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From:      Karen Lester

To:        [email protected]

Subject:   Re: blast from the past

 

Bill! Wow!

It’s sort of a shock to hear from you after all these years. How many times have you been in California since ’73? Hundreds? Thousands? And not so much as a postcard. Say goodbye to Hollywood, indeed!

I know you hated living in L.A., and it sure seemed like you’d forgotten all about your pals at the Executive Room — even though, irony of ironies, you sing about us almost every night of your life.

Still, I was really happy to get your e-mail, if only to assuage my guilt over how things ended between us.  I’ve always felt bad about that. I didn’t mean to call you a creepy little garden gnome, but I was stoned (like the businessmen?), and let’s face it, you weren’t exactly a perfect gentleman, jamming my hand down your pants like that. After all we’d been through, we should have ended things on a higher note — like the one you hit at the chorus of the studio version of “Innocent Man.”

Anyway, you asked what the old Wilshire crew is up to these days, so I’ll fill you in.

John, as you imply in your song — cruelly, he’s always felt — never did become a movie star. Casting agents thought he was too short, and that he had an “old face.” He had some small parts in some indie films, and one time he was in a commercial for Taco Bell. But he had a problem with heroin — Captain Jack took him to his special island — and then he had a problem with VD, and then he became a Scientologist.

He left the Church after ten years, after they’d robbed him of his youth, his money, and his street cred. He’s married now — again — and living in I think San Pedro. He had two kids from his previous marriage — twins — who are doing well, even though they sometimes get mistaken for the Menendez brothers when they hang out in Beverly Hills.

I haven’t seen him for years, but he friended me on Facebook a few months ago, so I told him I’d heard from you and that you sent your regards. I won’t relay his exact response, as he had some not very kind things to say about you, your ex-wife, and your daughter. He did mention that he hoped the tabloid reports of you quitting the sauce were true, as you “could be a pretty decent guy when the microphone smelled like something other than beer, wine, or hard liquor.”

Also, although I know he digs your stuff, especially Songs From the Attic, he does not list you among his favorite artists on his “info” page (but you’re first on mine, even though, let’s face it, everything kind of went downhill after Glass Houses).

Paul, as you probably know, is a pretty successful screenwriter — his forays into real estate and novelwriting ended about the same time your six-month stint at the Executive did, and he’s always been amused that you chose to affix those labels to him — who has been nominated for as Oscar several times, and won a Golden Globe. He’s not on Facebook, but I run into him at fundraisers every once in awhile.

I called him up and told him about your out-of-the-blue note. He said he barely remembered you, but he knows the song, of course, and he thought it was so weird that you characterized him as being too busy for marriage; the reason he didn’t have a wife was not because he didn’t have time, as you suggest, but because he’s gay. “It’s West Hollywood,” he said. “Why else would I spend all night talking to a sailor?”

Not that David was a sailor, as I’m sure you know. Not in the conventional, McHale’s Navy sense. He was in the JAG corps, and after completing his civil service, started his own firm, specializing in wills and estates. There’s a lot of money in that sort of work, especially in Los Angeles, let me tell you. He probably has more net worth than most of the fly-by-night movie stars in this town.  He drives a Bentley! If you had only used David as your attorney instead of Elizabeth’s sleazy brother! But at least you won *some* money from the lawsuit.

Ramon was relieved of his manager duties in 1973, not long after you left and took our best customers with you. He kept opening up new restaurants and clubs, but never had the success he enjoyed with you tickling the ivories. Which is probably why he drove up the PHC and jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1977. Not that you should feel bad about that. Even if he did quote “Tomorrow is Today,” off Cold Spring Harbor, in his suicide note. I mean, the guy was majorly screwed up. Paul thinks he has multiple personality disorder.

As for me, your politics-practicing waitress? Well, I work for the state government in the Department of Education. That was after serving on the city council for many years. I’m married — my husband is a vice president at Universal — and we have two lovely children, Michael and Jennifer. We live up in Coldwater Canyon, next door to Carrie Fisher. But you probably know all that, if you’ve Googled me.

What you’re after — I’m assuming, now that you’re once again divorced and needy — is what I’m doing emotionally, if I ever got over our time together that summer. I did fall for you pretty hard, I admit, even though I knew you liked Elizabeth more than you liked me. I always thought she was a bitch. All the girls did. She was the kind of woman that other women dislike — trouble, in other words. Oh, she’s got a way, alright!

Ah, what might have been, had you picked me instead!  But you never had much use for my “Peter Pan advice.”

But I’m very happy with Tom, who, in addition to his tremendous business success, is also a former semi-professional hockey player and underwear model, and a well-known poet (although his poetry tends to be ponderous T.S. Eliot/Ezra Pound-type stuff, and not nearly as fun as your lyrics for “We Didn’t Start the Fire”; sometimes I do have to work hard to keep up with his clever conversation!). We live a happy, private life, although the sex tape we made with that Brazilian model did leak on the Internet a few years ago, starting a “scandal” that forced me to leave electoral politics…but you probably read about that, too.

Likewise, I’m sure you’re better off with the path you chose: your three failed marriages (Katie Lee? She’s Alexa’s age!), your lifelong battles with alcoholism and depression, your legal troubles with your string of rapacious managers and record company executives, and your authorship of “Tell Her About It.”

But it’s really, really great to hear from you! I hope your boating endeavor goes well (I found out about it from your Wikipedia page). We have boats here, too, you know — Catalina is a nicer port than anything on Long Island — so if you’re ever in town, give me a shout. Maybe we can go have a drink. No, wait, scratch that, you don’t drink anymore. A coffee, then. There are some hip places in Echo Park you might like.

Best to you, Bill.

xoxoxo,

Karen

P.S. I totally remember that gin-and-tonic-happy old man. He was gross. If I had a nickel for every time he pinched my ass…

P.P.S. I’ve attached a photo of you from that summer that David took (there I am in the back, all the way to the right).

 

 

 

 

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GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

211 responses to “Play Me a Memory”

  1. Gloria Harrison says:

    That’s one of my top five favorite songs ever written and recorded in any language in the history of the whole world!

    Okay, I’ll read now…

    • Greg Olear says:

      And the other four are…?

      • Gloria says:

        Jeez…that’s tough. I just rattled the whole “top 5” thing off without thinking – though I would still say it’s not inaccurate.

        Okay, I’ll come up with four others, though I won’t rank them. (It’s like people asking me what my favorite movie is. My standby answer is Harold and Maude, just to avoid the whole conversation about how it’s hard to pick just one. Like picking a favorite child. And Harold and Maude is just as good of an answer as any other.)

        Here goes (this list is for best lyrics/music compositions):

        Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
        Pancho and Lefty (the Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson version)
        Flowers (David Byrne)
        This Must Be The Place (David Byrne)
        The Weight (The Band)

        • Gloria says:

          NO! Wait! There’s more!!

          You can’t limit it to just five, Greg. Those were the first five off the top of my head (six, actually, if you include “Piano Man.”) There are so many others. Too many.

          Here’s a good list:

          http://www.squidoo.com/100songs

          I should have included The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkle), Winter (Tori Amos), The Wall (Pink Floyd), Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd), Chutes Too Narrow (The Shins), Mad World (Tears for Fears)…

          There’s too many, Greg. Now I’ll be thinking about it all day. Gah!

        • Greg Olear says:

          I can only do by top five of right this exact instant, in no order:

          “Hit ‘Em Up,” 2Pac & the Outlawz
          “Hollywood Nights,” Bob Seger
          “Casimir Pulaski Day,” Sufjan Stevens
          “Ticket to Ride,” the Beatles
          “Lodi,” CCR

        • Gloria says:

          I almost included “Casimir Pulaski Day,” Sufjan Stevens. SS has SO MANY great songs. John Wayne Gacey is amazing, too.

          I have a very personal, very sad, very painful story involving “Lodi” by CCR.

        • Gloria says:

          …which I won’t share here. 🙂

        • Gloria says:

          And then we could just do it by artist. Peter Gabriel would have his own section:

          “Solsbury Hill”
          “Digging in the Dirt”
          “Big Time”

          See also Annie Lennox, Pearl Jam, They Might Be Giants…

          I’m sure Becky could name some killer Rufus songs.

        • Greg Olear says:

          “John Wayne Gacy” I can’t listen to because the words creep me out. But “Casimir” is incredible…I have a half-written post about it, which one of these days I’ll finish. I love SS to death. I love PG, too, although I don’t listen to him much anymore.

          I’m sorry “Lodi” was ruined for you. I don’t know which Lodi he’s talking about, but it just sounds like such a terrible place to be stuck in.

        • Gloria says:

          My therapist, who I’ve been seeing for six years, and I had a long discussion about “John Wayne Gacey.” I’d never heard it before; I’d only ever heard a few of SS’s songs. So, she played it for me in her office and then we launched into this long philosophical discussion about whether or not the categories of good and evil are truly even applicable when talking about humans and how would our perception would be colored (especially when reviewing a life of the most insane abuse, like mine) if we did away with those categories and started thinking of it in terms of ill and not ill. It was a powerful session. I love her, my therapist.

          Peter Gabriel is a God.

          “Lodi” wasn’t ruined for me, so much as it causes me a great deal of pain to hear it. Though I haven’t heard it for a long, long time, so I guess it may not have the same effect anymore. Lodi is in California, near Modesto. I lived with a family for a short time my junior year of high school. I had just placed my daughter for adoption (I got her back years later) and they were fostering me. They were a Christian family, pretty conservative, fairly traditional. They had rather heavy-handedly invited me to come on their family vacation to Napa with them, even though I wanted to stay in Roswell. Lisa, the mom, was lovely and kind, but really into God. On our way up north on I-5, we passed through Lodi and Lisa turned and looked at me, all excited, and said, “Oh! Lodi! Like that Credence Clearwater song!” and then she launched into the most beautiful a capella rendition of it that’s ever been sung. I didn’t even know she could sing. She was very unassuming and in what I had figured out at that time was a fairly loveless marriage (which I’d also figured out caused her great heartache). And she looked at me the whole time, singing to me. And I just…kind of fell in love with her. Not in a sexual way, of course, but in a maternal bonding kind of way. I was a bit of a wayward waif. It was so beautiful. And it also made her kind of COOL! You know? Anyway, about ten days later, we were driving back to Roswell. She was driving. I was behind her. A drunk driver with a .28 blood alcohol level smashed into us head on 40 miles outside of Barstow and she died instantly. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and I was thrown to the ground and her seat came back and crushed my leg and the side of the van folded in on me. They took me out with the jaws of life. Anyway…I guess that song affects me because it was a profoundly important bonding moment with a woman I had only just begun to know.

          Wait! I take it back! I guess I am going to tell that story here! I don’t think I’ve ever told it before…

        • Gloria says:

          That should read: …and how differently would our perception be colored…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Oh my goodness. That’s terrible, Gloria, for so many different reasons. I’m glad you made it through that. Jaws of life. Good God. You must have been terrified.

        • Becky says:

          I like “Lodi” a lot.

          I LOVE “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” That one tops my CCR list.

          As for Rufus…tough to keep it down to 5 (or is it supposed to be three?) but I’d say:

          “Do I Disappoint You”
          “Beautiful Child”
          “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”
          “Barcelona”
          “Sanssouci”

          This list is always in flux, though.

        • Gloria says:

          I love “Have You Seen the Rain” as well. And “Proud Mary.”

        • Greg Olear says:

          I have not seen the rain…but I can stop the rain!

        • Gloria says:

          Who’ll stop the rain, Greg? Who ‘ll?

        • Greg Olear says:

          Who’ll stop the rain? BP, apparently.

  2. Dude. This was, like, brilliant. This was one of those things you read and you think, “Fucker. Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so obvious!”

    Thought not easy. What a pitch-perfect tone. Totally nailed it.

  3. Gloria Harrison says:

    “…and then he had a problem with VD, and then he became a Scientologist.” bwahahahahhaha

    I love the part about the writer “kind of” recalling who Billy Joel is. Beautiful.

    I tend to think of Billy Joel the way I think of Paul Simon. They were both Gods (to me) once. I choose to ignore anything they did after their career started waning. I totally own up to the fact that I have a hard time letting idols be human. And I’m okay with that.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Gloria.

      There’s definitely a correlation between PS and BJ, although PS is much cooler. Some of BJ’s stuff that I used to love makes me cringe now, but the first two tracks on Songs in the Attic still stand up with ANYTHING, far as I’m concerned.

    • Gloria says:

      There is an errant apostrophe up there that’s really bugging me. I realized recently that I’m a great editor – when it comes to other people’s stuff. When it comes to my own writing, all grammar and spelling rules are moot.

  4. Ahhhh, Mr. Olear.

    You are a master. This is brilliant and hilarious. You made scrambled eggs come out my nose, which, for the record, is not only extremely gross, but rather uncomfortable as well.

    Thanks for that. I needed a great laugh this morning.

  5. Rachel Pollon says:

    Okay, I am not a Billy Joel fan but I’m a “Bill” via Karen’s letter fan. Very, very funny. Love the character details — (Heroin, VD, Scientology.) I’m now sure I know everything about that song I need to know. Fun!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Rachel.

      I don’t think him writing a note like this is completely beyond the realm of possibility, per a piece about him Chuck Klosterman wrote a few years ago in…I think it was the NY Times Magazine.

      • Rachel Pollon says:

        And coincidentally I’m working on a piece in a very similar vein. I hope to post soon. Maybe your pop star and my pop star can get together in another piece and discuss the phenom of being satirized by two writers who they’ve never met. (Pass the doobie, my mind is being blown!)

        • Greg Olear says:

          That’s good news…it’s been too long since a Rachel Pollon post.

          I think we should get Charlie Kaufman to write the screenplay of what you described…he can win the first Academy Award for an adaptation from a comment board.

  6. Awesome stuff, Greg. Billy J is on my three-person short list of the singers I’ll be forced to listen to on a 24-hour loop as I’m strapped to a chair for purgatorial eternity. And yet, I was able to get beyond that and still really enjoy this circuitous insight into his soul….let’s chalk it up to your chops. I was just reading something about how Billy recently bought a house in that part of Long Island that’s slowly eroding into the sea. Apparently they told him before he plopped down the cash that there was a good chance the house would drop into the surf within twenty years, and he responded “Who gives a fuck what’s going to happen in twenty years!” Which, actually, made me like him a whole lot more.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. My chops are always in need of more chalk. ; )

      Yeah, in real life, he’s really angry and pissed off and swears a lot…and then he takes that anger to the piano, and out comes “Just the Way You Are.” An odd curse.

      If you do find yourself strapped to the purgatorial chair with BJ on the loop, my advice is: focus on the drums. Liberty DeVito is fucking awesome (although they tone him down on the studio recordings, alas).

      • Well, okay, but only because Liberty DeVito also just happens to be in my top five list of Best Drummer Names.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Liberty DeVito was also the one who, when BJ composed “Honesty” on the road but had yet to write lyrics, kept singing it as “Sodomy,” until BJ finally wrote the final (inferior albeit more radio-friendly) words.

  7. sheree says:

    Awesome writing skills Mr Olear. You have an incredible faux female voice.

    My father used to tell me all the time “You’re my home”. After he died when I was a teenager I played the hell outta the Piano Man eight track tape he kept in his truck.

    Thanks for the read.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Sheree. I’m sorry to hear about your father, but that is a great song. In fact, since I read your comment on my phone a few hours ago, it’s been playing in my head.

  8. Zara Potts says:

    I love this! I laughed all the way through – your details are so perfect and on the money, Greg.
    I love the fact that you came up with this idea while singing to Prue – you are a clever man!
    ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ is on my most hated song list…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Zara.

      He originally conceived of that song as a rap. Seriously. Thank god the producers talked him out of it.

      I will say that because the words are in chronological order, they did help me on my AP History exam.

      Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray…

      • Zara Potts says:

        Oh no. OH NO!!
        Now it’s in my head! It’s going to take a week to dislodge…..

        • Greg Olear says:

          I didn’t start the fire, Zara. It was always burning till the world’s returning.

          Rocknroller cola wars? I can’t take it anymore!!!

        • sheree says:

          Even Weird Al wouldn’t parody this song. Heh.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Speaking of Weird Al:

        • sheree says:

          When I get a song stuck in my head that I hate, I sing it with an Ethel Merman voice to amuse myself. Heh.
          Anywho, great write. Thanks again for the read.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Wow. Billy Joel and Weird Al. It’s like I’m standing on the head of a needle and I have no idea how I got here. At some point, I learned to hate people I once loved. Exhibit A: Billy Joel. Exhibit B: Weird Al. Both give me identically awful quivers, and the Weird Al thing actually makes me feel corrupt, like this pervert might leap out of my t.v. screen and make himself at home…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Weird Al is awesome. Even if I was a little too into him in elementary school…

          I just saw him do a cameo on Yo Gabba Gabba Ironic, that he’s had more staying power than most of the acts he’s spoofed.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          I know, exactly my point! And now he gives me the creeps! Ya know, I think I’ve lived without cable t.v. for too long. I’ve totally lost my appreciation for gross American culture. I’m seriously considering a rendez-vous with Time Warner cable.

        • Greg Olear says:

          This is the Golden Age of TV shows, Lisa. The Wire, Mad Men, Entourage, the last two seasons of Weeds…there’s some really, really, really good stuff on. Much better than what’s playing in the cinemas, generally.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          I know. Netflix just doesn’t have the magic of a remote control, especially for a spontaneous insomniac. I’ve been meaning to check out The Wire.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Do it. Treat yourself. But it isn’t for the faint of heart.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Seriously. Is Weird Al eating people, or what? That man hasn’t aged for twenty years.

        • Greg Olear says:

          He’s thinner now, but yeah, he’s the same guy.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I didn’t realize you’d already mentioned the awful “We Didn’t Start the Fire” Zara. It really is a terrible song. Shameful. He should have known better.

      Then again, if a record label showed up at my house with a dumptruck full of money and said, “We want you to write us a song and we don’t care how great it is,” I might change my tune.

      • Greg Olear says:

        JFK. Blown away. What else do I have to say?

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Wow. You people are HARSH.

        I am an enthusiastic advocate of list songs. I don’t understand what the fuck is supposed to be so wrong with them.

        Including, I should add, Neil Diamond’s “Done Too Soon.”

        Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice, Wolfie Mozart and Humphrey Bogart; Genghis Kahn and on to H.G. Wells….

        That’s from memory. I could keep going. I can also do “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine).”

        Killjoys.

        • Gloria says:

          Greta Garbo, and Monroe
          Deitrich and DiMaggio
          Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
          On the cover of a magazine

          Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean
          Picture of a beauty queen
          Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
          Ginger Rodgers, dance on air

          They had style, they had grace
          Rita Hayworth gave good face
          Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
          Bette Davis, we love you

        • Gloria says:

          Heh. Gave good face. That one always cracked me up. I’ve wondered if Madonna intended the double entendre or if she just needed a rhyme for grace.

        • Richard Cox says:

          She definitely meant it. That woman has made a lot of well-publicized poor decisions, but she’s a sharp one. And never misses a sexual innuendo of any kind.

        • Greg Olear says:

          @Becky – It’s not his best — I wouldn’t locate it in his top 50 — but it’s not awful.

          Here’s what’s awful:

          “Tell Her About It”
          “Everybody Has a Dream”
          “Storm Front”
          “Don’t Ask Me Why”

          and the Russia album is kind of not very good.

  9. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    There are multiple hilarious lines here but I loved the inclusion of the song Tell Her About It as one of his later life catastrophes. It’s been awhile since I pulled that song out of my memory bank, maybe for a reason. It truly is a paragon of horrendous songwriting. The rest of Billy Joel I try not to admit spending a large part of my formative years listening to.

    Thanks for the funny read.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. That’s my favorite line in the piece, and my least favorite song of any of his big ones (although it’s one of only two to hit #1 on the Billboard chart).

      I emphatically agree with everything you wrote in your comment, in fact, as I am also a semi-closeted BJ fan.

      • Nathaniel Missildine says:

        Not sure if anyone has gone there yet but just in case things could use a turn for the juvenile, I’d like to say I’m also a BJ fan.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Hehehe.

          Let’s take it one further and introduce “Billy Joel” as slang for a BJ. “How about listening to some Billy Joel tonight, honey?” Or “You know what my favorite Billy Joel song is? ‘Big Shot.'”

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          I could actually be late for a client bc I can’t avoid discourse about the Boss and Bon Jovi. The Boss is a gracious gentleman, Greg. Our side of the river may lack class, but we’ve got Bruce. Regarding Bon Jovi: New Jersey and Slippery When Wet are two albums I will rock over and over again forevermore. Someone once asked me what I’d order for my last supper, if I knew I’d be executed. I answered in .5 seconds. I said this: “Candy Corn.” It’s a no brainer, Like Jon Bon Jovi. No, I don’t expect you to agree. Yes, I realize it sounds absurd. But I’m telling the truth. I know what love is.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Let’s agree on “Runaway.” We can all agree on that.

          “You Give Love a Bad Name” sounds the same as “Because the Night.” Kind of a problem. (Replace the chorus of one with the other…go ahead…try it…)

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          “Runaway”… speaking of rip offs, that’d be a fun one for me.

  10. Jessica Blau says:

    Hilarious–love it!
    Can you do this for any song? Do you take requests?!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, and ha! It could be its own subset of TNB pieces — Brad will have to add a subcategory for “song revisionism”.

      I could do “Lucille” from the POV of Lucille, or, even better, the guy who gave the Margaritaville resident the Mexican cutie tattoo…but I absolutely take requests.

  11. Erika Rae says:

    Then he became a Scientologist… Hahahaha

    This was brilliant.

  12. Irene Zion says:

    I see Billy Joel now and then going in or out of restaurants.
    He parks his own car.
    He wears jeans and a ball cap.
    Victor always misses him.
    He’s always thinking and it messes up his seeing.

  13. Simon Smithson says:

    David was in JAG???

  14. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Ha! This is hilarious. I mean my son is sitting next to me on the couch and he keeps asking me what’s so funny. Trees are falling in the woods, Greg. I am reading this at home and I am making some noise. My teen years in New Jersey were saturated in Billy Joel. I mostly hate his music. (It’s a sort of self-loathing, I suspect.) I’m in Los Angeles now and all these details backing up my (anti)Billy Joel nostalgia are a riot.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Lisa.

      When I was doing my research for this piece — and by “research,” I mean “reading Billy Joel’s Wikipedia page on my iPhone while my daughter napped in the backseat and my wife and son went grocery shopping” — I was surprised to learn that the piano bar in question was in LA. I’d always imagined it to be in Levittown, where he grew up, or Cold Spring Harbor, or whatever — someplace on Long Island. It does change the perspective a bit, especially the wannabe actor bartender.

      I’m also from NJ, and we also were saturated in BJ, except I liked him. My eighth-grade girlfriend loved Billy Joel. She was the first girl to let me get to second base. In a related story, I really took to Billy Joel.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        Oh I liked him, no doubt. For my part, I worked some pretty spectacular choreography to my 45 of “Uptown Girl” on the Jersey basement circuit when I was about 8. And my first public expression of OCD arrived in the form of writing every lyric, with total precision, from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” on the backs of my friends’ notebooks during my freshman year of high school. It is doubtless I’ve made out to Billy Joel so many times I can’t recall a single one of them. That said, I hate Journey now too. I threw away my high school yearbooks before moving to California. So maybe I don’t really hate Billy Joel. Maybe I hate myself. No, I think I hate Billy Joel’s music. I think I woke up one day and realized that I’d become a commodity as a Billy Joel scribe for shallow teenage girls who’d throw me under the bus to make out with my boyfriend. This was a punk rock revelation, and it was the 90s. Billy Joel went straight to Hell. But I’m here to rep the Boss and Jon Bon Jovi, always and forever.

        • Greg Olear says:

          So Brenda stole Eddie away from you?!?!?

          Journey is one of those bands that need to be not heard for awhile. If we had a moritorium on all non-Sopranos playing of Journey, they’d rebound. But they aren’t good enough to listen to so often for so many years. Although I do like playing “Open Arms” on the piano.

          The Boss can do not wrong, but I’m not sold on JBJ. Bon Jovi has maybe five good songs, recorded over the course of, what, 30 years? Not a good ratio.

          Someone once told Springsteen he owned NJ, and he said, “No. Sinatra owns New Jersey. I just rent out the shore.” Man, I love that guy.

        • Springsteen is great. It took me a while to really get into him, but I’m glad I did. I love the bit in Born to Run where it pauses briefly before bursting back to life. Also, Radio Nowhere and Outlaw Pete from more recent times were fantastic.

          I love Journey, despite only knowing about three of their songs. What really ruined Don’t Stop Believin’ was Glee. At least, that was the case over here…

          Bon Jovi are great in the way Point Break is great. Almost all the good songs are on that first album. It doesn’t really get any better than You Give Love A Bad Name. I know all the words to that song. One of the few things about St. Patrick’s Day that I remember was walking the line between passing out and conciousness. The band started playing that song and all of a sudden I burst into life…

        • Greg Olear says:

          It also took me awhile to warm to the Boss, I think because I’m from NJ and therefore he was everywhere, and ‘Born in the USA’ came out during my formative music-listening years, and that’s sort of a sell-out record, although it’s still great.

          Glee is on a mission to ruin as much music as possible, it seems…

        • I grew up in a town called Redhill. Redhill’s claim to musical fame is that Katie Melua lived their briefly. She’s no Bruce Springsteen…

          This last year I lived in a house with six girls, who watched Glee religiously and played the soundtrack incessantly. One by one I heard some of my favourite songs being destroyed.

          However, I will concede that the intro of Van Halen’s jump does sound pretty cool in a vocal harmony…

        • Greg Olear says:

          You lived in a house with six girls?

        • James D. Irwin says:

          The university ran out of halls/dorms so they rent out houses and put the spill over students in there.

          I was with one other guy and then six girls.

          We got along fine, although I never really spoke to any of them that much.

          Living with six girls is also not as good as it might sound. Girls are very, very loud. And there was always glitter everywhere. Seriously.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Alert MTV. I want a reality show with you and the six girls, Irwin. We can call it Glitter.

        • Matt says:

          I loathe cable television, but I would order it just to see that.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          It would be a pretty dull show. Essentially it’d be six girls drinking questionable combinations of fluorescent alcohol whislt I hide in my room drinking coke, eating pizza and complaining about my past living arrangements on literary websites…

  15. Mr Lotto says:

    Take this back, right now…

    • Greg Olear says:

      In our class, David, you had us listen to “Taxi” and “Goodnight, Saigon,” but not “Piano Man.” Although your memory is better than mine…

      What we should have listened to was “Highway Patrolman,” the saddest song of all time.

  16. dwoz says:

    I suppose the younger man’s clothes have come back into fashion?

  17. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Wicked, wicked, wicked piece. I’m slow so took me almost till the end to cotton on, but that was good for me because I got to read it with 2 different shades on. Had no idea the man had so much drama swirling around his life, but he did write a sweet, sweet song. My favorites, probably in order:

    “The Longest Time”
    “The Piano Man”
    “More than a Woman to me”

    However, a few of his songs, e.g. “Just the Way You Are,” nope. Can’t take ’em.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Oh duh! Duh! “Uptown Girl,” right after “The Longest Time,” I think. Love the bippity-boppity vibe. Much fun to Stray-Cats vamp to.

      And why no “Just the Way You Are?” Dunno, really. I guess it just strikes me all Burt Bacharach on crack.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I have more respect for “Uptown Girl” now, as I realize he was trying to write a Frankie Valli song, and that would have made a hell of a Frankie Valli song.

      But I’m more a fan of the old stuff. “Miami 2017” (live version only), “Summer, Highland Falls,” “Captain Jack,” “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” “For the Longest Time” is pretty damned great, though. “Innocent Man,” too (that one he was trying to write “Stand By Me”).

  18. Wonderful post, Greg. Smart. Funny. All the things I love about you. Though I must admit, unlike Megan, I did not have scrambled eggs come out of my nose when I read this. Mainly because I’m not eating them right now. HAD I been eating them, though, I’m sure they WOULD’VE come out of my nose.

    But being honest, I do think a little bugger shot out of my nose when I read this. Is that a bad thing or a good thing?

    • Judy Prince says:

      Rich, why is this making me giggle in great leaping blurps?

      Shouldn’t you be practicing for tonight’s performance??!!! And you find time, bless your heart, to talk about buggers (is that how it’s spelled?) on Greg’s comment page.

      How can I see you on The Tonight Show tonight if I’m in England??!!! I soooooooooooo want to see your debut!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Rich. I think it’s a good thing.

      Break a leg on The Tonight Show!

  19. Judy Prince says:

    Her husband Tom, a VP at Universal as well as “a former semi-professional hockey player and underwear model, and a well-known poet”—-love it, Greg!

    Inspired piece!

    I totally enjoyed Billy Joel’s songs, esp “Piano Man”.

  20. Simone says:

    Very clever thinking, Mr Olear!

    Loved this post as much as I love ‘The Piano Man.’

    You rocked it!

  21. Becky says:

    Busy weekend; sorry I’m coming to this late.

    First of all: I love Billy Joel. Or his music, anyway. One of my all-time favorite artists, which is something I can never decide whether or not to be embarrassed about–like Neil Diamond. I have box sets of both of them.

    “Downeaster Alexa” is one of a handful of songs I’ve adored since I was a kid. I think it was the first song that ever gave me the chills.

    Likewise, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” may be the only history lesson from my elementary school years that really stuck. I went through the whole song, encyclopedia in hand, and looked up every single item and person on the list.

    That was during my 50s phase when I was a kid. “La Bamba” and “Peggy Sue Got Married” were my favorite movies and I fantasized about having a boyfriend who called me “Kitten.” Of course, now, if any man ever called me that, I’d probably chew him out. This is what a minor in women’s studies does to a girl.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Hmmm…you wanted to be called Kitten, and you adopted a tiger as your animal. That is also what women’s studies minors do to a girl…

      BJ and ND are also two great karaoke acts. You can’t have karaoke night without someone doing “Sweet Caroline.”

      And Becky, I’m surprised you didn’t take the “ponderous TS Eliot” bait…

      • Becky Palapala says:

        T.S. Eliot is ponderous. Not much arguing to be done about that.

        I don’t personally see anything wrong with ponderous, so maybe that’s why I failed to take offense. If his poems were “light,” “airy,” or worse, “scrawny,” I wouldn’t like him.

        So I read “ponderous” as “large, broad, heavy” rather than “dull.” Mostly because I am not a Philistine and am not bored by heavy intellectual rumination. But you know. To each his own.

        (Is that better? Good luck keeping me going, though, I’m full of indifference today.)

        Though that’s not to say he was never funny. Gallows humor. You’ve got to be the type, maybe. I am not at all surprised that the political waitress is not.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yeah, a political waitress would be more “Leaves of Grass,” although she’d just have the book and not even open it.

          (I don’t like Whitman, actually…never been able to get through it).

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I like Whitman. He’s a little raunchy. And though he’s classic now, he used to be experimental.

          Kind of like Eliot.

          But unlike Eliot, Whitman was working with some kind of ecstatic sublimity. Transcendence, vastness, etc. etc. These things appeal to me, hence my appreciation for so many of his creative descendants–like Kerouac, for example.

          Whitman was sort of the first hippie. And though I don’t normally like hippies, I give him a pass, since he came by it organically. He didn’t know he was a hippie.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I like the poem about listening to the learned astronomer, but that’s about it.

          He just doesn’t do it for me. But then, I don’t like Kerouac or the Beats much, either, for the same reason.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’ve recently become a fan of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” Just a lot going on. Whitman was so acutely aware of the relationship between writer and reader. Part in parcel, I guess, to his obsession with relationships between all humanity.

          You don’t see that kind of direct address to a reader prior to him…like…

          “Hey, you.”

          “Me?” *looking around*

          “Yes, you.”

          Just kind of cool to have a 100 years-dead poet talking to you knowing he knew he’d be 100 years dead and there’d still be people listening. And it’s a strange feeling. Like you’re going along, reading a poem, and all of a sudden, it spins around and peers back. None of that voyeur stuff with Whitman. This is the most aggressive of his poems in that regard.

          I mean…I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of thing makes me all kinds of giddy.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I’ll have to give him another look.

          I feel that way about Melville — he seems so damned alive in the writing, like he could be a dude from Brooklyn who just finished polished up Moby-Dick last week.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          “Closer yet I approach you;
          What thought you have of me, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance;
          I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.”

          I mean, that’s just creepy.

          He talks of himself in the past tense and in doing so, in part, puts his voice in a present in which he is already dead. I don’t know. He had big ideas, that Whitman.

        • Greg Olear says:

          He also talks about himself in the future tense, celebrating the him yet to come.

          (Unless he’s talking about sex. I don’t think he is. I really hope he isn’t.)

        • Becky says:

          He does. Because he’s everywhere. He’s always talking about that. Being everyone and being everywhere.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Well, it worked for Bill with Monica. (I wish I could cross-reference this comment to Uche’s board re: poetic utility).

  22. A friend and I were just having a discussion about the top five things we wish NEVER became a part of pop culture. My number one? The Piano Man by Billy Joel. Decades later I have yet to figure out, why at some point at every college party there was a drunken rendition of Piano Man. Naturally the song lives on in the playlist of every classic rock station in the country, every elevator, every doctor or dentists office. Dooming me to a life long hatred of Billy Joel. BTW — had a busy weekend but the pages you sent were such a salve for this cranky soul…..

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Robin–I’m glad you liked the pages!

      Re: things I wish never became a part of the pop culture…American Idol tops my list.

      As for the drunken renditions of PM, I think it sort of sounds like an Irish drinking song. The slow three-four tempo make it easy to put your arm around a drunken comrade and sing as loud as you can. Not sure that I ever sung that one in college, though…but there were plenty of others equally embarrassing we did sing along to.

  23. Joe Daly says:

    Bravo, Greg! Like Sean, I’ve never been much of a fan of Bill’s, although I most certainly did love “Big Shot” when it came out in the late 70s. I had just received a boom box for Christmas and was stoked to be able to record songs off of the radio. “Big Shot” and Tom Petty’s “Refugee” were among the first songs I taped and I practically wore that tape out. No, wait- I did wear it out.

    All my college friends from Long Island were hellaciously enthusiastic about Billy Joel, which pretty much closed the door on any chance I would have of allowing myself to listen to him. Secretly though I’ve always thought that Liberty DeVitto was money. Which is no longer a secret now.

    Really fun and creative read. Well done, brah.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Joe.

      Liberty is tops. That’s why Songs in the Attic is so good. You can’t tone him down on a live record.

      What I found last time I wrote about BJ — one of my first TNB efforts — is that he is polarizing. People either love him or hate him. There’s not much middle ground.

      • Joe Daly says:

        One of these days, you and I are going to have to sit across from each other in the same room, with just a Bose portable sound system between us, and go head to head with our iPods. I play one song, we talk about it, then you play a song. Rinse and repeat for ten rounds.

        I think I just wrote us a TNB piece, brother.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yeah, that would be pretty cool. It wouldn’t be a piece; would be a TNB video event.

          I finally acquired a copy of The Fame, as my daughter is gaga about Gaga. That sure does sound good when played loud…

  24. zoe zolbrod says:

    Billy Joel was the first musician I fell in love with. I remember being startled when I learned he was only 5′ 8″, but I carried on loving him. After all, it wasn’t for his looks. Streetlife Serenade was my favorite album. I’m listening to it now, inspired by your brilliant post.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Zoe.

      Is he really 5’8″? That means he’s my height. I thought he was shorter. Is he 5’8″ with the ‘fro?

      Streetlife Serenader = underrated gem

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I’m taller than you! I’m taller than you!

        By an inch. Maybe 3/4″ since I’m now on the losing side of 30.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I’m not surprised. I’m not all that tall, and the TNB folks tend to be like trees.

          The important thing is my son seems to have inherited the recessive gene my dad also got, and will probably wind up topping six feet.

  25. Matt says:

    Humbling confession: I know absolutely nothing about Billy Joel. No one I spend any time with every puts on his music, nor does it come up on any of the radio stations I listen to. I’m relatively certain I’ve never heard a single song of his–and if I have, I don’t remember any of the lyrics.

    As such, I’m kind of standing on the far side of the generation gap and staring at this while scratching my head.

    Google, build me a bridge!

    • Greg Olear says:

      I don’t believe you.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      You have never heard “Uptown Girl” or “We Didn’t Start the Fire” or “It’s Still Rock-n-Roll to Me?” You’ve NEVER heard “Piano Man?”

      I’m with Greg.

      You’re lying.

      You might not know you’re lying, but you are.

    • Matt says:

      I’m dead serious.

      I just YouTube’d a couple of his songs. I might have heard “We Didn’t Start the Fire” once or twice about twenty years ago, but that’s it. I’ve lived in a Billy Joel-free vacuum for most of my life.

      Aside from ‘Sweet Caroline’ I’ve never heard a Neil Diamond song, either. Oh, and that one Johnny Cash covered, too.

      • Greg Olear says:

        You need to turn on your heartlight, my friend. And get yourself in a New York state of mind.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I bet you’ve heard “Red, Red Wine” and “I’m a Believer.”

        Those are Neil Diamond songs.

        Covered by other people, but ND songs nevertheless.

        I’m sure you’re quite serious. I am sure you have no idea whatsoever that you’ve heard “Sweet Caroline.”

        But you have.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh, right. ASIDE from “Sweet Caroline.”

          Got it.

        • Greg Olear says:

          So Matt, what’s the equivalent for you in song ubiquity? Nirvana and Pearl Jam? Justin Timberlake? Usher?

        • Matt says:

          @Becky I’ve heard those songs, yes, but was completely ignorant about them being Neil Diamond’s songs. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard Diamond actually perform one of his own tunes.

          @Greg Pearl Jam specifically, yes, but generally anything grunge-era. Tom Waits. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. PJ Harvey. Tori Amos, though that fanship is waning after the self-indulgence of her last couple of albums. For a while though, having her CDs in my apartment was a real good way to get laid.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          And “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” which maybe you’ve heard because it was in Pulp Fiction?

        • Gloria says:

          That’s Neil Diamond? Wow. Never knew. I like the Urge Overkill version. I’ll bet Neil’s original version is far less awesome.

        • Matt says:

          Yeah, I’ve only ever heard the Urge Overkill cover. I wouldn’t have known it was a Diamond song. Same with “Red Red Wine” “I”m a Believer” and the Johnny Cash cover of “Solitary Man.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Urge Overkill is actually really faithful to the original. Almost no difference from a composition standpoint. UO busied it up a bit. Sound quality/better recording on their newer version, but they made no significant changes.

          That’s basically what Neil’s version sounds like.

        • Neil’s version is far less awesome, though I actually think Neil Diamond is a pretty good songwriter. At least, all his songs are bouncy, in a good way.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I was always so grossed out by the lead singer, I couldn’t get into the UO version.

          I disagree that Neil’s version is less awesome. I mean, one day the kids will say that the 2010 Kung Fu version of “Karate Kid” is more awesome than the original, too.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Have you heard Deep Purple’s cover of “Kentucky Woman”? THAT’S awesome.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I love the Neil version so much, I’m scared to listen. I’ll probably just hate it.

        • Wait wait wait. I know everyone has let go of Matt’s saying he’s never heard a Billy Joel song.
          “You May Be Right” but “I Love You Just The Way You Are” – seriously??? Not even these?
          It’s not like anyone I know ever puts them on (ok – well, Greg – ok – I do)
          but it’s like the air we breathe.

          There’s Joel in the freaking air!!!

          How can you escape it? I think you have and you just don’t know.
          This isn’t like me telling this early 20’s drummer chick friend of mine that I have
          never heard a Hanson (Hansen?) song – I really hadn’t. I didn’t listen to the radio or watch TV
          in the late 90’s – fact. Never heard them. But Joel, Joel is in the freaking air.
          Love him, hate him – he’s there – he’s in your cells – you. just. don’t. know. it.
          If you’ve been to the dentist, you’ve heard Billy Joel.
          If you’ve ever ridden in an elevator – went to the grocery story – bought condoms at the pharmacy (before the high five) – you’ve heard Joel.
          You have.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Steph: I’ve never played “Just the Way You Are.” (But Lou covers it on the piano.)

        • Matt says:

          Nope, Steph, I seriously have not heard those songs. I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never heard them.

          I’ve never had a cup of coffee, either.

        • Wow.
          I’ve known life without coffee, but never without Billy Joel.

        • but I prefer coffee.
          most of the time.
          Carry on!

        • Gloria says:

          Stephanie! It’s Stephanie!!

          HI, STEPH!

          Love,
          Gloria

        • Hey, Gloria!!!
          I know, I have come out from under my rock – I am once again a TNB delinquent – not being very comment board social.
          I miss youuuuuuu!!
          xoxoxoxox –

        • Zara Potts says:

          I’m with Steph on this one, Matt. You MUST have heard Billy Joel.
          I mean, we even have him way down here at the very bottom of the world. Unfortunately, he kind of is the sound of my childhood….

        • Greg Olear says:

          Matt also has never seen Star Wars.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I’ve never seen ‘Point Break’

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’ve never seen The Godfather.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Zara— Point Break is awesome. I’m grateful to Brad giving me the opportunity to write for this site, but I’m more grateful to him for introducing me to the Shakespearian tragedy that is Point Break…

          Becky— despite what everyone else says, The Godfather isn’t that great. The novel is far better. It’s not a bad film by any means, but if I could live my life again I’d probably skip it next time and watch Point Break again…

        • Matt says:

          I really, really am unfamiliar with all those songs. I don’t think anyone in my family has ever owned a Billy Joel album, ever. Aside from the occasional Beatles album or my mother’s horrid Anne Murray and John Denver tapes, my parents really never played music for us kids. They pretty much left us to our own devices in that regard.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Becky – Irwin is one of maybe three people alive who don’t think The Godfather is good. The first one is pretty much perfect.

          Zara – Point Break…fun, but not necessary.

          Matt – You need to be strapped to a chair and force-fed venti lattes while listening to every Joel album, in order, Cold Spring Harbor through River of Dreams. It’s really for the best.

  26. Becky Palapala says:

    Just listened to “Downeaster Alexa” here in my cube and got so upset I wanted to go home. WTF is with that song?

    I don’t know if it’s the song itself, or just its association with my childhood (which was fine and happy but gone), or what, but along with “Fire and Rain” and R.E.M.’s “Try Not to Breathe,” it is now officially one of my not-to-be-accessed-during-PMS tunes.

    I misted. I choked up. I’ve never even lived in New England.

    Good grief.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh, and I’ll add that it reminded me how much I love the line, “Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis…”

    • Greg Olear says:

      It’s sad, but it’s also manipulative. I used to really like that song back in the day, but it hasn’t held up for me. But I think it’s more the production than the song itself.

      There ain’t no island left for islanders like me.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I don’t know that the lyrics are what get to me, honestly.

        Most of the portions of the lyrics that really impress me aren’t the manipulative bits.

        “There are giants out there in the canyons.” Love that.

        It’s the dirge of the music, which suits the content, and the fact that it SOUNDS like the New England N. Atlantic, rolling, seagulls and all.

        I think it is manipulative, but I think it’s just a really consuming song, too.

        Then again, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” gives me chills and upsets me, too. Maybe I just have an attraction/repulsion thing for songs about maritime tragedy.

        • Greg Olear says:

          You’re right, it does sound like the lapping waves. Ah, Billy. I always felt he’d have been better off with a Lennon to his McCartney, someone to tone down his gooberness and hip him up a bit.

          Do you know “Highway Patrolman” by Springsteen?

          I defy you to listen to it, really listen to it, and not cry.

        • Becky says:

          See…that one…I got nothing. I’m susceptible to the music, and there’s not much there. Guitar and harmonica.

          One of the reasons “Downeaster Alexa” is so overwhelming (for me, anyway) is because the music is full and overwhelming. Like I said; it’s not just the lyrics. Come to think of it, “Try Not to Breathe” is the same way. “Fire and Rain” not so much, but JT’s silky smoove voice has its own magic.

          The complexity factor is also why I’m such a maniac for Rufus songs like “Beautiful Child” and “Do I Disappoint You.” Leviathan arrangements that just swallow you up.

        • Becky says:

          This just in: All of “Automatic for the People” is pretty gorgeous like that. And monstrously depressing.

          I just remembered that.

        • Gloria says:

          Ah, Becky, great call. I was just thinking last night about “Nightswimming.” Shitfuck I love that song.

        • Becky says:

          It’s one of my favorites of all-time. Top 5 for sure. It was number one until Jeff Buckley dislodged it.

          That whole album is rife with some really vivid memories for me. The tape was orange and I played it until it quit working. It was the tape in the truck when my cousin drove me to the hospital at 5 am in the dark in January when my grandpa died. No one I knew had ever died before.

          I was 14 and looking out the window at the streetlamps that were the same color as the tape and watching the light move and break across the inside contours of the truck and I can see it perfectly in my head still. Per-fect-ly. I don’t remember things like that, usually. I don’t pay enough attention to external goings on to have memories that vivid.

          But a solid 60% of the ones I have are connected to that album. Weird. Must have been a formative year.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Automatic is REM’s best album, which is saying something (diehard fans will disagree and, ahem, murmur the titles of earlier records).

          But “Everybody Hurts” is a lousy song. I really wish “Strange Currencies” was on there instead. I think “Sidewinder” is my favorite…but there are so many good ones.

          Star me, Kitten. (See? The comment board has now come full circle).

        • Becky Palapala says:

          What was the one after that? Monster? I liked that on a lot, too. And Eponymous because it had “End of the World” on it, of course….

          I think that was on Eponymous.

        • Matt says:

          I think they’re most recent is pretty damn good as well. Accelerate, I think it was called.

        • OPR says:

          do you think Monte got a raw deal because he hailed from Nebraska?

        • Greg Olear says:

          Becky – “End of the World” is the sixth track on Document. It’s also on Eponymous, their greatest hits album before jumping to the big record label.

          OPR – Have you read Duke’s piece on Monty Clift’s brother? You should:
          http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/drhaney/2010/01/the-right-profile/

  27. I love satire and fake letters. So much. Great piece. I am also sort of hating on Billy Joel lately (so very tired of his music, which is on every damn day around here…particularly the “Virginia” song, you know, “Only the good die young…” whatever it’s actually called), though the very first tape I owned as a kid was “Glass Houses.” Everyone owned that, so I got it, too.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Liz.

      I think there’s a codicil on some piece of federal legislation that calls for every high school yearbook in the United States to feature no fewer than three (3) seniors using this as a senior yearbook quote:

      “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun.”

      Also mandated is use of the comma splice.

  28. Richard Cox says:

    Can you write a letter like this for “Stonehenge” or “Lick My Love Pump?” That way I can go ahead and finish laughing myself to death and move on to the next life.

  29. Fuck all, Greg, did you ever just make my night. I’m calling David in to read this right now–he’s going to die. He was such a Billy Joel fanatic back in the day . . .

  30. kristen says:

    Holy shit this is gold. (“She’s Alexa’s age!”) Just what I needed on this gray Wednesday.

    Though, damn you–my decision to listen to PM while reading your piece has led to TOO MANY repeat-plays.

    So good.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Kristen.

      Yeah, PM does have a stickiness that, depending on your threshold of Joel tolerance, can be insidious. It is, however, a good rainy-day tune.

  31. kristen says:

    Yep. And my threshold is fairly high! Gulp.

    PM, for me, is right up there w/ “Just the Way You Are.”

  32. Marni Grossman says:

    I think I say this every time I comment, but: you get so many comments, Greg!

    Probably because you’re fucking hilarious.

    You know what always gets me about “Piano Man”? The hubris. “They…say, man, what are you doin’ here?” Conceited much?

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Marni.

      I came to the same conclusion recently while singing it as a lullaby to Prue — that was the impetus, I guess, for this piece, that he sounds like a pompous dick for that line. Bruce Springsteen has plenty of songs about how he (or his narrator) is going to rise up and win and kick ass, but there’s always a touch of irony to it…like, in “Born to Run” or “Thunder Road,” despite his bravado, you know he ain’t going anywhere. But Billy…just a rank narcissist. John at the Bar must fucking hate him.

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