Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Tribute to Billy Joel....

or
How Music can Enlighten a Life.................

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to drive into the wilds of Georgia to visit with my two small grandchildren and meet the third just born a week before. (I had made this particular trip several times before but there is always a few spots which are confusing and I've gotten a bit turned around in my travels.) I ended up renting a car to insure no break downs from my other cars and was looking forward to the break in reality. So, with this car rental came satellite radio and it was an adventure in music as well as driving.

 Besides leaving after my shift at work which caused most of the travel at night, I had to travel by myself for five hours. There was so much to listen to on satellite radio which really surprised me. From comedy stand-ups, political talks, sports talk, and music from every era of history we know, you can drive for days and not get bored. There were stations dedicated to just one musician or you could hear a variety of musicians.  What ever you wanted, it was there.

This is where I stumbled onto a station highlighting Billy Joel's music career from beginning to present day. I personally remember hearing Billy Joel as I grew up in New Jersey during the '70's.  As I listened to song after song of wonderful songs I realized what a great and timeless musician Billy Joel is.  From my youth to my adulthood and in almost all the stages of my children's life Billy Joel is there.  I have enjoyed it all. Wth this introduction, I want to post his songs and some videos which I really enjoy.

As Dick Clark was known to say:  "Music is the sound track of your life" This is so true.


I have a list here that I found in alphabetical order with some comments about the song: (facts were taken from www.songfacts.com )



1.  A Matter Of Trust-
In this song, Joel sings about what it takes to make a relationship last. Once the wave of passion subsides, it becomes a partnership where the couple has to trust each other and be there in times of need. Joel married model Christie Brinkley the year before this was released.
While Joel is known as "The Piano Man," this is the only song that he regularly plays guitar on in concert, giving him a chance to step out from behind the piano.
2. All About Soul-
3.  All For Leyna
4. Allentown-
Allentown is a town in Northeast Pennsylvania about 45 minutes away from the Pocono mountains. An industrial town, many of the once-thriving factories and mills had fallen on hard times when Joel wrote the song, and unemployment in the area was at an all-time high of 12%.

Also mentioned in the song is nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, whose main employer, Bethlehem Steel, had been closing operations. Joel sings about the unemployed workers in the line, "Out in Bethlehem they're killing time, filling out forms, standing in line."
Billy Joel did not grow up in Allentown - he grew up in Levittown, on Long Island. In an interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, he compared Allentown with his hometown while he was growing up, noting the similarities. Joel stated that the original title was "Levittown," and the original lyrics seemed kind of bland, and he felt that they would possibly be considered boring to the listeners. Some of the original lyrics included lines like, "Well we're living here in Levittown. And there's really not much going down. I don't see much when I look around. The grass is green, the trees are brown. And we're living here in Levittown." So, during the time of the upcoming studio sessions for The Nylon Curtain, Billy took a trip to Pennsylvania. It was here that he came up with the idea for new lyrics. At that time, he originally had Bethlehem in mind, but people would suddenly get the impression that the song was religious. The confusion would come from the fact that the place where the birth of Christ was said to have happened was Bethlehem, Israel. It is worth noting that Bethlehem and Allentown are right next to each other. So, he started writing down some lyrics for what later became the song "Allentown".
5.  An Innocent Man
6. And So It Goes- Personally I wasn't as familiar with this song but have grown to love it. So insightful.
Joel started writing this in the early 1980's about a relationship he then had with supermodel Elle MacPherson. Their backgrounds were so different that he knew the relationship would fail, which it did. He predicted the end of the relationship with the line "And you can have this heart to break."
The title comes from television journalist Linda Ellerbee's signature line and best-selling book title.
When Joel appeared on The Howard Stern Show in 2010, he said that this was his least-appreciated song - the best one that casual fans aren't aware of.
7. Baby Grand
8. Big Man On Mulberry Street
9. Big Shot- (interesting story behind this song) When Joel appeared on The Howard Stern Show in 2010, he explained that he wrote this song about Bianca Jagger, who was a socialite married to Mick Jagger, but it was written from Mick's perspective. Mick and Bianca were on the outs and divorced shortly before the album was released, and Billy was thinking about how Mick would sing the song to Bianca when he recorded it.
10. Captain Jack
11.  Easy Money
12.  Everybody Has a Dream
13.  Famous Last Words
14. Get It Right the First Time
15. Goodnight Saigon
16. Honesty-Just a simple song about being honest in relationships.... very insightful.

17. I Go To Extremes
18.  It's Still Rock And Roll To Me
19.  Just The Way You Are--Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth. He gave it to her as a birthday present. After 9 years of marriage, Joel divorced Elizabeth in 1982. After Joel recorded this, he didn't think much of it, considering it a "gloppy ballad" that would only get played at weddings. He credits his producer, Phil Ramone, with convincing him that it was a great song. Ramone brought Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow into the recording studio to hear the song, and of course they loved it, which was good enough for Billy. On Australian TV in 2006, Joel confirmed: "We almost didn't put it on an album. We were sitting around listening to it going naaah, that's a chick song." Billy says: "I dreamt the melody, not the words. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going, 'This is a great idea for a song.' A couple of weeks later, I'm in a business meeting, and the dream reoccurs to me right at that moment because my mind had drifted off from hearing numbers and legal jargon. And I said, 'I have to go!' I got home and I ended up writing it all in one sitting, pretty much. It took me maybe two or three hours to write the lyrics."
20. Keeping The Faith--This is an autobiographical song about Joel's teen years in the 1960s and his love for the era's music and culture. Fittingly, it is the last song on An Innocent Man, which consists of songs done in a '60s Pop style.
21. Laura
22.  Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (One of my favorites!!!)  Joel wrote this as a lullaby for his 7-year-old daughter Alexa Ray in response to her question, "Where do we go when we die?" Alexa's mom, Christie Brinkley, did the artwork for the album.  The original lyrics were about a man who lost his faith. According to a chat on Joel's The Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997, he had these lyrics translated to Latin and worked them out as a Gregorian chant. It was when putting his daughter to bed one night that he got the idea to turn the song into a lullaby - a song that would represent drifting off to sleep into the River of Dreams.
23. Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
24.  Modern Woman
25.  Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)--We knew this song when it first came out as the Yak, Yak, Yak, song.   The lyrics refer to the New York working-class immigrant masculine ethos, in which wage-earners take pride at working long hours to afford the outwards signs of having "made it" in America. The character "Anthony" questions if owning a house in Hackensack (a suburb of New York city) is worth the effort, while "Sergeant O'Leary" works 2 jobs in hopes of one day owning a Cadillac.  oel first wrote this song to a soft ballad mystery tune he had in his head. When he performed it for his band in the studio, they informed him WHERE he got the tune - it was identical to Neil Sadaka's "Laughter In The Rain." Embarrassed, Joel changed it to a more rocking tune.
26.  My Life
27. New York State Of Mind
28.  No Man's Land
29.  Only The Good Die Young-- (This song was banned from my church youth dances. Not conducive to promoting church attendance) Virginia was Virginia Callaghan, a girl Billy had a crush on when he first started playing in a band. She didn't even know he existed until she saw him in a gig, but thirteen years later he used her as the main character in this song about a Catholic girl who won't have premarital sex.
Billy says: "I originally started in bands just to meet girls – it was round the time The Beatles first hit America – but I didn't know you could actually make a living out of it. My first gig was in a church, about '64 – we did Beatles songs, and this girl I had a crush on, Virginia Callaghan, who normally wouldn't look twice at me, just stared at me through the whole gig. And I thought, 'This is so cool!' And then all these other girls were lookin' at me as well. Then, at the end of the night, the priest comes up and gives us like 15 dollars apiece, which in '64 was a fortune! Girls and money! Man, I was hooked."
 "That song was released as a single back in 1977, I think. It was not really doing very well, just languishing in the charts. Then it was banned by a radio station in New Jersey at a Catholic university. The minute the kids found out it was banned, they ran out in droves and it became a huge hit. If you tell kids they can't have something, that's what they want. I don't understand the problem with the song. It's about a guy trying to seduce a girl but, at the end of the song, she's still chaste and pure and he hasn't got anything. So I never understood what the furor was about. But I did write a letter to the archdiocese who'd banned it, asking them to ban my next record." 
As a side note: The words only the good die young might have something to do with banning the song.
Piano Man -  I love this song too...
This was inspired by Joel's experiences playing at The Executive Room, a piano bar in Los Angeles. He worked there for 6 months in 1972 after his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor, tanked. The characters in the song are based on real people Joel encountered while working at The Executive Room.
Joel played under the name Bill Martin, which explains why the patrons in the song call him Bill. Martin is his middle name.
Joel recalled to the Metro newspaper July 6, 2006 his time playing at The Executive Room: "It was a gig I did for about 6 months just to pay rent. I was living in LA and trying to get out of a bad record contract I'd signed. I worked under an assumed name, the Piano Stylings of Bill Martin, and just bulls--ted my way through it. I have no idea why that song became so popular. It's like a karaoke favorite. The melody is not very good and very repetitious, while the lyrics are like limericks. I was shocked and embarrassed when it became a hit. But my songs are like my kids and I look at that song and think: 'My kid did pretty well.'"
 Pressure: In this song, Joel talks about a guy who is struggling to cope with the pressures of his life. The song is unusual because it is sung in the second person (Joel referring to the character as "you") and is a Rock song with very little guitar. The driving synthesizer implies the near-paranoia the man is feeling.
 Rosalinda's Eyes
Say Goodbye To Hollywood
 Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
 She's Always A Woman: The lady in question was Elizabeth Small, and they first got together when she was still married to Joel's drummer Jon Small. Billy Joel was so tormented by his affair that he tried to kill himself by drinking furniture polish.(Other opinions on this suicide attempt says that he did not try because of this affair but that it had happened before the affair)  It was before and ironically, the rocker was saved by the very man he was betraying when Jon Small rushed him to hospital. The pair later married.
Billy no longer plays this in concert. On one of his college tour shows, Billy said that it was about his first wife, who he didn't really want to be singing about in the first place. He also said that while he was singing it, he would start thinking about what meal he would eat after the show. No passion whatsoever, so he dropped it.
She's Right On Time
 Sometimes A Fantasy
 Tell Her About It
 The Ballad Of Billy The Kid
 The Downeaster Alexa
 The Entertainer
The Great Wall of China
 The Longest Time
 The River Of Dreams:
Billy Joel gets a lot of song ideas in his dreams, and often struggles to remember them when he wakes up. For this song, however, he woke up with the song in his head, but tried NOT to write it. He explained on The Howard Stern Show in 2010: "I thought, Who the hell am I to try to pull off this gospel song, so I took a shower to wash this song away. I sang it in the shower and knew I had to do it."

In Joel's dream, he was "walking in his sleep," which inspired that lyric.
Joel has said that the phrase "River of Dreams" is a play on the phrase "Stream of Consciousness."
This is a very spiritual song where Joel, who identifies himself as an atheist, includes some biblical imagery, including the line, "Through the valley of fear," which is a reference to Psalm 23:4 - "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Joel also says that the river is a religious image, as "there's baptizing in a river and you have to cross the river - people are getting dunked in the river and there's rivers of blood."
The Stranger
 This Night
 Tomorrow Is Today
 Uptown Girl: Billy Joel married the supermodel Christie Brinkley less than two years after this song was released, but he wasn't even dating her when he started writing the song - he was actually dating another supermodel: Elle McPherson. Asked about his relationship with Elle on The Howard Stern Show in 2010, Joel explained: "We dated on and off. We weren't like engaged or anything. We just kind of dated. She was 19."
Joel went on to explain that he and Elle parted ways when she went off to Europe, which is around the time he started dating Brinkley. He reworked the lyrics, and by the time he finished the song, it was about Brinkley.
 Joel is from Long Island, New York, and always considered himself a working-class, regular guy. This song reflects his surprise at his ability to attract such beautiful, glamorous women. In a 1987 interview with Q magazine, Joel said: "The fact that I can attract such a beautiful woman as Christie should give hope to every ugly guy in the world!"
 Vienna: On the fourth album of his greatest hits boxed set, Joel said he was visiting his estranged father in Vienna, Austria when he saw an elderly woman sweeping the streets. He commented that is was awful to have an old woman doing that kind of work. His father said something like, "No, it isn't. she's being useful and she's doing a service that benefits everyone. She's not just sitting at home wasting away, and she's got dignity." Joel realized how American culture can push aside the elderly and strip them of their purpose and worth.
Billy's parents got divorced when he was young, and his father, Howard Joel, returned to his homeland of Germany where he got married and started a new family. He had another son (Billy Joel's half brother) Alexander Joel who is an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe who is currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig. Obviously their family is very musical. When Billy appeared on The Howard Stern show in 2010, Joel revealed that he doesn't always know what a song is about when he writes it, and he came to realize that he was dealing with his feelings about his father in this song.
 We Didn't Start The Fire:
The lyrics are a stream of consciousness list of events that Joel felt his generation was not responsible for. A lot of the references are to the Cold War (US vs. Russia), a problem his generation inherited. In the liner notes of Piano Man: The Very Best of Billy Joel, Joel explains that he wrote this song after a conversation with John Lennon's son Sean. (thanks, P - Geelong, Australia)
The rapid lyrics style was first used in a Pop song by R.E.M. in "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Before that, Bob Dylan did something similar on "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
Joel wrote the lyrics first, which he rarely does. He says that is why the song has no melody. Joel told Billboard magazine: "It's terrible musically. It's like a mosquito buzzing around your head."
This is a very popular song, and while Joel doesn't consider it one of his favorites and admits it has no melody, he explained on The Howard Stern Show that he doesn't hate the song. He does, however, have a hard time remembering all the words when he performs it in concert and has even looked to audience members mouthing the words to the song to pick up the lyrics. He is often asked if he is going to write a sequel with updated lyrics, but he has no plans to.
 Where's The Orchestra?
 You May Be Right: Love this song....
In this song, Joel takes the persona of a guy who is told he is reckless. Joel confirms the suspicion, admitting that he is crazy and extolling the virtues of a more carefree, but dangerous existence.
This is the opening track to Billy Joel's album Glass Houses. Before the song starts, there is the sound of shattered glass, to match the cover picture of Joel throwing a rock into the window of an all-glass house, as a parody of the saying "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." This was Joel's statement to his critics.
This was used as the theme song to the TV show Dave's World, which ran from 1993-1997 on CBS. Like Joel's "My Life," Billy didn't sing the version used on the show. The version of "You May Be Right" on Dave's World was sung by Southside Johnny.
 You're My Home
 You're Only Human (Second Wind)

You May Be Right....

Beautiful video of "Goodnight my Angel"

So what is Billy Joel doing now?  He gives concerts!!!  He has a standing invitation at "The Garden"  almost every month and the crowds fill the place up.  (For those living outside the "Tri-state area --New York, New Jersey and Connecticut--The Garden is actually Madison Square Garden)
The last new song he wrote River of Dreams in 1993 was over 20 years ago. He just doesn't want to write any more "pop songs" and wants to entertain by singing and playing.  He used to really do a physically draining show but since that put pressure on his hip dyspepsia and had them both replace in 2010.

So...there you have it... A musician who will last through out the ages.  I would just love to see him at the Garden this summer.... maybe I will.
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