Friday, December 30, 2005

Billy Joel and What Could Have Been

As long as I'm picking on aging Rockers (see last blog on Rod Stewart)...

Billy Joel's 1978 "The Stranger" album showed so much promise. It's pop feel and gritty, dark edges deftly maneuvered the boundaries between rock, pop and easy listening.

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" was a Springsteenian epic about a marital breakup, complete with a Clarence Clemmons like sax solo. "The Stranger", "Moving Out" and "Only The Good Die Young" were appealing, upbeat rockers while "She's Always A Woman" and "Just the Way You Are" demonstrated that Billy knew his way around a heartfelt ballad.

Unfortunately, Billy was never able to live up to the potential of that breakthrough album. He followed up with a series of lightweight pop songs such as "My Life", "You May Be Right", "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me" and was never taken as seriously again.

As his career continued, occasional glimpses of brilliance on songs like like "Allentown" and "Pressure" were consistently mixed with embarrassing tripe like "Uptown Girl", "The Longest Time" and "Tell Her About It". One step forward, two steps back.

Make no mistake, Billy's music has been a huge commercial success. But it always bothered me that he could have been so much more.

Witnessing a potential Rock Superstar morph into lightweight, banal commercialism is disturbing and shakes the faith we have in all our Rock Heroes.

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