IT'S BETTER THAN DRINKIN' ALONE: The Official ILM Track-by-Track BILLY JOEL Listening Thread

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Welcome one and all to what is sure to be one of the most popular threads in ILM history, as we take a song-a-day, track-by-track journey through the musical output of the Piano Man himself. A quick glance at Wiki confirms his significance: thirty-three self-penned Top 40 hits, twenty-three Grammy nominations (six wins), an estimated 150 million records sold worldwide, and a position just one slot shy of the Eagles as the sixth-best-selling artist of all time in the USA. If this staggering track record has not always translated into critical cred or hipster kisses, all the more reason to dig deep, listen close, and re-evaluate.

To get things started...

https://img.discogs.com/QNpKf3_ZWbH_YncKomidPiXwucI=/fit-in/600x607/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-1580441-1420639267-9442.jpeg.jpg https://img.discogs.com/sgvR7zxU8gGhZJivqUljTKBeoy8=/fit-in/473x445/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-1580441-1257610467.jpeg.jpg

It's July, 1971. Buffeted by the troubles of the times, rock listeners find themselves reaching for the heartfelt, melodic expressions of the singer-songwriter. Perhaps taking note of Carole King's position at the top of the charts, the tiny Family label sees no reason not to take a chance on a demo tape of earnestly-sung, piano-backed ballads by a twenty-two-year-old keyboardist from Long Island. Already the veteran of a few flopped-out rock combos, but stripped of his earlier West-Coast freakout and heavy-metal trappings, William Martin Joel enters the studio to record his solo debut, Cold Spring Harbor.. It hit the streets that November, and we begin our journey with the kickoff track and sole, non-charting single: She's Got A Way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUn-XOQoN3U

Note: This recording is from a 1980s remix correcting a legendary mastering goof on the original record: the entire album ran slightly too fast, producing an up-pitched "Chipmunk" effect on Joel's vocals. Chronological purists who want to experience the music as it was originally released should click here.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 02:27 (four days ago) Permalink

Wow - I didn't know that She's Got A Way was first-track first-album! I loved this already ... but even more now know it pushed the boat out

it's just so clean & simple & pleasing.

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 02:37 (four days ago) Permalink

omg @ chipmunk version LOOOOL that is hysterical

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 02:39 (four days ago) Permalink

Well, to add to the embarrassing recording goofs, I've still got the wrong version up there! Sorry, Billy! The Youtube above is actually the Songs in the Attic live version from ten years later, which did chart. It's sort of hard to pin down these versions but give me a second here.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 02:57 (four days ago) Permalink

that Songs in the Attic version is the one i already knew. interesting!

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 02:58 (four days ago) Permalink

So, the full, pitch-corrected 1983 remix of the album is here; it's also on Spotify. Individual YouTubes are a mishmash, with both the live hit and the original Chipmunk version getting slapped up with the CSH album cover, and a bevy of do-it-yourself corrected versions. But basically this is what we should listen to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXAKedxxVe4

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 03:03 (four days ago) Permalink

It's very interesting to compare the "corrected original" to the "live hit" versions - the lingering psychedelic "let us be like children together in the garden" tweeness of the earlier recording gets ironed out of it, and he adds a pinch of harder vocal grit to the second pass through "she touches me, I get turned around." Essentially, he brings it much closer to his signature late-70s sound, though he retains the very, very stripped-down arrangement.

To be honest, I've never really strongly connected with this song - good melody, great opening line... without the Chipmunk thing, and with the right promotional backing, you imagine he could have gotten at least a regional hit out of this. But it's one of these "she's great, she's great, she's really great" kind of songs without conflict, narrative or rhythm section... makes it a bit too easy for it to just drift by. I do think I like it better in its original, rather less professional incarnation. Elsewhere, I love Joel's grand-entertainer, crowd-pleaser populism, but on these first couple albums I like also hearing this kid - affectations and fumbles and evident desire to be Paul McCartney and all.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 03:13 (four days ago) Permalink

i enjoy the way he over-enunciates as a young man. like someone said to him it's important that we understand all the words

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 03:14 (four days ago) Permalink

totally!

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 03:18 (four days ago) Permalink

it's probably more proto-air supply than anything tbh

but even in that category it's head and shoulders above. like, compared with the overwrought verging on gross "baby ima want you" syrup that will be pouring into listeners ears in the coming years, it's great

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 03:20 (four days ago) Permalink

Just based on this song, in a vacuum, I would've expected him to turn into more of a Manilow-type than he ever ended up being.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Monday, 17 July 2017 04:12 (four days ago) Permalink

the path of earnest songwriting is fraught with danger

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 04:46 (four days ago) Permalink

it's funny I haven't heard joel and manilow compared much - sure their careersan attitudes and styles are quite different, but as showtunes holdouts and staples of the adult contemporary charts... idk

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 05:11 (four days ago) Permalink

joel has way better songwriting (as this thread will hopefully bear out) - it's his abilities as a storyteller that navigated him out of those waters imo

manilow had good hooks but his lyrics are pretty bad, more like long commercial jingles

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 05:30 (four days ago) Permalink

though i agree with dr c that there's not much to the lyric on "she's got a way," it's A-plus compared to most of what we're going to be listening to over the next week and a half, simply by virtue of billy not trying too hard. he's infatuated with a girl, he says so, he rhymes "about her" with "without her," he tosses in a bridge, he's done. he can do worse, much worse, and he will. and the melody sticks. a telling start to his career: he's a piano man with a gift for a hook and not a lot to say, not yet.

having not heard cold spring harbor in years, i miss the octave vocal leap that ends the song in the songs from the attic version. that was a nice touch.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 17 July 2017 06:12 (four days ago) Permalink

This recording is from a 1980s remix correcting a legendary mastering goof on the original record

warning: they also re-recorded the backing tracks on a couple songs, without billy's involvement. the relationship between family productions' artie ripp, who signed him and owned these masters, deteriorated fast, and though billy quickly dumped him for columbia, ripp won a lot in the divorce: he owned a piece of billy's next ten (!) albums, and his logo appears on all of them.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 17 July 2017 06:22 (four days ago) Permalink

christ that's awful, the music industry really is full of absolute bandits.

i love how he put out 'Greatest Hits I And II' as one CD/album, not bothering with the traditional 1 and 2 volumes separated by say half a decade like most folk.

piscesx, Monday, 17 July 2017 10:59 (four days ago) Permalink

http://www.thatericalper.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Attila-008.jpg

We're going to pretend this never happened?

calstars, Monday, 17 July 2017 11:16 (four days ago) Permalink

re: Manilow and jingles, I had no idea he actually did some of that! "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" - wow. Another difference, as Attila reminds us, is that for all his wistful balladeering, Billy wants to ROCK, and to be thought of as a rocker. This too connects him with Lennon and McCartney much more than Manilow or most of the other archetypal singer-songwriters.

I had floated the idea of including Attila and the Hassles in this thread but ppl pointed out that they were distinct "things," and anyway we were looking at a lot of tracks on this thread. But I think ppl should check 'em out - we could do a short pause after CSH and just say "today is Attila Day," rather than going track by track... idk!

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 11:32 (four days ago) Permalink

I mean I guess people can also just talk about it whenever, also! Just thinking in the spirit of dedicated group experience or w/e.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 12:01 (four days ago) Permalink

The ratio of "discussion of Attila as music" to "lol, that cover" is historically quite lopsided. Not that I want to be the person to correct the imbalance - just sayin.

"She's Got a Way" is gr8 btw

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 July 2017 12:48 (four days ago) Permalink

Woah, hadn't realized we had started this!

So, "She's Got a Way." The version I know is the Greatest Hits one, which is the Songs From the Attic one, and this is my first time hearing the CSH version. I've always found it decent but unexceptional, not to mention tonally jarring within the chronological ordering of GH, sandwiched between the more, uh, muscular 80s material.

Listening to the original for the first time, I can see why he went with a later version. The mixing on CSH really is disgusting and I imagine that it will make the next 9 days of this thread something of a slog.

some sad trombone Twilight Zone shit (cryptosicko), Monday, 17 July 2017 13:52 (four days ago) Permalink

There is a piece from Entertainment Weekly from around the time of River of Dreams where Billy offered brief commentary on all of his albums. I tried to dig it up, but I couldn't find it. Also, EW's website is the worst.

Basically, as I recall, Billy dismisses the record due to the mastering error, claiming that he can't ever listen to it. Having my first taste of it just now, I can see why.

some sad trombone Twilight Zone shit (cryptosicko), Monday, 17 July 2017 13:58 (four days ago) Permalink

Tuneful prettiness. Not bad.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 17 July 2017 13:59 (four days ago) Permalink

affectations and fumbles and evident desire to be Paul McCartney and all

Listening to the Chipmunk version you linked above (only being familiar with the GH version before) and given the year, it strikes me that this is definitely his attempt at re-writing "Maybe I'm Amazed."

Old Lynch's Sex Paragraph (Phil D.), Monday, 17 July 2017 14:06 (four days ago) Permalink

CSH is canon, but I can't help but always thinking of Piano Man as his first record.

Similar to Bowie.

pplains, Monday, 17 July 2017 14:18 (four days ago) Permalink

(Just thought I'd beat the rest of you to writing out that last sentence.)

pplains, Monday, 17 July 2017 14:18 (four days ago) Permalink

(see also: warren zevon)

fact checking cuz, Monday, 17 July 2017 14:25 (four days ago) Permalink

ATTENTION! NATALIE MAINES IS NOT A LESBIAN.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPxllU2WUak

pplains, Monday, 17 July 2017 14:41 (four days ago) Permalink

I know singers have been tweaking lyrics to suit their gender/orientation for decades, but shifting it from first-person to third-person changes the context too much.

pplains, Monday, 17 July 2017 14:42 (four days ago) Permalink

centuries

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 July 2017 14:57 (four days ago) Permalink

The song's vagueness--he likes this woman, but can't quite isolate her particular qualities--nicely mirrors my own ambiguous feelings towards it.

some sad trombone Twilight Zone shit (cryptosicko), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:24 (four days ago) Permalink

It's a vague sentiment, sure, but it's light-years better than "Always a Woman," in which the message is "she's a heinous bitch but I like her anyway."

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:40 (four days ago) Permalink

i like this, nice little song

love the cover, i love how period it looks, like it could be some long forgotten "lost classic" reissued by Light in the Attic

though I'm pretty impressed, for a first song on a first album this feels very much like a "Billy Joel" song, like he's got his aesthetic and identity right out of the gate, like Black Sabbath or something

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:41 (four days ago) Permalink

new goal of this listening thread: to pinpoint the moment he loses his hopeful high voice

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:45 (four days ago) Permalink

The vagueness also makes it one of VERY FEW love songs that a father could plausibly dedicate to a daughter and have it come off in a not-totally-creepy way.

This may venture into uber-maudlin TMI territory, but: the line "she's got a smile that heals me" does in fact make me think of my daughter. I know it's corny as hell but there it is.

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:48 (four days ago) Permalink

no that's otm

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:51 (four days ago) Permalink

and lovely <3

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:51 (four days ago) Permalink

for a first song on a first album this feels very much like a "Billy Joel" song, like he's got his aesthetic and identity right out of the gate, like Black Sabbath or something

haha. but i'm not sure he truly finds his "billy joel" voice until track 3 on this album.

his hopeful high voice

sounds like he's channelling paul mccartney via emitt rhodes, who at this particular point in time was making better billy joel records than billy joel was.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 17 July 2017 16:53 (four days ago) Permalink

true!

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 16:54 (four days ago) Permalink

I don't know if its the pitch issue, but his voice sounds more shaky than I expected. Starting from "Piano Man" on, his voice has a confidence that he never loses - I just figured he always had it. Interesting to hear, actually

Vinnie, Monday, 17 July 2017 17:03 (four days ago) Permalink

i think he's trying to go for lilting & comes off as slightly petrified haha

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 17:10 (four days ago) Permalink

yeah track three is KEY to joel's entire steez going forward, looking forward to that.

agreed about trying to sound lilting. ATTILA reminds us that he did already know how to sing in a more forceful and confident manner, so this here is as much a "poetic" affectation as his bellows over there are an attempt to find his "hard rock" voice.

"maybe i'm amazed" is a very apt comparison - and it, too, wasn't a hit until a live album years later! I picture joel watching it rise on the charts in 1976, clenching his fists, blood boiling at the CSH screwups all over again, and swearing that if HE ever gets big enough to merit a live album, he knows just what the single will be and won't THAT show 'em all? "your song" also probably had to be on somebody's mind, the label's if not the artist's.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Monday, 17 July 2017 17:34 (four days ago) Permalink

like he's got his aesthetic and identity right out of the gate, like Black Sabbath or something running down the road, trying to loosen its load....

pplains, Monday, 17 July 2017 17:41 (four days ago) Permalink

i'm guessing this song's about the other member of attila's wife (later to be his own).

i'd always understood that the "mastering error" is because they wanted to cram too many minutes of music onto the album.

Thus Sang Freud, Monday, 17 July 2017 17:46 (four days ago) Permalink

so many wives...

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 17 July 2017 17:59 (four days ago) Permalink

like he's got his aesthetic and identity right out of the gate, like Black Sabbath or something running down the road, trying to loosen its load....

― pplains, Monday, July 17, 2017 12:41 PM (two hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

you know...for some reason it never occurred to me till this very second that the protagonist of "Take it Easy" was shitting his pants

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 17 July 2017 19:50 (four days ago) Permalink

i'd lump the eagles in with billy as a band who didn't achieve their full aesthetic and identity until track three of their debut album. chug all night y'all.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 17 July 2017 20:03 (four days ago) Permalink

i'd always understood that the "mastering error" is because they wanted to cram too many minutes of music onto the album

I hadn't heard that specifically about CSH. But I have heard that "Silver Springs" was kept off Rumours partly because the resulting length would have mean that they could just BARELY fit it in only by narrowing the grooves and unacceptably compromising the bass response.

Tangent: Interesting to think about the degree to which actual physical limitations were relevant - all of this in living memory. Les Paul was faking multitracking by ping-ponging, then the Beatles were on four tracks, then eight, then DSotM, then Steely Dan's automated mixes, then ProTools... all of this has happened within the lifespan of specific known humans. The time from the Wright brother's first flight to walking on muthaflippin moon? Many of us have grandparents who lived through both.

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 July 2017 20:32 (four days ago) Permalink

agreed about trying to sound lilting. ATTILA reminds us that he did already know how to sing in a more forceful and confident manner, so this here is as much a "poetic" affectation as his bellows over there are an attempt to find his "hard rock" voice.

Ah gotcha. I ain't heard CSH yet, so I sure as hell ain't heard Attila yet

Vinnie, Tuesday, 18 July 2017 01:52 (three days ago) Permalink

it made me think of andrew gold or gilbert o sullivan

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:27 (two days ago) Permalink

like they are worse/more saccharine versions of that style

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:28 (two days ago) Permalink

Barry definitely would have glooped it up something fierce. and would have sold 20 million copies of it.

scott seward, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:34 (two days ago) Permalink

And it would have had four key changes.

Old Lynch's Sex Paragraph (Phil D.), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:36 (two days ago) Permalink

i was thinking about andrew gold yesterday in reference to this thread. he was a total session-player insider but his real chart success, like billy's came in '77. there was a little clutch of late-70s piano guys (i'm thinking also of dean friedman) that overlapped with the yacht-rock electric-piano smooth-jazz aesthetic (michael mcdonald, bertie higgins, paul simon on 'still crazy' and 'one-trick pony'). won't go so far as to say that billy laid the groundwork for all that, but it does make it seem like the huge success of the stranger was part of a little wave, even if it owed its success as much to light rockers as to pretty evening ballads etc.

o'sullivan is an interesting contemporary for this early joel period! never thought about that before. he does seem more self-consciously "old-timey" e.g. on "matrimony." but i wonder what billy thought of "alone again, naturally."

listening to "you can make me free again" - man is it weird. super underwritten but with all this energy thrown in to make it feel like a big end-of-album jam where you'd get away with that kind of thing. and then it's track two. the hell.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:37 (two days ago) Permalink

Was googling to see if Willie Nelson covered "She's Got A Way" and ended up instead at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7pRf3TJVC8

Eazy, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:42 (two days ago) Permalink

DON: Billy Joel was an East Coast guy we could get behind. Like us, he could Rock, but he also could be quite sensitive and even Political when the song demanded it. It's not an easy mix to achieve, but he nailed it time and time again.

GLENN: Locking down Christie Brinkley for as long as he did was something else we could get behind!

DON: Well, yeah.

to fly across the city and find Aerosmith's car (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 18:53 (two days ago) Permalink

he could Rock, but he also could be quite sensitive and even Political

Dunno why but I'm irrationally annoyed that "sensitive" isn't capitalized here.

zanzibar mitzvah (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:03 (two days ago) Permalink

For the stans:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7pRf3TJVC8

Eazy, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:06 (two days ago) Permalink

Make that...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypTaxS2awdA

Eazy, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:06 (two days ago) Permalink

the phenomenon of the 70's am gold/aor male singer songwriter emotional confessional is v interesting to me

like neil diamond suddenly being all you are the sun i am the moon

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:07 (two days ago) Permalink

i've never seen either of the hassles records or attila out in the wild but if i do i'm snapping 'em up. super interesting joel curiosities for sure, but also from what i've skimmed they'd just be enjoyable no-name psych-rock background music for when you're in the mood for that kind of thing. to think, he could have been known as the Electric Organ Man.

I've got a Hassles "Best of" CD on Razor + Tie from the late '90s (Billy quashed EMI's plans for expanded editions of the two LPs a few years prior). It's not great, but also not bad. They had kind of a Poppier Rascals thing going on. Because they were on United Artists Records, they had access to some of Traffic's publishing demos, and they actually recorded and released a fine, lite Vanilla Fudge-esque version of "Coloured Rain" prior to the original's official appearance on these shores.

I also once came across a vinyl copy of (iirc) Hour of The Wolf (the second Hassles LP) at a used shop, but balked at the $20+ price tag (this was back when vinyl was cheap, natch). I seem to recall this place also had a Wind In The Willows LP (WITW being Debbie Harry's '60s band) for a similar price.

to fly across the city and find Aerosmith's car (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:07 (two days ago) Permalink

xpost ok that's how wormholes are created, that's just irresponsible

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:08 (two days ago) Permalink

all of billy looks out of place there.

I guess they couldn't lug the electric organ out into the wilderness either.

Lovin' this shot though:

http://i.imgur.com/JbDHPgb.gif

pplains, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 19:17 (two days ago) Permalink

Hour of The Wolf

title track prefigures most meat loaf and "thriller" by a decade or more. with a minute-plus drum solo in the middle. and with billy recapping a lifetime worth of piano lessons at various points along the way. in other words, the freakout at the end of "you can make me free" is amateur hour in comparison.

fact checking cuz, Wednesday, 19 July 2017 21:26 (two days ago) Permalink

i've said this on other threads so y'all probably know this but: i actually saw the hassles. johnny small, their drummer (and attila's), lived two houses down from me. i was a kid, and he was in high school, so we weren't buddies or anything. but they went through a period where they rehearsed in the garage, and me and a bunch of neighborhood kids used to gather around in their driveway and watch. i'm pretty sure "a taste of honey" was in their setlist, and i knew that one already from the beatles. i'm not even totally sure that billy was in the band then, but he probably was.

Thus Sang Freud, Thursday, 20 July 2017 00:54 (yesterday) Permalink

i asked one of them for their autograph once and they scribbled "the hassles" on a piece of paper. i think i might still have that. also a business card with their photo. there's a remnant of a hassles bumper sticker on a door in my mom's house.

Thus Sang Freud, Thursday, 20 July 2017 01:00 (yesterday) Permalink

yeah, you know what, billy joel is on that photo on the business card, so he must have been in the band.

Thus Sang Freud, Thursday, 20 July 2017 01:02 (yesterday) Permalink

okay I am now more jealous of you, sorry fcc. that rules.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 20 July 2017 01:29 (yesterday) Permalink

holy shit

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 20 July 2017 01:29 (yesterday) Permalink

okay I am now more jealous of you, sorry fcc

me too!

fact checking cuz, Thursday, 20 July 2017 03:28 (yesterday) Permalink

Meanwhile, our next track:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik3kpLWHHqg

Why Judy Why - named for Joel's sister, and with not a single keyboard instrument in earshot. This is the 1983 remix, but in this case it really is just a remix, and an opportunity to fix the Chipmunk problem - I'm fine with it. But if the clarity does seem anachronistic or false, the pitch-corrected version is out there.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 20 July 2017 03:49 (yesterday) Permalink

This was my favorite when I made my first pass at CSH the other night. Very "Yesterday"ish.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Thursday, 20 July 2017 05:09 (yesterday) Permalink

Listening for the hit maker he would become... not hearing it with this one. Don't even like his singing on this track.

that's not my post, Thursday, 20 July 2017 05:37 (yesterday) Permalink

haven't heard this one in a long time and hardly remembered it. i kinda like it. a sweet little ballad. feel like it could slip onto any number of later bj records as a side 2 album track if you played around with the arrangement and production. something about the melodic sensibility -- or maybe it's just that the "oh what a scene" bridge sounds like an early draft of the "oh she takes care of herself" bridge from "she's always a woman."

and yeah i hear the "yesterday" thing for sure. that sounds intentional. it's no "yesterday" though, obviously. i cringed at "a man my age is very young, so i'm told, why do i feel so old?" lyrically he's no cat stevens. or jim croce.

fact checking cuz, Thursday, 20 July 2017 08:55 (yesterday) Permalink

This is nice. The singing and melody sells the sentiment even if the lyrics aren't much (which has happened many times in his career). He has a real way with a melody, even this early on. I only listened to "You Can Make Me Free", "Everybody Wants You Now", and this song one time each but I can remember the melodies clearly

Vinnie, Thursday, 20 July 2017 09:32 (yesterday) Permalink

Yeah, I think this is a good one! Nice sentiment, though possibly that's colored by the knowledge that it's invoking a sister as trusted old friend... rather than painting a scene of this sad sack dude glomming onto the nearest female acquaintance with an eye on rebounding with her ("times have changed, I need more").

From what I turned up last night it doesn't seem to have had much of a presence in his live set, maybe because of the minimal and guitar-based arrangement. If you're Billy and you need to give the band a break and go "solo" for one tune, you'd stick with the piano and "She's Got A Way," I imagine.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 20 July 2017 12:06 (yesterday) Permalink

"This is nice" is all I can write.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 20 July 2017 12:06 (yesterday) Permalink

Would've sounded great on AM radio.

pplains, Thursday, 20 July 2017 13:43 (yesterday) Permalink

Pretty, unmemorable.

some sad trombone Twilight Zone shit (cryptosicko), Thursday, 20 July 2017 15:42 (yesterday) Permalink

Only song of his with acoustic guitar? Feels like his Brill Building version of "Suzanne" -- with Judy the right name for the genre. Nice for sure.

Eazy, Thursday, 20 July 2017 17:30 (yesterday) Permalink

Only song of his with acoustic guitar?

Huh? "Everybody Loves You Now," "Always a Woman," "Allentown"?

leave your emu at the door (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:04 (yesterday) Permalink

I think he means like a naked acoustic "Blackbird" type deal like this w/o piano etc

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:09 (yesterday) Permalink

also I like this song, nice charming little tune w/a memorable hook

overall i find all this stuff pretty charming, i guess it's tentative and transitional in a way, he's not quite fully formed and he sounds so young...

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:13 (yesterday) Permalink

Yeah, I usually brush past most of this record but I'm a lot more sympathetic to even the more middling material now that I'm taking it one at a time, and thinking about where I was at that age and the kind of songs I was trying to write as a hopeless keyboard singer-songwriter. It's neat.

After some more digging, it doesn't look like Billy himself plays the guitar on Why Judy Why, though I'm not sure who does. Makes sense I guess, that "Spanish" solo is not the kind of thing I'd imagine being in his guitar wheelhouse.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:20 (yesterday) Permalink

Yeah he can strum but doesn't pick

leave your emu at the door (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:40 (yesterday) Permalink

I think he means like a naked acoustic "Blackbird" type deal like this w/o piano etc

Yeah, that's what I meant -- piano-less, nylon-string picking.

Eazy, Thursday, 20 July 2017 19:42 (yesterday) Permalink

This is a little early in the evening, but I won't be at the desktop for a bit so here's our next song, closing out side one of the debut:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1mRRVhAukE&list=PLGsxlhKkg1xiWMIgCZtimqqMTlMTh_ynh&index=5

Falling of the Rain takes us back to the solo piano; lyrically, it's the first on the album to be mostly in the third-person, introducing us to a girl in a forest, a painter in a house, a fool on a hill (!), and the falling of the rain. The YouTube above is another kinda murky pitch-corrected version; the 1983 remix is considerably clearer and brighter, for better or worse.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Thursday, 20 July 2017 23:35 (yesterday) Permalink

The piano playing is nice but, you know, dorky as it is, I really cannot wait for Billy's sense of humour to kick in to his music.

some sad trombone Twilight Zone shit (cryptosicko), Thursday, 20 July 2017 23:49 (yesterday) Permalink

I hear that, tho I'm still basically smiling at all these young man's songs. Again I'm reminded of my own halting efforts, where once I hit upon a combination of a string of memorable words fitting onto a memorable hook, it's like, okay! I've got a song, it's got a title, let's record this sucker! The downside is that the rest of the lyrics are a bit undercooked, but otoh, aside from track 2 they've all been three minutes or less, and the melodies and the playing are all pleasant at worst.

As for this song specifically I think it's really lovely but I suspect if I really lingered on the lyrics I'd be groaning. The premise - a looped-around story of a wasted life and missed opportunity? I think? - reminds me of Mark Lindsay's labored and bathetic "The Old Man At The Fair" from the same year - I think Billy's doing better than THAT at least.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Friday, 21 July 2017 00:11 (twelve hours ago) Permalink

also: the hooks tend to be of the form "catchy line ending each verse" rather than completely worked out choruses, which will definitely change on the next album...

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Friday, 21 July 2017 00:25 (twelve hours ago) Permalink

someone please take billy's typewriter away from him and find him a lyricist, stat. does bernie taupin have any free time? i like where the piano playing is going though. slow those arpeggios down, look for some darker colors and maybe he'll come up with a "summer, highland falls" before too long.

fact checking cuz, Friday, 21 July 2017 00:31 (twelve hours ago) Permalink

I remember my slovenly, black trench coat wearing, Diet Coke drinking, Nintendo 64 playing college dorm neighbors playing the greatest hits cds all the damn time and that was enough to put me off BIlly forever.

calstars, Friday, 21 July 2017 02:15 (ten hours ago) Permalink

Give him another go! At least so far, we're pretty far afield of the Greatest Hits, though slovenliness will probably become an issue sooner or later.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Friday, 21 July 2017 02:17 (ten hours ago) Permalink

I tried, doc. Cold spring is so schmaltzy though.

calstars, Friday, 21 July 2017 02:25 (ten hours ago) Permalink

Song's ok, but I want that riff for my ringtone. It even sounds like rain! Everyone will look to the skies when someone calls me.

pplains, Friday, 21 July 2017 02:25 (ten hours ago) Permalink

xpost fair enough! I don't think I could say with a straight face that the schmaltz factor ever goes away, exactly, though it takes different forms perhaps.

﴿→ ☺ (Doctor Casino), Friday, 21 July 2017 02:28 (ten hours ago) Permalink

buy the ticket take the ride

forget it jake its schmaltztown

Yoni Loves Chocha (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 21 July 2017 02:28 (ten hours ago) Permalink

v enjoyable song, there's macca not only in delivery but also the lyrical concept

this debut album is sounding a lot better than I remember Piano Man sounding

niels, Friday, 21 July 2017 06:58 (five hours ago) Permalink

Those are some very Roy Bittan arpeggios on "Falling of the Rain," except I'm pretty sure Billy got there first. Was "the Professor" doing sessions before he joined up with Bruce?

I'm shocked no one invoked the name of Queen with "You Can Make Me Free." I mean that's "I Want to Break Free" before "I Want to Break Free," except Freddie always gives you a wink and a smile with the high drama and Billy always really means it. Which latter is kind of endearing if you give a fuck about Billy Joel, and grating if you don't.

Futuristic Bow Wow (thewufs), Friday, 21 July 2017 10:13 (two hours ago) Permalink


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