Songs I Love: Billy Joel Edition

Apparently it is uncool to like Billy Joel’s music. I however am not afraid to be uncool when it comes to my love of music. I can hipster with the best of them, and I certainly know and love far more bands than most people I know have ever heard of. However I’m not one of those people who insists I don’t like music just because for whatever reason it doesn’t fit the definition of cool. New pop music? Sure why not. Older pop music? Give me some of that too. If I like it. I like it. No need to apologize or do that annoying thing I hate where people claim to like things ironically as if that’s something that can even be done.

I’ve always been a fan of Billy Joel. I grew up in his heyday so his music is practically baked into my blood and the 70s music that wasn’t ingrained in me through it’s ubiquitousness in the 80s I definitely caught up with in the 90s. The first dance at my wedding was even “Just the Way You Are”. I do like that song, but it’s not actually going to wind up on this list nor is “Piano Man” which being the most popular Billy Joel song has just made me tired of hearing it over the years.

Yesterday I was driving home and heard “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” on the radio. That’s actually a rarity. It’s not one of the Billy Joel songs that tends to get a lot of radio play. I immediately thought you know I think this is my favorite Billy Joel song, but within a matter of seconds had come up with a bunch of other ones that I like at least equally to that song. Realistically after thinking about it for a minute I decided I don’t think I could pick a favorite Billy Joel song. So here’s the handful of ones that come to the top of my list. It’s interesting I never really thought about it before, but I apparently seem to gravitate towards one that have some sort of historical meaning or that create a sort of nostalgia for a working class life that doesn’t exist anymore.

  1. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

Obviously I’m going to start with this song because it’s the one that kicked off the whole idea in my head. I love that it’s actually really almost 3 songs in one and how you’re hearing a story within a story within a story. I also have fond memories of it from my sophomore year in college when some friends and I were momentarily obsessed with it. I’m pretty sure I have a picture somehow of me and one of my friends standing on top of chairs in someone’s dorm room singing and dancing to this song.

2. “Goodnight Saigon”

I just really love the opening piano part of this song and how it really evokes the awfulness that awaits the kids that are being sent over to Vietnam to fight. Despite the not so cheery topic of the song, I have good memories of it as well. I remember falling in love with this song my freshman year of high school and having a friend play it for me on one of our other friend’s pianos at a party. I’m pretty sure I actually have a picture of him playing it in a scrapbook somewhere.

3. “Allentown”

I don’t have too much to actually say about this song except that I really love it. Again I feel like the music perfectly works with the lyrics to evoke the feeling of town that’s dying but that is leaving behind a proud people.


4. “Downeaster Alexa”

“Downeaster Alexa” feels like a sort of companion song to “Allentown” just shifting the look at a dying working class job from factory work to fishermen. It’s haunting melodies really evoke the image of being out on the water for me. I love it too.

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