brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from Billy Joel …
I’ve been thinking a lot of about Billy Joel lately.
Maybe it’s because he turned 62 on May 9 — something that made my 27-year-old life feel old.
Maybe it’s because he hasn’t released an album of original rock music in 18 years — something that still makes me sad.
Or maybe it’s because no matter how many years go by — and no matter how many critics call him too Broadway, too corny, too burnt out — Billy Joel’s music keeps revealing its amazing depth.
Everyone knows the hits. Joel placed 33 singles in the Top 40 before he stopped writing pop songs in 1993 and saw his personal life spiral into rehab, divorce and lackluster tours.
But want proof of his genius? Delve into his album cuts. Almost all of them could have been singles — rich with melody and full of vivid, cutting lyrics. He’s a Tin Pan Alley talent with punk-rock swagger.
Take ‘Laura,’ for example. It’s the overlooked second track on Joel’s 1982 album The Nylon Curtain, which he made shortly after going through his first divorce. Anyone who’s ever been used and abused by a lover they can’t resist can understand the story. And even if you can’t, listen to the gorgeous Beatlesque tune, complete with the woozy bridge and hummable backing vocals.
I’ll defend Mr. Joel any chance I get. He’s the reason I took piano lessons. The reason I fell in love with pop music. The reason I thought it would be cool to bounce around a stage with a smirk.
But more than anything, he’s written dozens of wonderful songs.