Music

Join lifelong Billy Joel fans, Michael and Jack, as they take deep dives in to Billy’s history, songs, albums, tours, band members and more.

Episodes

We’re kicking off 2021 with a look back and a look forward at Billy Joel’s work, his fans, and the music industry in general. 

 

This episode features two sets of interviews. The first is with Mikhail Pivovarov and Billy Ruegger from the online music collective Love Raptor. We’ll go behind the scenes of their funk covers of “Movin’ Out” and “She’s Got A Way” and also talk about some of the latest trends when it comes to new musical artists today. 

 

Then, it’s the return of Bradshaw Leigh, the engineer who worked with Phil Ramone and Billy Joel on some of Billy’s biggest records. He’ll tell never-before-heard stories about the recording sessions and sheds new light on the famed trip to Russia in 1987. 

 

Join us as we dive deep into the past, present, and possibly the future of Billy Joel’s catalog.

 

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When it comes to Billy Joel’s most successful run of albums, you can’t talk about the man behind the piano without also talking about the man behind the board: Phil Ramone

 

By the time Phil and Billy teamed up, Ramone was already a renowned engineer and innovator in the recording studio. His discography included landmark albums by Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, Paul Simon and Elton John, along with soundtracks, musicals, and live recordings. 

 

Working primarily at  Ramone’s own A&R Recording in New York, Phil and Billy put out a string of best-selling and award-winning albums. Beginning with 1977’s The Stranger through The Bridge in 1986. 

 

After the one-off song “Why Should I Worry” from Disney’s “Oliver and Company,” in 1988, nearly two decades would pass before they worked together again. But, Ramone returned to the control room for All My Life, Billy’s last single, released in 2006. It was a fitting end to their partnership. 

 

In this episode, we’re exploring the life and work of Phil Ramone. We’ll talk about his work with Billy Joel, and so much more. Along the way, we’ll speak with Bradshaw Leigh, an engineer who worked alongside Ramone on many classic albums.  And, we have a special message from Russell Javors, Billy’s former guitarist and current member of the Lords of 52nd Street. 

 

There’s too much to cover in one episode. And we recommend reading Phil’s Book, Making Records, if you’d like to learn more. But for now, let’s dive deep into the works of Phil Ramone. 

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The Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children

Learn More & Donate at: http://Ramoneorchestra.org/support
 
or Text RAMONEKIDS to 44321

 

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Billy Joel’s World Tour from 2006 through 2007 turned out to be a true page-turner in his career. He’d played virtually no concerts the previous two years. And by the end of 2003 his performances were getting just a little stale. 

 

But, you’d never know that from the 110 or so dates he mounted when he got back into touring mode. And, from all the high-quality footage that’s available, he seemed more energetic and excited about playing live than he’d been for a while. 

 

The biggest change was a new drummer, Chuck Burgi. Otherwise, the players were familiar from the previous decade or so. With a seven-piece powerhouse in tow, Billy quickly served up 12 Gardens Live, a new two-CD album culled from a dozen shows at Madison Square Garden in the first half of 2006. 

 

In retrospect, that album, and this tour, set the stage for the next 15 years of Billy’s career, which continues today with his historic Garden residency. 

 

But the monthly Manhattan shows were still almost a decade away when Billy hit the road again. For now, let’s dive deep into Billy Joel’s 2006 / 2007 World Tour.

 

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This holiday week, settle in with some classic songs, a small glimpse into the Philadelphia music scene, and some exciting new artists making music today! 

 

This is our second playlist episode, where Jack and Michael take turns playing DJ to spin some tunes and tell some stories behind them. 

 

Jack’s on the turntable (literally, in some cases) this time to bring you: 

 

All You Wanna Do Is Dance: Classic Songs Ripped Directly From 45s 

  • Lover’s Concerto by The Toys
  • Devil With The Blue Dress / Good Golly Miss Molly by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit 
  • Wheels
  • Jumpin Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones
  • Whiskey Man by The Who
  • Sweet Things You Do by Eddie Floyd
  • Reach Out (I’ll Be There) by The Four Tops 

 

My Life: Songs Featuring Jack On Drums

  • Thousand Lives by Church Girls
  • Impossible One by The Yarrows
  • Sangamon River Lament by Gavilan
  • Tree Beard’s Journey by Borrowed Equipment

 

Keeping The Faith: New Music!

  • So Ferocious by Carie Blanton
  • Civic Duty by Chipocrite
  • Yellow Dandelion by Jo-Armon Jones feat. Georgia Ann Muldrew
  • Ours by Joe Pug
  • Right by Xenia Rubinos

 

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Date: May 14, 1974

City/State: Boston, MA

Venue: Orpheum Theatre

Supporting: Jesse Colin Young & Livingston Taylor

 

The Setlist: 

  1. Travelin' Prayer
  2. Somewhere Along The Line
  3. Technical Difficulty Blues
  4. Piano Man
  5. The Entertainer
  6. The Ballad of Billy The Kid
  7. Worse Comes To Worst
  8. Everybody Loves You Now
  9. Captain Jack
  10. Ain't No Crime

 

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In less than 50 minutes, the bootleg recording of Billy Joel at the Orpheum Theater in 1974 reveals the trajectory of his career up to that point and hints toward the challenges and major changes to come. 

 

It’s not his most popular bootleg, but as a warts-and-all snapshot of this moment, it’s surprisingly revelatory. 

 

The show, recorded on May 14th of that year, is Billy’s first performance in Boston, Massachusetts. He’s the first opener on a three-band bill with Livingston Taylor and Jesse Colin Young. 

 

But, already there are hints of his future success  and the changes he’d make over the next few years.

 

Of the nine songs Billy plays here, Three will get updated on 1981’s Songs in the Attic and you can already hear some of the changes taking form. All but two are from Piano Man. And, one is only a few weeks old. But more than the songs themselves, this recording is a rare glimpse of Billy between his first hit song, Piano Man, and Streetlife Serenade, an album he felt was a failure out of the gate. 

 

You’ll hear the west coast feel of his live band, an approach that he’d soon consciously jettison for the tougher East Coast sound that would become his hallmark. And, you’ll hear him wrestle with technical issues, often humorously. He’s also developing his rapport with his audience, and their response points to where his career would soon go.

 

Join us as we dive deep in Billy Joel, live at the Orpheum Theater in 1974.

 

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They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. If that’s true, then the sun rose for Billy Joel in 1983. That’s not to say things were bleak before then. But the past year or so carried a more somber tone. In 1982, Billy was in a bad motorcycle accident that left his hands severely injured for months. Despite this, he completed, released, and toured behind The Nylon Curtain. That album is arguably his most ambitious, and also his most serious and thematically heavy release. 

 

But, that all turned around the next year. 1983 found Billy Joel jet-setting to private islands, dating supermodels and releasing his ninth studio album, An Innocent Man.  Stylistically, the music harkened back to the 50s and early 60s. And, in contrast to its predecessor, it was one of his biggest sellers, and easily his most light-hearted. 

 

An Innocent Man would go platinum seven times and spawn seven charting singles. In 1984, Billy would tour in support of his blockbuster hit. But, the previous year, he was enjoying life. 

 

In this episode, Michael & Jack are diving deep into 1983. The year that saw an album release, hit singles, heavy-rotation videos, tabloid-pages romance, and more for Billy Joel.

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Sometimes, the best way to find out what makes a songwriter special is hearing someone else sing their songs. Listening to how other artists interpret their work brings out aspects of the music that weren’t as obvious before. 

 

That’s what Michael and Jack discovered when they put this episode together. This week, They're diving into versions of Billy Joel songs performed by other people. To do it, we compiled more than two dozen versions of Billy’s music performed by other artists. 

 

For the most part, we stuck to songs that were officially released or performed on television. The styles range from 60s blue-eyed soul to 80s pop, country sensations to punk and indie rockers. The arrangements varied from straight-ahead covers to nearly unrecognizable renditions.  Also featured are 2 Billy covers by drummer Liberty DeVitto's former band The Fun(k) Club that have never before been released!

 

Join us, as we go through the good, the great, the bad, and the bizarre Billy Joel covers. We’ll talk through these new versions and what we learned about the original performances along the way.

 

Songs covered include:

 

  • Beyonce - Honesty
  • Diana Krall - Just The Way You Are
  • Joan Baez - Goodnight Saigon
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo - River of Dreams
  • The Hoosiers - We Didn't Start The Fire
  • The Creak - Sleeping With The Television On
  • Sheena Easton - The Entertainer
  • Garth Brooks - Shameless
  • Westlife - Uptown Girl
  • Dolly Parton - Travelin' Prayer
  • Helen Reddy - You're My Home
  • Jennifer Warnes - And So It Goes
  • TexasFrets - Souvenir
  • The Manhattans - Everybody Has A Dream
  • Andy Mientus feat. Jennifer Hudson - Everybody Loves You Now
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Uptown Girl
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Only The Good Die Young
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - The Longest Time
  • Barry White - Just The Way You Are
  • Bayside - Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
  • Copeland - She's Always A Woman
  • Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band - Say Goodbye To Hollywood
  • Richard Marx - Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
  • Peter, Paul & Mary - Summer, Highland Falls
  • Bill Medley - Until The Night
  • The Fun(k) Club - Handball
  • The Fun(k) Club - You May Be Right (Glass Houses Exclusive)
  • The Fun(k) Club - She's Got A Way (Glass Houses Exclusive)

 

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1974 saw Billy Joel back in the studio mere months after 1973's Piano Man.  Billy wasn't ready for a new album but pushed his way through to complete Streetlife Serenade which was released October 11, 1974 on Columbia Records.

 

The album peaked at #35 on the album charts and featured the single "The Entertainer," which is the sole song that has gotten a significant amount of live performances since its release.

 

Michael & Jack discuss this often forgotten and under documented album and shed some light on some lesser known gems.

They also go song by song through the album and discuss each track and their reflections on each.

 

 

BILLY JOEL - STREETLIFE SERENADE

 

One side

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag
  5. Roberta

Another side

  1. The Entertainer
  2. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  3. Weekend Song
  4. Souvenir
  5. The Mexican Connection

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Artists who rose to stardom in the 1970s were the first generation to have that rise documented on TV cameras. Billy Joel was no exception.

Michael & Jack comb through as many of Billy's 1970's TV appearances as they could find to share their observations along the way. Watching these in chronological order, you really get the feel with how Billy's stage presence and live band developed throughout the decade.

Join us as we discuss all things Billy Joel on TV in the 1970s.

 

Appearances include:

 

  • Old Grey Whistle Test - 1973
  • Speakeasy - 1974
  • Don Kirshner's Rock Concert - 1974
  • Midnight Special - 1975
  • Mike Douglas Show - 1976
  • Old Grey Whistle Test - 1978
  • Beat Club - 1978
  • Saturday Night Live - 1978

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September 1, 2020

EP 015 - Year In Review: 2003

The year was 2003 and once again, Billy was at a crossroads. He mounted a shorter Face To Face tour with Elton John before taking one of the longest hiatuses of his career which would stretch into the end of 2005.

 

Michael & Jack chronicle a year in which saw depression, Billy vocally discussing retiring, and the end end of the professional relationship with the longest tenured band member. But the year wasn't all bad. Billy & Twyla Tharp launched the hugely successful broadway show Movin' Out, had another successful run with Elton John and more. Michael attended 3 shows on that tour which we discuss as well.

 

Join us as we talk all things Billy Joel in 2003.

 

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