I was nineteen and an evangelist for Billy Joel, certain that I was the only person in the world who had ever heard of him. I was determined to change that.
Freshly settled into my garage apartment, there was a plant on the windowsill and a chair in the corner. The primary décor though, was that blaster of a stereo. On my own, livin’ large, no Dad-man to TID me. (Turn-it-Down: that was a time before earbuds, you know.)
I suppose Billy Joel’s music must have come to me through the ionosphere or through some cosmic wave-bounces. I don’t know how else I would have heard of him. Oh sure, there was that Piano Man thing on the radio, but had anyone really listened to him? Really Listened? I’d ask, Have you heard of this guy named Billy Joel? Nah. Everyone had heard of Billy Jack, and Billy Bob, and Billy – our local home-town guitar-slinger.
Billy Joel, not so much.
In our small town, you could count the number of young singles with their own apartments. I imagine somebody probably did. Like I said. Small town. I had my share of visitors, and – they paid the proselytizer’s price: I was going to make believers out of them with a fairly loud dose of Billy Joel’s album “Streetlife Serenade.”
You gotta hear this! I’d say, lowering the needle onto the record. And the piano started. There weren’t any more new Beatles records, but what came out of the speakers on this album had the Fab-Four’s mix of ballads and rockers and thought-provokers and tear-jerkers. Vocals and instrumentals. Harmonies. Lead guitar solos. Oh, yeah. Piano, too.
Wait, wait, I’d plead, when my guest would begin to fidget. This one other song… you’ve GOT to hear this one! I guess I figured to wear them down into liking it.
And so, that’s how I became the young single guy with his own apartment that no one visited anymore. (Kidding. It was a small town, after all. They just started bringing their own music with them.)
I subsequently ended my career as a Billy Joel Preacher. In truth, either BJ changed, or I did, because none of his later works seemed to knock me back in the way of Streetlife Serenade. He had plenty of big hits in the years to come, but – alas – he was forced to promote them on his own.
I was out on dragging friends in front of my stereo to hear him.
Put the album on this evening (I say that as though I placed a platter on a turntable. Nah. Streamed it. My old vinyl was pretty well worn.)
Turned it up. Then tweaked it up just a little big more, just in time for my air-drumsticks to knock down that roll before the third chorus with the perfect-piercing falsetto from a young Billy Joel.
That probably wasn’t my Dad telling me to turn it down, but I did anyway.
Once that last song was over.
(In case you’d like to hear it:
Ahhh, heck. There I go, getting all Billy Joel evangelistic…)