Archive for Billy Joel

Storm Aftermath: Music and Hope

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by 30daysout

Some years ago we took a family vacation to California, and I found myself riding on a streetcar in San Francisco. While the rest of the family clung to the sides as the car rolled up and down the hills, I stood on the back platform and talked with the conductor.

“Where ya from?” he asked. “Houston,” I said. “You got them hurricanes down there?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. “We got them earthquakes here,” he said. “At least you can see those hurricanes comin’. We don’t get any warning with earthquakes.”

Okay. He wins the natural disaster sweepstakes, I suppose. Whether or not you can see these things coming, and whether or not one lives in a place that gets hurricanes or earthquakes or droughts or blizzards, it’s always tough to see bad things happen to good people.

Yeah, we’ve gotten our fair share of hurricanes where I live. I know what it’s like to have the power out for days, even weeks, and what it’s like to eat the quickly rotting food out of a dead-for-days freezer. My whole family knows what it’s like too, and it ain’t fun.

So I can feel for the folks in New Jersey, New York and other points north who are still trying to survive, and come to terms with their trashed houses and neighborhoods. The best advice I can give ’em? Hang in there. You’re still alive, act like it. And remember the next guy is suffering too, so have a little compassion.

From New Orleans to New Jersey and New York: the great Allen Toussaint with a song he wrote, long before he finally recorded it for a Katrina benefit.

The folks up north are getting their own telethon: “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together,” airs tonight (Nov. 2) at 8 p.m. (EDT) on NBC-Universal stations. The special will air simultaneously on NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, G4, MSNBC, Style, Syfy, The Weather Channel and USA Network.

It will also air on HBO, according to some reports, and other networks may join in before air time. The telethon will be simulcast on Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Radio on SiriusXM and tape delayed for the West Coast. Matt Lauer will host.

“Coming Together” will include performances by Christina Aguilera, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Sting. Jimmy Fallon and Brian Williams are also scheduled to appear.

Hurricane Sandy: How You Can Help (NBC web site)

Review: “Piano Man (Legacy Edition),” by Billy Joel

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2011 by 30daysout

Piano Man (2 CD Legacy Edition)

After releasing his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, in 1971, Billy Joel decided he wanted to hideout, so “he headed out to California.” Los Angeles to be exact. The album was mastered at the wrong speed making Joel sound like a chipmunk. Needless to say, it was a disaster. Desperate to get out of his record contract with Family Productions to sign with Columbia Records, he hid out in a bar playing under the name Bill Martin while his lawyers worked behind the scenes. From that six month experience came the song “Piano Man,” a song as much about the characters he ran into in the bar as it was about his own failings. Some 38 years after it’s intial release, Joel has released the “Legacy Edition” of the Piano Man album and it’s outstanding.

I always liked this album. The songs were carefully crafted, the lyrics were thoughtful and, unlike many songs in the early 70s, the drums were full and in your face. Highlights include the funky “Worst Comes to Worst,” the classics “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” “You’re My Home,” and “Captain Jack,” a seven-minute plus tune that includes the epic line “your sister’s gone out on a date, you just sit at home and masturbate.” “Stop in Nevada” sets a nice western mood, the nasty “Ain’t No Crime” sounds full and the country-esque ‘Travelin’ Prayer” has been recorded by a bevy of country artists including Dolly Parton. Then, of course, there’s “Piano Man” in all its beautiful remastered glory.

This collection also includes a second disc of a show recorded in 1972 for WMMR-FM in Philadelphia. Legendary DJ Ed Sciaky (instrumental in Bruce Springsteen’s career) introduces Joel and he rips through a number of tunes off Cold Spring Harbor and a couple of “new” songs, the aforementioned “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” and “Captain Jack.” There are also a few songs that have never seen the light of day including the excellent “Josephine.” This extra disc is excellent and really enhances the package. Joel’s speaking voice is more New York, his singing voice is much higher, and it shows a future superstar working the room and working his craft.

This re-release of Piano Man has wet my appetite for more of these special Joel collections. How about skipping a few years ahead and just releasing the Legacy Edition of The Nylon Curtain? Just a suggestion.

– George Kovacik

Billy Joel Official Website

Back from NYC: A Rock and Roll Tour

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2011 by 30daysout

An iconic wall of stickers and fliers, preserved under glass at what used to be CBGB's.

Remind me never to go back to New York City in the dead of summer: walking along the city’s sidewalks as the sun sizzled temperatures to near 97 was just as hellish as any August day in our hometown of Houston. But it wasn’t just the heat that reminded us of Texas – it seemed everywhere you turned, there was music in the big city.

The summertime is perfect for live music in New York, and there are plenty of “canned” live music events to satisfy any tourist, including but not limited to the Friday-morning TV-ready “concerts” staged for the network morning news shows. We didn’t do those anyway – we had our hands full with all the other things going on.

New York City is of course a cradle of rock and roll history. You can go to about 100 places that have some significance in music history, from the Brill Building to the Iridium Club (where Les Paul used to play live on a weekly basis) to the Strawberry Fields-John Lennon memorial in Central Park (along with the adjacent Dakota apartment building).

Hard Rock Cafe exhibit is a reminder of our great recent loss.

We got the tourist stuff out of the way first, heading to the big Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square which is an attraction not for its food but for its rich store of rock memorabilia. No shortage of Beatles stuff here – from the actual doors from the Abbey Road studios, to early Beatles matching stage costumes, to beautiful album art covers autographed by all four Beatles, it’s a Fab Four mother lode.

We were lucky enough to sit right under a Bruce Springsteen exhibit with a Boss guitar, a Little Steven guitar and a Clarence Clemons saxophone. We paid tribute once more to the Big Man – a great, great artist. Did you know that the Hard Rock is located in what used to be NYC’s Paramount Theatre, where rock and roll pioneer Alan Freed staged some of his seminal shows back in the day? It’s also the place where Elvis’ first movie Love Me Tender had its world premiere in 1956.

We also walked into Greenwich Village, and in Washington Square park there were at least seven bands playing for tips along the sidewalks. Soon we were on Bleeker headed for the former location of CBGBs on Bowery St. The seminal punk club closed in 2006, and virtually overnight the owners uprooted just about anything that wasn’t nailed down for a possible rebirth of the club someplace else.

I’d never been in the neighborhood before,  it didn’t seem the kind of place that hordes of mohawked and safety-pin-pierced punks would frequent, but I understand many things have changed since 1977. Right now the old CBGBs is an upscale fashion boutique ($800 for a leather jacket, and not a cool one at that!) and pretty much the only concession to history are some patches of wall that still sport hundreds of stickers and fliers from the punk daze, protected under a clear glass window.

Pretty much everywhere you turn in Greenwich Village, you see written on the subway walls and tenement halls two words of graffiti: “Lou Reed.” In one three-block stroll on the way to the former CBGBs, I think I must have seen that name scrawled at least 100 times. I surmised that the graffiti had been created by Lou himself, after some sort of guerilla-marketing brainstorm (or a six pack). No matter – Lou Reed is perhaps the No. 1 rocker that comes to mind when I think of New York City.

Like I said: it's written everywhere in Greenwich Village.

Lou is also the unofficial King of Coney Island (King Neptune), and the next day we found ourselves on the D train headed for Brooklyn and Coney Island. There was a free concert on Coney Island the night before, with San Antonio’s Girl In A Coma and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts headlining, but nobody wanted to ride the subway back late at night. So we arrived on the Boardwalk right about high noon, and there were smells of suntan lotion, hot dogs and cologne everywhere. I looked around for Lou, but no luck; I did, however, catch a few bars of “Coney Island Baby” emanating from Cha-Cha’s Bar & Cafe.

Later that night, back in Manhattan, we cleaned up and attended “Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark” on Broadway. Although Bono and the Edge were rumored to be in town for an appearance on David Letterman, they were no-shows at the play. We particularly enjoyed one scene, where Peter Parker and Mary Jane dance in a club to U2’s “Vertigo.” It is the best song in the show.

Then, finally, the next night we headed for the Bronx to see some guy sing Beatles songs in Yankee Stadium. You can read all about that below; even the part about the guest walk-on by Billy Joel, who Paul McCartney called “a friend of New York.” I would have to agree with that – mostly. Nobody asked me, but if you want Mr. Rock and Roll New York, go down to Greenwich Village and read the graffiti.

MP3: “Coney Island Baby” (live) by Lou Reed

Live: Paul McCartney, New York City

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by 30daysout

Giant video Paul flanks himself, that little white dot in the middle of the stage.

New York City is arguably the world’s biggest stage for any music artist, and when a legend like Paul McCartney wants to kick off a tour in the Big Apple he needs an outta-site venue, the best of the best. So McCartney took over brand-new Yankee Stadium for a two-night stand over the weekend and launched his “On The Run” tour, which right now has scheduled stops in only four more U.S. cities.

We caught Sir Paul’s second night in NYC, and the 69-year-old former Beatle turned in a musical marathon performance that would make Bruce Springsteen proud. McCartney played Beatles classics, Wings favorites and some choice selections from his recent past, doing about 36 songs during a three-hour show. Opening with “Magical Mystery Tour,” McCartney was in fine voice and only three songs in, he rekindled Beatlemania with a rousing version of “All My Loving,” from 1963.

You didn't have to be close to feel like you were.

Jesus, are these songs really about a half century old? That didn’t stop the audience – including an awful lot of kids born after Wings, not to mention the Beatles – from singing along. McCartney pulled out “The Night Before,” from Help!, which he explained he hasn’t performed live until this tour.

“Paperback Writer” rocked, and even the Wings warhorse “Let Me Roll It” spiraled into a short instrumental cover of “Foxey Lady,” which McCartney dedicated to Jimi Hendrix.

Sir Paul also didn’t forget to remember his fallen bandmates, following a sublime “Eleanor Rigby” with George Harrison’s “Something,” which got one of the biggest ovations of the night. McCartney also remembered his dear friend John Lennon with “Here Today” and a rousing “A Day In The Life,” morphing into “Give Peace A Chance.”

If there was a surprise for the night, to me it was the five songs from the Beatles’ White Album: “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “I Will,” “Helter Skelter” and “Blackbird,” which McCartney explained was written in response to the U.S. civil rights movement during the 1960s. He also did five more from another album, Band On The Run: the title song, “Let Me Roll It,” “Jet,” “Mrs. Vanderbilt” and “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Four.”

The encore guest shot by Billy Joel on “I Saw Her Standing There” was a surprise only if you believed the beer-line rumors of appearances by Elton John, Bono and the Edge or even Bruce Springsteen. Wishful thinking, but McCartney didn’t need any help.

Armed with easily the greatest catalog in the history of rock, McCartney could have sleepwalked through this show and still given everyone their money’s worth. But he came out rocking, never leaving the stage even while his younger bandmates took a few breaks, playing a dizzying variety of instruments and hitting pretty much every note like it was 1969 all over again. In fact, I thought he was in much better voice than he exhibited on the 2009 live CD/DVD Good Evening New York City – simply amazing.

By the time the full moon started to peek over the upper bleachers of Yankee Stadium, McCartney’s show was nearing its third hour with the standards “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Get Back” and the fireworks exploding around “Live And Let Die.”

With the final song lyrics “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” still echoing in our ears, we hit the subway to go from the Bronx back to Manhattan. And there in the Herald Square subway station, playing their hearts out after midnight, was a live band doing “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” A nice end to a great night of rock and roll.

Hollywood Reporter‘s roundup of reviews for McCartney’s Yankee Stadium shows

WCBS-FM review of McCartney’s second night show, with setlist and more photos

Rolling Stone review of the second night

YouTube: “Maybe I’m Amazed” from Yankee Stadium

YouTube: “I Saw Her Standing There” with Billy Joel

Paul McCartney official website

A special t-shirt was created for the NYC concerts.

It was a great night to be in NYC.

Review: “The Last Play at Shea” by Billy Joel (DVD)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by 30daysout

“I’m just a kid from Levittown, and I’m playing Shea Stadium” says Billy Joel at the beginning of the brilliant documentary, The Last Play at Shea. The 90-minute film takes us through the history of both Joel’s career and Shea Stadium, a ballpark that opened in 1964 and had it share of classic moments. Everything from The Beatles historic concert in August, 1965 to the 1969 “Miracle” Mets to Bill Buckner’s costly error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza’s emotional home run to win the first game back after 9/11.

The interviews make this DVD sing. Joel recalls being on vacation and looking up and seeing supermodels Elle MacPherson and Christie Brinkley leaning on the piano he was playing, Paul McCartney tells us what it was like on that magic night in 1964, and how he was able to make it work in his schedule to play with Joel on the final night, Daryl Strawberry taking offense to people calling Shea “a dump,” and Keith Hernandez remembering how the stands shook with such force as he sat in the clubhouse during the ninth inning of Game 6 that he thought the fans were going to fall right through.

One of the most moving segments is about Pete Flynn, an gruffy Irishman who had been the head groundskeeper at Shea since 1964. Everyone from Tom Seaver to Strawberry talks about their love for the guy and how he was as much a part of the Mets as anyone. One scene shows Flynn driving McCartney to the stage and telling him “I drove you in 1964.” Classic.

Joel was the perfect choice to close Shea. He is New York and The Last Play at Shea is a fitting tribute to a “dump” that New Yorkers won’t soon forget.

Billy Joel Official Website

“The Last Play at Shea” trailer

Let It Rock … But Don’t Spill The Wine!

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by 30daysout

Editor’s Note:  Our L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller has written a post for his excellent wine blog Now and Zin on wine and rock and roll.  He has graciously allowed us to reprint this post – and we’ve included links to some of the songs referenced in the copy.  And at the end, we have added a few “bonus” songs of our own.)

One of my many joys in life is music.  I love gathering mp3s of songs together in a thematic group and burning them to a CD.  I use these CDs to pass the hour and a half or so each day I spend behind the wheel of the car.

Another of my many joys is wine, so it’s not too much of a stretch for me to assemble a compilation of songs about wine.

It’s difficult to find too many songs about wine that are actually about the wine.   Most wine songs are lyrically concerned with over-imbibing: getting drunk on wine, staying high all the time, etc.   I was certainly no saint in my younger days, but at this point in my life I try to promote only the responsible use of alcoholic beverages.  Besides, I drink wine to enjoy the experience of the wine, not to get blasted.

Wine has a rather seedy image in some of the more well-known wine classics.  The Tom Paxton song, “Bottle Of Wine,” deals with the trials and tribulations of panhandling for spare change in order to buy some fruit of the vine.  Many other songs deal with the soft underbelly of the wine drinking populace, too.  In “Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” also known as “Wine, Wine, Wine,” the singer has a nickel and only needs another dime to afford the desired bottle.  You’d be hard-pressed to match that in today’s economy, even at 7-11.

Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Sangria Wine” is all about the camaraderie of wine – which is great – but his delivery gets more liquid as the song progresses. It ends up with a “slumped-in-the-lawn-chair” sort of feeling that isn’t exactly unpleasant, just maybe a little undesirable.

“Red, Red Wine” was penned by Neil Diamond in the 1960s and performed by a wide variety of singers since then. In it, the wine “goes to my head, makes me forget.” That’s touching, but most counselors will tell you it’s a bad idea to try and hide from your troubles in a bottle of wine.  (Included here is the UB40 version of “Red, Red Wine” which was an international hit in 1983.)

In similar fashion, “Two More Bottles of Wine,” “Wine Do Yer Stuff” and a host of others deal with wine as a crutch or escape from reality.

“Spill The Wine,” the great 1970 hit by Eric Burdon and War, is about a dream where wine is involved. To me it always seemed like a dream induced by something harder than wine.

Lee Hazelwood’s “Summer Wine, which took him and Nancy Sinatra to the top 40 in the mid-’60s, is the flip side of that dream in “Spill The Wine.” There’s no happy ending, though. Eventually, the summer wine runs empty.

I prefer songs about wine made from grapes, so I’ll toss out “Sweet Cherry Wine,” “Elderberry Wine” and “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.”  Who needs wine made from old dogs, children and watermelons?

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Famed drummer Liberty DeVitto talks to 30 Days Out about his new book

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 12, 2010 by 30daysout

Former Billy Joel drummer, Liberty DeVitto, is one of the great drummers of the rock era.  A powerhouse on stage who is idolized by drummers all over the world. He can now add author to his long list of accomplishments. He has penned, along with fellow drummer Sean Kennedy, Camp Jam: Rock Solid: Drums, a how-to book on how to become, not only a great drummer, but a great musician. The book covers the nuts and bolts of drumming and includes play-along tracks featuring a real band, with over five hours of music, tips, and suggestions on the MP3 disc, performed by DeVitto and Kennedy. DeVitto was nice enough to answer some questions for us about the book and what it takes to make it as a drummer.

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Christmas Song of the Day: “Christmas in Fallujah” by Cass Dillon

Posted in Christmas with tags , , , , on December 18, 2009 by 30daysout

“Christmas in Fallujah” was written by Billy Joel after he received tons of letters from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan describing the horrors of  war. Joel felt the protest song needed a young singer who, if circumstances were different, might be fighting instead of singing. Two of his band member introduced him to fellow Long Islander, Cass Dillon.

Dillon recorded it and said of the experience…”When someone of that stature, with that history of great songs behind him with such a huge catalog asks you to sing something he’s written, there’s nothing you can do but be completely honored to perform.” All proceeds from the song go to “Home For the Troops,” an organization that builds homes for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Cass Dillon Official Website

Billy Joel Official Website

Liberty DeVitto takes Piano Man to court

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 24, 2009 by 30daysout


Former Billy Joel drummer, Liberty DeVitto, is suing his old boss. Check out the story in the NY Post. DeVitto told us about his troubles with Joel a few months ago in a 30 Days Out exclusive interview.

Liberty DeVitto MySpace page

Summer, Final Edition 2008

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by 30daysout

Summer’s fading away – so here’s a grab bag of summer, sunshine, beach and just cool songs, some new and some old.  Enjoy!  (Thanks to L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller for some of the songs and mashups you find here.)

MP3: “Summer, Highland Falls” (live) by Billy Joel

MP3: “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady

MP3: “Summer Of Pain” by Witch Hats

MP3: “Special Bong Olympics” by Barking Spiders

MP3: “The Inconvenience Of Truth” by Carbon/Silicon

MP3: “Lost Coastlines” by Okkervil River

MP3: “Long Summer Days” by the Moody Blues

MP3: “Sunshine Lies” by Matthew Sweet

MP3: “Sun Is Shining/Sunshine Superman” by MaxwellJump

MP3: “Claire De Lune” by the Tomorrow Men

MP3: “Czar Of The Surf Guitar” by the Illuminoids

MP3: “The Boys Of Summer” by the Ataris

MP3: “Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue” (live) by Isaac Hayes

Bonus video: “Help Me, Rhonda” by Al Jardine, Steve Miller and Flea