Monday, April 14, 2008

Loneliness=1980's Billy Joel

When I got my record player (about three or four years?) I inherited my parent's modest vinyl collection. Their record collection is pretty strange and erratic, but there was one artist they seemed to like--Billy Joel. How do I know this? Because more than one of his records survive.

Kids nowadays don't know shit about Billy Joel. People born AFTER 1993's RIVER OF DREAMS only know him as lame old white guy who is sometimes on the "classic rock" (read: Dinosaurs of Rock) stations. People from my generation know him a little better--the smug piano dude who sang "We Didn't Start the Fire" and got to fuck Christie Brinkley.

Kinda sad, because when Joel was young and hungry...all those years ago, he was really good at writing about loneliness.

Now that's not something a lot of people would want to be known for, but in the end isn't the job of any artist to distill the human experience? Say what you will about him, but Joel (brilliantly) understands the mindset of the lonely. In my book, that makes him a genius.

I'm sitting up, listening GLASS HOUSES for the trillionth time and I'm struck that out of 10 songs, 5 are about being alone/lonely in the world. I find that strange because when I think of Joel, I think of his sappy (somewhat crappy) love songs: "Just the Way You Are," "She's Got a Way," "She's Always a Woman." The list could literally go on...and yet, on this album (from 1980)--half the songs are almost the polar opposite of love songs.

It's no big surprise that the "depressing" half of this record is NEVER played on the radio (I'd never heard any of these songs until I set the needle down). All that ever gets played from this record is "You May Be Right" and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." Good songs, but emotionally vapid compared to "Sleeping with the Television On" (about two people who's hang-ups keep them lonely). I also find this song a fascinating bit of history because the song opens with the sound of the National Anthem followed by a high pitched "beep." It took me a long time to figure this out...then I remembered that at one time, TV stations actually went "Off Air."

Which, as I sit here at 1:00AM got me thinking--before 24 hour TV and Internet...what did people with insomnia do with themselves?

Anyway, go re-listen to GLASS HOUSES.

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