Friday, December 14, 2012

Okay, Let's Not Let This Billy Joel Mania Get Out of Hand

So -- like many of you, I watched the benefit concert for the Hurricane Sandy victims on Wednesday and mostly enjoyed it.

To my surprise, however, on Thursday morning I was moved to post the following on that Facebook thing the kids seem to like.

And may I simply say, and for the record, that although I have never been a Billy Joel fan particularly, and I don't think I ever even owned one of his albums -- he clearly stole the show at the Garden last night, despite the fact that he has turned into John McGiver in his old age.

And I think we have to face the fact that he has a seriously impressive body of work. If he's the Irving Berlin of his generation so be it -- and Irving was nowhere near as good a piano player. Or singer.

I will stand by that assessment, with the obvious caveat that the evening's other high point was clearly Kanye West, who looked just so darn good in a dress.

That said, however, I came across the following video of the young William Joel in 1967, performing a song from his first album with his first band The Hassles. And almost threw up something in my mouth.

Seriously -- I went to college on Long Island, and every goddamn band that ever got booked for a dance at my old school back then was just like this. Rascals/Vanilla Fudge clones with the requisite Hammond B-3 and the lead singer who could hit notes only dogs could hear. I hated every fucking one of them, and the Hassles -- who I saw in the South Cafeteria of the aforementioned old school -- were amongst the worst offenders.

On the other hand, we were all very young and there were probably drugs involved, so maybe I should cut them all some slack.

Have I mentioned that Kanye West looked good in a dress?


geor3ge said...

Could be worse. Could be Attila.

steve simels said...

Good point.

MJConroy said...

Steve - I feel the exact same way about Billy Joel (minus the hatred from you college days). I don't have any of his catalog in my collection. But I watched the earlier Sandy benefit and he was by far the best performer that night - watch this:

Brooklyn Girl said...

Joel stole the show.

Anonymous said...

Saw Billy Joel open for Tom Petty years ago. Billy Joel blew Petty off the stage. Not a big fan but the man knows how to put on a show

Dave said...

My favorite album of his is his first solo, "Cold Spring Harbor, which eventually was released with proper tempo. But there are gems on almost every album (most of which I don't own).

I've never understood all the hate for him. He may not be my fave, but craftsmanship and persistence is worth a lot in my book.

cthulhu said...

I've said for many years that the 52nd Street disc is a quality set of music, and there are good songs on every album he released from Piano Man in the early '70s through The Nylon Curtain in 1982.

But he went totally off the rails with the execrable Innocent Man set in 1983, and IMHO has never recovered, at least a a singer-songwriter. Maybe he can still put on a show (I didn't watch the 12/12/12 concert), but he can't create anything new that's worthwhile. And I think that's where a lot of the Billy Joel hate comes from, and some people have revisited his earlier stuff in the light of his abysmal output of the last 20 years.

Even though the child is the father to the man, I still find worth in that first ten years, though...

salhepatica said...

I despised "Piano Man" and "Captain Jack," but in 1977 I told my girlfriend we were going to see the Sex Pistols play their first ever American gig in Pittsburgh, and she said, "Only if you take me to see Billy Joel the next month."

The Pistols famously got held up in customs and the Pittsburgh gig was cancelled. The Billy Joel gig was not. I plastered a smile on my face and went. And it didn't suck. Indeed, it was a really good night's entertainment, the two aforementioned songs aside. Billy was a great raconteur, and at one point when it looked like he was about to play "Just the Way You Are," he instead launched into a note-perfect parody of Paul Simon singing "Still Crazy After All These Years." I'm still not what you'd call a fan, but Billy gets my respect.

DB said...

Never quite understood the hate.

The guy made piano-based pop music that was musically and lyrically intelligent. His storytelling never quite veered into Harry Chapinesque mawkishness. And he occasionally delivered a terrific song.

And as previously stated, he can put on a show. Saw him when he was touring behind "The Stranger" and the show was muscular and fun. Saw him decades later sharing time with Elton John, who was a douche on stage, and he made the evening tolerable. And I saw him a few years back at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, where he put on an excellent show.