Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 10 Billy Joel Albums

Mostly, music is about being cool. But it's never been just about the music – it's the whole package: the scene, the fashion, the haircuts, the graphics ... And while, don't get me wrong, I do occasionally listen to some cool music (from Animal Collective to The XX), sometimes I just want to be told a story with a catchy tune (and maybe a bit of social comment thrown in). Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon may do this pretty well, but sometimes I just want to listen to Billy Joel, who has never, ever been cool. Is that why he's so unpopular amongst (cool) people?

I think his songs are good, great even, some of them. They tell a story, and they're catchy. They rock. But he is uncool. And now bald and a bit podgy (and he released a classical album in 2001). And Melvyn Bragg likes him. Not good for a rock star. He was vaguely cool for a while in the 70s. He even had a pretty cool record cover – The Stranger.

His songs have meaning to people. A close friend of mine – now dead – loved The Piano Man. For him, a recovering alcoholic, it was like an anthem. He used to play it to me real loud and shout out the lyrics, "The microphone smells like a beer!" After his funeral, a friend and I went into a pub with a jukebox, ordered two double whiskies, found The Piano Man on the jukebox and played it over and over – much to the consternation of everyone in the pub watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire on the TV.

Online magazine Slate gave him a right slating in an article titled The Worst Pop Singer Ever, somewhat unfairly I feel – at least he does/did have some talent – unlike many more easier targets in the music world.

1. The Stranger (1977)
2. 52nd Street (1978)
3. Glass Houses (1980)
4. Piano Man (1973)
5. An Innocent Man (1983)
6. Turnstiles (1976)
7. Cold Spring Harbour (1971)
8. Streetlife Serenade (1974)
9. The Nylon Curtain (1982)
10. Storm Front (1989)

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