Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Play me a song

Jody Rosen, in Slate, reviews the new Billy Joel box set:
All this came to a head in my freshman year of high school when I discovered Elvis Costello, who, a friend informed me, "writes songs about why people like Billy Joel are just so bad." I didn't want to believe it; surely, I told myself, it was possible to be a fan of Costello and Joel, both of whom, after all, had a way with a tune. Later that year, I went to my first Costello concert. Midway through the show, Costello sat down at an electric piano and began playing a series of cheesy cocktail-jazz chords. "I'd like to sing a Billy Joel song for you now," he said dryly, as laughter rippled through the audience. "It's called 'Just the Way You Are.' " When I returned home that night, all the Joel albums got stuck away in the back of a closet.

It's now more than 20 years later and the new Billy Joel box set, My Lives, sits on my desk—a four-CD-plus-bonus-DVD behemoth whose 80 tracks offer ample reminders of why I loved Joel in the first place, and why, indeed, he's just so bad.

I've always enjoyed 52nd Street, but I probably lost interest in Billy Joel back in 1984. Saw him in concert and, frankly, the saxophonist just blew him off the stage.


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