‘You should give him a chance, he really understands women”. So said one 16 year old girl ( my friend) to another ( me) back in the early ’80s about the guy celebrating his 71st birthday this week, Billy Joel. This was a pretty commonplace topic for us. I would try to explain why The Police were the best & she would counter with her arguments in support of B.Joel. But nothing could change my mind. He had so many marks in the NO Column for me. He wasn’t British. He wasn’t rock star cute. A large part of his fanbase seemed to be grown ass adults. “Just the Way You Are” (ugh). “She’s Always a Woman to Me” ( make it stop). He was resolutely uncool & I was not interested in anything he had to offer.
At that point, avoiding him had become somewhat challenging. Not just because my closest friend worshipped him but because we were living on Long Island, Billy Joel ground zero, his birthplace. Make no mistake, on Long Island, Billy Joel was a God.
When Billy announced the tour to support his latest album at the time “The Nylon Curtain”, my friend bought tickets & then adamantly stated that we were going. The show was of course at freakin’ Nassau Coliseum meaning it was a “homecoming show” so the hardcore, evangelical Lawng I-lind pride would be in full effect. It sounded slightly nauseating but fine, whatever, I’ll go, jeezus.
My rejection plan remained in tact until about halfway through the show. Just like the infamous Simpson’s moment when Lisa spurned Martin & the exact point his heart burst was captured on national television, I remember the precise moment I started liking Billy Joel. There was a song on “Nylon Curtain” called “Goodnight Saigon”, an emotional reminiscence from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran. It’s a gigantic piano power ballad featuring the sound of helicopter blades over its opening notes. He started playing it & okay, it sounded kind of good. Then during the song about a dozen actual Vietnam vets came onstage, put their arms around each other & sang the pseudo chorus, “And we would all go down together”, swaying together from side to side. They were crying. Then, all of a sudden I was crying. I’d never cried at a show before in my life ( bad seats at Disney on Ice one year aside). It was embarrassing but also a little shocking to me. F-ing Billy Joel had infiltrated, he’d gotten to me. Boom.
That was it. I went out & bought the album the next day. Then, over time, welcomed the rest of his catalog into my life. Anyway, Happy 71st Billy, sorry I was such jerk to you as young one, I hope you can forgive me.
And now it’s time for the finest in new music. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the ABSOLUTE FINEST SONGS we’ve heard in recent days. Turn it up 🐝
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