Sat Eye Candy: Billy Joel


While easy and fashionable to hate on Billy Joel, naysayers should consider how many times they've sold out Madison Square Garden, how many super models they've married and how many gold records line their walls before opening their pie-hole. Joel is a throwback to Tin Pan Alley, a song and dance man in a video world (and even with a face-made-for-radio he survived in that medium far longer than anyone could have expected). While he's piled on sophistication in his later years, it's his basic storytelling and gift for populist melodies, combined with a tear-the-house-down live ethic, that's endeared him to millions.

Scoff if you will but it's his songs that soundtrack the lives of average folks punching time clocks, waiting tables and keeping homes for their families. What he does speaks to our commonalities, our shared anxieties, our universal dreams. Even at the height of his popularity Joel was never cool, but he is the one-in-a-million ivory tickler that made it out of the secondhand smoke and into the spotlight. He's a classic "sandwich maker," a dude plying a trade that succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, and within his success lies part of his widespread appeal - the possibility of a regular guy making good.

We wish you a very happy birthday, Mr. Joel. Hope everyone in your Italian restaurant toasts you well today. By the way, 12 sold-out shows at the Garden in 2006 alone, breaking Bruce Springsteen's previous record of 10 sold-out shows in a single year.

We begin on a wistful note, a mood Joel excels at in a big way.

"They say that these are not the best of times/ but they're the only times I've ever known." There's succinct wisdom in the opening line to one of Joe's best.

Next, we travel back to 1978 when his hair was 'fro-like, his suits ill-fitting and the cocktail days still fresh in his memory.

A couple of Grouch groupies offer an unwelcome serenade.

One of Joel's finer uptempo numbers offered up live.

Back to melancholy shores with a fab version of this deep album cut from The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1978.

We stay with Whistle Test for this 1975 performance of his signature tune. Apparently, he and John Oates shared custody of that mustache in the '70s.

This week concludes with a pair of Joel's most sweeping numbers.

And don't forget, you can eyeball video sweetness 24/7 with JamBase TV.

[Published on: 5/9/09]

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