away in September. We used to take her every time he was in town. I think that was the first of about five encores. He's a pretty funny man; earlier in the show he suddenly looked at a close-up of himself on the giant screen in front of him and said, "Jesus, that's not Billy, that's Billy's father!"
posted by gman at 3:17 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Billy Joel's first band - Attila
posted by timsteil at 4:03 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of Chuck Klosterman's comment that nobody in the world has ever wanted to be Billy Joel... even when he was sleeping with Christie Brinkley.
posted by Mapes at 4:10 AM on March 25 [5 favorites]


Two Billy Joel things making the rounds lately:

Joined by Brian Johnson of AC/DC

Two man doo-wop group with Jimmy Fallon

Joel seems to be become more likable all the time in the last few years. I went through a time where I loved his music and a time when I hated it, but I've wrapped back around to loving it especially after the tribute to him at the Kennedy Center Honors:

Allentown/Goodnight Saigon

I get choked up just thinking about the Goodnight Saigon portion of that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:28 AM on March 25 [14 favorites]


Hey, Piano Man- some of us in this bar are just trying to have a quiet drink, and we really don't need your weird judgy bullshit. You don't know us!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:29 AM on March 25 [18 favorites]


"Jesus, that's not Billy, that's Billy's father!"

Yeah, I felt the same way when I saw a photo of him for the first time in many years. Same as with Paul Simon (who had been such an intense, handsome, dynamic man 30, 40 years ago).

Or John Mellencamp.

Springsteen still looks somewhat youthful and vibrant. I wonder if he lifts weights?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:30 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Back when we had a big "Inside the Actors Studio" post, I was pushing hard for people to watch Billy's episode. It's got so many great moments; at one point he talks about how every time he walks into a bar with a piano guy in it, they launch into "Piano Man" with a big grin, but then about midway through it, he sees them suddenly realize how repetitive it is and just gives them a knowing apologetic shrug. I was also struck by how smart the guy is - he knows his shit.

He also does a fairly decent Mick Jagger imitation at one point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


I feel a little bad for Billy Joel. I get the sense that he truly believed he was a great songwriter, and really gave it his all, only to realize a couple decades later that nobody else seemed to agree. I suspect that self-deprecation comes from knowing he's a pop culture punching bag and valiantly trying to be okay with it, but that's more palatable than being openly bitter or willfully blind to criticism.

I admit to really loving a few Billy Joel songs (I will play "Uptown Girl" on repeat when no one else is listening). A few I really hate. Most of the rest I enjoy but simultaneously cringe at, like when Frito-Lay comes out with a new chip flavor that is utterly disgusting yet you still manage to eat the whole bag in one sitting.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:40 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I have a vague memory of Billy Joel having an online argument or tantrum or something. Was it on MetaFilter? Or where?
posted by pracowity at 4:42 AM on March 25


Metroid Baby: I feel a little bad for Billy Joel. I get the sense that he truly believed he was a great songwriter, and really gave it his all, only to realize a couple decades later that nobody else seemed to agree. I suspect that self-deprecation comes from knowing he's a pop culture punching bag and valiantly trying to be okay with it, but that's more palatable than being openly bitter or willfully blind to criticism.

Nobody else agrees? That's quite the assumption right there. As for the self-deprecation, it's pretty common among my tribe.
posted by gman at 4:46 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Here it is, pracowity.
From the "Every Billy Joel Song at Once" post.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:51 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


(I will play "Uptown Girl" on repeat when no one else is listening)

/claws own face off
posted by goethean at 4:55 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I'm kind of surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. I mean, when you've penned a mountain of songs over so many years, I have no clue how one would keep the lyrics straight, let alone not occasionally forget a few.

I'm also surprised more acts don't use teleprompters nestled between the monitors.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


There's an old man, sitting next to me, making love to his tonic and gin...

Does that mean the old man stuck his dick in the drink? Gross. You don't sing about that. You call a bouncer over to roust geezer.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:17 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Say what you will about Billy Joel, at least he doesn't like Billy Joel.
posted by condour75 at 5:17 AM on March 25 [18 favorites]


Billy Joel has had to sing that song at least 1000 times live in front of a doe-eyed audience over the past few decades. I think he handles it really well in this performance because I'd go nuts and lose my shit 100x more than he did after performing the song for just the tenth time.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:27 AM on March 25


Here it is, pracowity.

Holy shit. That was awesome. I liked this (because I believe it):

You will never know the joy I have known, and you will never accomplish anything in your life until you learn humility the way I have : The hard way. Not by posting your miserable opinionated blogs about what other people actually DO. So Fuck You for the last time. And for Christ’s sake – DO SOMETHING! Sincerely, Billy Joel
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 AM on March 25 [9 favorites]


"JFK Blown Away. What Else Do I Have To Say?" is the "FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!" of the song.
posted by inturnaround at 5:32 AM on March 25 [27 favorites]


I once read a pretty convincing argument that the problem with Joel is that he's merely a stylist - that is, he just apes other people's styles rather than actually trying to be original.

Joel wants to be authentic, but he thinks the way to be authentic is to pose harder.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:33 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


"JFK Blown Away. What Else Do I Have To Say?"

hell even Sheryl Crow was clever enough to sing about "the day Aldous Huxley died"
I love that song, so fuck you and learn some humility and DO SOMETHING
posted by thelonius at 5:50 AM on March 25


Obligatory:
Data's head / Tasha's dead / Riker's hanging from a thread
Celebrations / Transformations / Everyone to battlestations!
posted by bicyclefish at 5:58 AM on March 25 [8 favorites]


Metroid Baby: I feel a little bad for Billy Joel. I get the sense that he truly believed he was a great songwriter, and really gave it his all, only to realize a couple decades later that nobody else seemed to agree.

I don't know about that. I remember an interview with him from years and years ago (might have been 60 Minutes?) where the host noted that Joel was considered one of the greats, brilliant, a genius -- something along those lines -- and Billy said basically no -- that he was merely decent at what he did; the problem is that so many people who do what he does and get famous for it suck at it, and that's why many people thought of him as a spectacular talent.
posted by tzikeh at 5:59 AM on March 25 [5 favorites]


Writing the song was an authentic rock and roll fuck-up. I've got no particular beef with Billy Joel, but "We Didn't Start The Fire" is right up there with "We Built This City On Rock And Roll" on my Songs To Never Hear Again list.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:05 AM on March 25 [11 favorites]


I for one like the song I guess because learning songs with lots of lyrics is something I like to do to amuse myself on long drives, long walks, etc. "this is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about".
I was impressed that he stopped the song but then disappointed when it started up again. Somehow the flashing lights and the weird tempo seemed even less cool than before.
I think Weird Al nailed a lot of the criticism in this thread back in 1980.
posted by bleep at 6:17 AM on March 25


Is there a word for when you always claim to dislike someone's music but then almost every time one of their songs comes on the radio you find yourself turning it up and singing along? Because that's kind of my relationship with Billy Joel.

I really enjoyed Joel in this.
posted by bondcliff at 6:19 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


When I was in elementary school, my music teacher was obsessed with a then-barely-known Billy Joel. She used to talk about him before and after our (horrible) recorder practice. I wonder how she followed him around when he was on the east coast and we were in the midwest.

I pretty much think about (horrible) recorders tootling every time I think of Billy Joel. And I wish I could remember that music teacher's name so I could google her name and see if she is still a superfan.
posted by 41swans at 6:21 AM on March 25


I've used Billy Joel before as a punching bag in my writing, but won't again. It was lazy on my part. I didn't much like his music and didn't take the time to understand why, but I don't think he's a hack, I think he's an honest artist, genuinely making music for the sake of crafting words and music into something meaningful.

It may be that I respond badly to what feels to me like unearned sentiment -- it's probably why I have never really liked Elton John either, and why, for years, I rankled at tear-jerking moments in film. But it's worth asking if that's a problem with the art or a problem with me.

Maybe it is a problem with the art. I don't know. I haven't taken the time to look into it. And Billy Joel deserves the time, or he deserves to have me shut my mouth, at least in public. He's earned it through sheer hard work, and through obviously knowing his craft.

As a critic, the easiest thing in the world is to mistake your own tastes for being inherently interesting. But they aren't. The work is interesting. You must always engage the work.

I'm not ready to sit down and listen to Billy Joel just yet, but I won't use him as a punchline anymore, and when I do write about him next, I will try to do it with respect, whether or not I end up appreciating his work.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:31 AM on March 25 [28 favorites]


My high school typing teacher gave us an extra credit assignment that involved touch typing that song's lyrics. To this day I am both an suprisingly good touch typer, but also every time I hear the song my fingers itch to start pounding out the rhythm. Because believe me, once you've typed it more than once, you start typing in rhythm.
posted by librarianamy at 6:32 AM on March 25


Billy Joel has had some lows, for sure, but his highs were very very high. Dude wrote this song, for heaven's sake. And this one, and this one.
posted by jbickers at 6:35 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


Cookiebastard: Does that mean the old man stuck his dick in the drink? Gross. You don't sing about that. You call a bouncer over to roust geezer.

Man, do you ever have a narrow notion of "making love to". He was clearly frenching the highball before shoving it up his ass. Perfectly acceptable in a Long Island bar.

Or so I hear.
posted by plinth at 6:35 AM on March 25 [14 favorites]


The discography of Billy Joel consists of thirteen studio albums, five live albums, fifteen compilation albums, ten video albums, sixty-two singles, three promotional singles and fifty music videos.

Yeah, this is something I realized a few months ago after wondering whatever happened to Billy Joel, who was always one of the major pop stars when I was a kid and then just seemed to drop off the face of the planet shortly after "River of Dreams" twenty years ago.

Take a good look at those numbers. Those numbers are effed up. Thirteen albums, sixty-two singles, then thirty albums of that same material put in a different order? It's like he saw that his first Greatest Hits compilation went Platinum twenty-three times (it really did, if the RIAA is to be believed) and just went, "Fuck it, let's just put that in the CD player, hit shuffle, and release all the possible permutations." And it's not a bad strategy: Thirteen of those rehashes have gone Gold or higher, and mostly multi-Platinum at that.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:41 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


Billy Joel has had some lows, for sure, but his highs were very very high. Dude wrote this song yt, for heaven's sake. And this one yt, and this one yt.

Well, what are they?

You don't think for a moment I'm gonna click a blind Youtube link in a Billy Joel thread do you?


Please repeat this advice where applicable in all threads. This.
posted by Herodios at 6:44 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


I like Billy Joel. And Elton John. AND BON JOVI.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:49 AM on March 25 [9 favorites]


Honestly, I'm kind of surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. I mean, when you've penned a mountain of songs over so many years, I have no clue how one would keep the lyrics straight, let alone not occasionally forget a few.

A former roommate claimed he saw Michael Stipe do this same "stop the band because you messed up the words" thing for "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" once. Which seems understandable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 AM on March 25


Joey Michaels: " Two man doo-wop group with Jimmy Fallon"

That's actually pretty great.
posted by zarq at 6:52 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


That's nothing. I like Bread!
posted by goethean at 6:52 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


I think he was just smart enough to realize he was done after River of Dreams. (though really it was Glass Houses)

As a Long Islander I've always been sort of amazed by how Springsteen and Joel are portrayed as the voices of their respective suburbs.

The sort of tin pan alley'ish Joel stuff is Long Island. He's basically the artist we deserve. The gloss of respectability, the sheen on it. The emptiness of it all.

Meanwhile Jersey wishes it were as deep and interesting as Springsteen. Ain't nobody in Summit or Sayreville listening to Woody Guthrie. Let's face facts - LI'ers are smart enough to recognize Lou Reed isn't ours. Jerseyites need to understand their spirit animal is Bon Jovi.

Also "Downeaster Alexa" is Billy Joel's most embarrassing song. Not his worst, but the one that makes me cringe when I hear it. He tries to take a socially conscious view and basically picks the wrong side.

Also you can actually find the restaurant referred to in "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
posted by JPD at 6:53 AM on March 25 [8 favorites]


Hello, my name is Optamystic, and I love Billy Joel unabashedly, and I can sing "We Didn't Start The Fire" from memory, and will do so with minimal encouragement.
posted by Optamystic at 6:53 AM on March 25 [17 favorites]


I note that it seems to have lately been scrubbed from the internet, but I don't see how you could see Joel's '94 Grammy Awards performance -- in which he used a break in the song River of Dreams to intone "valuable advertising time going by, valuable advertising time going by, dollars, dollars, dollars," a dig at the organizers' decision to conduct Frank Sinatra off the stage when his acceptance speech ran long -- and not love the man.
posted by The Confessor at 6:54 AM on March 25 [9 favorites]


You don't think for a moment I'm gonna click a blind Youtube link in a Billy Joel thread do you?

For anyone else too dubious to click:

MIAMI 2017
CAPTAIN JACK
SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT

I would also add most of The Nylon Curtain and "Streetlife Serenade" to that list. "Streetlife" is also amazing to play on the piano.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


Hello, my name is Optamystic, and I love Billy Joel unabashedly, and I can sing "We Didn't Start The Fire" from memory, and will do so with minimal encouragement.

In college on a bet I sang the entire greatest hits (double CD) a capella. And I don't even really like Billy Joel.
posted by JPD at 6:57 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I liked that Grammy incident too. Although, to be fair, Frank was rambling.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:58 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I love Billy Joel. I love his music (up to and including The Nylon Curtain). I grew up with his music, and I will never not love this music. If you've ever read the Klosterman essays on Billy Joel, you'd see one of the best descriptions of the man that I've ever seen, one that hits the nail on the head for me (excerpt from the Klosterman audiobook in which one of his essays is).

Billy Joel is better than anyone thinks he is.
posted by grubi at 7:07 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


Billy Joel is better than anyone thinks he is.

'Wagner's music is better than it sounds."
-- Edgar Wilson Nye

 
posted by Herodios at 7:11 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


I know it's corny but listening to Joel's "Miami 2017" at the 9/11 tribute show just after the attacks made me get weepy.
posted by jonmc at 7:11 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


…And Klosterman is worse than anyone thinks he is.

----
Look, one of the things that appeals to me about Billy Joel in his recent years is that he's all about the music and not so much the "Do you know who I am?" For example, when you watch him on the Jimmy Fallon doo-wop thing linked above, he looks a little skeptical at first -- but when Fallon gets a few loops into the app, and then actually starts to sing, Joel just smiles and jumps in, too. He's not too cool to fool around this way, and seems as delighted as Fallon does when it works.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:11 AM on March 25


Am I the only person whose childhood was brightened by the joy of belting out the alternate words to this song? I suspect I must not be. It always seemed so blindingly obvious to me that I was sure that everyone in the world must be singing this under their breaths every time the song came on the radio:
I didn't fart, you liar
No I didn't light it, I've been tryin' to fight it
I didn't fart, you liar
'Cuz that fart's been burnin' since the world's been turnin'
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I'm kind of surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. I mean, when you've penned a mountain of songs over so many years, I have no clue how one would keep the lyrics straight, let alone not occasionally forget a few.

Well, to bring this around to talking about Prince (which I freely admit I do quite a bit, sorry), when I saw Prince play live a bunch of times over the past year I was a little surprised to see that he had an iPad at his feet, in front of his pedalboard, tilted up so he could read the lyrics scrolling by as he sang them.

When I was close enough to see what was on the screen, I was happy to note that "you" was "u", "I" was "eye" and so forth.

I can imagine that once you've written a half-dozen albums of songs, it might get a little fuzzy to remember them all.
posted by elmer benson at 7:13 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Between his own stuff and the stuff he wrote for other people, Prince has written something like a thousand songs, many of which are just sitting around in some sort of Paisley Park vault.

And that's not even counting how many of his own NAMES he has to remember.
posted by Madamina at 7:25 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person whose childhood was brightened by the joy of belting out the alternate words to this song?

I seem to recall someone, um, a friend, writing alternate lyrics to study for his history test on the Reconstruction Era.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:27 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I'm not president of the Billy Joel fan club, but every now and then, one of his lyrics just hits me in a way expresses what I'm feeling damn near perfectly. "And So It Goes" was on repeat during my first bad break-up, and (herein I confess just how deep my hopeless romantic side is--for multiple definitions of both "hopeless" and "romantic) this line was basically my good-bye to her:

So I would choose to be with you, that's if the choice were mine to make,
But you can make decisions, too, and you can have this heart to break.


Years later, when my daughter was born, and as a Relatively Old DadTM who has thought quite a bit about the fact that my kids will be arranging my funeral before they are the age I am now, I sunk deep into "Goodnight My Angel," which manages to encapsulate the quiet father/daughter moments where what you are really talking about is bigger and deeper than the words you are using, and brings a meditation on the inevitable death of the parent, and eventually this child, right into a lullabye. That, for my money, is a pretty amazing elevation of the genre, and I still get misty just reading over the lyrics.

Goodnight, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on...
They never die
That's how you
And I
Will be


I don't know. It might be sappy; it might be maudlin, but it sure works for me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:27 AM on March 25 [19 favorites]


Pater, he talks about "Goodnight My Angel" in the Actors' Studio show as well, and adds that in the specific, this was also his way of acknowledging to his daughter that "yes, I admit it, your mom and I are about to split up - but that will not change our own relationship at all."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


JPD: Also you can actually find the restaurant referred to in "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"

Not anymore. Christianos in Syosset is now closed.

When I graduated school and went to my first corporate job, I quickly learned that Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Jimmy Buffett made up the holy trinity of middle-aged office dweller rock. Naturally, a snotty recent college grad came to hate them.

If you find yourself liking any of these guys, you can be assured that you have safely reached middle age.

Excuse me, my vinyl FLAC of Turnstiles should be finished downloading.
posted by dr_dank at 7:43 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


If you find yourself liking any of these guys, you can be assured that you have safely reached middle age.

So I've been middle-aged since I was 3?
posted by grubi at 7:45 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I have an inexplicable fondness for The Ballad of Billy the Kid.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:48 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


that "Miami 2017" thing is really quite a document.....are they done casting for the new "Mad Max" film yet, I wonder?
posted by thelonius at 7:57 AM on March 25


Does anyone else know a grown man, in their personal life, named Billy? For me they are all Bill.
posted by juiceCake at 8:00 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I'm a die-hard Billy Joel fan; I sing his praises pretty heavily in another Joel thread we had here a year or two back. And I am largely in agreement with him that "We Didn't Start the Fire" is one of the worst songs he's written (to me, it is his "I Just Called to Say I Love You", a terrible song written by an otherwise great artist, which unfortunately also happens to be one of his most recognizable songs, one that many non-fans most closely associate with him).

But I really don't like what he did in this clip. Saying, essentially, "This song of mine sucks, but after openly telling you that, let me go ahead and play it for you anyway since you rubes seem to like it". Maybe he thinks it increases his credibility to acknowledge his swings and misses, but doing so always seems somehow disrespectful to those who genuinely love whatever song is being skewered (I felt the same way when Chris Martin of Coldplay said something similar about "Speed of Sound" when he was on Howard Stern a few years back. In that case, a song I really like). I realize that an artist saying one of their own songs is not their favorite doesn't preclude anyone else from enjoying it, but it does conveys a certain amount of authority coming from the artist.
posted by The Gooch at 8:03 AM on March 25


jonmc: I know it's corny but listening to Joel's "Miami 2017" at the 9/11 tribute show just after the attacks made me get weepy.

Last year, SiriusXM did a town hall Q&A with Billy Crystal where someone asked him about the most memorable moment of his career. He reply was his hosting gig at that very 9/11 Concert for New York, where he looked out into the audience and there were a ton of people holding up homemade signs, seeking information on their brother/friend/boss that hadn't been seen since that day. He said he could barely hold it together.

Back on topic, Billy Joel also updated Miami 2017 for the Hurricane Sandy benefit.
posted by dr_dank at 8:09 AM on March 25


I'm not a big fan of the man. His music is banal and hammy. How can it be considered Rock & Roll? It sounds like it's from Glee. The man's music ain't got no soul.

"Bottle of red, bottle of white...."

Sounds like a show tune to me.

Read about his brush with furniture polish here:

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Billy-Joel-Tried-To-Suicide-With-Furniture-Polish-10309.shtml
posted by noaccident at 8:12 AM on March 25


I find it harder to mock Billy Joel like I once did, probably because of things like this - he just seems so damn sincere and so do most of his fans, and that's just something I admire more and more the older I get, even if it comes off pretty treacly in the delivery sometimes.

Which reminds me of a story that was on CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks back, the lead singer from the best Billy Joel cover band in Long Island. He ended up sitting in for Joel at rehearsal, and eventually touring with his idol. And though the story was full of things I'd normally make jokes about (helped in no small part that I was still lying in bed in the morning, when I am probably my most cynical), the whole thing was actually very charming and wonderful.

And that's not just because (but partially because) being the best Billy Joel cover band from Long Island feels like being the tannest guy at the gay gym in 1996 -- a notable achievement no matter what you think of the aesthetic.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:12 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of the man. His music is banal and hammy. How can it be considered Rock & Roll? It sounds like it's from Glee. The man's music ain't got no soul.

"Bottle of red, bottle of white...."

Sounds like a show tune to me.


That was from an actual conversation he had with the waiter.

I get that folks don't like his stuff - it doesn't necessarily hold up as well as some things have. The length and breadth of his career have been pretty interesting. And I remember being blown away at the concert he did in Leningrad...which was a BIG THING at the time. (I wasn't there - but watched it on TV.)

Banal? Some songs. Hammy? I dunno. It's okay that you don't like him. "Soul" is in the eye of the beholder, I think.
posted by Thistledown at 8:34 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Sounds like a show tune to me.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by xigxag at 8:35 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


Seems like it's not that some folks don't like Billy Joel; it's that they don't like that other people like him.
posted by grubi at 8:37 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I find it harder to mock Billy Joel like I once did, probably because of things like this - he just seems so damn sincere

It's an act. The true measure or Billy Joel's soul is the way he treated Doug Stegmeyer. He had his chance to not be a total piece-of-shit. He made his choice. Billy Joel is a total piece of shit. And always will be.

Forgiveness is something only Doug can give Billy. But maybe Billy should have thought of that before driving him to suicide. Game over.
posted by mikelieman at 8:38 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


You say something like that, you need to back it up. What are you talking about?
posted by grubi at 8:41 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


I adore Allentown. Otherwise I sort of mindlessly sing along with most of his stuff and don't think too hard about it. But Allentown is a great song.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:53 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


"If you find yourself liking any of these guys, you can be assured that you have safely reached middle age. "

I'm definitely middle-aged. And I definitely like these guys. Well, I can take or leave Buffett. But, I grew up with Billy Joel playing in the background. He is the sound of my childhood. But, I get it. There's no way your father's favorites are going to be your favorites.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:59 AM on March 25


Here is the Wikipedia page for Doug Stegmeyer. It notes his suicide, but no details.
posted by joelhunt at 9:00 AM on March 25


He is the sound of my childhood.

We used to listen to AM radio in the morning before back in the 70's when I was growing up - CFAX 1070 with Barry Bowman (I eventually worked with his wife, but that's a different story).

And Billy Joel was always playing between the traffic and the weather and the news as I was eating my Frosted Flakes, reading Babar Goes to the Moon.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on March 25


An Innocent Man is a great album from beginning to end. Get a clean copy on vinyl and blast that shit.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:21 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


I seldom comment so late in a thread like this, but i just have to say that whenever I am asked to name the worst song ever, WDLTF is the first song that comes to mind. It sounds like he wrote the lyrics on a roll of toilet paper while taking a dump, used the paper to wipe, then sat at the piano and said, how can I make this song even shittier.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:24 AM on March 25


I have this weird memory of Casey Kasem introducing WDSTF on America's Top 40, where he kind of broke the fourth wall of radio and criticised Billy Joel for not wanting to deal with the fire, just because he wasn't responsible for starting it.
posted by Flashman at 9:24 AM on March 25 [7 favorites]


It sounds like he wrote the lyrics on a roll of toilet paper while taking a dump, used the paper to wipe, then sat at the piano and said, how can I make this song even shittier.

No, it sounds like a guy who thought he had a clever idea for a song, tried it out, and the execution wasn't as good as he thought the idea was.

But, yeah, sure, let's all hyperbole, shall we?
posted by grubi at 9:26 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


My name is yoga, and I was a Billy Joel addict in high school. Haven't listened to him in years. I do think Bunny Ultramod nailed it. Especially this remark:

As a critic, the easiest thing in the world is to mistake your own tastes for being inherently interesting. But they aren't. The work is interesting. You must always engage the work.

My partner's brother said years ago about art in general: "You don't have to like it. You just have to appreciate [the work that went into] it."

To me, if heart went into it, it deserves credit for the work. Even if you hate it, and even if it isn't considered the best in the universe by some manmade awards committee.
posted by yoga at 9:29 AM on March 25


"Soul" is in the eye of the beholder, I think.

Naw, it's in the rhythm section usually.
posted by Hoopo at 9:34 AM on March 25 [5 favorites]


I get a mall shoe salesman vibe from Billy Joel. I know that sounds mean to him or to shoes salesmen or both, and that's not what I'm after, but I imagine him playing out on nights when he doesn't have to close the store, or maybe hurrying out to the gig straight from the mall. And then he has to change into his groovy duds in a maintenance closet, but he knocks the mop bucket over and splashes his pants and hopes no one notices before it dries. His foot is squishy all through the gig.
posted by pracowity at 9:36 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


No, it sounds like a guy who thought he had a clever idea for a song, tried it out, and the execution wasn't as good as he thought the idea was.

Sounds like a guy who had an idea to rip off R.E.M.'s clever idea for a song, tried it out, realized he was Billy Joel and that even if it was a shitty ripoff he could make money on it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:37 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


I really enjoy a lot of Billy Joel's music but never liked that song. I'd guess that a big reason is that I was born in the 80s so didn't live through the references in the song, so they don't mean as much to me, and I don't find the song very musically appealing.

I'm a huge fan of songs like Allentown and Rosalinda's Eyes though, and many others, although certainly not all of them.
posted by randomnity at 9:37 AM on March 25


TROUBLE IN THE SU-EZZZZ
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:42 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a guy who had an idea to rip off R.E.M.'s clever idea for a song, tried it out, realized he was Billy Joel and that even if it was a shitty ripoff he could make money on it.

Oh, well, in THAT case, if you put it THAT way, then I guess I'm totally wrong, you're totally right, and I now hate Billy Joel. You're so good at arguing; you win.
posted by grubi at 9:45 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


There's a trope for that: Something Something Leonard Bernstein
posted by zachlipton at 9:57 AM on March 25


I don't know about how the history of the time is documented on the Internet, but my recollections of the time are pretty clear, and that's my opinion, totally subjective. Mileage varies.
posted by mikelieman at 9:59 AM on March 25


I couldn't stand Billy Joel or his music until I listened to Alec Baldwin interview him on Here's The Thing. Somehow, listening to someone I don't particularly like but who is very charismatic do an amazing job of interviewing someone else I don't particularly like about music I don't really like changed my mind about it just a little bit. And now, when I hear a Billy Joel song, it reminds me of the stuff he said about it in that interview, and I feel a connection to it that I didn't have before. And I sort of almost like it - and I actually like him, I think. Funny how things are.
posted by The World Famous at 10:02 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


mikelieman: "I don't know about how the history of the time is documented on the Internet, but my recollections of the time are pretty clear, and that's my opinion, totally subjective. Mileage varies."

Don't accuse a person of causing someone to commit suicide if you have zero substantive proof.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:14 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


that's my opinion, totally subjective. Mileage varies.

In other words, "I'm talking out my ass."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Don't accuse a person of causing someone to commit suicide if you have zero substantive proof.

Or at the very least don't try to derail every Billy Joel related post with the same talking points.
posted by The Gooch at 10:25 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Assertion: He had his chance to not be a total piece-of-shit. He made his choice. Billy Joel is a total piece of shit. And always will be.

Forgiveness is something only Doug can give Billy. But maybe Billy should have thought of that before driving him to suicide. Game over.


When asked to back it up: my recollections of the time are pretty clear, and that's my opinion, totally subjective. Mileage varies.

Dude, that's insane. "He's a piece of shit for driving a man to suicide, but I have no proof any such thing occurred except I totally remember it happening that way. Oh well, right?"
posted by grubi at 10:29 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is anything wrong with Joel's music per se. What I think is is wrong is:
- the radio format of playing things into the ground until you get so fucking sick of it the lines between music-ok and music-god-awful blur.
- Joel is right in that not only do worse musicians/writers then him make it huge, but also conversely much better writers/musicians then him never see the light of day beyond playing local gigs.

Music stardom is like any other measure of "major" success, so much more of it depends on luck and timing rather than competency.

I've zero beef with Joel, he at least seems self-aware of it which is more than many. I also own zero of his albums.
posted by edgeways at 10:52 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


In the sixth grade our English teacher had us each write a paper about one of the lines in "We Didn't Start The Fire". For some reason I chose "Russians in Afghanistan". Astonishingly, my middle school library did have one book about the Soviet war in Afghanistan, but it was an incredibly dense graduate-level geopolitical text that NEEDLESS TO SAY relied on a bit more contextual knowledge than my eleven-year-old self was able to summon up. That said, a few years later, in 2001, I'm pretty sure I was one of the few kids in my ninth-grade cohort who had ever heard the name Osama Bin Laden prior to that September.
posted by threeants at 11:02 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


It's weird. I remember very clearly that the reason Weird Al didn't include "It's Still Billy Joel To Me" on his debut album was because Joel angrily told him he couldn't. In my recollection, he was a total douche to Al. A cursory Google search reveals that Al didn't include it because, by 1983 when he released that album, he felt it was a bit dated and because he didn't think it was likely that Joel would give his blessing, so he never asked. Furthermore, the Weird Al wiki explains that Al has since apologized to Joel about the song.

I believed that story so hard that I wrote about it on my blog. Funny how the brain can misremember stuff so clearly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:17 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Weird Al's a pretty mellow guy, hard to imagine him doing something out of spite.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:24 AM on March 25


I don't understand why I should care if Billy Joel's music—or anybody else's—is Genuine Rock-'N'-Roll™ or not.

I recall his being interviewed on NPR (Terry Gross, maybe?), where he quickly swatted down every question that seemed intended to pander to his ego. He insulted his own piano technique and called his left hand his "dumb hand." Naturally his career success puts him at a high risk to suffer from bouts of high self-esteem, as he surely must sometimes, but on the whole he seems somewhat less than impressed with himself.
posted by Flexagon at 11:46 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Pressure makes Billy Joel a-okay with me. Also The Stranger, which is so perfectly wonderfully late 70s it makes me cry with longing for other days.
posted by JanetLand at 11:53 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I don't see what the big deal is. Everyone goes south, every now and then.

You've done it; why can't someone else?
posted by Eideteker at 12:01 PM on March 25 [6 favorites]


Ah yes, "We Didn't Start the Fire" : the song where Billy Joel disavows all responsibility for late 20th-century history. Personally, I think he's got a guilty conscience. Who was accusing him anyway?

Even more troubling, he wrote that song in 1989. We don't know what he's been doing since then. HE MAY HAVE BEEN STARTING SOME FIRES! Personally, I think he needs to release a patch or service pack of some sort. Give us an update on his activities. Reassure us that he's not responsible for 9/11, Katrina, or the cancellation of Firefly.

Because, to be perfectly honest, I'm suspicious.
posted by evil otto at 12:01 PM on March 25 [7 favorites]


You've done it; why can't someone else?

You should know by now; you've been there yourself.
posted by grubi at 12:13 PM on March 25


With all this stuff, feels like a point comes along pretty fast when the vitriol says more about the wannabe critics and pompous writers who love to wax eloquent about themselves and their thought processes. Yes, yes, please write more at some length about your journey of discovery as it relates to a pop singer.
posted by ambient2 at 12:13 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, "We Didn't Start the Fire" : the song where Billy Joel disavows all responsibility for late 20th-century history. Personally, I think he's got a guilty conscience. Who was accusing him anyway?

Wow - this comment, a joke, reminds me of something els ,that was not -- this guy I dated who actually did talk about this song as the anthem of a typical baby boomer -- willing to point out all the problems but not take any actual responsible.

(He was cute and smart but man what a headache. How dropping bombs like that in conversations wasn't a big red flag that we weren't going to work out I will blame on youth and his particular brand of cute/smart combination.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:18 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


"You should know by now; you've been there yourself."

*nods sagely*

That said, he shouldn't be afraid to try again.
posted by Eideteker at 12:22 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, "We Didn't Start the Fire" : the song where Billy Joel disavows all responsibility for late 20th-century history. Personally, I think he's got a guilty conscience. Who was accusing him anyway?

The FIRE was the internal BURNING URGE to MURDER!
posted by grubi at 12:22 PM on March 25


Chrysostom: "Weird Al's a pretty mellow guy, hard to imagine him doing something out of spite."

He is awesome.

Saw him wear this shirt in concert twice, tho. :)
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on March 25


TROUBLE IN THE SU-EZZZZ

I always heard that as "trouble in the sewers". Because of those pesky alligators!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:59 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Self-promoting, I guess, but I did have fun doing this.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:03 PM on March 25


Still on this Weird Al search. Joel has actually performed "It's Still Billy Joel To Me." I can't find a recording of it, alas, but good for you, Joel.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:09 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


TROUBLE IN THE SU-EZZZZ

Omnomnom: I always heard that as "trouble in the sewers". Because of those pesky alligators!


I believe you were thinking of "Uptown C.H.U.D."
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:07 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


I always heard that as "trouble in the sewers". Because of those pesky alligators!

For me it was "Chocolate in the sewers."
posted by Sys Rq at 5:28 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I think anyone in my generation who grew up with a piano in the house that was played has a real soft spot for Joel.

There were precious few pop stars in the eighties that really played piano, as a lead instrument particularly, and Elton John was pretty shite. Musically, Joel has much more going on.

The fact that Joel clearly knew piano, clearly had the same kind of piano background we did, built his songs in a solid technical fashion and paid very clear homage to musicals and show tunes -the only other accessible sheet music we had that wasn't rubbish or Bartok - not to mention his somewhat... melodramatic bent - meant that we loved him.
posted by smoke at 5:36 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah -- if you were a teen in the 80s and you played piano, there was a lot to love about Billy Joel. Pressure and Billy the Kid alone could keep me practicing scales and chord progressions long past what my teacher would ask of me.
posted by tzikeh at 6:17 PM on March 25


Pressure and Billy the Kid alone could keep me practicing scales and chord progressions long past what my teacher would ask of me.

Streetlife Serenade and Vienna here. I also tried like mad to work out the opening of Angry Young Man and that piano break in the middle of Italian Restaurant. I couldn't get through that piano break without having to stop and shake my hands out - and then I saw him in concert at age 15 and learned, neither can he.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 PM on March 25


Oh yeah, Angry Young Man is kind of a fun piss take, too.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:55 PM on March 25


For me it was "Chocolate in the sewers."

Well, to be fair, that's no good, either. We have GOT to get this CHOCOLATE out of our god damn SEWERS, people!
posted by grubi at 7:01 AM on March 26


. "He's a piece of shit for driving a man to suicide, but I have no proof any such thing occurred except I totally remember it happening that way. Oh well, right?"

Right. I'm not the only person who recalls the events this way, and I'm not really surprised the public record is sparse given the PR firms cleaning up his mess for years and years... I don't give a damn if anyone agrees or disagrees particularly. It's my opinion.
posted by mikelieman at 7:55 AM on March 26


I don't give a damn if anyone agrees or disagrees particularly.

And you've derailed two threads with this now trying to make sure we know you don't give a damn if we agree.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


[Moderator here - Metafilter is not Wikipedia, nobody has to back up every assertion with exhaustive citations, and everyone is absolutely entitled to their opinions. But people are trying to have a discussion here, and making a (not widely know or believed) claim without revealing one's reasons for believing it leaves folks with, well, little to discuss. Again, everyone here is entitled to their opinions but please make an effort to discuss them or to allow them to be discussed, thank you.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:16 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I'm not the only person who recalls the events this way

So far, you are the only one.

I'm not really surprised the public record is sparse given the PR firms cleaning up his mess for years and years...

Another assertion with no evidence.

I don't give a damn if anyone agrees or disagrees particularly. It's my opinion.

It's your opinion and little else.

from EmpressCallipygos: And you've derailed two threads with this now trying to make sure we know you don't give a damn if we agree.

And there's literally nothing to find anywhere that even suggests he "drove [Doug] to suicide". The worst thing I can find (and I am looking; even as a fan, I prefer to know the dirty truth about people) is Liberty DeVitto saying he understands why Doug took his own life, due to doing something he loved and then being dismissed from the band. This is DeVitto saying it while involved in an acrimonious lawsuit against Billy Joel. So he may not be willing to be super-nice about things. And if the worst he can say is "Billy's firing contributed to Doug's suicide", then your assertion doesn't appear to hold water.

Look, you don't have to like Billy Joel. You can hate him all you want. I can't argue against people's preference (well, I can try, but, it's preference). But I'd like to think that people on Metafilter are the type of people who want to make up their minds based on evidence and facts, not just their recollection. And if there's a real, solid reason you dislike him that is not based on mere preference, then I, for one, would like to see the evidence. Claiming there's no more evidence because of some PR conspiracy smacks of conspiracy theory nonsense.

I don't doubt Billy may have acted like an asshole, maybe even being a dick specifically to Doug. But so far, your memory doesn't jibe with the evidence in place.
posted by grubi at 8:19 AM on March 26


Reliability of memory is not a terribly great source to stand on when making strong claims.

I've no idea if Joel drove anyone to suicide, but yeah just peppering conversations with it without some backup other than having remembered it is not terribly good practice.
posted by edgeways at 9:23 AM on March 26


But back to the music.

The sense I get from other interviews is that, lately, Billy's coming out of a very long stretch of bad luck and bad mood and depression and general life-slump of his own. He's getting old, things didn't turn out quite how they would, and I think he went through his own phase of "Jeez, what the hell did I do with myself and now what and how could I have fucked [foo] and [baz] up and why didn't I [schmeh] and...."

And I kind of recognize that. Doing okay now, but still a little shell-shocked because you've been through some bad shit and you don't quite trust yet that it's over. I see that in the Jimmy Fallon clip most of all - when Jimmy first introduces the idea and is describing how the iPad app works, Billy seems cautious, and hesitant - he's gonna do it, but he seems a little unsure how well it's gonna work. In earlier interviews, I've seen him be way more lively and talkative and just....more on. Not there.

But then as they get going on it, something reaches in there and triggers some longstanding joy, the joy of "oh yeah, this is just like when I was messing about with music for fun", and a light comes back on in his eyes; you can see that happen when he cuts loose with that first full verse, and the audience gets excited how good it sounds and that feeds him too, and....

yeah. I think we may be watching Billy Joel fall back in love with music again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on March 26


Billy Joel's epic hour and a half visit to the Howard Stern show from 2010 (with piano in tow)
posted by The Gooch at 10:28 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Well, to be fair, that's no good, either. We have GOT to get this CHOCOLATE out of our god damn SEWERS, people!

There's a firm in Hershey, PA that is already hard at work harvesting that resource.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:32 AM on March 26


I was just going to listen to a few minutes of The Gooch's interview link and ended up listening to the whole thing. Really interesting stuff and he and Stern have a great talk about music and inspiration.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:03 PM on March 26


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