Thursday, September 08, 2011
AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Billy Joel
Song:Just The Way You Are
Album:The Essential Billy Joel
Of course most music fans should be familiar with singer songwriter Billy Joel. After all, he is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. But what you may not know is that Just The Way You Are was his first top ten hit in 1977 and that and the album The Stranger was his commercial breakthrough. He was around for over a decade before that happened. I'm going to concentrate on how her got to that point. He was born May 9, 1949 in The Bronx, NY and grew up in Hicksville, Long Island. He took piano lessons as a child but took up boxing when he was teased. He was on the Golden Gloves circuit for a while but quit when his nose was broken. He joined the British Invasion cover band The Echoes. They recorded in 1966 with producer Shadow Morton on Kama Sutra Records. They changed their name to The Emeralds and then The Lost Souls. He joined The Hassles who released two albums on United Artists. Joel wrote most of the songs but they didn't sell and split up in 1969. Joel formed the duo Attila with Hassles drummer Jon Small. Their 1970 album on Epic Records really tanked and then the group ended when Joel ran off with Small's wife and later married her. If you're wondering about the group name, I guess you haven't seen the album cover with the duo dressed up as barbarians. Joel released his first solo album Cold Spring Harbor in 1971 on Family Productions. But they screwed up the mastering and Joel's voice sounded much higher that it is. And his contract gave them indefinite rights to his music. He moved to Los Angeles in 1972 and performed at a piano bar as Bill Martin. A Philadelphia radio station played a tape of Joel's song Captain Jack and that got him a deal with Columbia Records. Columbia bought out his contract with Family. but the Family logo was on Joel's first ten albums and they got a cut of record sales. Though Piano Man is Joel's signature song, it wasn't a big hit single because it was too long. He referenced that on The Entertainer. His next couple of albums did OK and Joel moved back to New York in 1976. He finally had his commercial breakthrough with the 1977 album The Stranger produced by Phil Ramone. Ramone was a veteran recording engineer turned producer. The album reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 and was certified Platinum. Just The Way You Are reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 . Three other songs from the album charted. Apparently Joel didn't like Just The Way You Are and wasn't going to put it on the album. Phoebe Snow sang backup vocals on the song and convinced him otherwise. Jazz legend Phil Woods played sax and other musicians on the song include Hiram Bullock and Hugh McCracken on guitars and Ralph McDonald on percussion. Billy Joel continued to have a lot of success through the 80s. He had a total of 13 top ten hits with three reaching number one. Sony released a single CD budget comp last year called Hits. Unfortunately, Just The Way You Are isn't on it. So I recommend this 2001 2CD comp Essential instead. It's not perfect but it will have to do. Billy Joel doesn't write songs anymore but he still tours. He's experimented with classical music and musicals but I like his early music best. Here's Billy Joel performing Just The Way You Are 1977.