Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Pop Quiz

"Sleeping With the Television On," from Billy Joel''s "New Wave" album Glass Houses (1980): A great record?




Discuss.

Extra credit: Are Billy Joel...



and Worst Human Being of the 20th Century Roy Cohn...


...the same person?

24 comments:

Blue Ash Fan said...

Billy Joel channels Elvis Costello. A great record? I've loved it for 30 years. Maybe that doesn't mean it's a great record, but it's definitely better than it has any business being.

Cohn was a terrible person. Joel is merely a terrible driver.

steve simels said...

I don't know if it's a great record either, but I think a) we all know the feeling and b) it's got a killer bridge.
:-)

Dave said...

I don't like the album but I like this song very much. Along with "All for Leyna," this was the heart of "Glass Houses." I found all the singles annoying.

My favorite Billy Joel album is "Cold Spring Harbor," and I got so used to the sped-up vinyl version that when B.J. finally was able to remaster it, the "improved" version sounded funny to me.

FD13NYC said...

Actually my favorite song from Glass Houses is Through The Long Night (last song) listen to that one, it's beautifully arranged and hauntingly executed.

My two favorite BJ LPs are probably Turnstiles and Nylon Curtain. Great stuff on those two.

What's with Roy Cohn's nose? It looks like someone took a small hatchet to it down the middle. Which someone probably did.

FD13NYC said...

Also Until The Night from 52nd Street. A nice homage to the Righteous Brothers.

steves said...

Worst Person of the 20th Century? You flatter him. Biggest Scumbag, maybe, but certainly not Worst Person.

And I like Glass Houses, but it was mostly downhill from there.

tbrough said...

Yes, GREAT single from Billy Joel. I was also fond of Linda Ronstadt's new wave 45 "How Do I Make You" from the same period.

steve simels said...

steves said...
Worst Person of the 20th Century? You flatter him. Biggest Scumbag, maybe, but certainly not Worst Person.


Dude, I was going to say Worst Jew.

But I thought that might be misinterpreted...
:-)

Blue Ash Fan said...

Don't forget "I Don't Want to Be Alone" from the same LP. I always had a soft spot for that one. Probably because I lived it so many times, but we won't go into my neuroses here.

Michael said...

Great album for Frisbee practice.

TMink said...

What a timely question! I am putting my Billy Joel records on my computer and iPod. First was Piano Man, which sounds really great. Then came Streetlife Serenader and Turnstiles. Both continue to sound great.

Then there is The Stranger, I really enjoy the songs, but the production and sound are almost painful. The bass is turned off so that it sounds at home like it is coming out of a 6 inch speaker in your car.

So where does Glass Houses fit in? I think I rill rip it next. Not so much because I like it better thatn The Stranger and 52nd street, but because I am not as familiar with the music as I am those two blockbusters.

I bet the correct speed Cold Spring Harbor will make it to digits before the blockbusters.

Trey

Noam Sane said...

Not his worst. The farfisa is kinda funny/sad in a musical me-too sense.
I'll give it a 2.

big bad wolf said...

probably not great, but damn good. it was the song that brought me back to glass houses many times after i decided i didn't really like the album

Edward said...

NO! There is no such thing as a Great Billy Joel record.

I used to have an uncanny ability to hear a new Billy Joel song, not know it was him, and still hate it.

Favorite Roy Cohn story: I was in a used bookstore in the San Fernando Valley circa 1980. There was a shelf that was almost empty but for two books. The shelf was labelled "Swine Biographies." The two books were the biographies of Miss Piggy and Roy Cohn.

I bought a book from the store just on principle;>

steve simels said...

Edward, that's hilarious.

Long story short: A carpenter friend of mine was once doing some work rennovating an apartment in NYC. Turns out Cohn had lived there before his death, and in one of the closets my friend found a box full of notepads with a caricature of the creep and the legend "From the Desk of Roy Cohn."

He gave me one, which was one of my most cherished possessions for a while, for obvious reasons.

I lost it at some point, though. Damn!

elroy said...

My favorite song from this album.

Steve, I'm not sure but I think TMFKASR used to give Billy Joel some pretty good reviews at this stage of his career. I don't think you reviewed him (Noel Coppage perhaps?). I was a big fan from Piano Man through Nylon Curtain, which I believe followed Glass Houses, even though I was shocked when he became so huge.

I was in school in LA and would regularly wait for the LA Times critic, Robert Hilburn, to rake Joel over the coals for his latest album. Always called him derivative and too much of chameleon, and not good at it like Elton John.

Good times...

steve simels said...

Elroy:

Unless I'm very much mistaken, I never reviewed a Billy Joel album at the mag. We may have run some pro pieces, I don't recall, but if we did, I definitely didn't write 'em.

I don't think I warmed to him at all till the Ronnie Spector/E Street Band version of "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."
:-)

cthulhu said...

I continue to hold that "52nd Street" is a fine piece of work: lots of thoughtful songs in a pop/rock vein, a sharp eye for detail in the lyrics (see, e.g., Zanzibar), well-performed and recorded. IIRC, Joel Vance at TMFKASR gave it a very good review in late 1978/early 1979. Joel descended into the depths of hell with the gruesomely bad "An Innocent Man" disc in 1983, and has never recovered. But the stuff from 1973 to 1982 has some real moments.

NYMary said...

It may cost me my marriage, but I like this record. Thers, being raised in Queens and going to college on LI in the later 1980s, associates Billy Joel exclusively with morose, drunken confessions and having people puke in his dorm room. His ban is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder control, I believe.

And, as tbrough notes, Linda Ronstadt had a similar record around this period--if Joel's gift here revealed is mimickry of the power pop form, hers, as always, was picking good songs from the mode: Mad Love (1980) has a handful of Elvis Costello songs (Party Girl, Girls Talk, and Talking in the Dark), a Neil Young song (Look Out for My Love), and, interestingly for the basic thesis of this blog, a couple of tunes from the mid-60s (I Can't Let Go and Hurts So Bad). She then had her people come up with a couple more to match and flesh out, but the basic connection between the mid-60s and the late 70s is clear. I like this record.

And though if you really hate power pop (though if you do, I'm not sure why you'd be here), Glass Houses and Mad Love might represent the same sort of thing as the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney releasing disco singles--outsiders dabbling in a briefly popular form--it's still a decent reminder that this music, call it new wave of power pop or whatever, was at a certain point considered worth glomming onto.

TMink said...

I think Joel say himself as a writer and composer. There are those two instrumentals on Streetlife Serenade, and the later romantic piano compositions. I wonder if he responded to the new vibe in the music and thought "as a songwriter and arranger, I can do this." So yes, he was dabbling, and it is not really great new wave, but it does not suck and it can make me smile.

Trey

Brooklyn Girl said...

Cohn's suspended head is ... um ... creepy. Good thing the Wizard of Oz didn't look like him! :-)

MJConroy said...

I'm amazed at the love for BJ, I've always felt that Billy Joel is a poseur - he's really still just a bar piano player not matter what he tries to be! Still haven't heard a song of his I like.(grabbing chair and ducking now.)

Michael said...

Your not alone MJConroy, your not alone. Fake jazz, phony crooner, clueless rocker. Though if born 15 years earlier he would have been a real threat to Neil Sadaka.

Dave Lifton said...

Steve,

I very specifically remember you trashing The Bridge in TMFKASR, prompting a self-serious Long Island teen to write an angry letter about how you knew nothing about music.

As for Sleeping With The Television On, I love it and the rest of Glass Houses. Just don't aks me why.