As some of you may be aware, there is a new channel on Sirius/XM radio. As of the beginning of April, I think, there has been a Billy Joel channel replacing the 40's channel. Initially, it was advertised as being for "a limited time only", but in recent days they've removed that disclaimer. Now does that mean it's not for a limited time only? I don't know. But what I do know is it is an ongoing reminder of exactly what Billy Joel has contributed to American music over the past 40 years. Arguably, he is the American Elton John in many ways. The difference, I guess, is that Billy never donned drag or other such costuming on stage while performing.
Anyway, even though his legacy of music is substantial and I'm sure everyone has a favorite song or album, what I wish to do today is point, once again, to the concept of "classic". Most when talking about Joel would immediately be steered to 1977's, "The Stranger", for obvious reasons. Laced with wonderful songs that do fit very well together, it can well be a classic album in every definition of the word. I won't argue the point. Others, including Joel, will single out 1982's, "Nylon Curtain", as the high point because of production values. Again, I'm not here to debate.
However, though a fan of all his music, if I were to point a finger at one album that I think features a flow and feel unlike all the rest, for me there is no comparison to 1980's "Glass Houses". As many of you may not even realize, it features Billy's first #1 hit, "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me". Yes, that's right. Look it up. "Just The Way You Are" only hit #3. "My Life" was top 10. However, as many of you recognize I'm sure, though it did go up the charts, "Rock and Roll..." was far from what I think I or even Joel, himself, thought would be the hit. The album opens with "You May Be Right" and is followed by "Sometimes A Fantasy". As all in the industry know, those are the prime two spots on any album. Producers knew at that time that DJ's would check a new album out and normally cue up the first cut on an album because it was the easiest for them when vinyl was the media. Then, producers also knew that DJ's to see if the album was a one hit wonder, would check out the second song. If the second sounded good, then they'd proceed through the album. This was reality until CD's came along. So according to Joel and producer Phil Ramone, obviously they didn't think much of "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" because they buried it in the #4 spot on side one between "Don't Ask Me Why" and "All For Leyna".
But you see, this is exactly the point. The album is, I believe, the pinnacle of Joel's work because you can't find a single "album filler" on the album. Often buried somewhere is a song or two that just is there to take up space or appease the artist's ego. They often want to do songs for themselves which I think quite often serve to show they have massive egos and don't care about the audience. But in this case, I don't think there is any such thing. Again, side two opens up with a song they believed would have a chance to be a hit. Why do I say that? It's just as easy to cue up cut one on side two as it is the first song on the A side. "I Don't Want To Be Alone Anymore" followed by a second song, once again, that was positioned to be considered, "Sleeping With The Television On".
Anyway, for me, this is a classic start to finish and those who dispute it can do so all they wish. But again, I think there are times when everything seems to align for an artist and his mindset when writing and recording lays a very straight line from point A to point B. In the case of "Glass Houses", which as perhaps you also recognize is not the title of any song on the album which most assuredly did not please Columbia Records since most labels demanded a title track. Yet even without one, the album rocketed to the top of the charts and is today still enamored by many in the industry.