For over 35 years, Billy Joel has mystified audiences with his unique sound and amazing songwriting abilities. Songs like “Piano Man,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Allentown” and “Captain Jack” have cemented his spot as one of the top rock artists of all time, but there’s much more to the Long Island-native’s sound than that.
Here’s a list [in no particular order] of 10 great songs by the man that you may have missed over the years, but are just as great.
“You’re My Home”- Easily one of his best love songs, the words alone are amazingly soulful. The sound is even better, as it features melodically intertwined guitar and piano work. However, the song didn’t hit its stride until it was released on his live CD, “Songs in the Attic.” Once it appeared there though, it was obvious, it was a classic. Its western timbre turns off close-minded listeners, but those who can appreciate great lyrics and multi-layered sound will love it.
“Miami 2017 [I Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway]”- Another song that was performed better on “The Songs in the Attic” album than anywhere else, this song tells a fictional tale of what Joel believes the fate of the world to be and how New York City is affected by the disaster. Among many things, seeing the Yankees being sold for free and the mafia taking over Mexico make this one of the best penned songs of Joel’s career. Possessing a ballad-like theme at first, the song picks up its pace after the first two minutes and becomes a much smoother and energized track.
“Tomorrow is Today”- A song off Joel’s debut album, which is about a 1970 incident where he tried to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish, it’s a prelude to the great lyrics fans would experience for the next 30-plus years. Sure, the sound isn’t as eclectic and rich as what we’d experience from him in the ’80s, but it’s a special song that captures a moment in everyone’s life where things weren’t perfect and we needed and deserved a pick me up.
“What’s the use of dreamin’, when tomorrow is today?”
Listening to this song, that’s what.
“The Ballad of Billy the Kid”- A great ballad that seems to be more about Billy Joel than Billy the Kid that also is performed well on “The Songs in the Attic.” Another song that features a Western-style, it shows Joel’s versatility on the piano and vocals.
“Rosalinda’s Eyes”- Adopting a Spanish-accent for the song, Joel writes another satisfying love song that is equally as catchy as it is witty. A gem on the stellar “52st Street” album, it’s perhaps one of the best songs on the disc. That says something when some of the other tracks on the album are “Honesty” and “My Life.”
“All for Leyna”- A hidden gem on “Glass Houses,” “All for Leyna” is a solid love song, but it sounds like a less mature love song than we’re accustomed to from him. Nevertheless, with tanging guitar riffs and Joel’s pounding on the piano, this is an enjoyable track.
“I Go To Extremes”- An upbeat track on his “Storm Front” album, this song features Joel with a much huskier voice, but when combined with fun instrumentals, the song stands the test of time.
“Summer, Highland Falls”- Easily one of Joel’s best penned tracks, the words of “Summer, Highland Falls” can easily make someone cry. A touching opus to love and loss, this song is a sleeper classic that every love-scorned heart should hear at least once.
“I’ve Loved These Days”- Much like “Summer Highland Falls,” “I’ve Loved These Days” is a tale of love and loss, but is a bit more positive towards the end. Joel talks about the mistakes we all make in life, but how in the end they make us stronger people. Also showcasing some stellar piano work, the song is another great ballad that has seemingly passed the public goodbye.
“Everybody Loves You Now”- “Baby all the lights are turned on you. Now you’re in the center of the stage.” What a great opening to a catchy tune. A sarcastic rant with fun vocals and speedy piano, it’s another great song that has disappeared from the radio.
There have been so many under-appreciated songs by Billy Joel that you can have a compendium of B sides equal in length to his greatest hits albums. The song “Sleeping With The Television On” from Glasshouses definitely qualifies. With its experimentation in synthesized sound and lyrics such as “Tonight unless you take some kind of chances dear/Tomorrow morning you’ll wake up with the white noise” sung in multi-layered harmonies, it’s no wonder that he has had such a long career.
“Temptation” from The Bridge is also a little-known gem. Piano and saxophone merge to create a mood in which the lyrics emphasize how the urgent needs of Joel’s are satisfied on several levels. It makes you understand that “There’s a danger in wanting too much,” but you don’t care if you’re with a person who makes you feel the way the man feels in this song about his woman.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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