I’m a great lover of books especially biographies and autobiographies. I went to me local library … OK it was my former local library now I’ve moved. It was such a luscious library with a bigger range of books than I’d seen even in the main city library! So I felt I was in heaven browsing the books that I’d probably take out and with the allowance of 20 I made the most of the opportunity to pick some picks and came out with 11 books. That’s right I came out with 11 books. Admittedly 7 of those books were graphic novels which you could read fairly swiftly in a sitting, but it sounds impressive when you say 11 books!
Anyway today I’d just finished one of the books and so naturally thought I’d move onto another and thought that I’d start the biography of Billy Joel – I Go To Extremes by Bill Smith (got to be one of the most common names up there with John Smith and Pete Jones, etc.). So without starting the book I thought to meself that the next writing session I have – constructing a 2000 word essay – would be done with some of Joel’s music to get me back in the frame of mind to read the brother’s music. Unlike Luther Vandross, whose biography I’ve read recently, I’ve actually listened to a number of Joel’s tunes and they’re some of my faves from my years of formative music appreciation like ‘Tell Her About It’, ‘I Love You Just The Way You Are’ and especially ‘UpTown Girl’. So that interest kept going to the point of actually buying a Best of… double album of the brother. That along with a lot of stuff was lost in the various moves in life that I’ve made since then. I’ve not lost the admiration for his career and musical ability.
So when I started the latest session on t’ laptop I was eager to put ‘New York State of Mind’ to get me in the mood. Well I put that on and I’ll probably post it on here with the reason why I chose it. I was also checking some other songs the brother did and with it not being quick to pull out some of the tunes I remember the brother for, I just randomly picked them that looked appealing on title.
I only just think of it now whilst writing but back in my Sixth Form days (or maybe my late GCSE days, its such a blur now) there was a girl called Laura who knocked about with Jason Radosavljevic (yeah I reckon I remember the spelling of his surname) and Mark Taylor. She was rather an enigmatic young woman, but very captivating in her way as well. I wonder what happened to her? I got on with her alright, liked her a lot, enjoyed talking to her and found her to be such a beautiful person attractive both in physique but in spirit as well, though the enigmatic aspect of her character meant the broken bits were only too evident and she was prone to wander in terms of safe behaviour … still, memories eh.
Anyway, back to this evening, there I am randomly going through songs and I come up with this one I hear it and I am hooked on it. I have this thing with experiences of songs where if I hear something that grabs my attention – especially with the resources at my availability – I’ll make a note if necessary but more often than not just hear the thing again and look to get it as well. The attractive aspects of this song are just how faithful it is to the Beatles style of their later era. The impression I get of Joel is that for his love of them he might have swung more to Lennon than McCartney, in any case when I listen to the song’s construct and its use of instruments to create the soundscape it just fits perfectly with the feeling of the Beatles like a glove. Yet Billy Joel makes it something that fits him, for example, although you can hear McCartney and Lennon having a go at this, maybe even Harrison could give it a go you just feel that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do it the justice that Joel’s vocals does. On that point the use of backing vocals distinguishes it clearly from a Beach Boys thing and is spot on. So it’s another song that I can add to the list that makes it worth my while enjoying the output of the man Billy Joel.
I thought it would be worth putting on the live version and the album version because it is always good to compare the treatment of both. The live thing isn’t about the quality of the video but there’s sufficient quality in the audio to make a fair appreciation of it. The cover version as well is to get to appreciate how the piano playing is not that straightforward at all, and the thing about this medium is that it’s not here to get anyone a record deal and thankfully it’s not American Idol or YouTube’s Got Talent, it’s just people helping to breakdown some of the complexities that we see the experts go through. (As well as that you can have a laugh at the brother not remembering all the lyrics!)
So there you go, good reason to take some time out and appreciate what it is to be an ace songwriter, piano player and vocalist. Enjoy.