Disenchanted with Los Angeles, Joel returned to New York City in and recorded Turnstiles , the first album he recorded with the group of hand-picked musicians who became the Billy Joel Band. Dissatisfied with the result, Joel re-recorded the songs and produced the album himself. In a radio interview, Joel said that he no longer performs the song because singing it in its high original key "shreds" his vocal cords ; however, he did finally play it live for the first time since when he sang it at the Hollywood Bowl in May Bennett Sings the Blues.
The Stranger was an enormous commercial success, yielding four Top hits on the Billboard charts: The Stranger also featured " Scenes from an Italian Restaurant ", an album-oriented rock classic, which has become one of his best-known songs. The album sold over seven million copies, propelled to number one on the charts by the following hits: A cover of "My Life" sung by Gary Bennett became the theme song for a new television sitcom, Bosom Buddies , which featured actor Tom Hanks in one of his earliest roles.
The success of his piano-driven ballads like "Just the Way You Are", "She's Always a Woman", and "Honesty" led some critics to label Joel a " balladeer " and " soft rocker ".
Joel thought these labels were unfair and insulting, and with Glass Houses , he tried to record an album that proved that he could rock harder than his critics gave him credit for, occasionally imitating and referring to the style of new wave rock music that was starting to become popular at the time. On the front cover of the album, Joel is pictured in a leather jacket, about to throw a rock at a glass house referring to the adage that "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
Glass Houses spent six weeks at No. In response, he received a pamphlet about Beatles merchandise. His next release, Songs in the Attic , was composed of live performances of less well-known songs from the beginning of his career. It was recorded during larger US arenas and intimate night club shows in June and July This release introduced many fans, who discovered Joel when The Stranger became a smash in , to many of his earlier compositions. The album reached No. Although not as successful as some of his previous albums, the album was still considered a success by Joel.
The next wave of Joel's career commenced with the recording of his next studio album, The Nylon Curtain. With The Nylon Curtain , Joel became more ambitious with his songwriting, trying his hand at writing topical songs like "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon". Joel has stated that he wanted the album to communicate his feelings about the American Dream and how changes in American politics during the Reagan years meant that "all of a sudden you weren't going to be able to inherit [the kind of life] your old man had.
Joel said that he wanted to "create a sonic masterpiece" on The Nylon Curtain.
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So he spent more time in the studio, crafting the sound of the album, than he had on any previous album. However, production was temporarily delayed when Joel was involved in a serious motorcycle accident on Long Island on April 15, , severely injuring his hands. Still, Joel quickly recovered from his injuries, and the album only ended up being delayed by a few months. In , he embarked on a brief tour in support of the album. The Nylon Curtain went to No. Joel's next album moved away from the serious themes of The Nylon Curtain and struck a much lighter tone.
The album itself reached No. It also boasted six top singles, the most of any album in Joel's catalog. The album was well received by critics, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine , senior editor for AllMusic, describing Joel as being "in top form as a craftsman throughout the record, effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles. The music video of the song, originally written about then girlfriend Elle MacPherson , featured future wife Christie Brinkley as a high society girl, whose car pulls into the gas station where Joel's character is working.
At the end of the video, Joel's "grease monkey" character drives off with his "uptown girl" on the back of a motorcycle. When Brinkley went to visit Joel after being asked to star in the video, the first thing Joel said to her upon opening his door was "I don't dance". Brinkley had to walk him through the basic steps he does in the video.
Their work together on this video shoot sparked a relationship between the two which would later lead to their marriage in In the video for "Keeping the Faith", Christie Brinkley also plays the "redhead girl in a Chevrolet". Following the success of An Innocent Man , Joel was asked about releasing an album of his most successful singles. This was not the first time this topic had come up, but Joel had initially considered "Greatest Hits" albums as marking the end of one's career.
This time he agreed, and Greatest Hits Vol. Greatest Hits was highly successful and it has since been certified double diamond by the RIAA , with over Coinciding with the Greatest Hits album release, Joel released a two-volume Video Album that was a compilation of the promotional videos he had recorded from to the present time. Along with videos for the new singles off the Greatest Hits album, Joel also recorded a video for his first hit, "Piano Man", for this project.
Although it broke into the top ten, Joel's next album, The Bridge , did not achieve the level of success of his previous albums, but it yielded the hits " A Matter of Trust " and " Modern Woman " from the film Ruthless People , a dark comedy from the directors of Airplane!
In a departure from his "piano man" persona, Joel is shown in the video playing a Gibson Les Paul. The ballad " This is the Time " also charted, peaking at No. The episode itself was also titled "Big Man on Mulberry Street". The Bridge was Joel's last album to carry the Family Productions logo, after which he severed his ties with Artie Ripp. Joel has also stated in many interviews, most recently in a interview in Performing Songwriter magazine, that he does not think The Bridge is a good album.
In October , Joel and his handlers started planning a trip to the Soviet Union. He became one of the first American rock acts to play there since the Berlin Wall went up, a fact not lost on history buff Joel. Joel, his family including young daughter Alexa , and his full touring band made the trip in August The entourage was filmed for television and video to offset the cost of the trip, and the concerts were simulcast on radio around the world.
Joel's Russian tour was the first live rock radio broadcast in Soviet history. Most of that audience took a long while to warm up to Joel's energetic show, something that had never happened in other countries he had performed in. According to Joel, each time the fans were hit with the bright lights, anybody who seemed to be enjoying themselves froze. In addition, people who were "overreacting" were removed by security. Singer Pete Hewlett was brought in to hit the high notes on his most vocally challenging songs, like "An Innocent Man".
Joel also did versions of The Beatles' classic " Back in the U. The character's design is based on Joel's image at the time, including his trademark Wayfarer sunglasses. Joel also sang his character's song "Why Should I Worry? The recording of the album Storm Front , which commenced in , coincided with major changes in Joel's career and inaugurated a period of serious upheaval in his business affairs.
In August , just before the album was released, Joel dismissed his manager and former brother-in-law Frank Weber after an audit revealed major discrepancies in Weber's accounting. The first single for the album, " We Didn't Start the Fire ", was released in September and it became Joel's third and — to date — most-recent US number-one hit, spending two weeks at the top.
Storm Front was released in October, and it eventually became Joel's first number-one album since Glass Houses , nine years earlier. For this album, he wanted a new sound, and worked with Mick Jones of Foreigner fame.
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Joel is also credited as one of the keyboard players on Jones' self-titled solo album, and is featured in the official video for Jones' single "Just Wanna Hold"; Joel can be seen playing the piano while his then-wife Christie Brinkley joins him and kisses him. Joel also revamped his backing band, dismissing everyone but drummer Liberty DeVitto , guitarist David Brown, and saxophone player Mark Rivera , and bringing in new faces, including multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero. The album was also notable for its song " Leningrad ", written after Joel met a clown in the Soviet city of that name during his tour in , and " The Downeaster Alexa ", written to underscore the plight of fishermen on Long Island who are barely able to make ends meet.
Another well-known single from the album is the ballad " And So It Goes " 37 in late The song was originally written in , around the time Joel was writing songs for An Innocent Man ; but "And So It Goes" did not fit that album's retro theme, so it was held back until Storm Front. Joel said in a Masterclass session in Pittsburgh that Storm Front was a turbulent album and that "And So It Goes", as the last song on the album, portrayed the calm and tranquility that often follows a violent thunderstorm. That year, Joel also started work on River of Dreams , finishing the album in early Its cover art was a colorful painting by Christie Brinkley that was a series of scenes from each of the songs on the album.
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The eponymous first single was the last top 10 hit Joel has penned to date, reaching No. Beginning in , Joel toured extensively with Elton John on a series of "Face to Face" tours, making them the longest running and most successful concert tandem in pop music history. In February , Joel denied rumors in the trade press that he canceled a summer leg of the tour, claiming there were never any dates booked and that he intended to take the year off.
It's always fun playing with him. On August 25, , Joel and second wife Christie Brinkley divorced, but they remained friends.
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Joel wrote and recorded the song "Shameless" that was later covered by Garth Brooks and reached No. Joel performed with Brooks during his Central Park concert in Ray Charles made the induction speech and mentioned the duet Joel wrote for the two of them, " Baby Grand " a track on Joel's album The Bridge released in At the time, Joel said that it would be his last tour and possibly his last concert. The concert dubbed The Night of the Years ran for close to four hours and was later released as Years: All were composed by Joel and performed by Hyung-ki Joo.
Joel often uses bits of these songs as interludes in live performances, and some of them are part of the score for the hit show Movin' Out. The album topped the classical charts at No. That night, he also performed " Your Song " with Elton John. The compilation also includes the Umixit software, in which people can remix "Zanzibar" and a live version of "I Go to Extremes" with their PC. On January 7, , Joel began a tour across the U.
Having not written, or at least released, any new songs in 13 years, he featured a sampling of songs from throughout his career, including major hits as well as obscure tunes like "Zanzibar" and " All for Leyna ". His tour included an unprecedented 12 sold-out concerts over several months at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The singer's stint of 12 shows at Madison Square Garden broke a previous record set by New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen , who played 10 sold-out shows at the same arena.
The record earned Joel the first retired number 12 in the arena owned by a non-athlete. This honor has also been given to Joel at the Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia formerly the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia where a banner in the colors of the Philadelphia Flyers is hung honoring Joel's 46 Philadelphia sold-out shows. He also had a banner raised in his honor for being the highest grossing act in the history of the Times Union Center formerly the Knickerbocker Arena and Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York. This honor was given to him as part of the April 17, , show he did there.
On June 13, , Columbia released 12 Gardens Live , a double album containing 32 live recordings from a collection of the 12 different shows at Madison Square Garden during Joel's tour.
Did any firemen 'Rescue Me' at this singles mixer?
Joel visited the United Kingdom and Ireland for the first time in many years as part of the European leg of his tour. On July 31, , he performed a free concert in Rome , with the Colosseum as the backdrop. On January 3 of that year, news was leaked to the New York Post that Billy had recorded a new song with lyrics—this being the first new song with lyrics he'd written in almost 14 years. He is now holding the highest box office attendance of any artist to play at the arena.