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The Stranger by Billy Joel

January 29, 2015 by Garren Christopher Stamp   

The record that I picked up this week is “The Stranger” by Billy Joel. I listen to Billy Joel occasionally and like what I’ve heard so far. Vienna is my favorite Billy Joel song ever, so I decided for my first record to get the record it was on, “The Stranger”.


Billy Joel was born on May 9, 1949 in the Bronx, NY. He is often considered one of the greatest Piano players of all time. He had 33 top hits in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s all of which he wrote himself. He is a six time grammy winner and has sold over 150 million records worldwide. While he is an exceptional artist and I think he has incredible talent, my personal feelings on Billy Joel are mixed. I like his music a lot and really respect that he wrote his own songs. However, as a person, I kind of dislike him. He is known to be very arrogant and this shows through in his music. His music is often self centered, or has an underlying message of him being better than everyone. Think back to his most famous hit “Piano Man.” In that song that Piano Man (Joel) is so much better than the rest of the people at the bar. He describes each person in a way that has hints of how much better he is than them. (people who are in the song his fans and are listening to him!!!). While this isn’t the most obvious example, ( I would argue that would be either the entertainer, she’s always a woman, or It’s still rock and roll to me), it still shines through if you listen to the lyrics of even his most popular song.

My overall impression of the record is that it is a strong standard Billy Joel record. It was released in 1977 and was ranked 70th on Rolling Stone magazines 500 greatest albums of all time, a ranking I would somewhat agree with. His Piano playing is exquisite during this record. I also think that the songs play together well and give the album a completed feel. Certain songs definitely stand out more than others, but overall I would give it an 8.5/10 (minus a .5 on Billy Joel’s character)

The first song that stuck out to me was Just the way you are. This song really shows off Joel’s vocals. It starts off slow and really focusing on Joel’s voice, but eventually adds more and more instruments as you slowly move into the song.

The next song that stuck out to me was Scenes from an Italian restaurant. This is a very dynamic song. It starts off slower and slowly evolves. By the time the first third is over, you wouldn’t recognize it from the beginning. This middle part is my favorite and it tells the story of a high school couple marrying and then divorcing. The end returns similarly to the beginning. It feels very complete.

Only the good die young stands out as well. It is one of Joel’s most popular songs. It’s all about the narrator convincing a catholic girl to just give in and have sex with him. It’s done in a comical and lighthearted way that makes it very enjoyable (I like how the females name is Virginia)

Another song that stands out is she’s always a woman to me. This song is an admitted paraphrase of Bob Dylan’s Just like a woman. Joel loved that song so much that he decided to make his own take on it. While the fact that he paraphrased the idea of a song he liked in order to make a new song is bad, I could overlook the lack of creativity if he had captured the same idea as Bob Dylan. Dylan’s song was all about love and used the word woman to show respect and the contrast with the child inside of her. Billy Joel completely missed this subtly of Dylan. He throws a lot of anti-woman stereotypes about women being cold and it ruins the song for me. The subtly isn’t there and this changes the meaning making it quasi sexist. The song is listenable just don’t listen too hard to the lyrics and don’t listen to it if you have listen to and understand Dylan’s Just like a woman. I have included videos of both below if you would like to listen and see for yourself. But If you are only gonna listen to one song listen to the video after these two.


Side 2 begins with Vienna. Like I previously mentioned this is my all-time favorite Joel song. The tempo is slower and it shows off Joel’s stronger vocal ability. The song is about an older person telling a younger person to slow down and enjoy life. Basically, the message of the song can be summed up with, “Life is a journey not a destination.” I especially like the lyrics of this song. One of my favorite lines is “Don’t you know only fools are satisfied.” I like all the lyrics too much to choose a few to demonstrate so Il just end this blog with the entire lyrics. (I’ll bold some of my favorite parts)

Slow down, you crazy child
you’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out
You’ve got so much to do and
Only so many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told..
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even
Get halfway through
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Slow down, you’re doing fine
You can’t be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight
Too bad but it’s the life you lead
you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you’re wrong, you know
You can’t always see when you’re right. you’re right

You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride
but don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Slow down, you crazy child
and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
it’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize,..Vienna waits for you?
And you know that when the truth is told
that you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
Why don’t you realize,. Vienna waits for you
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

1 Comment »

  1. Eric Hodge says:

    I have actually seen Billy Joel live! I enjoy his music, especially Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. I don’t know if your assessment of his arrogance is exactly fair, because many entertainers are arrogant, and that quality is probably something that led them to stardom.

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