Tag Archives: An Innocent Man

Rocks In The Attic #677: Billy Joel – ‘The Stranger’ (1977)

RITA#677There are some records that you hear so much about, they become part of the furniture. The front cover becomes so familiar, it becomes part of the wallpaper of life. You see it all the time, but you’ve never heard it. The part of your brain that reasons why it’s so ubiquitous is usually extinguished by some other factor – a dislike of the artist in question, or the fans of the artist in question.

Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was one of those records for me. When I first heard it about five years ago, it hit me like a sledgehammer. Hit after hit after hit. That’s the reason it used to sit in the record collection of my friend’s parents. “Yellow vinyl, that is!” they used to proclaim as though that might have swayed me. It didn’t. So I just remained ignorant to it for the next twenty years or so.

Billy Joel’s commercial break-through, The Stranger, is another one. His fifth studio album, it plays like a Greatest Hits record. Strangely, it stalled at #2 on the US Billboard – despite staying there for six consecutive weeks in late 1977. None of the singles did particularly well either. They all sound like number ones, but the closest to the top spot was Just The Way You Are, which peaked at #3.

Having just seen Ben Folds in concert (on his Paper Aeroplane tour), it’s lovely to listen to the piano break in Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, and hear in one ten second blast where Folds got much of his playing style from.

Maybe the reason I wrote Billy Joel off was Uptown Girl – his enduring ‘80s hit from An Innocent Man. I love Uptown Girl – it might have been overplayed to death when I was growing up, but there’s a good reason why. The melodies are so catchy, it’s one of those songs I find myself singing out of the blue without hearing it – particularly the backing vocals that kick the song off, and accompany the instrumental break later in the song.

Okay everybody, on three. One…two…three… “ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh…

Hit: Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Hidden Gem: The Stranger

Rocks In The Attic #321: Billy Joel – ‘An Innocent Man’ (1983)

RITA#321Pianists are seldom taken seriously in the world of rock ‘n roll. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, after the likes of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis ripped up the piano in the 1950s, the instrument has tended to have a hard time. I guess it’s seen as a safe choice, when compared to the ‘devil’s instrument’ of a guitar – with an air of respectability that you can never quite get away from.

Billy Joel will always be the American Elton John in my mind (or should that be Elton John as the English Billy Joel?) – they’re neighbours in the grand alphabet of rock ‘n roll – but I think he’s capable of so much more than the bespectacled Reg Dwight. Listening to a song like The Longest Time – a doo-wop classic, with vocals accompanied by nothing more than a bass guitar and a set of brushes – Joel sounds like he should have been recording music in the 1950s, not the 1980s. I’ve always had a soft-spot for We Didn’t Start The Fire, and even The River Of Dreams, as annoyingly catchy as it is, shows that if nothing else, he can write a decent melody line.

And still, no matter how guilty I feel listening to Billy Joel, I can always take pride in the fact that at least I’m not listening to Barry Manilow…

Hit: Uptown Girl

Hidden Gem: Easy Money