We're in a Billy Joel state of mind
It’s official: I’m going to watch Showtime. They’ve got a series cooking based on the life of Billy Joel.
Let’s go back in time. The year is 1993. The setting, a public high school in North Carolina. I’m wearing something reprehensible. I’m in a production of Godspell. I’m in the parking lot, windows up, A/C blowing. Thinking about that redhead in FCA, and wondering if I’d have a better shot with her if I were a Baptist. Listening to Billy Joel.
Oh, those were innocent days. Doofy, dorky days. Billy Joel was just my speed. I found him emo, when, in fact, he was merely cheesy. But I was/am cheesy — to deny this would be fraud. And Billy was premium cheese. My friend Brian calls “I Go to Extremes” the worst song ever written. He may be right. I wouldn’t know, after bathing in it every day on the drive to school.
But that’s late Billy; even I recognized his ’70s stuff was superior. I’m talking “Miami 2017,” “Captain Jack,” “Summer Highland Falls,” “Somewhere Along the Line.” Hell, “Rosalinda’s Eyes.” My friends were discovering the Lemonheads and Dinosaur, Jr. and Digable Planets. I was listening to “The Ballad of Billy the Kid.” And air-conducting the orchestra interludes on the drive to Taco Bell, with my knee steadying the wheel.
To discover Billy Joel in the mid-’90s is comparable to discovering America. In the mid-’90s. You’re not the first. You’re not the 40-million-and-first. It’s more like discovering a mall. It’s not flattering. It’s not political. It’s not rebellious. Therefore, it must be intensely personal and true. I looked deep into my soul and found a core of solid Velveeta. Billy Joel — how to put this? — microwaved that Velveeta, rendering it soft, runny, and even more delicious.
The man could break me with a melody. Verse, chorus, bridge — he was a songwriter’s songwriter, more of a carpenter than an artist, maybe, but if you’re building something (in my case, a perhaps outsized self-image) you need more carpentry than art, right?
Luckily, this is what the show’s going to cover: the early life of the Piano Man. The stint in Attila. The doomed first marriage. The wild swings between suicide and self-aggrandizement. “Angry Young Man” type stuff. I’ll watch it with my nostalgia filters fully open. I will collapse into nostalgia for my mid-’90s/early ’70s idyll/idol. I will probably have some cheese handy.
addCredit(“Billy Joel: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com”)