13
Jul 09

BILLY JOEL – “Uptown Girl”

FT + Popular75 comments • 5,182 views

#528, 5th November 1983, video

Billy Joel pays tribute to the music of his childhood, and so inevitably there’s something childish about “Uptown Girl”: its instant singability makes it sound like a Grease outtake, except there was more sex and chemistry in Grease’s flirtatious goofery. The street music – doo-wop and rock’n’roll – that “Uptown Girl” draws energy from was able to speak so powerfully to sexual and social codes partly because the act of addressing those codes head-on was itself a breach of them. There’s nothing at stake in “Uptown Girl” – how could there be? Rock and roll moved uptown long ago.

Of course Billy Joel is smart enough to realise this, and “Uptown Girl” works because it’s history written by the winners. It isn’t a record about bedding an uptown girl or wanting to bed an uptown girl, it’s a record about remembering wanting to bed an uptown girl, and boasting to your blue-collar buds that that’s what you were gonna do, and wanting to have blue-collar buds to boast to! The video makes this explicit with Christine Brinkley as pin-up come to life, but it’s in the song too, in the husky, hearty interplay of those cascading backing vox, whose prominence makes it obvious that the guys – not the girl – are the chief audience for Joel’s talk. Those endless runs of “oh-oh-whoas” are the main reason to listen to the song, and they’re a tip off as to where it’s really coming from, in spirit if not in music: not the street heat of Frankie Valli but the lusty lads-together innocence of the Beach Boys.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Martin Skidmore on 14 Jul 2009 #

    I’m at the Isabel, Kat and Lex, mostly – but I wouldn’t be able to give it zero because there is a far worse version of it (and I plan to still be here in 2020 to say that again). I found it creepy, arrogant and empty.

  2. 27
    LondonLee on 14 Jul 2009 #

    I’ll never forget the one-line review of “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” in the NME (Julie Burchill I think): “Here Billy Joel reveals the extent of his problem”

    I really don’t know about this one, it’s an enjoyable enough number but Joel is too ordinary and bloke-ish to bring off the leather-jacketed flash The Four Seasons had on their early records. It feels more like karaoke than anything.

  3. 28
    Erithian on 14 Jul 2009 #

    I’m going to come down very much in favour of this one. For me it’s more Sukrat’s scenario 1 (I’m an ugly bloke with a supermodel and you can be too) – it’s inclusive rather than specific, with no references of the type you’d find with Robbie or Britney, say. Great for bopping to, a warm-hearted singalong (and sorry Kat at #8, but what drunks in piano bars say to you is not entirely BJ’s fault!). Lots of great moments, among which I especially love the little jump along with the backing vocals on “my ship comes iiiinnn”. And it’s from one of my favourite albums of the decade – a whole suite of pastiches paying tribute to the musical styles of Billy’s youth (with a bit of Beethoven thrown in), and not a duff track among them. “An Innocent Man” lost out to “Thriller” in the Grammys, and it wuz robbed.

    There are parallels to be drawn with another singer born in 1949 and with similar blue-collar credentials (although not that blue-collar in Billy’s case, his father being a classicial pianist and his grandfather a prominent Jewish industrialist who fled the Nazis). Bruce Springsteen released “Born in the USA” around this time, another album reflecting on past youth, and looking at a harsher present when the school sports hero only has his glory days to look back on, when he thinks back to his life as an eight-year-old while looking at his own eight-year-old son, when his school buddies who went to Vietnam came home and struggled. Both Billy and Bruce peaked commercially with the albums they released in their mid-30s (possibly the reason their hardcore fans are fonder of other albums) – both reaped the reward of a model on their arm, and neither marriage lasted. Interesting that they both looked back on their younger days at the age when Elvis released “The Wonder of You” and began the Vegas years, and the age when Lennon released the “Rock’n’Roll” covers album.

    Although “An Innocent Man” is a hark-back in terms of the music rather than the lyrical content, the final track “Keeping The Faith” sums up the era he’s recreating in a neat list of the fashions of the time (neater than “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by the way, which I wouldn’t defend for a moment). It sums up and addresses the retro feel with the words “You can get just so much from a good thing / You can linger too long in your dreams / Say goodbye to the oldies but goodies / Cos the good old days weren’t always good / and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” Then he says “Now I’m going outside to have an ice cold beer in the shade / gonna listen to my 45s / ain’t it wonderful to be alive?”. It’s very much “this could be you”, in fact “this is all of us”. Inclusive? – very much so.

  4. 29
    Tracer Hand on 14 Jul 2009 #

    This is one of the few big cheesy hits which I don’t enjoy singing stupidly along with. I don’t buy that it’s simply overplayed — there are plenty of songs that are played just as much that I will gladly lend my unison background vocals to every time.

    Anyway, this is probably my least favorite song on Innocent Man which is otherwise pretty fabulous.

  5. 30
    Erithian on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Incidentally, this was almost the last number one I ever heard. I was on one of my occasional hitching trips home from Egham for the weekend, and had secured a lift from the bottom end of the M1 all the way to Manchester, so was pretty happy with life. As we passed Knutsford services, the conversation having long since flagged, I was hummng the current number one to myself. “Uptown girl, da-da-da-da-da-da OHH SHIT!

    In front of us a couple of cars had had a prang, and the back of one of them was sticking into the middle lane where we were. My driver tried to avoid it, didn’t manage to, then was hit from behind by somebody else. It wasn’t my life that flashed through my mind but the words “we’re … having … a … crash …” in slow motion. From the middle lane, we came to rest up on the embankment looking back the way we’d come. We could both very easily have been killed, but the worst that had happened was that my glasses had fallen off. I still think about that little incident every November 25th.

  6. 31
    Rory on 14 Jul 2009 #

    A narrow escape, Erithian, from having this song playing at you on a loop FOR ETERNITY.

  7. 32
    LondonLee on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Even Dante couldn’t have come up with a worse vision of Hell. Well, it could have been ‘Karma Chameleon’…

  8. 33
    Brian on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Very happy that you made it through that Erithian because you summed up my feelings about Billy Joel in # 28.

    Somehow these pre- Beatle, doo-wop ” nostalgia ” trips are part of a musical cycle here in North America. I don’t know if that type of music surfaces as often in th UK other than hen nights & kareoke….. I mean right now the musical ” Jersey Boys” ( based on the Four Seasons rise to glory ) is the hottest ticket in Toronto and still hot on Broadway.

  9. 34
    Erithian on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Thanks for that Brian! Come to think of it, the wearing of seatbelts had only been made compulsory in the UK in January 1983. Before then I hadn’t used them while hitching, since I’d been groped a few years previously by the only driver who’d ever insisted I wore one (the only such episode I ever had in 20,000 miles, by the way). If I hadn’t been wearing one that night you’d never have read #28!

    “Jersey Boys” was quite a hit in London too.

  10. 35
    lonepilgrim on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Sukrat is right to point out the contradictions in Billy Joel’s act – which may explain the reason I struggle to warm to him. I have a similar reaction to a lot of Neil Diamond’s work – in both cases there are the slick Tin Pan Alley/Brill Building type hooks but on the other hand there are the laboured singer-songwriter lyrics. At least Uptown Girl lacks the latter but it always sounds a bit too pleased with itself to really engage me. I give it 5.

  11. 36
    LondonLee on 14 Jul 2009 #

    I’ve always thought what Joel really wanted was to be Springsteen but could never escape the “Piano Man” side of his art, so that when he tries to get tough or even goofy it doesn’t quite sit so well with him. He always sounds like he’s singing in a bar to me. Nowt wrong with that of course.

  12. 37
    MBI on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Unsurprised that this is so polarizing, but “Uptown Girl” is a personal favorite. Weirdly enough, I can’t listen to the Four Seasons, and for what it’s worth I despise “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” which would probably rank around #4 on the list of my least favorite songs of all time. It’s a joy of a song.

  13. 38
    Mark M on 14 Jul 2009 #

    Count me with the antis. I feel that like a number of the number ones in the months before it, it lacks the fizz of the songs it’s paying tribute too – not quite as much as Collins’ Can’t Hurry Love, but on that spectrum.
    Beyond which, I don’t buy it. I feel that Billy Joel’s natural mode is irate – he’s Louie De Palma without the jokes. It worked well on My Life and horribly on It’s Still Rock’n’Roll, but they were both him. Uptown Girl feels like loads of people have said “wow, it’s crazy, a babe like that with a schlub like you” and he’s tried to write a song about how it would feel if he felt that. But he doesn’t: my impression is that sitting there with Christie he would be Peter Griffin-oblivious-of-his-luck rather than even Homer Simpson-ineffectually-grateful.

  14. 39
    lonepilgrim on 14 Jul 2009 #

    #37 What would #s 1-3 be on your list of least favourite songs of all time?

    I’m not sure I could name mine – I’ll need to think about it.

  15. 40
    TomLane on 15 Jul 2009 #

    In the U.S. this peaked at #3. The Innocent Man album is an ode to past sounds. Doo Wop, Four Seasons, 60’s Pop. The song has always inspired love or hate, but then that’s always been the case with Joel. Count me as loving it.

  16. 41
    Jonathan Bogart on 15 Jul 2009 #

    This was one of the first pop songs I knew about during the time it was a hit, along with “Billie Jean,” “Bad,” and not much else. You probably have to go up to MC Hammer before it becomes a regular thing. It may have been my introduction to the concept of class differences; I’m pretty sure I remember asking my dad what “uptown” meant.

    Trying to verbalize what I feel about it is surprisingly hard. I guess I neither hate it nor love it, although I can easily imagine doing either, and have probably done both (and will do again). I don’t relate to anyone’s comments above whether pro or con.

    Somehow it feels more like a piece of alien music than like anything I could be expected to have an opinion about, and my knee-jerk response is mostly curiosity that it exists at all.

  17. 42
    Billy Smart on 15 Jul 2009 #

    I’m sure that there are several playground versions of this in existance, “Downtown slag/ She’s been working for a porno mag”, etc, IIRC…

  18. 43
    wichitalineman on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Re 38: “Billy Joel’s natural mode is irate” is right, and the reason why I like odd songs of his, but could never love him. He’s too silly. He fucks up the charm of Just The Way You Are with that “I don’t want clever conversation” line (‘thanks a lot!’ thinks Whitney/Christy/Elle); Movin’ Out has that great/daft “heart attack-ack-ack” line (which I remember hearing in a NYC slice-o-pizza place with thevisitor and he said ‘this is exactly how I always imagined New York would be’); My Life, in spite of a very pretty McCartney-esque melody is fantastically belligerent (“Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone!”).

    A very New York friend of mine, old enough to be a first-hand Four Seasons fan, had a real downer on Joel. He could pick any line from We Didn’t Start The Fire and start cussing like Larry David: “‘Belgians in the Congo?’ BELGIANS in the fucking CONGO? The whole problem was that the Belgians had left the Congo, you fucking idiot!!”

  19. 44
    pink champale on 15 Jul 2009 #

    er, wasn’t the belgians’ plunder of the congo one of the most shameful episodes in all human history? your friend has radical views!

    anyway billy gets an eight from me here. this is positively bursting at the seems with hooks – he’s basically taken all the best stuff he’s ever heard on doo wop records* and crammed it into one song (which is clearly a brilliant way to go about making records). ‘uptown girl’ has also always my number one karaoke choice – no doubt accounting for those terrible associations with the song others have.

    *except the bits he saves for the lovely “for the longest time”

  20. 45
    Matthew H on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Another I bought, but I’m starting to realise I bought most of the chart in 1983 like some sort of junior Tim Rice. I also grabbed ‘Say Say Say’ and ‘Love Of The Common People’, and find no need to play any of them anymore. Remembering ‘Uptown Girl’ without hearing it again, it sounds crisp and fun and 6 is about right.

    That’s not the UK sleeve though. Not necessarily wishing to tout my more slapdash blog, you’ll see the sleeve just north-east of centre with its red note, dansette and disc scrawl masquerading as artwork.

  21. 46
    thevisitor on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Whenever I go to New York and I overhear New Yorkers conversing, it always sounds far closer to a Billy Joel song than a Bruce Springsteen song. Bruce seems to make the characters in his songs a little bit heroic. The characters in Movin’ Out and My Life have a kitchen-sink believability about them. Following on from the point about Billy Joel’s natural mode being irate, it’s often true – although one of the reasons that Allentown works well is that it’s oddly resigned. Much as I like to defend Bill though, even I have to concede that – no two ways about it – We Didn’t Start The Fire is a shocker.

  22. 47
    Erithian on 15 Jul 2009 #

    It certainly was, Pink (#44), but that was earlier in the century – in the chronology of WDSTF, the Congo episode referred to is the early 60s, Lumumba etc, when they’d left and it was still a mess. Mind you if we’re going to start dissecting that song we’ll be here for the rest of the month. Anybody want to defend it? – I agree with thevisitor above, I have to say.

    “A very New York friend of mine” – there’s a Billy Joel song title in the making, Wichita.

  23. 48
    Jonathan Bogart on 15 Jul 2009 #

    I don’t know about defense, but I feel like I’d be glad to hear “We Didn’t Start The Fire” again. Not enough to go seek it out, obviously — that would just cheapen the whole exercise — but to see if my ten-year-old memory of it as a goofily fun list song only slightly inferior to “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” hold up.

    (All together now — LEONARD BERNSTEIN!!)

  24. 49
    pink champale on 15 Jul 2009 #

    #47 yes, probably best not to look at wdstf too closely – mind you any attempt to descibe 50 years of world history in one four minute song risks losing a couple of nuances along the way. though i quite like ‘british politician sex’ as a three noun telling of the profumo affair.

  25. 50
    wichitalineman on 15 Jul 2009 #

    All together now – ROCK AND ROLL AND COLA WARS, I CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE!!

    I love the way cola wars are Billy’s tipping point after listing various 20th century atrocities.

    Oh, and ‘british politician sex’ is a great spot, Pink C, I’d never noticed it. I wonder if Billy shook his head and smiled sagely when he heard about Stephen Milligan.

  26. 51
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 Jul 2009 #

    The list bit is the good (ie silly) part of the song, it’s the “nuffink to do wiv me guvnah” chorus that’s annoying — who’s he even having the argument with?

    Newsreader: “In a surprise turn, pollticians of all parties have agreed that Billy Joel is responsible FOR EVERYTHING EVER (since time began).”

  27. 52
    pink champale on 15 Jul 2009 #

    yes, the chorus is wierd isn’t it? it’s generally taken that he’s saying “don’t blame us boomers” (though i do also like the idea that it’s simply “don’t blame me and the supermodel missus”) but isn’t he a little old to be telling his parents (and all their forbears!) that its all their fault?

  28. 53
    LondonLee on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Re: 46. Well, Joel is a New Yorker while Brucie is from New Jersey.

  29. 54
    peter goodlaws on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Erithian # 30 & 34 – Glad we didn’t lose you to the Knutsford city limits, mate. I am going to assume that your previous groping hitchhike driver was not a Jenny Hanley doppelganger kitted out in a singlet and briefs?

  30. 55
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    One thing about BJ is that you can never be sure what’s coming next. He can be excellent (Moving Out, All For Leyna) or dreadful. An Innocent Man (the song) is one of my all-time worst, a shapeless plodding morass of faux-profundity which stops for a chorus at arbitary intervals.
    I’m rather indifferent about Uptown Girl. Like many one time chart-toppers (Chuck Berry, Madness, Leo Sayer,The Hollies) the number one isn’t his best work.

  31. 56
    Erithian on 16 Jul 2009 #

    Peter #54 – no he certainly wasn’t. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say I’ve never thought of Yeovil in quite the same way since. And the scenario you allude to never quite took place…

  32. 57
    Caledonianne on 16 Jul 2009 #

    I care very little for 1980s music, 1980s fashions, 1980s politics, 1980s anything really, which is is one of the reasons I haven’t been around for the last nine months or so. This – however – is great – warm, funny, affectionate and sassy.

    I’ve never understood the hostility BJ attracts – Erithian @ #28 nails a lot of it for me. My personal favourite on An Innocent Man has always been Leave a tender M=moment alone, but this is worth an 8 (at least) to me.

    And, although Storm Front isn’t a favourite album,I love to blast along the motorway hollering along to WDSTF – Aids. Crack. Bernie Goetz.

  33. 58
    Dan M on 17 Jul 2009 #

    re: #36 “I’ve always thought what Joel really wanted was to be Springsteen but could never escape the “Piano Man” side of his art.” Yes! The first Billy Joel that I remember hearing was “only the good die young,” which was 110% ersatz Springsteen, that revealed BJ as closer to the type of lounge-singer that Bill Murray was spoofing at the time. I thought of Springsteen as brilliant back then, and now that stuff sounds more like fun over-the-topness-verging-on-self-parody than gritty genius…. which only pushes BJ further down the scale. On the other hand, # 46’s “Whenever I go to New York and I overhear New Yorkers conversing, it always sounds far closer to a Billy Joel song than a Bruce Springsteen song” is a perceptive and humane comment… but is maybe the reason why we listen to records instead of just walking around the streets eavesdropping. But I can’t really fault Joel for being a slick empty entertainer who appeals to a lot of people… any more than I do his contemporary Barry Manilow.

  34. 59
    Steve Mannion on 22 Jul 2009 #

    I wonder what exactly it was about Uptown Girl that encouraged the Uptown Wally adaptation, the kind of treatment that most catchy pop songs avoid.

  35. 60
    MikeMCSG on 27 Jul 2009 #

    11- Billy, “Say Say Say” was an interesting one. It was released without a video ,came in around 13, climbed to 8 I think then started dropping after no exposure on TOTP. McCartney then rushed down to do an interview on “Late Late Breakfast Show” -I’ve often wondered who got bumped to make way for him – and unveil a video.

    The British public kept its end of the deal and the record went back up to number 2. However they’d actually got it right first time round as it was a contrived cut and paste job which did neither of them any favours.

  36. 61
    Erithian on 17 Aug 2009 #

    Channel 4 Top 100 Watch: this was the 93rd best-selling single in the UK in the period 1952-2002.

  37. 62
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    I still like this, there is something endearingly cheesey about it. Funny you mention the doo-wop influence, as I hate doo-wop, but this is fun.

  38. 63
    DanH on 11 Feb 2013 #

    It’s odd…this and “The Longest Time” have to be the most beloved songs off of An Innocent Man, yet the only #1 from that album in America was “Tell Her About It.” Uptown did reach #3, and Longest made the Top 20, so it isn’t like either flopped, but still.

  39. 64
    Lazarus on 4 Dec 2013 #

    Re: several earlier posts, a link between Billy and Bruce was Ronnie Spector recording ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood’ with the E Street Band. One pastiche that I don’t think has been mentioned was ‘Until the Night’ on 52nd Street, in which Joel is pure Righteous Brothers with Phil Spector – and it’s bloody brilliant.

  40. 65
    Lazarus on 3 Feb 2014 #

    For those of us for whom this record, and its accompanying video, are still so fresh in the mind, it seems absurd to note that Christie Brinkley turned 60 yesterday. No doubt she’s worn well, but still …

  41. 66
    hectorthebat on 25 Nov 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 99
    Musikexpress (Germany) – The 700 Best Songs of All Time (2014) 646
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  42. 67
    mapman132 on 4 Dec 2014 #

    Not entirely surprised to see this song and BJ in general be so polarizing in the comments. It’s good to see him getting a fair shake by many here as it’s pretty much a requirement to be a Serious Music Critic in America that Thou Must Hate Billy Joel, including writing at least one article about why the man and his fans represent everything that is wrong with popular music over the past 40 or whatever years…..

    One thing that may not be evident to Brits is that BJ’s American fanbase is very much regionally skewed (far more than Springsteen’s for example), most specifically to the working-to-middle-class suburbs of the Boston-NY-Phila-DC northeast corridor. Growing up outside Philadelphia in the 80’s I can say that virtually everyone I knew had at least one BJ album in their collection, the two (now three) part Greatest Hits album if nothing else. Among those of us with deeper collections, BJ is one of the few artists whose unreleased album tracks are as well known and discussed as much as his biggest hit singles.

    I can understand that Billy Joel is not everyone’s cup of tea, but what I’ve never understood is why critics continually need to bash him to establish some sort of cred. It’s certainly true that much of his style derives from earlier periods and was in many ways out of step with the times (especially in the mid 80’s). But the songwriting craftmanship is still excellent and the lyrics actually seem to mean something (and I say that as someone who’s usually not a big lyrics person). Each song, for better or for worse, seems to actually have a story behind it. Somehow the earnestness seems to bother critics. So does the suburban nature of both his upbringing and fanbase, because apparently being from, and appealing to, the “soulless” suburbs makes one less of an artist. Anyhow, I’m a fan, a lot of my friends are fans, and the critics can…well, you get the idea ;)

    Back to “Uptown Girl”, a good 50’s pastiche, perhaps one of his signature tunes. I’m definitely in the camp that interprets it as “if I can get a supermodel, you can too”. Not my personal favorite Joel tune but good enough for 8/10. Unfortunate that in real life the uptown girl story had an ultimate sour ending :(

    #63 Agree: I’ve always thought it strange that “Tell Her About It” was one of his only three US #1’s. Still a good song though – another 8/10.

    Finally: I love “We Didn’t Start The Fire”! Never understood it’s haters – I’ve always found it catchy and clever. 9/10 from me.

  43. 68
    Larry on 8 Dec 2014 #

    I’m also happy to see the poptimists on here stoutly defending Mr. Joel. I hated him in the 80s and love him now. In between, I realized that he expresses what I and my contemporaries (geographically and in age) experienced and thought. Mapman132 (#67) is right – it’s weird how hating Joel is practically a ticket that must be punched to be cool. One would have thought a contrarian view would’ve emerged by now. And what thevisitor (#46) says rings true – Joel authentically and unabashedly expresses the voice of New York. Uptown Girl? Not my favorite Joel song – I’d give it 4 or 5.

  44. 69
    uptøwn sükråt on 8 Dec 2014 #

    the redoubtable maura johnson is an unapologetic joel stan

    (sadly i think maura mag is on ice tho)

  45. 70
    Mostro on 13 Apr 2015 #

    “Uptown Girl” seemed to be at number one forever when I was seven years old. I really disliked it, but I didn’t think too much about why.

    As an adult I still dislike it in the same visceral way, but what’s frustrating is that I’ve never been able to convincingly put my finger on just what the problem is, or why.

    On paper, it’s a catchy song. I can see why it was number one for donkey’s years. Any smugness (perceived or otherwise) over Joel getting off with a model wouldn’t have meant anything to me at that age, even if I *had* felt inclined to consider the lyrics.

    Maybe it’s the fact it’s an old-fashioned song/pastiche wrapped up in 80s production. Maybe it’s the underlying Franki Valli-isms; I wasn’t aware of his work at the time, but I’ve never been a big fan of falsettos (could never take to the Bee Gees either for that reason).

    Maybe it’s the childish quality Tom mentions. Who knows? Wish I did!

  46. 71
    Phil on 14 Apr 2015 #

    I loathed this with a passion, partly because of the astonishingly awful message & partly because it was so damn catchy. The OP is very charitable about reading it, ‘7 Days’ style, as a lad bragging to other lads; I heard it all along as an entitled dick congratulating himself on scoring a top model, and it turns out I was right – BJ says so himself, in comments (forgot the number, sorry).

    You know how George Harrison’s songs for the Beatles all basically boil down to “sod off and leave me alone” – until he gets religion, and then they’re all “how sad it is that you’re so unenlightened that you won’t sod off and leave me alone”. Billy Joel, to me, is what you get if you put that mind in the body of a hotel lounge pianist – at his happiest he’s smug, at his angriest he’s passive-aggressive. I could go on (“We didn’t start the fire” – in the immortal words of Robert Wyatt, “Yes you bloody did!”), but I’ll just point out that he wrote a song telling his wife he didn’t mind her being thick. His first wife, that is.

  47. 72
    Phil on 14 Apr 2015 #

    A bit of the lyric just floated up:

    “Uptown girl, you know I can’t afford to buy her pearls
    But maybe someday when my ship comes in…” & so on

    In other words, he’s boasting about how he’s scored a classy lady (which isn’t a good look to start with), despite being not only working-class but, more importantly, poor. And here’s Billy Joel himself, quoted in #7:

    “So here I was, a rock star who was suddenly single. I took a vacation down in the Caribbean. I met Elle McPherson, Christie Brinkley and Whitney Houston all at the same moment in some little hotel bar. … They were all down on the model shoot and I was just in the piano bar playing As Time Goes By. I looked up and there were these three gorgeous women looking at me from the other side of the piano. I looked back down at the piano and said, ‘Thank you! Being a singer is so great! What an incredible thing this is!’ I was squiring these models around! I dated Elle McPherson half a year before Christie. Then I was dating Christie Brinkley, and so the original song was Uptown Girls, I was just a pig in shit.”

    So, Christie Brinkley, what first attracted you to the millionaire Billy Joel?

    It’s the dishonesty that winds me up, as well as the self-congratulation and the blatant check this out guys! sexism. “Look what I’ve got despite being an ordinary joe with nothing to offer her but my love! OK, nothing except my love and my amazing songwriting talent! OK, my love, my songwriting talent, six Grammies and the proceeds from a multi-platinum album!” In interview he’s honest & even self-deprecating, but the BJ who comes out in songs is a self-aggrandising git.

  48. 73
    Andrew Farrell on 14 Apr 2015 #

    In fairness, I’m assuming that Christine Brinkley wasn’t short of cash herself!

  49. 74
    Phil on 14 Apr 2015 #

    Well, she was an uptown girl…

    Fun fact: Billy Joel came from Hicksville. No word of a lie.

  50. 75
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    This is a great song and nice that he finally got huge recognition in Britain (about time) however he has much better songs in my opinion.

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