Thursday, July 03, 2014

Slacker Thursday

Saw Billy Joel at the Garden last night, and got home very late.

A wonderful fun evening, even though there was no special guest as there was at Joel's previous Garden show. Heh.

In any case, assuming I'm not too wrecked from another day of helping a certain Shady Dame unpack, regular posting -- perhaps even a Listomania, if the Gods smile -- will resume tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

I've never been a Billy Joel basher, but I've also never been a BJ lover (hmm...may want to re-phrase that...ah, nevermind).

On to my point...couple of weeks ago, took my daughter back to school in upstate New York. Watching tv that evening in a cheap motel, happened upon a live Billy concert from some years back (not the Russia one). Watched it and started thinking..."you know, he's good. Really good". He played Matter of Trust, hadn't heard it in years, and I was reminded just what a great melody writer he was (is).

anyway...thanks for posting.


steve simels said...

RichD -- I have had much the same reaction to Joel over the years as you, and I had the same reaction at last night's concert. I don't like a lot of his stuff, but the good ones are out of this world, and all in all it's a helluva body of work.

It also helped that everybody on stage last night was clearly having a ball.

Blue Ash Fan said...

Even though I lost interest at the time of "Storm Front," I always felt he was underrated. I saw him several times back in the day and there was always a Springsteen-like quality to his shows: didn't take himself seriously, seemed to be enjoying himself, ran out into the audience, etc. At a show in DC, I saw him run all the way to the very back of the arena.

"Glass Houses," his take on New Wave, was always my favorite. No, it wasn't "Armed Forces," but he did a damn respectable job. So, yeah, I always liked the guy.

But, Steve, how was his singing? It seems to me that lately, Billy's voice, like Daltrey's, is just about shot.

steve simels said...

Vocally, he was absolutely flawless, actually.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Apologize in advance for taking up time and space on your site to tell this story, but, it’s a slow day and your post got me thinking about something. Hopefully, some of your readers will relate.
Four years ago my daughter was a junior in High School and we spent a lot of time visiting various colleges. One Saturday we were heading up the Thruway towards Poughkeepsie (in New York State, for folks not familiar with the east coast) to look at a school. Talking and talking, having a fine old time and, for once, listening to one of my stations on XM Radio (unpaid advertising).

At one point the introduction to Billy Joel’s theme song, Piano Man, came on. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, so I suppressed my channel-changing finger from its usual tap dance on the buttons. Once the first verse started, my daughter said something like, “hey I know this song”. Which surprised me because I don’t have a single Billy Joel album in my collection. I started singing the verse and when the chorus came she proved she had heard it before by getting most of the words right. To this day, I have no clue where she learned it.

For the next 4 and a half minutes or so, there we were…barreling north on the thruway, me singing the verses (sometimes sharp, often flat), her laughing every time I botched the words. On the choruses we sang together at the top of our lungs like we were at some drunken Oktoberfest sing-along. When we weren’t singing, we were laughing at each other’s crappy voices. Bliss. Pure bliss.

The song eventually ended and, flush with good will, I let her put on one of her stations. Didn’t want to press a good thing too hard. Four years later, I don’t remember much about Vassar College. And I’m sure my kid has no memory whatsoever of singing a Billy Joel song with me that day. But I can replay our Piano Man performance in my head perfectly.

If I ever meet Billy Joel, I’m going to try to shake his hand and thank him. But in order to have a clear conscience about it, I think I’ll legally download one of his albums tonight.


Anonymous said...

Never cared much about Billy one way or another. Mostly thought he was hokey and cornball and would change the channel when he came on the radio. But I thought "Piano Man" was a great song and didn't mind the throwback sound of "Uptown Girl."

While the album was playing, I used to mockingly sing "Big Shot" to my boyfriend from the top of our coffee table. This was at his request as I slowly removed my clothing. That was the first track on side one of 52nd Street and we never seemed to get beyond it.

Rich D's comments about BJ cracked me up because my boyfriend and I used to use the name "Billy Joel" as code for oral sex while with other people.

If one of us said let's play some Billy Joel it was a definite come on.

Steve: Did you pay for the tickets or were they comped?

I only saw Billy Joel once ages ago. He was opening for Bill Withers at the Troubadour. When he played "Captain Jack" I laughed out loud, which I don't think was his intent.

But I do respect his abilities as a musician and songwriter. It may not be my cup of tea most of the time, but he gets a lot of people off. So kudos to him.

I'm surprised and happy for you that he was vocally perfect. I've seen some fairly recent TV appearances where he sounded like a boxer that had taken way too many punches.

Do you have any idea who is in his band for these dates?


Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...


I liked your heart-warming story. Singing with your kids is a great way of bonding. The joy and laughter can generate the best kind of tears.

I used to have a diesel-engine Econoline van full of kids. Eight of 'em. His Mine Hers and Ours. All but the infant were between 8 and 11 when we hooked up [it was an instant teenage party a few years down the road - a plus and a minus]. I made a few mix tapes specifically for when we went on outings and vacations.

The en masse singing and goofing was the loudest, best and most gleeful on the Turtles "Happy Together," Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary", our husband cracking everyone up with his Ike-like deep voice and enunciation as "Rollin' On the Reebah," the Animals "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", the Beatles version of "Twist and Shout", Abba's "Fernando" [a major goof], Tommy James & the Shondells "I Think We're Alone Now", Van the Man's "Brown Eyed Girl" [our husband used to tease me and Sandy that it was about anal sex], and Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl."

If you have kids, do stuff with them while you can. Those fond memories will live forever. Make lots of them. Sing and laugh till you cry as you search for groovy places.

Again, I loooove and can sooo relate to your story RichD.

All the best,

Vickie Rock

steve simels said...

Rich D -- loved your story. Brought a little sniffle to my eyes and nose.

Vicki -- He introduced the members of the band, but none of them were from his original 70s touring and recording ensemble. They were all great, however.

The only name I knew already was this woman

Who was frighteningly good on an amazing variety of instruments.

Mark said...

If we can read Gerry Goffin's obit and throw around signifiers like Brill Building and Pickwick, we can accept Bill Joel for what he is, a great songwriter, musician and pop song craftsman. Apart from Paul Simon and Paul McCartney, and maybe Bernie Taupin, how many pop performers have elevated songwriting like Joel? And the key word here is "pop."

What with the recent attention that JERSEY BOYS has focused on pop songwriting (and by the way, my definition of deadpan is, "Jersey Boys, the movie? I thought the show was better!"), and the simple song lyrics and structures that Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe produced, it's almost difficult to imagine that less than 15 years later Billy Joel set new high levels for pop songcraft.

And sure, in the intervening period between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s, Dylan, the Beatles, and other writers emerged to tell more sophisticated stories than those associated with Brill Building-type writers. But in their time, Dylan and the Beatles (and Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, among others) were not ... pop.

Whether or not you like Billy Joel, or have heard his most popular songs too many times, and whether it's "Piano Man" for you or "The Ballad of Billy The Kid" for me, I think we can all agree that Billy Joel's songs offer pop songcraft on display at a very high level for a very long period of time, and most important, regardless of whether any of us actually like pop songs.

steve simels said...

I see nothing wrong with being the Irving Berlin of your generation.

Anonymous said...

That dumb son of a bitch Billy Joel was born 30 years too late to be what he always should have been, one of Broadway's greatest songwriters.

Allan R.

Anonymous said...

Like his stuff or not, Irving Berlin was prolific.

Billy Joel hasn't done a proper pop studio album in 21 years. And one could argue that he hasn't done a solid album since 1983. Talk about stiff on his legend. Wow.

But gorblimy, "She's Always a Woman" rules. It's perfection. Perhaps it's his "Always."

Steve: I found out who were in the band other than Crystal Taliefero. Ex Rainbow and Blue Oyster Cult journeymen guys and a few others. Maybe that's the connection with the Brian Johnson guest shot:)

Vickie Rock getting ready to play a little Billy Joel till the rooster crows

P.S. No love for Bobby Womack?

cthulhu said...

"52nd Street" is a fine album, featuring the best Righteous Brothers song they never did - the sublime "Until the Night" - and a bunch of other solid stuff. Saw him live on that tour; excellent show (was a very meaningful time in my personal life too, some really good memories - maybe influences my thoughts on that show ;-). Continued to listen to him until 1983, when the IMHO gruesomely bad "Innocent Man" disc came out; after that I was ready for him to die in a fire...

But I've always felt he's been unfairly kicked around by the critics over the last 20 years; those first several records have some staying power.

Anonymous said...


I am not a Billy Joel fan at all. But I would disagree with you about An Innocent Man being a “gruesomely bad” album. It does what it sets out to do and largely with very satisfying and fun results.

This is his new nookie record and it shows. The man’s having some fun. The 52nd Street song you mentioned, “Until the Night,” would not have been out of place here. “The Longest Time” is a near perfect doo wop song that you’d swear was written decades before. I think it’s Billy’s last solid album.

With regard to Billy getting unfairly kicked around by critics for the last twenty years, what’s the guy done in the last twenty years except live albums, compilations and a feeble attempt at classical music.

I still maintain that "She's Always a Woman" is one of his greatest songs. But that could just be the Domme in me coming out.


Vickie Rock – like a breath rippling by

Dave said...

Here's my vote for Billy Joel's best song, as personal and heartfelt as anything of Joni Mitchell's or Springsteen's. I posted to this live video despite the annoying swaybots in the audience because I love his piano playing, which gets more and more gospelly as it goes along, belying the flatness of his affect.

B.J. is a complicated guy (listen to his long interview with Howard Stern and you'll get a sense of how smart he is), and I don't think he'll ever completely satisfy any but the most hardcore fans. I'm like most of the rest of you -- don't like much of his stuff, but knocked out by some. My favorite album of his is actually his first, "Cold Spring Harbor." It is full of ambition and not a little pretension (reminds me of early Simon & Garfunkel, in that regard), but I prefer the passion to some of his paint-by-numbers stuff.

Dave F.

Anonymous said...

Dave: You are a musical scholar and a connoisseur. Your song choice is wonderful. Have you heard the demo version? How about Jennifer's version?

Not to cast aspersions on the tune at all, but this is kinda like Billy Joel's "Hey Nineteen." :-)

Vickie Rock