Archive for Los Angeles

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

(The Real) Dead Man’s Curve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 9, 2009 by 30daysout

Gentlemen ... start your engines!

Editor’s Note: This was written by our L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller, who just happens to be the afternoon traffic guy on Los Angeles powerhouse AM station KABC.  Thanks, Randy!

The town I grew up in, Port Arthur, Texas, had a “Dead Man’s Curve.” It was a microscopic piece of blacktop that bent 90 degrees around a house situated very close to the road.   It was extremely hard to see the oncoming traffic, and there wasn’t much room to swerve out of harm’s way.   On the other hand, it was almost impossible to take the turn at more than 10 mph, so it’s highly doubtful that anyone actually died there, unless it was from boredom.

It made for a catchy name, though.  That’s due in large part to the 1964 Jan and Dean hit of the same name, written by Jan Berry and Roger Christian.  The lyrics describe a fictional drag race right down one of the biggest streets in the city that has been my home for nearly 20 years, Los Angeles, California.


Look who has a star on Vine - just north of Sunset!

The song is believed by some to have foretold the 1966 car accident that nearly killed Berry.  Digging around a bit shows that the smart money believes the Dead Man’s Curve of the song is not the place where Berry crashed his Stingray, although it was rather close by.  It does appear, however, to be the same place where actor and voiceover genius Mel Blanc was nearly killed in an accident.  It is that incident that is believed to be the true inspiration for the song.  Apparently Christian wanted the race in the song to end in a tie, but Berry insisted on a melodramatic, fiery, tire screechin’, glass bustin’ death crash.

The actual Dead Man’s Curve in Los Angeles is a stretch of Sunset Boulevard near Bel Air, just north of the UCLA campus, with a series of hairpin turns.  In my experience with it, I can see how it got the name.  That part of Sunset looks almost rural due to the tree-shrouded property there.  Drivers encounter few cross streets and fewer traffic signals, so the speeds are generally close to 60 mph.  It’s too fast for the situation, but the alternative is usually a BMW pushing you along so the driver can get to his/her drug deal/pilates class/studio screening on time.

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