B for Billy Joel
A few times on this blog before I have explained to my readers the musicians who I loved when I was a child. I was born in ’79 so I was definitely a product of Mtv. My dad watched quite a bit of TV in the evenings and on weekends (he did work, of course) and I was highly influenced and, well, taken by the artistic format. Two major artists I loved when I was about 5 or 6 are Van Halen and Billy Joel.
Uptown Girl was my first favorite Joel song. The melody was appealing to me and the overall theme of this mechanic falling for the snooty rich girl, and pointing out how he’s out of her league, was so enthralling. The dance scenes in the video, too, appealed to me as a young girl.
It was from there that I stole my parents’ cassette tape of his Greatest Hits, Vol, I and II and listened to it in my own room on my own boombox. It felt special at the same time as secretive. I am sure they didn’t mind but it was as if I was finding something that didn’t belong to me and making it my own.
I knew his radio hits such as Piano Man and Tell Her About It but my favorite songs were not the ones they typically played. I enjoyed Allentown and The Longest Time. I avoided Pressure because my dad loved it and I didn’t want to copy him.
Once I exhausted that cassette entirely – knew every word and beat to a T – I moved on to the Storm Front album. The songs there had much more depth, in my opinion. Of course, it had We Didn’t Start the Fire which my 8th grade history teacher used as a substitute for, you know, a text book and any kind of actual teaching. Not saying it didn’t help; I listened to that song and got curious about historical events, thereby doing my own research.
As years passed, I always circled back to Billy Joel, even when I went through my 60s rock phase and liked Zeppelin and the Doors. Even when I bought Ozzy’s No More Tears album and subsequently got into harder stuff. Even in 1995 when I purchased my first Pantera album (it felt extremely illicit to do so), I would always return to the soft melodies and story-telling structure of Joel’s music.