Friday, April 26, 2013

David Bowie Finally Comments On 'The Next Day,' In The Form Of 42 Ten-Dollar Words

(By Marc Hogan , Spin magazine, 26 April 2013)

David Bowie / Photo by Jimmy King

David Bowie's slow-drip release of information about last month's The Next Day, the art-rock legend's first album of new material in a decade, has so far been more enthralling than the actual music. In January, the Thin White Duke dropped a new single on the world without any advance warning. Since then he has brilliantly cast Tilda Swinton in one video, and Gary Oldman will reportedly star in the next one. But he hasn't given interviews, the album's cover is just the cover of 1977's classic "Heroes" with a big ugly box over it containing the new title, and photos of a guy with a mask on are what passes for exclusive Bowie magazine photo shoots.

Now, the novelist Rick Moody, in a nearly 14,000-word piece for The Rumpus, says he has "somehow persuaded" Bowie — "I persuaded Bowie, somehow," he adds, somewhat prolixly — to share "a sort of a work flow diagram for The Next Day." This means, apparently, a "list of words about the album." What Bowie has provided are 42 words, most of them dictionary-worthy, that we're told relate to the album.  We're also told that Bowie "isn't doing press" for The Next Day. But isn't that exactly what he's doing? Except more skillfully than less famous people, because he gets to do press while maintaining he's not doing press? He's "doing press" brilliantly, in fact.  Anyway, here's the list. It has a nice beat, and you can dance to it:












































Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Billy Joel News (2005 Thru 2012)

The Stranger
(By Chuck Klosterman, New York Times, Sept, 2002)

Billy Joel has led the kind of life only a fool would hope for. No realist would ever dream of attaining the level of success he has achieved. He has sold more than 100 million records, which is more than any solo artist except Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley. He has dated supermodels, and he married one of them. Drunk people will sing ''Piano Man'' for as long as there are karaoke bars, so he shall live forever. This fall he will embark on a stadium tour with Elton John, and they will sell out Madison Square Garden on the strength of songs that are two decades old; next month, Twyla Tharp will take a play to Broadway titled ''Movin' Out,'' which will wordlessly interpret 24 of Joel's songs through the idiom of modern dance. And yet as Joel and I drive around the Hamptons in his surprisingly nondescript car, none of these facts holds his attention for long. We talk about his 16 platinum records, and his memories of making ''An Innocent Man,'' and his love of Italian motorcycles, and the obsessiveness of his dental habits. But whatever subject we touch on, the conversation inevitably spirals back to the same thing. Women.

Since he sold his East Hampton mansion to Jerry Seinfeld, Joel has been living in a modest rented house nearby. But he tells me that he is trying to rent an apartment in Manhattan for the sole purpose of meeting women. ''I'm not going to meet anyone out here,'' he says. ''The happiest times in my life were when my relationships were going well -- when I was in love with someone, and someone was loving me. But in my whole life, I haven't met the person I can sustain a relationship with yet. So I'm discontented about that. I'm angry with myself. I have regrets.'' Our conversation continues in this vein for most of the afternoon, and after a while I find myself in the peculiar position of trying to make Billy Joel feel better. I point out that many things in his life have gone amazingly well; I remind him that he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ''That's a cold comfort at the end of the day,'' he tells me. ''You can't go home with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You don't sleep with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You don't get hugged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and you don't have children with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want what everybody else wants: to love and to be loved, and to have a family. Being in love has always been the most important thing in my life.''

This sentiment is so universal that it's a cliché. But that's not a criticism. In fact, it's probably why he is able to connect with people in a way that even he doesn't completely realize: he musically amplifies mainstream depression. He never tried to invent a new way to be sad. Joel's sardonic gloom has been at the vortex of almost all his most visceral work. ''Honesty'' (on ''52nd Street'') implies that the only way you can tell that someone really cares about you is if they tell you you're bad. ''All for Leyna'' (on ''Glass Houses'') is about an emotionally capricious lover who leaves the song's protagonist shattered and alone. ''And So It Goes'' (a ballad released in 1989) has Joel insisting that every woman he loves will eventually abandon him. Even ''Scenes From an Italian Restaurant'' (on ''The Stranger'') is about how relationships that seem perfect are always doomed. ''Billy does take things harder than most people,'' says Jon Small, a Long Islander who met Joel in 1965, played drums in Joel's first two bands and was briefly married to the woman who would become Joel's first wife. ''Emotionally, he takes things harder than I ever did. But all us guys in his inner circle always knew that Billy writes his best when he's having problems. He works best in drastic situations, and those are always due to his relationships.''

That, of course, is the paradox: Joel's art is defined by his life, and his best work is his most morose. Thus he can achieve greatness only through despair. But for Joel, at 53, that artistic transference seems to be failing. There was a time when sadness spawned genius; now it just reminds him that he's alone. ''I'm kind of in a dark place,'' Joel says. ''And I know some people are actually excited about that, because they think I'll write an album about being sad. But that's not what my music is about. There have been times when I've done that, but I'm not going to do it again.'' Joel hasn't made a pop album in almost 10 years, even though his last one (''River of Dreams'' in 1993) moved five million units. There's always a chance he might someday decide to make another, he says, but he currently has no plans to try; he describes himself as unmotivated, uninspired, alienated from the concept of commercial songwriting and uninterested in composing lyrics. He still plays around with what he calls ''thematic fragments'' of instrumental music, but he has no concrete aspirations for any of it. ''I don't have a new project,'' he says. ''I'm not doing anything but personal life stuff.'' He talks like a guy who has conquered every goal he dreamed about as a teenager, only to discover that those victories have absolutely nothing to do with satisfaction.

''Cold Spring Harbor,'' his first album, came out in 1972. Joel hated it; a mistake during the production sped up the album's master tape, making his vocals sounds shrill and chipmunkesque. (He recalls smashing the LP against a wall the first time he played it for friends.) His second solo release, ''Piano Man,'' in 1973, was an artistic advancement and his first defining moment as a musician -- and probably the moment that marginalized him forever. ''In the big picture of pop music, I don't know if what I've created is seen as being that important or that necessary, at least not if you ask the experts,'' he says. ''I was tagged right after 'Piano Man': I was a balladeer, I didn't write substantive music, my records were overproduced, I played too many ballads. Oh, and of course my favorite: 'He studied piano.' I had never realized that one of the prerequisites for being critically acclaimed was not knowing how to play your instrument. That stuff bothered me for a long time.'' Joel's musical output from 1976 to 1982 (''Turnstiles'' through ''The Nylon Curtain'') was one of the most successful runs in rock history. But the records he made during that period are consistently maligned by virtually every school of rock scholarship. ''Rolling Stone magazine would not say anything positive about me, and they were the tastemakers at the time,'' Joel explains. ''There were people from the old guard who insisted I wasn't a real rock and roller. Well, O.K., fine -- I'm not a real rock and roller. You got me.''

The reasons for that critical disdain are hard to pin down. There are no lyrics from ''The Stranger'' as ridiculously melodramatic as the worst lines from ''Born to Run'' (''Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims/And strap your hands across my engines''), nor was Joel's public posture any less organic or more calculated than that of the Sex Pistols. But guys like Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Rotten have a default credibility that Joel will never be granted, and it's not just because he took piano lessons. The problem is that Joel never seemed cool, even among the people who like him. He's not cool in the conventional sense (like James Dean) or in the self-destructive sense (like Keith Richards), nor is he cool in the kitschy, campy, ''he's so uncool he's cool'' way (like Neil Diamond). He has no intrinsic coolness, and he has no extrinsic coolness. If cool were a color, it would be black -- and Joel would be kind of a burnt orange. The bottom line is that it's never cool to look like you're trying . . . and Joel tries really, really hard. ''He just doesn't get it,'' Robert Christgau tells me over the telephone. ''The person I compare Billy Joel to is Irving Berlin; that's the positive side of what he does. But Billy Joel also has a grandiosity that Irving Berlin never got near. That's what's wrong with him. If he wanted to be a humble tunesmith -- a 'piano man,' if you will -- he would be a lot better off. But he's not content with that. He wants something grander. And that pretentious side infects not only his bad and mediocre work, but also his best work.'' Christgau has covered music for The Village Voice since 1969 and is widely considered the ''dean of rock critics.'' When I told him that Joel suspects critics will never include him among rock music's pantheon of greats, it took him about 15 milliseconds to agree.

''Well, he's right,'' Christgau says. ''He's not good enough. He and Don Henley are really notable for how resentful they are about their lack of respect. You don't catch Celine Dion complaining about a lack of critical respect, and she's a lot worse than Billy Joel. But she doesn't care. Billy Joel cares deeply about that respect, and he wants it bad.'' Perhaps as a response to three decades of slights, Joel made a classical album in 2001 called ''Fantasies and Delusions: Music for Solo Piano.'' Influenced by Chopin and credited as the work of ''William Joel,'' ''Fantasies and Delusions'' sold remarkably well, topping the classical charts for months -- though arguably, Joel could smash a piano with a ball-peen hammer for 75 minutes and release it as a live album, and it would still sell remarkably well. But the record -- and the college lecture tour he undertook to accompany it -- didn't reinvent Joel at all. It just convinced the Robert Christgaus of the world that they were right all along. In 1970, Joel tried to commit suicide by chugging half a bottle of furniture polish. The conventional wisdom has always been that this attempt stemmed from the fact that his career was floundering. (His attempt at a psychedelic heavy-metal band - an ill-fated two-piece called Attila - had just imploded.) In truth, Joel says, it was over problems in his relationship with Elizabeth Weber, the woman who would become his first wife. ''I was absolutely devastated,'' he recalls. ''I couldn't bring anything to the relationship. That was the driving force behind my suicide attempt.'' Weber is the subject of one of Joel's most famous songs, ''Just the Way You Are.'' It's a love letter that says everything anyone ever wanted to hear: You're not flawless, but you're still what I want. He tells Weber not to try ''some new fashion'' or dye her hair blond or work on being witty. It's a criticism of perfection, but in the best possible way; it's like Joel is saying that he loves Weber because she's not perfect, and that he could never leave her in times of trouble.

The irony, of course, is that Joel and Weber divorced five years after ''Just the Way You Are'' won a Grammy for ''Song of the Year.'' Some would say this contradiction cheapens the song and makes it irrelevant. I'd argue that the opposite is true; the fact that Joel got divorced from the woman he wrote this song about makes it his single greatest achievement. It's the clearest example of why Joel's love songs resonate with so many people: he expresses absolute conviction in moments of wholly misguided affection. This is further validated when he admits -- just 40 minutes after telling me about his suicide attempt -- that he was never really in love with Weber at all, even on the night he tried to kill himself. He thought he was in love, but he wasn't. ''I shouldn't have gotten married,'' he says of his union with Weber. ''She said we either had to get married or our relationship was over, so I said, 'O.K.' I was 24. I was too young to get married, although it ended up lasting eight years. Was I really in love? I don't think so. But when I married Christie, I really wanted to get married and I really wanted to have kids.'' ''Christie'' is Christie Brinkley, the gangly sex kitten Joel married in 1985 and lionized in the hit single ''Uptown Girl.'' Brinkley agreed to be interviewed for this article, only to change her mind at the last possible moment. She is the mother of Joel's 16-year-old daughter, Alexa, and is generally perceived to be the love of his life -- although he insists that his six-year relationship with Carolyn Beegan in the 1990's and his more recent courtship of Trish Bergin, a TV news anchor, were almost as deep. In fact, tabloid speculation was that Joel's breakup with Bergin was the reason he spent 10 days in alcohol rehab this summer, a rumor Joel confirms, saying that Bergin was the reason he ''started drinking all that wine.'' But as the hours pass and we keep talking, he slowly widens the scope of his melancholy. ''The more I think about it, the more I think it was all four of those relationships,'' he says. ''I never really stop thinking about any of them.''

So how much wine do you have to drink before you need to check yourself into rehab? ''A lot,'' says Joel. ''A lot.'' Joel says he was on a ''well-documented bender'' for three months before checking himself into Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut in mid-June. This would date the bender's origin to right around the time of his March 15 concert with Elton John at Madison Square Garden, during which Joel was widely described as disoriented, exhausted and erratic. (Throughout the performance, he shouted out the locations of famous World War II battle sites like ''Midway!'' and ''Guadalcanal!'') In early June, he drove off the road in East Hampton and wrecked his Mercedes; a week later, The New York Post was reporting, ''Billy Joel in rehab after galpal dumps him.'' ''I was amazed by the way all of that played out in the media,'' he says now. ''To me, a musician going to rehab is like a normal person going to get his teeth cleaned. Don't these people ever watch 'Behind the Music'? It's a cliché. If I had known that the story was going to be reported in the way that it was, I would have considered not going at all.'' Part of what perplexes Joel is that he feels as if he is no longer the kind of celebrity who warrants tabloid coverage; when I argue that the news media are always going to be interested in anyone who has sold 21 million copies of his greatest hits collection, he reminds me that he hasn't made pop music in almost 10 years. ''I don't think what has happened to me is that different from what happens to most people,'' he says. ''The only difference is the scale. People seem to think my problems are larger than life, but they're not larger than my life. Yes, I was married to Christie Brinkley, but it didn't work, just like a lot of marriages don't work out. I don't sit around thinking: Oh, my God! I'm this famous guy who lost his famous wife!''

It's a contradiction: Billy Joel is keenly aware that he is ''Billy Joel,'' but he doesn't seem to understand fully how that designation is the cause of virtually everything good and bad about his life. ''On the one hand, it probably is easier for me to meet women than it is for most people, because I have a certain degree of fame,'' he says. ''But on the other hand, I have certain problems in relationships that other people don't. I was recently on a date with a woman, and she told me: 'You're one of those guys who comes with all this stuff. You're always being written about and photographed and all that star stuff.' And it dawned on me that she was probably right.'' ''Movin' Out,'' Twyla Tharp's $8 million show based on Joel's songs, will have its official Broadway debut on Oct. 24. But it has already absorbed some of the baggage that Joel has carried for years. When the unorthodox musical opened in Chicago in late July, theater critics described it as ''inane'' and ''cliché-ridden,'' prompting major changes to the first act. And though those barbs were mostly directed at Tharp, it's easy to see how they could strike Joel as well, even though he played virtually no role in the production. The characters in ''Movin' Out'' include Brenda and Eddie (the couple from ''Scenes From an Italian Restaurant'') and Tony (from the song ''Movin' Out''), all of whom have their lives thrown into chaos by the Vietnam War (illustrated by tracks like ''Goodnight Saigon''). Tharp describes it as the story of the entire baby boom generation, a demographic for which Joel has often been tagged as an apologist. ''He chronicled the time in which I lived,'' the 61-year-old Tharp says. But there are elements of Joel's work that Tharp considers timeless. ''There is a large component of the loner in all of Billy's music,'' she says. ''It's something, for better or worse, that has been part and parcel of the idea of the artist in the 20th century and 19th century. In our culture, the perception of the artist is that of a loner.''

Oddly, one of the loneliest songs in Joel's entire lonely oeuvre didn't make it into ''Movin' Out.'' It's called ''Where's the Orchestra?'' and it seems particularly apropos, since it uses the theater as a metaphor for loneliness. The lyrics are one long allusion to watching an alienating, dissatisfying play (''I like the scenery/Even though I have absolutely no/Idea at all/What is being said/Despite the dialogue''), and it doesn't take a rock critic to see it as a metaphor for the emptiness Joel himself feels. It's also the Billy Joel song that I have always related to the most on a personal level; in fact, I sometimes tell people that they would understand me better if they listened to ''Where's the Orchestra?'' I tell this to Joel, thinking it might make him feel better. But I think it makes him feel worse. ''That song still applies to me,'' he says in a weirdly stoic tone. ''I heard it the other day, and it still moved me, because I feel like that today. I've only felt content a few times in my life, and it never lasted. I'm very discontented right now. There are situations in my life that didn't pan out. I'm like most other human beings. I try and I fail. The whole metaphor of that song is that life is a theatrical play, and it's all a tragedy, and - even though you can enjoy the comedic, ironic elements of what you're experiencing -- life will always come up and whap you on the head.'' To punctuate this statement, he whaps himself on the side of his skull with an open hand. It's the kind of thing that should be funny, but somehow it isn't. Probably because when Joel hits himself, he isn't smiling.

Billy Joel Selling Long Island Mansion
(USA Today website, 2006)

The Piano Man is movin' out.  Four years after purchasing an estate with picturesque views of Oyster Bay Harbor, the 57-year-old singer has listed the place for sale with a prominent real estate firm.  Joel, who paid $22.5 million for the property in 2002, now has an asking price of $37.5 million. For that, a buyer will get a 40,000-square-foot brick, gabled house containing five bedrooms with three full baths, three half-baths and eight fireplaces on 14.26 acres with 1,550 feet of shoreline on Oyster Bay. Other amenities include a gym, music room, wine cellar, outdoor pool, bowling alley and tennis courts, and a domed-roof indoor pool room, which has been converted into a space for Joel's grand piano.  There's also a guest cottage and a pool house by the beach.  Joel's spokeswoman, Claire Mercuri, told Newsday: "Billy is a Long Islander and still maintains a property in Sag Harbor." She declined further comment. 


Billy Joel Shares Love Song for His Wife
(By Liza Hamm, People magazine, 2007)
In 2005, Billy Joel, 57, wrote a ballad for his wife Katie Lee Joel, 25, to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Now, he's releasing that song, "All My Life," as a single – and PEOPLE Magazine has the exclusive first listen.  In honor of the occasion, the Piano Man spoke to PEOPLE about the makings of a great love song.

Tell us a little about the song.
It's not a typical "Billy Joel song." I thought it would be great for Tony Bennett. I hope he does it, anyway. I recorded it with a full orchestra – a real old-fashioned session just like they did in the '50s. And I dressed like Frank Sinatra. I took on a whole other persona.

Why try a different kind of music?
I was always a little wary of being termed a balladeer. [But] at this point in my life, I don't care. I don't think a love song is substantial if it's all candy. There's a good deal of regret in this song. I have regrets in my life. Anyone who says they don't have regrets hasn't really lived.

Are you a fan of Valentine's Day?
It depends. When you're in love, it's great. When things aren't going well, it's a bah humbug day.

Joel also shared his five favorite love songs:
1) "Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin: "It's a slamming hot love song."
2) "One for the Road," Frank Sinatra: "Even when I was a kid and heard that song, I got it."
3) "Symphony No. 6," Beethoven: "You can hear that he was passionately in love when he wrote that."
4) "In My Life," the Beatles: "I don't know why. It's like being in love. You don't know why. You just are."
5) "Lay, Lady, Lay," Bob Dylan: "It's very languorous and he is such a great songwriter."

Billy Joel & Friends Rock Queens
(By Josh Hoffner, Associated Press, July 19, 2008)

Billy Joel bade a stirring farewell to Shea Stadium on Friday during an electrifying, sold-out final show at the same ballpark where the Beatles famously ushered in a new era in rock 'n' roll four decades ago.  He was joined by an all-star lineup of friends including Paul McCartney, who told Joel, “Came here a long time ago. We had a blast that night and we're having another one tonight."  Billy Joel took the stage at Shea Stadium -- home of the New York Mets – for concerts on July 16 and 18. "Good evening, Shea Stadium. Is this cool or what?" Joel told the crowd at the New York Mets' home field, which is to be razed after the baseball season to make way for a new stadium across the street.  "They're gonna be tearing this place down, but I wanna thank you ... for letting me do the best job in the world," he said.  The show paid homage to Shea's baseball glories, with Mets highlights playing on jumbo screens during "Zanzibar." But the concert also was a mark of the stadium's place in music history.  The show came 43 years after the Beatles' legendary show at Shea, the first concert at the ballpark. The concert came at the height of Beatlemania and demonstrated the sheer power of rock 'n' roll and the Beatles: 55,000 screaming fans at a U.S. ballpark was virtually unheard-of at the time, and the show gave the Fab Four even more cachet among the Beatle-crazed American public. 
Joel has always strongly embraced his New York and Long Island roots, and that makes for memory-making concerts every time he plays in the city. Throngs of fans know his music so well they can pretty much take over any chorus they like.  And if the "Piano Man" playing the last concert at Shea wasn't thrilling enough, high-wattage guests turned up the excitement level.  Tony Bennett sang "New York State of Mind" with Joel on Friday, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler performed "Walk This Way," and Roger Daltrey of the Who did "My Generation. At the end of "My Generation," Joel smashed a guitar against the stage, breaking it in two.  McCartney came on at the end. He sang "I Saw Her Standing There" while on guitar and "Let It Be" on piano, the last song of the night. Joel sat on top of piano and sang backup.  Earlier, Garth Brooks was on stage wearing a Mets jersey, and in the audience, one of Joel's famous fans, ex-wife Christie Brinkley, sang along, word for word, to the chorus of "She's Always a Woman." 

During the first installment of Joel's "Last Play at Shea" on Wednesday, John Mellencamp came on stage to perform his hit "Pink Houses," and Don Henley underscored the baseball theme with his standard "Boys of Summer."  The Beatles and baseball shared the spotlight at the concerts. Joel played three Beatles songs ("A Hard Day's Night," ''Please, Please Me" and "She Loves You") during Wednesday's set, and introduced his signature "Piano Man" with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." He also played the national anthem to start the show.  "I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room. Best band that ever was, best band that ever will be," Joel told fans.  Diane Gentile saw the Beatles play at Shea in 1966, their second visit to the stadium after the historic show a year earlier. Her recollection of that summer night 42 years ago: "Oh, my God, there are the Beatles on that stage, and here am I."  "It was unbelievable. It was exciting; you could feel the electricity. Right before the concert we were singing 'Happy Anniversary' to John because his anniversary was that day," Gentile recalled.  On Friday, Gentile was back at Shea to watch Joel for what she predicted would be the best concert she'll ever see.

(By Michael Ian Black)

I'm not doing it. I'm just not. I know I say the same thing every year, but this time I mean it—I am not playing it this year. Seriously, how many times can I possibly be expected to play that stupid song? I bet if you counted the number of times I've played it over the years, it probably adds up to, like, a jillion. I'm not even exaggerating. One jillion times. Well, not this year.  This year, I'm just going to say, "Sorry, folks, I'm only playing holiday songs tonight." Yeah, that's a good plan. That's definitely what I'm going to do, and if they don't like it, tough cookies. It'll just be tough cookies for them.

But I know exactly what'll happen. I'll sit down, play a few holiday songs, and then some drunk jerk will yell out, "'Piano Man,'" and everybody will start clapping, and I'll look like a real asshole if I don't play it.

I wonder if they'll have shrimp cocktail.

Now that I think of it, it's always Bob Schimke who yells out, "'Piano Man.'" He does it every year. He gets a couple of Scotches in that fat gut of his, and then it's, "Hey, Billy, play 'Piano Man'!" That guy is such a dick. He thinks he's such a big shot because he manages that stupid hedge fund. Big deal. He thinks because he used to play quarterback for Amherst that everybody should give a shit. I don't. Who cares about you and your stupid hedge fund, Bob? That's what I should say to him this year. I really should. I should just march right up to him and say, "Who cares about your stupid hedge fund, you dick?" Let's just see what Mr. Quarterback has to say about that. And I know he made a pass at Christie that time. She probably liked it—that's probably why she denied it even happened.

I'm such a loser.

Why do I even go to these parties? I mean, honestly, how many times do I need to see Trish and Steve and Lily and that creepy doctor husband of hers and all their rich Long Island friends? Although that Greenstein girl is nice. Maybe she'll be there. What's her name—Alison?  What if Alison asks me to play "Piano Man"? Then what? I've got to stick to my guns, that's what. I'll simply say, "Some other time." Yeah, that's good. Kind of like we're making a date or something. And then at the end of the night when we're all getting our coats, I'll turn to her and say something like, "So when do you want to get together and hear 'Piano Man'?" Oh man, that's really good. That's so smooth. After all, how is she going to say no? She's the one who asked to hear it in the first place! Oh man, Billy, that is just perfect.

Maybe she'll say something like, "How about right now?" Yeah. And maybe we'll leave together. I can drive her back to my place and I can play her the stupid song and then maybe we'll do it. I'd really like to do it with that Greenstein girl. How awesome would that be? Me leaving with Alison on my arm and Bob's big fat stupid face watching us go. That would be too rich. I'd be real nonchalant about it, too—"See you later, Bob."

Who am I kidding? She'd never go out with me. She was dating that actor for a while. What's his name? Benicio? What kind of name is Benicio? A stupid name, that's what kind. Hi, I'm Benicio. I'm so cool. I'm sooooo cool. I should start going by Billicio. I'm Billicio Del Joelio. I play pianolo.

Sing us a song, you're the piano man ...

Oh great. Now it's in my head. Perfect. Now I have to walk around that stupid party with that stupid song stuck in my head all night.

Amherst sucks at football.

You know what I should do? I should just turn this car around and go home. Just pick up the phone and call them and tell them I ate some bad fish or something. Yeah, that's what I should do. This party's going to suck anyway. By the time I get there, all the shrimp cocktail will probably be gone anyway.

What am I going to do? Go through my entire life avoiding situations where somebody might ask me to play a song? I can't do that. No, Billy, you've just got to grow yourself a sack and take care of business. And if that loudmouth Bob Schimke requests "Piano Man," I just need to look him in the eye and tell him I'd be happy to play it for him just as soon as he goes ahead and fucks himself.

Who am I kidding? Of course I'm going to play it. I always play it. Probably the only reason half the people at that party even show up is to hear me play "Piano Man." They probably don't even like me. Not really. They just want to tell all their friends that Billy came and played "Piano Man." Again. Like I'm the loser who's dying to play it. Whatever.

Fine. I'll do it, but not because they want me to, but because I want me to. I'm not even going to wait for them to ask. I'm going to march right in there and play the song and that'll be that. I'm not even going to take off my coat first. Yeah. Let's see what Bob has to say about that. I might even play it twice.

Billy Joel Skips Back 30 Years
(USA Today, 2008)
Billy Joel's The Stranger acquainted him with stardom, and the 1977 album's 30th anniversary is being marked this week with a limited-edition reissue.  USA TODAY gets Joel's track-by-track recollections:

Moving Out (Anthony's Song)

"In the song, there's the sound of a car peeling out. That was (bassist) Doug Stegmeyer's car, who at the time had a '60s-era Corvette. He took his little tape machine in the car and hung the microphone out the rear end, and started burning rubber, screeching away from his house.  "At the end, we went on and on and on and they faded it out. We were just having too much fun playing, we couldn't stop! We'd look at Phil (Ramone, the album's producer) and he'd just go, 'Ah, just keep going, who knows how much of this we're going to use, just go with it.' … The education of self-editing is a good process to learn."

The Stranger

"After we recorded the song, I remember thinking, 'it needs some sort of introduction. It needs a prelude or a theme, and then it should slam into the song.'  "I played the theme on the piano to show Phil and whistled along with it, and I said, 'What instrument do you think should do that?' And Phil said, 'You just did it.' I heard it played back and went, 'That's kind of cool, I like that.'  "It was really the theme to the album because it was born in the studio during the process, and it just kind of captured the mood."

Just the Way You Are

"I dreamt the melody, not the words. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going, 'This is a great idea for a song.' A couple of weeks later, I'm in a business meeting, and the dream reoccurs to me right at that moment because my mind had drifted off from hearing numbers and legal jargon. And I said, 'I have to go!' I got home and I ended up writing it all in one sitting, pretty much. It took me maybe two or three hours to write the lyrics.  "In the studio, we've got a bunch of guys going, 'Well, do you like it? I don't know, it's a chick song.' None of us were all that hot to put it on the album. Phoebe Snow came by with Linda Ronstadt and they heard the song and said, 'We love that song!' We kept it on thanks to them.  "I was absolutely surprised it won a Grammy (for record and song of the year, 1978). It wasn't even rock 'n' roll — it was like a standard with a little bit of R&B in it. It reminded me of an old Stevie Wonder recording."

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

"There was a restaurant right across the street from Carnegie Hall called Fontana di Trevi. It was for the opera crowd, but the Italian food was really good. They didn't really know who I was, which was fine with me, but sometimes you would have a hard time getting a table. Well, I went there when the tickets had gone on sale for (my dates at) Carnegie Hall, and the owner looks at me and he goes (in an Italian accent), 'Heyyy, youra that guy!' And from then on, I was always able to get a good spot.  "I had always admired the B-side of Abbey Road, which was essentially a bunch of songs strung together by (producer) George Martin. What happened was The Beatles didn't have completely finished songs or wholly fleshed-out ideas, and George said, 'What have you got?' John said, 'Well I got this,' and Paul said, 'I got that.' They all sat around and went, 'Hmm, we can put this together and that'll fit in there.' And that's pretty much what I did."


"It's more metaphorical than geographical. I went to visit my father, who I hadn't seen since I was a little boy. When I tracked him down, he was living in Vienna. I saw an old lady sweeping the street and I said to my father, 'Isn't that kind of mean?' He said, 'No, she has a use. She has a purpose in life. We don't put our old people away in a retirement home. We actually allow old people to contribute to society, and she's happy to do that job.' It occurred to me that it was a good metaphor."

Only the Good Die Young

"Jewish guilt is visceral — it's in the stomach. Catholic guilt is in the belfry of the cerebrum, it's gothic and its got incense, bells tolling, and it has all to do with sin.  "I wanted to write a song about it, about a guy trying to seduce a Catholic girl. I don't know what all the fuss was about, because she stayed chaste. I remember taking it over to the drummer, Liberty (DeVitto). 'Well, it's true,' he said, 'but I don't know how people are going to respond to it!'  "It got banned at Seton Hall University radio, and some archdiocese in St. Louis said people shouldn't buy the record. They went out and bought it in droves! I remember writing a letter at the time saying, "Please ban my next record. Thank you very much, Billy Joel.' But, you know, it's pretty tame next to what's going on now."

She's Always a Woman

"Some people said, 'Oh, he's a misogynist, look what he says about this woman. He wrote this song called She's Only a Woman.' Which always cracks me up every time I read that. To me, it's a very simple understandable lyric. 'She may be that to you, but she's this to me.' "

Get It Right the First Time

"It's almost a funk, disco beat. It was written as a relief to the strength of other things. We thought we needed to just have a little breath, which is really just all it is — it's just breathing."

Everybody Has a Dream

"That was actually written a long time prior to The Stranger, and it was written as a folk song. We redid the approach like a Joe Cocker gospel thing. It just felt like a great way to sum up the album, sort of a gospel celebration."


Obama Raises Record $150 Million In September
(By Caren Bohan, Reuters, Oct 19, 2008)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised more than $150 million for his campaign in September, breaking the record he set the previous month, his campaign said on Sunday.  Obama's prodigious fundraising has been a key in the race against Republican John McCain, allowing Obama to blanket the air waves with advertisements in the run-up to the November 4 election.  The Obama campaign said it had 632,000 new donors in September to bring its total to 3.1 million. The average donation for the month was less than $100.  With over $150 million in September, Obama more than doubled the $66 million he brought in for August, which had been a record.  Unlike McCain, Obama, an Illinois senator, chose not to accept public funding for his campaign, freeing him to raise millions privately.  Obama's campaign has purchased a half-hour television slot at prime-time on October 29, six days before the election, to make a closing argument to the American people.

McCain, because he accepted public financing, is limited to spending $84 million in his campaign. The Arizona senator again chided Obama for not living up to his pledge to accept public funds and warned of the damages of unlimited spending.  "I'm saying that history shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal," he said on "Fox News Sunday."  When asked whether Obama was buying the election as his campaign spokesman claimed, McCain said, "I think you could make that argument."  Obama, who was in North Carolina on Sunday to appear at a "Change We Need" rally, has shattered all records for campaign fundraising, in part due to his Internet presence.  Big donors also have been an important source of cash for his campaign. Last week, he spoke at a large fundraiser in New York that featured performances by rock legends Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.  Obama raked in $9 million last month at a pair of glitzy Hollywood fundraisers for him and the Democratic Party, including one where singer-actress Barbra Streisand performed.


Billy Joel And Bruce Springsteen Rock Obama Fundraiser
(Associated Press, 2008)

It was "Born to Run" meets "New York State of Mind", with a little bit of "Hail to the Chief" thrown in for good measure.  Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel joined forces in a concert to raise money for Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party on Thursday night. They got a little help from India.Arie, John Legend and Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, as they tore through the rock legends' long list of hits at the Hammerstein Ballroom.  When they launched into "Born to Run," Springsteen said, "This is for the senator."  As the show concluded, Obama made an appearance onstage. He called the event "a magical evening" and said he wouldn't ruin it with a long speech. Then he delivered a speech comparing the struggling, everyday people in Joel's and Springsteen's songs to the people he's met on the campaign trail.  He warned supporters not to get overconfident because he leads in the polls.  "Don't underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Don't underestimate our ability to screw it up," Obama said. "I want everybody running scared."  Obama also offered a new explanation for his decision to seek the White House.  "I was sitting offstage with (his wife) Michelle, and I ... said, 'Honey, the reason I'm running for president is I can't be Bruce Springsteen. I can't be Billy Joel,'" Obama said.

Billy Joel, In A Neutral State Of Mind
(Associated Press)

Who the heck wants to hear another Hamptons-dwelling showbiz millionaire mouth off about politics? Billy Joel 's sentiment exactly. The Piano Man did a little bait-and-switch yesterday at a National Press Club luncheon that was advertised as his take on celebrity endorsements -- and then declined to talk about his.  "I've never discussed my political views to [a concert] audience," said Joel, 59. "It's bad for business," Joel added: Half the audience will hate you, "and what if I'm wrong?"  Joel, who headlined an Obama fundraiser with Bruce Springsteen in N.Y.C. last week, denied that he's ever written a political song. Not even "We Didn't Start the Fire," which was "a bunch of headlines and a terrible melody." He picked out a couple bars on the piano to prove it: "Terrible melody." 

Washington Sketch
(By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, Oct 23, 2008)

Post columnist Dana Milbank serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns.  He was online live Oct, 23 to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.  The transcript follows:

Dana Milbank: Good afternoon. I'm attempting some dangerous multitasking today -- I'm at the National Press Club where Bill Joel is giving a speech. At least I think it is a speech, but there is a piano on the stage.  Ready for your questions, Billy Joel memories, or suggestions for stories these last 12 days of the campaign.


New York: Were you attempting to stimulate the economy when you ran that product plug for Starbucks in your latest video, or are the circumstances more sinister? And how much do you spend on your wardrobe, anyway?

Dana Milbank: The Starbucks cup in today's video (there's a link to it on the same page as today's Sketch) was a prop used to demonstrate that I live in the fake, unpatriotic America.  My budget for clothing is a bit short of $150,000. I have earned a stern rebuke from Robin Givhan for purchasing my entire wardrobe at Filene's Basement on Connecticut Avenue. (How's that for product placement?) In fact, I am due there this afternoon to purchase some socks. 

Uh-oh. Billy Joel does not have a prepared speech and doesn't really want to talk politics. Maybe I won't be sketching this after all.


Rockville, Md.: Is there a Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue in the pro-American parts of the country? If the McCain-Palin ticket doesn't win, where will Sarah Palin buy her clothes?

Dana Milbank: This is all a complete misunderstanding. The modest and unpretentious Palin said, "just get me some sacks to wear," but some fake-America anti-American thought she meant Saks.

Billy Joel is now playing the melody line to "We Didn't Start the Fire."


Dana Milbank: Okay, so I think there is now no chance of a Billy Joel sketch for tomorrow. He's playing "Piano Man" now. "It's in 6/8 time," says he.


Re: The Stevens jury's deliberations: The longer they're out, is it more likely they'll reach a verdict? If so, is it more likely to be guilty or innocent?

Dana Milbank: Well, I'm on the e-mail list for the 15-minute warning before a verdict is announced, so I may have to leave Billy Joel at any moment. (He's singing "Uptown Girl" now.) There was an alert earlier today about a message from the jury, but it must have just been them asking to go to lunch or some such.  The wise court-watchers are talking about a hung jury. But, of course, nobody knows.


Dana Milbank: Now Billy Joel is imitating Ray Charles singing "My Baby Grand."


Sweet Home Alabama: Please ask Billy Joel if, for an encore, he'll play "Free Bird."

Dana Milbank: He just said he'd like to bring Hendrix back from the dead. And he's imitating Garth Brooks playing "Shameless."


Chicago: "(He's singing 'Uptown Girl' now.)" I'd be outta there so fast...

Dana Milbank: Surely nobody ever has live-blogged a Billy Joel concert before? I wonder if this is on C-SPAN.


Washington: Story idea: Go talk to some real socialists. I bet they'd be horrified to be associated with that capitalist pig, Barack Obama.

Dana Milbank: Socialists? You mean like Hank Paulson?


Re: New Map on Nov 5: Where will you be on Election Night?

Dana Milbank: I'm thinking Phoenix is the place to be for the McCain victory celebration. You agree?

Billy Joel is now doing a combination of "Movin' Out" and "Laughter in the Rain."


At last the blinders are removed!: So now we see why you guys are in the tank for Obama! The trips to Hawaii! How stupid I have been! I am so ashamed.

Dana Milbank: Actually, if you must know the truth, the place I really wanted to spend some time was Sedona. It seems awfully cruel that my colleagues have wound up with Kennebunkport and Martha's Vineyard and I got Waco.


Dana Milbank: Billy Joel just disclosed that he doesn't have an iPod. He's playing "New York State of Mind."


Washington: My co-worker listens to soft rock all day, and "Only the Good Die Young" just came on 97.1.  Surely this is God's way of saying we need a Billy Joel Washington Sketch, no? If you don't write it, I'll have to assume you're a God-hating elite.

Dana Milbank: No need to assume -- I live in upper Northwest Washington. And I think there is no possible way I could do a Sketch on Billy Joel. It sounds like a Fresh Air interview.


Press Club Business: Has Billy Joel actually said anything yet? Why is he there, exactly -- to demonstrate safe driving techniques?

Dana Milbank: It was advertised as a discussion on celebrity endorsements but so far he only is endorsing Billy Joel.  Just played a few bars of "Uptown Girl."


Bloomington, Ind.: Dana, where you in band in high school? What instrument? Did you march?

Dana Milbank: I am a Long Islander like Billy Joel, but instead of the piano I took up the euphonium. This may explain why I am a journalist.


Starbucks: Oh no! Starbucks has two outlets in Wasilla, Alaska.

Dana Milbank: These are the sorts of things I would know if Tim Curran sent me to Alaska.

Billy Joel is now talking in Yiddish, by the way.


Favorite Billy Joel memory: Gotta be Billy Joel singing "New York State of Mind" on that all-star TV program the Friday following Sept. 11. I'm not even from the East originally, but I totally lost it.

Dana Milbank: If you were at the press club today, your emotions would be entirely intact.


Solitary Man: They definitely don't pay you guys enough.

Dana Milbank: You're right. I had no idea when this week began that I'd be listening to Billy Joel playing Gilbert & Sullivan, as he is now, at the National Press Club.

Thanks for chatting, folks -- I'm off to find something else to write about, but I'm guessing you won't see anything under my name on A3 tomorrow.


He May Be Right, We May Be Crazy.
(By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, Oct 24, 2008)

Billy Joel was not in a Washington state of mind.  The singer had come to the National Press Club yesterday for what was billed as a luncheon talk about "celebrity endorsements of political candidates." But the Piano Man didn't want to talk politics. "I was wondering why you guys wanted me here," he said. "I'm not going to get up on a soapbox here. I am a piano player."  Nobody complained when the musician instead played for the crowd a few snippets of "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Baby Grand," even some Gilbert and Sullivan. And for listeners of a certain age, there probably was no need for Joel to talk politics: His lyrics are a veritable soundtrack for Campaign '08.  Washington awoke Thursday to the happy discovery that there were just 12 days left in what has been the longest presidential campaign in history. The two-year election cycle has cost a cool $5.3 billion, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, for the longest time. Oh, oh, oh, for the longest time.

The Labor Department reported an additional 478,000 jobless claims, worse than expected and putting the economy at recessionary levels. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the mortgage bubble that has now burst, went to Capitol Hill to admit that a "flaw" in his regulatory model had failed to prevent a credit "tsunami."

Well we're living here in Allentown,

And they're closing all the factories down.

Out in Bethlehem they're killing time,

Filling out forms, standing in line.

Financial circumstances were rather better for GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who awoke Thursday to a second day of bad headlines about the $150,000 that had been spent at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus on new clothes for her and her family. The treatment of Palin infuriated John McCain, who told radio host Don Imus that Palin was the victim of an "elitist attitude" among Washington types who don't like Palin because she's not part of the "Georgetown cocktail party" circuit.

Uptown girl,

You know I can't afford to buy her pearls.

But maybe someday when my ship comes in,

She'll understand what kind of guy I've been.

A new batch of polls released Thursday morning brought more grim news for McCain. The Republican was trailing Obama in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Florida. "Almost universally bad news for John McCain," wrote The Post's Dan Balz.

Sometimes I feel as though I'm running on ice, paying the price too long.

Kind of get the feeling that I'm running on ice. Where did my life go wrong ?

McCain's only good news, if it could be called that, was a suspect Associated Press poll showing Obama's lead at only one percentage point among likely voters.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, keeping the faith.

On the campaign trail, the two sides traded the usual barbs. McCain said Obama couldn't be trusted. "He'll say anything to get elected."

Honesty is such a lonely word.

Everyone is so untrue.

Honesty is hardly ever heard,

And mostly what I need from you.

Joe "Careless Talk" Biden, in turn, suggested that McCain is erratic. "John's getting a little loose," he said. "He doesn't have a steady hand right now."

You may be right,

I may be crazy.

But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for.

McCain continued his frantic scramble to distance himself from the poisonous President Bush. The Washington Times published an interview Thursday in which McCain denounced the president for just about everything that has happened over the last four years. "We just let things get completely out of hand," he said. For McCain, who once boasted that he voted with Bush 90 percent of the time, the divorce was nearly complete.

I don't need you to worry for me, 'cause I'm all right.

I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home.

I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life.

Go ahead with your own life -- leave me alone.

Over at the courthouse, jury deliberations continued in the trial of Sen. Ted ("An Innocent Man") Stevens.  But as jurors decided the fate of the Alaska Republican, things turned tense in the jury room, where jurors described a "stressful" environment and sent a note to the judge asking that one member of the panel be dismissed. "She has had violent outbursts with other jurors, and that's not helping anyone," the note said. But the judge left the violent juror in place and urged jurors to behave themselves.

You have to learn to pace yourself.


You're just like everybody else.


At the White House, Bush, all but forgotten, had but one meeting on his public schedule for the day: with participants in the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative. Nobody seemed to notice.

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again.

Say goodbye to Hollywood.

Say goodbye to my baby.

And at the press club, Joel had finished his hour-long talk and mini-concert. As a final question, he was asked to suggest which of his songs could be a theme for each presidential campaign. He declined, opting instead to sing one of his old ballads, "Summer, Highland Falls," which seemed newly appropriate for the times.

They say that these are not the best of times,

But they're the only times I've ever known.

And I believe there is a time for meditation

In cathedrals of our own.

Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes,

And I can only stand apart and sympathize.

For we are always what our situations hand us.

It's either sadness or euphoria.


Billy Joel and third wife Katie Lee split
(The Associated Press, June 18, 2009)

NEW YORK -- Billy Joel and wife Katie Lee are confirming a split.  In a statement, the pair said that they remain "caring friends with admiration and respect for each other." They got married five years ago at Joel's mansion on New York's Long Island.  A representative for Joel did not immediately respond to the question of whether the couple were getting a divorce.  This was the Piano Man's third marriage, her first.  The much younger Katie Lee is believed to be in a relationship with fashion designer Yigal Azrouel, although it’s not clear whether the relationship is the cause of the divorce, or happened after the couple had already separated.  The 60-year-old Joel is one of pop's most successful singer-songwriters; Katie Lee Joel hosted the first season of Bravo TV's "Top Chef."  He recorded the song "All My Life" as an anniversary gift to his 27-year-old wife two years ago.


At Nats Park: Big Hitters, Half Swings
(By Chris Klimek, Washington Post, July 13, 2009)

The umpire calls it: Safe!  Safe as houses. Safe as milk. Safe as "Billy Joel's Greatest Hits." Hey, did Bruce Willis grow a goatee and take up the piano? Wait -- that's Billy Joel!  Nationals Park held its opener as a music venue Saturday night, and the reeling concert trade -- despite a dwindling stock of large draws -- deployed two of its big guns: Joel and Elton John. The Piano Man and the Rocket Man began co-headlining their Face 2 Face Tours in 1994, shortly after Joel stopped writing pop albums. The lumbering double-header they brought to Washington could have been staged that same year, in fact, without any alteration of the 31-song set list. Even 62-year-old Sir Elton, who actually has continued to make new pop music in the present century, focused on material he wrote in his 20s and played nothing more recent than 1983's "I'm Still Standing."

Ballparks are sentimental places, no?  Given the cheers that erupted when their dual grand pianos rose portentously from the bowels of the stage just before game time, it was surprising that neither star ventured a solo take on one of his countless hits during a combined 3 1/2 hours onstage.  Although each brought his own band, the ensembles sounded equally anonymous. Crystal Taliefero's hand-drumming brought some buoyancy to "We Didn't Start the Fire," the "list" song that inspired a thousand high school history projects. Mostly, though, the arrangements were as predictable as the song selection, aside from having been adapted to voices grown thicker with age -- more noticeably in the case of John, whose range was greater to begin with.  A minor variation: "This is what they used to call an 'album cut,' if you remember," Joel said before a time-shifting "Zanzibar." Few in attendance wouldn't, though the front two rows were populated almost entirely by ladies who appeared to fall into that slender, youthful demographic.

The gig opened with two duets, "Your Song" and "Just the Way You Are." Joel allowed himself a self-aware smirk as he crooned the former tune's "I don't have much money." Pimping a purple Technicolor dreamcoat with the phrase "Music Magic" embroidered across the back, John called a timeout after that opening two-fer while a roadie tried to fix a stuck sustain pedal on the royal piano.  As John cursed, relief pitcher Joel played an impromptu and funny "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Joel even crawled under his fuming co-star's piano to try to help solve the problem himself. It was one of the most crowd-pleasing moments of the evening, with three hours to go. "At least you know we're not on tape!" Joel quipped. "This is an authentic rock-and-roll [expletive]. You don't see many of these anymore!"

John finally withdrew while Joel fielded his band for a 65-minute set that opened with a swaggering "Prelude/Angry Young Man." Later, "Don't Ask Me Why" put him in a contemplative mood: "I don't know why you're listening to me," he mused. "That was written for my first ex-wife. And this is the first show I'm doing after three divorces!"  This mookish candor couldn't help but make Joel the more engaging of the pair, despite a longer, glitzier set from John -- not to mention better songs.  By the time the latter reemerged to sweat his way through the opening suite of 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," night had fallen on the Anacostia, allowing the LED video rig to flash and blink to full, seizure-inducing effect. A thrilling, then numbing "Rocket Man" first brought a galactic charge to the stadium, but continued until the gig began to feel like a bummed-out pop-star funeral.

After a singalong "Crocodile Rock," Joel returned for another shot at the number they'd aborted earlier, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." It was everything the crowd had paid their $102.50-plus for: a mash of the titans who paved the way for a juggernaut of guilty lite-rock pleasures. The seventh-inning stretch had long passed by the time Joel let the audience take a verse of the closing "Piano Man," but they sang with the fervor of a home crowd.


Billy Joel’s Joyful Rebound
(By Richard Johnson, New York Post, July 2009)

Life is good for Billy Joel. Just a month after separating from wife No. 3, Katie Lee Joel, the Piano Man is dating Alex Donnelley, the former star of "The Young and The Restless." Joel -- who continues to break records touring stadiums with Elton John this summer -- met Donnelley through friends backstage at his recent Washington, DC, concert. "The two hit it off immediately," said an insider. The actress has been visiting Joel at his home in Sag Harbor, where they go boating or ride around on Joel's custom motorcycles. 


Billy Joel Ill, Postpones 2nd Upstate NY Show
(Associated Press, July, 2009)

Billy Joel and Elton John have postponed a second upstate New York concert on their top-grossing tour after Joel fell ill with flu-like symptoms.  The Times Union Center in Albany says in a release the pair have decided to delay Monday's show. The venue says Joel's doctors advised him not to perform for 72 hours because of his "extreme fatigue."  Promoters said Friday's show at Buffalo's HSBC Arena was postponed after the 60-year-old Joel came down with flu-like symptoms.  A representative for Sony Music Entertainment hasn't returned a telephone call seeking comment. Joel is on Sony's Columbia label.  Both venues are working to reschedule the shows.  The Elton/Joel Face 2 Face tour has been the nation's top-grossing concert tour for the last two months.


Billy Joel's Daughter Hospitalized In NYC
(December 2009, Associated Press)

Alexa Ray Joel, the daughter of pop star Billy Joel and supermodel Christie Brinkley, was hospitalized after taking eight pills at her Manhattan apartment, a law enforcement official said Saturday.  A friend frantically called 911 shortly after noon Saturday from the singer's Greenwich Village apartment saying Joel, 23, had taken several pills, the official told The Associated Press. Joel took eight pills, though officials didn't know what kind she had ingested, an official said; it wasn't clear whether she had accidentally overdosed or attempted suicide, the official said.  The official wasn't authorized to publicly disclose the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.  Joel is hospitalized in stable condition and receiving treatment, Joel publicist Claire Mercuri said Saturday. She wouldn't elaborate.

"We are currently assessing her needs," she said.  Her father said she will recover.  "She is going to be fine," Billy Joel told New York's Newsday newspaper on Saturday night.  Fire Department records indicate that paramedics responded to the West Village building where Joel lives at 12:21 p.m. Saturday and transported one woman to St. Vincent's Hospital. The fire department declined to identify the patient.  Joel, who was raised in Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, attended New York University for a short time before dropping out to focus on her music career, according to her MySpace page. Her parents were divorced in 1994 after nine years of marriage.  The singer, songwriter and pianist self-released a short album in 2006 and debuted a new song, "Invisible," this year about a failed relationship with the opening lyrics, "They say it doesn't matter/This love is in my mind/We never got it right, anyway." 

In a MySpace blog post this summer, Joel described herself as "forgotten" and said she was finding it hard to meet a nice guy.  "Just Men. UGH!!! MEN!!!!" she wrote in August. "I'm so terrible at dating — I don't know if I'll ever get used to it! And I HATE the game-playing! Can't stand it."  Joel had upcoming performances scheduled in the city, including at the New York Stock Exchange tree lighting ceremony Thursday.


Billy Joel's 'Last Play At Shea' Hits The USA In A Big Way
(By Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY, October 20, 2010)

On October 21st, for one night only, more than 120 movie theaters across the country will present The Last Play at Shea, a film documenting a rock star, a baseball team and a venue with one thing in common: All evoke a New York state of mind.  The rock star is Long Island's own Billy Joel, who performed the final concerts at Queens' Shea Stadium, former home to the New York Mets, on July 16 and 18, 2008.  Those shows — featuring guests such as Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Roger Daltrey and Paul McCartney— are excerpted in the documentary, which premiered last April at the Tribeca Film Festival. (For participating theaters, go to A Shea DVD will be available in February, followed by a concert DVD in March.

Joel, 61, allows he was a reluctant subject. "I said, 'Make believe you're making Jaws, and I'm the shark.' Because the mechanical shark in that movie was actually a dud; Steven Spielberg had to shoot around it. So I wanted them to show me as little as possible, because I can't stand being on camera."  Indeed, in Shea, Joel shares face time with his band members and Mets alumni, as well as other pop icons and sports insiders. The piano man is admittedly "not a rabid Mets fan. It's harder to be a Mets fan than a Yankees fan, because the Mets lose all the time. Rooting for the Yankees is like staying married to a movie star."

One more new project has Joel venturing into virtual competition. A dozen of his hits will be downloadable for the video game Rock Band 3, out Tuesday. "I've never allowed my music to be used in a game before," but an Entertainment Weekly review of NBC's The Office changed his mind.  Alluding to an episode in which characters mention a Rock Band featuring Billy Joel, "the critic wrote something like, 'God forbid that ever should happen.' So I called my people and said, 'Get me (on) that Rock Band game.' Then I wrote the critic, saying that every time I get a check, I'll give him a little nod."

Nov. 9 will bring another reminder of Joel's selling power with the release of The Hits, a 19-track compilation acknowledging next year's 40th anniversary of his debut solo album, Cold Spring Harbor. Included is Only the Good Die Young, recently covered on Fox's Glee.  Joel isn't writing pop songs these days; he's composing "thematic music, orchestral pieces. They could end up on a movie soundtrack, but I write them for my own edification." He keeps his ear to the street, though, through daughter Alexa Ray Joel, 24, herself a singer/songwriter.  "I'm actually learning from her more than she is from me," Joel says proudly. "The business has changed so much from when I started, so she's filling me in. She makes her own money, too." 


Billy Joel Mending After Replacements Of Both Hips
(The Associated Press, November 25, 2010)

Billy Joel is recovering from double hip-replacement surgery.  Joel spokeswoman Claire Mercuri told People magazine Wednesday that the 61-year-old pop star had both hips replaced last week to correct a congenital condition.  She says Joel, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer responsible for such hits as "Piano Man," "Uptown Girl" and "New York State of Mind," is "doing extremely well."  Joel toured this year and was recently promoting the documentary film "The Last Play at Shea." There's no word on when he plans to perform on stage again.


Billy Joel Dreams In Music
(The Howard Stern Show, November 16, 2010)


Early in the show, Howard marveled at the girls Bubba the Love Sponge has hired to work at his new nightclub: "He's a married man…a man who's very tempted by all these girls." Gary laughed that every girl had big breasts and was required to wear a little mini-dress--Howard turned to Robin: "Do you think Bubba's being faithful?" Robin didn't know if 'faithful' applied to Bubba's marriage: "Don't they swing a little bit anyway?"


Howard sat down at the baby grand Steinway that was set up for Billy Joel's interview and tapped out 'The Twilight Zone' theme and part of 'Louie Louie,' singing: "Louie Louie, oh boy, gonna lay that girl." Howard later transitioned into "Hang On Sloopy,' because it had the same chord progression, and 'House of the Rising Sun.' Robin laughed: "You play that piano like Gary pitches."  Howard sarcastically bragged about his extensive musical knowledge: "I can entertain for 5-6 minutes. My repertoire. I always have that tool in my arsenal." Howard later broke: "I have absolutely no musical ability. 5 years of piano lessons. My teacher killed himself and that's what I got out of it." When Lisa G came in with the headlines, she joked that she'd join Howard if he ends up retiring: "I'm going to get drunk and bring in that violin if no deal is made."


Billy Joel stopped by to promote his new movie, 'The Last Play at Shea,' and Howard immediately began grilling him, asking if 'Uptown Girl' was really about Elle MacPherson--and not, as some think, Christie Brinkley. Billy said it was about both Elle and Christie: "That story's been around since 'Uptown Girl' came out. They didn't get the whole story. They got part of it...I wasn't even dating Christie when I started writing the song. I was dating Elle."  Billy said the song was originally titled 'Uptown Girls' ("It was plural.") and about both girls--or many girls. Howard asked how serious Billy had been with Elle, so Billy confessed: "We dated on and off. We weren't like engaged or anything. We just kind of dated. She was 19." Billy then played a little bit of 'Uptown Girl': "It's supposed to sound like Frankie Valli but it doesn't. It's too early in the morning."


Billy told the crew about the time he'd had Paul McCartney over to jam--or at least to share what they'd been working on: "I had written some piano pieces. And he had been dabbling in classical-style music. And I had some." In preparation for Paul's visit, Billy remembered Paul's strict vegetarian diet and began stashing and hiding all the meat he had in his refrigerator around his house: "I had to literally hide the salami."  He and Paul listened to music and talked about their groupie-banging days: "And that went on for few hours and then he left. He never looked in the fridge." Billy laughed that he was on such a high after Paul's visit, he didn't remember hiding the meat until a few days later: "And I'm looking around my house like, 'What's that smell?'"


Howard asked Billy how he wrote his biggest hits, starting with 'Allentown,' so Billy said it was originally named after Long Island's sleepy Levittown: "Living here in Levittown. It was so boring, I never finished the lyrics." Billy then played a little of “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’" and confirmed that 'Big Shot' was written for Bianca Jagger--but from Mick's perspective: "I was thinking of Mick singing that to her."  Billy said 'Just the Way You Are’ might be the song he wrote fastest, while on the phone with his accountant and lawyer: "I was in the middle of a meeting and said, 'I’ve got to go. I got an idea for a song.'" He also wrote 'New York State of Mind' in 15 minutes on a bus headed upstate to Highland Falls and "In the Middle of the Night' in a dream--and later, finished it in the shower.


Howard wondered if Billy ever felt burdened by the piano, and Billy admitted it could be his best friend and worst enemy: "If I'm trying to write something and I'm not getting it, it's like a big beast with 88 teeth." While difficult to write, said songs are simple things--never a call to arms: "I don't think I can change the world by singing a song." Billy hoped his songs would be preserved in their original album form and not, as his record company is want to do, as a series of Greatest Hits collections: "To me they're kind of diluting my work."


Late in the interview, Billy told the crew about a supergroup he'd once thought about doing; something with Sting, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Winwood: "You know how Clapton is on guitar? That's how Steve is on a keyboard...I'm shy around him." Billy said the supergroup never came together, a disappointment, as he'd love to work with Bruce and the boys: "He's a great lyricist. He's a good musician, too."



Billy Joel Decides to Cancel His Memoir
(By Nekesa Mumbi, Associated Press, April 01, 2011)

The Piano Man is deciding to stay silent: Billy Joel is cancelling his planned memoir.  "The Book of Joel" was scheduled for publication in June. The HarperCollins book was billed as an "emotional ride" that would detail the music legend's failed marriages, including his union with Christie Brinkley, as well as his battles with substance abuse.  Earlier this month, HarperCollins revealed the cover photograph for the book, and Joel's editor promised it would contain details "he has never revealed before."  But in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Joel said he had changed his mind.

"It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past, and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music," he said.  HarperCollins confirmed Thursday that the deal had been cancelled. Spokeswoman Tina Andreadis said that the book was well into the editing process, but that Joel had not approved or finalized the text and that no copies had been printed. The publisher had planned a first printing of 250,000 copies.

Joel isn't the first musician to cancel a book. Mick Jagger backed out of a deal in the early 1980s, saying he couldn't remember anything of interest. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs never turned in a memoir that he was supposed to write for Random House Inc. and ended up being sued in 2005 for money the publisher claimed he owed.

The 61-year-old Joel is considered one of music's all-time greats: He's a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who has sold millions with hits including "Uptown Girl," "New York State of Mind" and "Just the Way You Are," and his deal was widely believed to be worth seven figures.  Other rock stars have had major success with their memoirs, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and, more recently, Keith Richards.



Why Did Billy Joel Cancel His Memoir?
(Parade magazine, April 4, 2011)

Billy Joel has cancelled plans for his memoir, just two months before it was scheduled to be released, and his decision has left fans wondering why.  Joel, who had a $3 million book deal with HarperCollins, said in a statement to CNN that he didn't want to relive his past.  "It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past, and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music," Joel said in a statement to CNN.   The six-time Grammy winner has been divorced three times and struggled with alcohol abuse.

The New York Post quoted a music industry source who speculated that Joel was not ready to face some of the issues in his past.  "He never fully confronted the 800-lb. gorilla in the room," the source told The New York Post.  "There needs to be a lot of dish in rock memoirs."  The book was going to be called The Book of Joel and was to be ghost written by Fred Schruers.   Earlier this year, his friend Elton John told Rolling Stone that the singer needs to confront his demons, including alcoholism.  "He's going to hate me for this, but every time he goes to rehab they've been light," John told Rolling Stone. "When I went to rehab, I had to clean the floors. He goes to rehab where they have TVs. I love you, Billy, and this is tough love."

The Piano Man's reaction to Elton John's declaration at the time was short and simple.  In a statement released Wednesday, Joel says: "Elton is just being Elton."  Joel went to rehab in 2005 and 2002 for substance abuse and alcoholism.




Was ex-wife Katie Lee the reason the Joel stopped the presses?
(By Gatecrasher, June 26, 2011)

Was Katie Lee part of the groundswell that caused Billy Joel to cancel his memoir?  As the comely "Early Show" contributor celebrated the publication of her novel "Groundswell" on the West Coast last week, buzz persisted that her reaction to her ex-husband's portrayal of her in "The Book of Joel" contributed to the Piano Man's decision to cancel the book's publication last March.  A music industry insider tells us that Lee, who somehow got an advance look at the manuscript, didn't like passages where Joel depicted her as a woman spoiled by the glamorous trappings of his rock-star life, or his assertion that her own desire to become a celebrity exacted a toll on their relationship.(The couple married in October 2004 and separated in June 2009.)

Another source who saw the "The Book of Joel" manuscript when it was sent to media outlets in the U.S. and across the pond for first serial excerpts says Joel's portrayal of Lee, who is more than 30 years his junior, is actually quite balanced and includes passages in which Lee speaks in her own voice.  The source adds that Joel's manuscript left the impression that he still carried a torch for Lee.  That said, portions of "The Book of Joel" do dovetail with accounts of Lee's dissatisfaction with her portrayal. One takes place in fall 2008, when a glammed-up Lee and her friends show up at Hammerstein Ballroom here, where Joel was rehearsing for an Obama fund-raiser.  Joel wrote that he felt like a "circus act" watched by "debutantes" as well as a whiff of "condescension" from Lee.

Not long after that, Joel realized his marriage was foundering when he planned to spend a tour break with his wife in romantic Bali - and Lee chose to return to the U.S. Joel also addressed the famous photos of Lee dancing with Yigal Azrouel in Miami and wrote that the fashion designer was not the reason their marriage ended.  And, we hear, Lee was not the sole reason Joel pulled the book. As we reported in April, he was also influenced by the death of his father, Howard Joel, on March 7.

Fred Schruers, who wrote the book with Joel, declined to comment. Joel's spokeswoman said Lee "had nothing to do with the book's cancellation."  Lee's spokeswoman concurred, saying Lee and Joel remain friends and that it's "absurd to think he would throw out years of work and millions of dollars because of his ex-wife's opinion."



Only the Good Die Young: Publication of Billy Joel’s Memoir Canceled
(By Juli Weiner, Vanity Fair, April 1 2011)

Yesterday Billy Joel and his publisher, HarperCollins, announced that singer’s memoir, Book of Joel, will not be released. Though the book has already been written, according to the Associated Press, Joel is no longer “interested in talking about the past.”  VF Daily intercepted and read the book, and we have to agree there is definitely a well-worn quality to it.

Here, take a look.

The Book of Joel, by Billy Joel

Chapter One

The time was 9 p.m. It was a Saturday. I was at a bar, and the regular crowd was shuffling in. Next to me was an old man nursing a gin and tonic.  He turned to me and said, “Son, can you play me a melody? I don’t remember it exactly, but it’s sad and sweet. I used to know it by heart when I was younger.”  Then the whole bar was insisting I play a song. “Sing us a song, you’re the piano man,” they chanted in union. “We’re all in the mood for a melody.”  A friend of mine, John, was bartending that night, and he gave me a drink for free. John’s a chain-smoker who’s always joking, but there’s a vague essence of perpetual discontentment about him. Frowning, he said to me, “Bill, I believe this is killing me. Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star. If I could get out of this place.”

I recognized two more patrons, Paul, a real estate novelist who’s never had time for a wife, and Davy, who’s served in the Navy since adolescence and who I imagine will continue doing so for the rest of his life. A waitress, whose name I don’t recall, was talking about politics to a businessman who reeked of marijuana. They both seemed lonely, but at least they were lonely together, which is, as I always say, better than being alone.  Suddenly, the whole bar starts insisting again that I play them a song, as I'm the piano man. They were still in the mood for a melody, they told me, and they said I had them feeling alright.

As I recall, it was a sizable crowd for a Saturday night. Just then, the manager smiled at me. In that moment, we shared an understanding of the reason people come to the bar: it’s me, and my songs, which allow them to forget about life for awhile. And I’m thinking to myself, “It sounds like a carnival in here, and the microphone smells like a beer.” I didn’t mind though, I usually get a lot of tips, and people ask me questions like, “Man, what are you doing here?”



Billy Joel Has Reason To Be Happy
(By Glenn Gamboa, December 2, 2011)


Right now, Billy Joel is all about the present.  He's happy to talk about his Oyster Bay motorcycle shop, 20th Century Cycles, or his upcoming master classes at colleges around the Northeast. He's happy about being named a "Steinway Artist" later this month, becoming the first pop artist ever to be counted among the masters who have their paintings hung in Steinway Hall. He's happy about his new boxed set, "The Complete Albums Collection" (Columbia/Legacy), and the new interpretations of his work that keep turning up successfully across pop culture, whether it's the "Glee" kids tackling "Uptown Girl" or a British ad campaign using a version of "She's Always a Woman" that pushed his original into the British Top 10.  Joel is even happy to learn -- at Sting's recent birthday party, no less -- that Lady Gaga is a fan. ("She knows everything I've ever done," he says. "She was quoting lyrics to me." After learning that Gaga had studied his career, Joel felt honored. "That's kinda cool -- she's very talented," he says, before adding with a laugh, "It was very impressive that she was so knowledgeable. I impressed myself, I suppose.")

But the past? That's a different story.  Joel canceled the release of his autobiography, "The Book of Joel," this spring, only weeks before it was supposed to come out.  "I saw it being promoted as a salacious tell-all, which it wasn't in the first place," says Joel, in one of his first interviews about the decision. "I said, 'No, no, no, no, that's not how I want to be defined. Forget it.' I'm not Keith Richards."  Though the story of Joel's rise from Hicksville native to stadium-filling global superstar and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has been told many times -- most recently in the documentary "The Last Play at Shea," which also chronicled his historic final concerts at Shea Stadium -- it has usually been told by someone else. For "The Book of Joel," it was going to be told by him and that became quite a drag.

"The writing process was really not all that enjoyable," Joel says. "I felt like I was wading through the same mud that I spent my life trying to get out of. . . . You pull yourself out of the swamp and then to do an autobiography, you have to dive back in and wade through it all again.  "I was so sick of me," he adds, jokingly. "I'm just not a kiss-and-tell kinda guy."  The book is done, Joel says, but it won't likely see the light of day anytime soon. "After I kick off, somebody will probably get it out there," he says. "It's really not very salacious."

Joel says he would much rather have people remember him for his music, which is why he is so happy that his boxed set, "The Complete Albums," is out.  Because the set collects all of his studio albums, including his classical album, "Fantasies and Delusions," it's different from previous compilations. "I've been wanting this to come out for a long time," Joel says. "To me, the ultimate art form is the album format. And because of the situation with the music business over the last 10 to 15 years and the dearth of retail and inventory, the albums really haven't been available to the public. Even if I was out on tour, doing bang-up box-office business, either on my own or with Elton [John], and we were playing stadiums or multiple nights in arenas, I would go to a local outlet and there was no way to get the record. There's probably a lot of people who aren't aware of most of my material at this point."

For Joel, his compilations -- even "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2," Joel's most successful album and the third-biggest-seller of all time behind The Eagles and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" -- don't convey his music the way he envisioned it. "I've always considered myself an album artist," he says. "I came up during the late '60s and early '70s, when progressive FM radio was playing album tracks, and I like to define what I do that way. I think a lot of the success we had was because we had some depth, not just the Top 40 singles. When 'The Stranger' became a big album, there were album tracks. The people who didn't like 'Just the Way You Are,' the antiballad people, had other alternatives."  Joel likes "The Complete Albums" because it puts all his songs in context. "All the compilations have been done to death -- 'The Essential,' 'The Ultimate,' 'The "We Really Mean It This Time," ' I hate those things," he says. "A lot of people assume that I'm the one doing this. I'm not. It's the record company. For me, my last legitimate release was 'Fantasies and Delusions' in 2001."

Will there be another? That's hard to say.  When Joel met Lady Gaga, she told him that she would love to work with him. "I would definitely discuss it with her," he says. "I'm not sure exactly what she's got in mind. . . . I'm not all that interested in recording these days. I don't think I'm as good a singer or performer as I used to be and I love the game too much not to play it well, which is also why I've slowed down on doing shows these days. . . . Look, I'm 62 years old and I ain't no spring chicken anymore and I feel it. I always respected those athletes that took themselves out of the lineup when they couldn't get to first base as quick as they used to or couldn't bring the bat around as fast."  Joel says he's going to make his touring decisions on a seasonal basis. "I want to see what I feel like doing," he says. "If I feel like doing some shows, I'll do a few shows. If I don't, then I won't."

It's part of Joel's outlook of striving for contentment instead of happiness. "We are brought up in our culture to look for happiness -- that's a Western concept," he says. "The Eastern concept is to look for contentment and be able to recognize it. It takes people a long time to get to a point in their lives when they recognize, 'Hey, I'm not sick. My loved ones are all well. There's nothing majorly bad going on right now. This is pretty good.'   "Do I miss performing?" he continues. "I miss the interaction with other musicians sometimes. I miss making that joyful noise that we do onstage and having a whole bunch of people be really happy because of what we're doing. That's magic -- that's a form of sorcery. I miss that. Do I miss the schlepping? Do I miss all the insanity that goes with it and the loud noise that gives you tinnitus? No, I don't miss that. I'm content."

    American Idol: Top 10 Perform Billy Joel Songs
By Lisa de Moraes, Washington Post, March 22, 2012)

Who knew the Idolettes ” (Idol” Top 10: Phillip Phillips, Elise Testone, DeAndre Brackensick, Hollie Cavanaugh, Colton Dixon, Skylar Laine, Heejun Han, Jessica Sanchez, Josh Ledet and Erika Van Pelt) were so partial to Shannon Magrane, the very tall 16 year-old who was cut from the show last week? As Wednesday night’s episode opens, they are overwhelmed by tears over Shannon’s departure, until a photographer tells them to brighten up for a photo shoot because… This Is “American Idol”!  Enter the judges: Randy Jackson, wearing a shirt that looks like the rug in front of the concession stand of the AMC 13-plex at the end of a Saturday night…Steven Tyler wearing some kind of striped boating jacket and looking like a man who fell into the drink watching the Henley Regatta…and Jennifer Lopez in a form fitting leather number -- a sort of full-body Jimmy Choo.  Tonight is the song book of Billy Joel night on “Idol.” Congratulations, Billy Joel on reaching this pinnacle of your career. Nothing left but the Kennedy Center Honors now!

And who better to coach the Idolettes than the man who is known as The Man Who Nobody Has the Nerve to Say Is Nothing Like Billy Joel, Really – Sean Combs. What shall we call you tonight, Mr. Combs, among your rich catalogue of names? Just Diddy, apparently.  Plus…fashion advice from Tommy Hilfiger, the man known as The Poor Man’s Ralph Lauren.  How young is DeAndre Brackensick? Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley were already divorced when he was born, that’s how young. Diddy and “Idol” staff mentor Jimmy Iovine try to explain to DeAndre that “Only the Good Die Young” is about a shy teenager trying to win the favors of a Catholic girl; DeAndre is listening like a kid who’s never had a problem in that department. “Sing it to Jennifer, “ Jimmy advises. “She’s a Catholic girl.”

Tommy’s fashion advice to DeAndre is to perform with his hair not tied back. Tommy has apparently missed this season of “Idol” to date, which has seen plenty of DeAndre’s hair swinging.  DeAndre’s singing never quite gets on top of this song, though his hair does keep perfect time. The judges declare it the perfect way to start a Billy Joel retrospective.  Erika Van Pelt (Michael Becker - Fox) The jazzy Erika Van Pelt gets told by the mentors to tone it down on “A New York State of Mind” and yet “deliver it like a New Yorker walking down the street.” So she may have been in a confused state of mind when Tommy Hilfiger gets his hands on her and convinces her to cut short her blonde hair, dye it, and style it like The New Darker Justin Bieber Look.  And yet, she still delivers the song in her same, jazzy style. “Idol” teaches strength of character, that’s for sure.  JLo sees in her look “a Pat Benatar vibe” and advises her to loosen up on stage. Randy delivers some kind of sage advice about those who can, do, and those who can’t, don’t, adding that Erika did.

Billy Joel, a reach for sure for the gospel singer Joshua Ledet, and his choice of “She’s Got a Way” is as good as any. Diddy has his work cut out for him. “Once we got him to be present, to be all the way there, it’s magic,” Diddy affirms.  Tommy wants Joshua to look like a “polished superstar” in a tux.  Joshua does not wear a tux on stage. He is, however, wearing a dark jacket. He is a bit lost in the song until a gospel choir comes on stage to back him and this simple little love song begins to sound like the road to redemption.  JLo says he lacked conviction; Randy calls it half a good performance. Tyler follows along the same lines. Then they spend exactly as much time as they’d spent giving pointers in apologizing for giving pointers.

Country Idolette Skylar Laine is awed by Diddy and asks for his autograph. His coaching: “the truth will make you free.” Diddy is pleased with the results. “You loved that she loved you,” Jimmy snarks.  Skylar Laine (Michael Becker - Fox) Tommy looks at Skylar’s fringed cowboy boots on rehearsal day. Skylar tells Tommy she owns a lot of boots. “Let’s try evolving your look without abandoning your boot idea,” he says and he suggests that to go with her grey dress they consider “color matching the boots.”  She sings “Shameless” in leggings and high heels.  It’s a bit of a forced country fit for a Joel song. After, she tells the judges she modeled it on Garth Brooks’s version. “I love your attack” says JLo. “Every time you hit a chorus you hit it with such conviction,” Tyler adds.

Elise Testone “would look incredible in a pair of high-wasted bell bottoms, maybe a short jacket on top,” Tommy advises her during rehearsal.  Elise hits the stage in a floor-length red dress with a plunging neckline, and long black vest. Tommy Hilfiger: Most Ignored Fashion Maven In America!  Jimmy says he can’t figure why Elise is such a strong singer and winds up in the bottom three. He urges her not to go with the number she’s picked -- something from a footnote of the Billy Joel Songbook, “Vienna Waits for You,” warning her that if she picks a tune people don’t know, she could be toast (viewers do the voting in this competition).  Elise insists she was meant to sing this tune. She sells it hard with all kinds of riffs and high points, including a strange, if impressive melodic ending that may have been from Debussy.  Standing O from the wildly enthusiastic judges, who, in their comments, ooze desperation to keep Elise in the competition. Tyler: “Just brilliant…You picked your song, you picked your dress.” Randy: “she had a moment tonight…That run at the end is so difficult . I don’t know any singers that can sing it other than you.”

Phil Philips puts in some chat time with show host Ryan Seacrest – who, BTW, is on a one-man mission to bring back the three-piece suit -- while the Coca-Cola logo flashes next to Phil and the big red and white bubbles appear behind him. Okay, we get it: Idolettes from the South are good for Coke.  “Not to be rude but I think you need help,” Tommy tells Phil during the rehearsal process. Tommy apparently has not watched enough “Idol” to know that being The Scruffy Guy, like Phil, has often been a winning strategy on the show. Phil is quite insistent that “I just want to bring the music first.” Tommy warns him that no one should wear grey on camera because grey is very dull. A grey shirt would be just fine, Phil says. “America will not vote for him,” if he doesn’t follow Tommy’s advice, Tommy warns. America will not be “looking at a star.”

On to the musical mentoring. Diddy makes Phil stop singing and takes away Phil’s guitar. Diddy apparently has not watched enough “Idol” to know that being the Scruffy Guy with Guitar is THE winning formula for “Idol” these days.. But Diddy has an even better idea: make Phil sing to a group of hot chicks who inexplicably have appeared in the rehearsal room and we assume are Diddy’s entourage. Phil complies and sings to the chicks, now surrounding Diddy, but Phil looks ill at ease. As if Diddy would notice! “You got it!” Diddy shrieks.  On performance night, Phil is wearing not one, but two grey shirts. He’s also playing his guitar.  He performs a slowed down version of “Moving Out,” with a Later Bruce Springsteen take on the song, which we never noticed before is kind of an anguished protest song, even if Billy Joel didn’t write it, or sing it, that way.

The judges love it, particularly because it allows them to take a shot at their weekly tormentor, Jimmy Iovine, and maybe also at Diddy. Particularly JLo, who used to be a Diddy item: “I felt you were taking out a little bit of aggression on your mentors at the end there!” she gushed, approvingly. Randy points out that Tommy told him not to wear grey and he’s wearing “grey-on-grey” and Diddy took away his guitar and he’s got his guitar. Tyler tosses Phil one of his scarves which, only after much prompting from Ryan, Phil tosses to a gaggle of screaming tween girls who make up a huge “Idol” voting bloc and who we have to thank for the slew of scruffy guys with guitars who have won this thing for too many seasons. “I want the music to be first,” Phil repeats, we think, though it’s hard to hear him over the squealing.

Singing American Girl doll Hollie Cavanagh will perform “Honesty,” but there’s a problem in rehearsal. Jimmy thinks that, at 18, she hasn’t suffered enough disillusionment to convey the spirit of the song. So that leaves her, what three days before live show, to get disillusioned? Well, she puts on her best Disillusioned Face for the performance, and concentrates real hard on sounding embittered, with the result that her usually strong singing is frequently out of range and the overall effect is a mess. Overthinking, is the diagnosis of both Randy and Tyler. So now Hollie has a real disillusioned face.

Heejun Han, who at any time may or may not be punking those around him, seems to be sincere when he tells Jimmy and Diddy that he was hurt by the criticism from the judges last week. “You have to have tough skin,” Diddy advises him earnestly. Later, however, Diddy seems unsure as to whether he too was being punked. “I don’t know if he’s an actor or a con man,” Diddy tells Iovine. “I don’t even know if he’s Asian. Maybe he’s black.”  The guileless Tommy Hilfiger turns out to be the perfect straight man for Heejun. Tommy asks Heejun who he looks up to for fashion sense. “Jessica Sanchez,” says Heejun – Sanchez being a fellow Idolette. “Madonna?” Heejun guesses when Tommy suggests he try again. Tommy suggests he pick a guy fashion role model. “I think Heejun was testing me…I think he wanted to see if was going to push him,” Tommy affirms earnestly.   

Heejun hits the stage in a tux and black knit cap, but the tux turns out to be a breakaway jacket to reveal the worse fashion choice of the evening: a patterned T-shirt over a red long sleeved dress shirt, and a knit cap. Heejun really works the stage, then the audience, then the stage again singing “My Life.” It’s frat-house antics and his diction isn’t up to the lyrics.  JLo raves about the goofy fun of it all. Then, for the first time since he joined “Idol,” a clearly annoyed Tyler clobbers an Idolette, sternly telling Heejun “the music business will kick your ass” and suggesting he “take it a little more serious.” Randy seems somewhat taken aback, and he compliments Heejun, apologetically, for having a good time.  “You want to look taller,” Tommy suggest to the tiny Jessica Sanchez. He likes the dress she has chosen though he suggests she shorten it.

During rehearsal, Jessica sings “Everybody Has a Dream” and Diddy interrupts her vocal histrionics, telling her, “I don’t believe you” because of her over-singing. He tells her to knock off the excess and Iovine tells her she’s a whole lot better when she stops swinging her head and flinging her hair and focuses on someone and sings to them, suggesting she sing to Diddy. She does, and she’s much better.   She does same during her performance. And, hey! She’s wearing the dress Tommy signed off on — score one for America’s Most Ignored Fashion Maven! Truth is, this song is pretty dull, but Jessica does a good job of wringing some interest out of it.  JLo thinks the performance “a defining moment.” Randy thanks Jimmy, Diddy and Tommy for their “excellent mentoring” of Jessica. Tyler says she’s beyond his critiquing, adding, “When god was giving out vocal cords you were SO at the front of the line!”

Last up is Colton Dixon and right away he and Tommy have a conflict over his skunk coxcomb hairdo. “I’m a little worried about the hair,” Tommy says, suggesting the haircut is a distraction. “My hair’s my baby,” Colton pouts, creepily. Tommy is right — the whole hair thing makes Colton look like one of the Angry Birds and at any moment about to dash off in hot pursuit of green pigs.  Colton is a good enough piano player so he’s got a slam dunk on his hands with “Piano Man.” He sings loud, he sings clear, he sings a near Billy Joel imitation, with some hammy bits. “I had goosies from head to toe!” Jennifer enthuses. “Your choice of chords when your voice resolved was stunning,” adds Tyler — which in lay parlance means, “I had goosies from head to toe!” And Randy loves Colton’s hair.  So, good inning for Colton! But it gets better. Ryan asks about Colton’s seeming hesitance to start playing at the beginning of the number. Colton explains, “I’ve been praying before this whole thing…saying, ‘God, use me’.” Next week, Colton gets the Coke logo and the red and white bubbles – just you watch!

Billy Joel's Piano Man Inducted Into Grammy Hall Of Fame
(Rolling Stone, 21 November 2012)
Recordings by Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan are among 27 inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame, along with entries by AC/DC, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Billy Joel and Whitney Houston. McCartney and Wings' Band on the Run, Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," AC/DC's Back in Black, Sinatra's "Theme From New York, New York," John's Elton John, Joel's "Piano Man," and Houston's Whitney Houston will join the Hall of Fame on display at the Grammy Museum.
"With the Grammy Hall of Fame celebrating 40 years, it's especially important to note that these entries continue the tradition of inducting a wide variety of recordings that have inspired and influenced both fans and music makers for generations," Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a release. "Memorable for being both culturally and historically significant, we are proud to add them to our growing catalog of outstanding recordings that have become part of our musical, social, and cultural history." The 55th Grammy Awards will be broadcast on February 10, 2013. The full list of inductees is below.

Buck Owens, "Act Naturally"
Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five, "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens"
Joe Falcon, "Allons À Lafayette"
AC/DC, "Back In Black"
Paul McCartney & Wings, Band On The Run
W.H. Stepp, "Bonaparte's Retreat"
Lennie Tristano Sextet, Crosscurrents
Carols Gardel, "El Día Que Me Quieras"
Elton John, Elton John
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs And The Foggy Mountain Boys, "Foggy Mountain Banjo
Little Richard, Here's Little Richard
Ray Charles, "Hit The Road Jack"
Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, "Hound Dog"
James Brown, "I Got You (I Feel Good)"
John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman
Original Broadway Cast, Lost In The Stars
Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
Son House, "My Black Mama [Parts 1 and 2]"
Francis Craig And His Orchestra, "Near You"
The Drifters, "On Broadway"
Billy Joel, "Piano Man"
Memphis Jug Band, "Stealin' Stealin'"
Richard Pryor, That Nigger's Crazy
Frank Sinatra,
Theme From New York, New York"Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman, "The Titanic"
Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston

Springsteen, Kanye, Stones, McCartney rock Sandy relief
(Jerry Shriver and Lindsay Deutsch, USA TODAY, 13 December 2012)
Springsteen, The Stones, The Who, McCartney, Kanye and cohorts rocked New York City Wednesday night into early today, all in the name of Superstorm Sandy recovery.
An epic storm spawned a historic benefit concert Wednesday night as rock, sports and Hollywood royalty gathered in New York's Madison Square Garden to raise money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. The 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief, which was beamed via TV, radio, the Web and movie screens to a potential audience estimated at 2 billion, raised $35 million from ticket sales before the first note was struck, and Web traffic to the donation site was so heavy it crashed the servers. USA TODAY's Jerry Shriver reported through the evening from the arena, and Lindsay Deutsch kept an eye on the acts as they appeared.
1:15 - CLOSING TIME: More than five hours after it began, 12-12-12 wrapped up with an intriguing pairing of Paul McCartney with former Nirvana members David Grohl, Krist Novoselic and touring guitarist Pat Smear. Sir Paul opened the set by fronting his own touring band on The Beatles' Helter Skelter and Wings' Let Me Roll It and Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five. Diana Krall joined him on piano for the McCartney solo hit My Valentine, which he dedicated to his wife, Nancy. And he dusted off The Beatles' Blackbird, which he said he wrote as a response to America's civil rights struggles and hoped would encourage Sandy's victims.

The Nirvana reunion capped the evening as McCartney sang and led a rousing jam on an apparently new track, Cut Me Some Slack. That gave way to The Beatles' I've Got a Feeling and the James Bond soundtrack smash Live and Let Die, punctuated with exploding firepots on the stage.
McCartney welcomed a group of volunteers, hospital workers and first-responders to the stage, then invited Alicia Keys back on to end the night with a singalong on her locally beloved Empire State of Mind.

12:30 - INTRODUCING ROCK ROYALTY: Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz joined director Quentin Tarantino to welcome the final act ... Sir Paul McCartney!
12:25 - BESPOKE MARTIN: With the show closing in on five hours, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, looking natty in a suit, white shirt and tie, offered a solo acoustic guitar version of Viva La Vida. After joking that he knew the crowd wanted One Direction but "it's past their bedtime,'' he welcomed R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe for a surprising and lovely duet on Losing My Religion. Moving to the piano, Martin dedicated a tender ballad, Us Against the World, to a neighbor who died recently.

12:15 - EVEN MORE HOMETOWN HEROES: Long Island's Billy Joel took the audience on a lyrical tour of the region with the apocalyptic Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway); Movin' Out (with a tagged-on Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas); a wailing-sax-fueled New York State of Mind; a bouncy River of Dreams; and a You May Be Right that referenced Brooklyn. After reassuring the crowd that "we'll get through this, we'll be OK,'' Joel launched into a defiant Only the Good Die Young.
11:40: ECLECTIC PRESENTERS: Everyone from Seth Meyers with SNL character Drunk Uncle to sincere actor Jake Gyllenhaal encouraged viewers to donate on stage, and several more manned the backstage call center. Gyllenhaal presented Billy Joel, who began with Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).

11:30: THE SKIRT: Twitter exploded with comments about Kanye West's eclectic outfit. "Sorry everybody. This is awkward for me too. #121212concert," tweeted the almost-immediate parody account @KanyesSkirt.
11:25 - MIXING IT UP: Kanye West, in his black leather skirt over leather pants and white sneakers, added diversity to the lineup by offering up a lengthy medley of raps that included Mercy, Power, Jesus Walks, All of the Lights, Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Good Life, Runaway and Stronger. West stalked around the stage like a panther, at one point dropping to his knees in supplication.

11:18: WEST'S STORY: Comedian Chris Rock was the next celebrity presenter, representing Staten Island and advocating the Robin Hood Relief Fund. "We have raised so much money tonight. … We've fixed everything! Jersey's fixed, Staten Island, it's all like Beverly Hills right now," he said before welcoming the "very humble" Kanye West. Wonder what girlfriend Kim Kardashian thought of West's outfit: a black hoodie, arm bands and a pleated leather skirt.
11:02 - WHO SAID WHAT? As Pete Townshend was leaving the stage, he yelled a joyful epithet to the crowd, one not usually heard on cable outlets such as Bloomberg or Cooking Channel.

10:50 - WHO WAS NEXT: A husky-voiced Roger Daltry joined cohort Pete Townshend on guitar for Who Are You to open their mini-set, though he left the windmill moves to the master. In a wonderfully sentimental segment, the group's late beloved drummer, Keith Moon, sang and pounded away on a video screen as his mates launched into Bell Boy from the rock opera Quadrophenia. That of course led into the requisite selections from an even more famous rock opera, Tommy chestnuts Pinball Wizard and See Me Feel Me/Listening To You. Unlike their fellow countrymen the Stones, The Who were afforded a fuller set and added a rote Baba O'Riley, a soaring Love Reign O'er Me and the lesser-known Tea& amp; Theatre from 2006's Endless Wire.
10:32 - WHO ARE YOU: Back to the classics. Brooklyn-born actor Steve Buscemi rocked an Engine 55 T-shirt while thanking the service workers of the area, surrounded by a group of raucous New York firefighters before introducing the "perennial but forever young" The Who.

10:30 - SOMBER SAMBORA: Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora said backstage that he "had to hold back the tears'' during a recent visit to Seaside Heights and other New Jersey haunts. "My mom's house (in Point Pleasant) got trashed. She's living with me now until we get it fixed up. The tragedy of people who lost homes, lost lives, when is this going to get rebuilt?''
10:10 - CELEBRATE LIFE: New Yorkers P. Diddy and Olivia Wilde thanked the hospitals and doctors of the city for their efforts, encouraging the crowd to give them a standing ovation, before introducing the first non-"classic rock" act of the night, Grammy-winning R&B singer Alicia Keys, who performed Brand New Me before segueing into her hit No One, crooning "Everything's gonna be all right ... Celebrate love, celebrate life, celebrate New York!"

10:08 - PEER PRESSURE: Stephen Colbert, self-proclaimed "huge celebrity," told youngsters to get peer-pressured into helping others. "It's like doing a line of uncut goodwill. You'll be seeing all kinds of crazy colors. … And if you haven't helped, everybody's doing it, don't be scared! Try it once and you'll be craving the hard stuff, like volunteering in Red Hook."
10:05 - STONE-COLD FINE: The Rolling Stones, who played their first U.S. show since 2006 in Brooklyn on Saturday, chose the semi-obscure but nicely rendered You Got Me Rocking from 1994's Voodoo Lounge album to open their set. After Jagger noted that this was "the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden,'' the band leaped into a furious and extended Jumpin' Jack Flash, with guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood looking a little more animated than they had earlier in the week.

9:52 - ROCK IT: Jimmy Fallon paused to tweet the crowd before beginning his monologue. "I live in New York, but I was born in Brooklyn," he said, thanking the heroes of Coney Island before introducing The Rolling Stones: "If you're watching on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, listen to this place rock!" And rock it did as Mick Jagger took the stage.
9:50 - CRYSTAL CLEAR: Billy Crystal, one of the many hosts, said backstage that he was in California during Sandy, and "watching my hometown (of New York) get pummeled was just horrible. It's a helpless feeling of what's in store for us, maybe, in the future. My wife was born in Far Rockaway (N.Y.) ... and it won't be the same for a long time. That's why we need the government to come in and not play games, not play politics with us.''

9:45 - GREAT PLUCK: Guitar guru Eric Clapton sat down with an acoustic model for a lovely and lusty version of the blues classic Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, which he had performed with Derek & The Dominoes in the early 1970s. Then he switched to electric for another Dominoes-era tune, the fierce Got To Get Better in a Little While. A version of his signature song, Robert Johnson's Crossroads, took the night deeper into the Delta blues.
9:25 - MEMORIES AT THE SHORE: Jersey-born Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart thanked the "year-round working-class communities" of the Jersey Shore for all of his childhood memories: "Every decent milestone came down the Jersey Shore. … It's the only place in the world I couldn't wait to share with my kids, and now they love it as much as I do." He put jokes aside to urge viewers that it was time to return the favor by contributing to the recovery.

9:20 - LIVIN' ON A PRAYER: Bon Jovi began Livin' on a Prayer a capella, the crowd screaming back the iconic lyrics, arms raised, as the band played its opening chords. Could a single song better represent post-Sandy hope and resilience?
9:15 - HOMETOWN HEROES: New Jersey's own Bon Jovi led his band through the anthemic It's My Life and Dead or Alive, with he and Richie Sambora holding their guitars aloft at the end. Between songs, Bon Jovi told the audience: "This recovery is going to take time. We need your sweat, your heart, your prayers.'' Then he returned a favor by bringing Springsteen out to trade verses on Bon Jovi's You Can't Go Home as shots of devastation and recovery were projected in the background.

9:08 - BRUCE IS BACK: Springsteen returned to accompany Bon Jovi in a lively duet of Who Says You Can't Go Home, the crowd raising arms in support as shots of Sandy devastation and recovery were projected in the background.
9:00 - LITTLE STEVEN STANDS TALL: E Streeter Steven Van Zandt said backstage that he's "quite proud of the fact that the music business and entertainers in general are always the first ones to help. In this case it's a little more personal because it's the Jersey Shore, where we grew up. ... The E Street Band, when there's trouble, we run toward it rather than run away.''

8:50 - JERSEY PRIDE: Twilight actress Kristen Stewart took the stage to talk about the New Jersey residents affected by Sandy, including the 2 million who lost power. "Jersey strong is not something measured in numbers," she said before introducing Jon Bon Jovi. "In our time of need, people come together in a way that is unique in a way to who and what we are. I love that," says the famed Garden State rocker in a pre-filmed segment. He then takes the stage with It's My Life, followed by Wanted Dead of Alive.
8:48 - SANDLER ON SANDY: Adam Sandler, accompanied by Paul Shaffer, parodied Leonard Cohen's classic Hallelujah: "Hallelujah, Sandy, screw ya, we'll get through ya, cuz we're New York…." Brian Williams called it "a new version for the ages" from the star-filled call center.

8:40 - ON 'THE WALL': Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters brought out a team of young dancers to punctuate excerpts from his rock epic The Wall, which he is now touring behind. A languorous version of Us and Them from Dark Side of the Moon, featuring a gorgeous sax solo, was a later highlight, as was a spacy Comfortably Numb, for which Waters turned over vocals to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.
8:15 - AUGMENTED AUDIENCE: The stage wasn't the only star-studded area in the Garden. According to a list provided to media before the show, more than 80 celebs were in the audience or serving as hosts or phone bank workers, including past and present members of the New York Knicks, Sopranos cast members, Ben Stiller, Chelsea Clinton, governors Mario Cuomo (N.Y.) and Chris Christie (N.J.), Martha Stewart, Blake Lively, Jeremy Piven, Katie Holmes, Whoopi Goldberg, Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Campbell.

8:10 - BILLY CRYSTAL: Billy Crystal gave the official welcome: "We're like that great scene in Raging Bull, where Jake LaMotta gets beat up badly by Sugar Ray Robinson, he staggers across the ring bloodied and battered and says what we're going to say to Hurricane Sandy tonight, 'You didn't put me down. You didn't put me down.' And not only does Sandy not put us down, somehow we stand on our feet, and tonight with your help we emerge stronger and better than before." He encouraged people to donate.
7:55 - STORMING THE STAGE: After a montage of news footage of the storm projected on the stage, hometown heroes Bruce Springsteen and the full E Street Band (complete with blazing horn section) opened the show with the uplifting Land of Hopes and Dreams, which ended with a snippet of the gospel nugget People Get Ready. That led into the title track from his latest album (and Grammy-nominated) Wrecking Ball, which carries a theme of resilience amid destruction; and the rebuilding anthem My City of Ruins, written a decade ago for his adopted — and hard-hit by Sandy — hometown of Asbury Park, N.J. Springsteen, who has sung the song at several earlier Sandy benefits, hit the "rise up!'' chorus with extra gospel fervor and faded out with lines from Jersey Girl. New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi then joined the band for Born to Run.

7:30 - BRUCE: Springsteen & the E Street Band took the stage to kick off the show. Clarence Clemons' nephew Jake was on saxophone.
7:25 - ROLE MODELS: Organizers drew inspiration from several other large-scale benefit concerts at the Garden. In 1971, two Concerts for Bangladesh were staged, which raised $250,000 for famine relief (and $12 million in spinoff projects). They were organized by Ravi Shankar, who died Tuesday, and also featured Eric Clapton, who played Wednesday. The post-9/11 Concert for New York City in 2001 was organized by Paul McCartney; it raised an estimated $65 million and featured a number of the artists who appeared Wednesday.


Sandy Benefit Concert: Springsteen, Stones & Joel Provide Highlights At 6-Hour Show
(By Allison Stewart, The Washington Post, 13 December 2012)

The 12-12-12 concert to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy, held at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, boasted a lineup ranging from aging white English people to other aging white English people. In both spirit and personnel, it resembled the venerable post-Sept. 11 Concert for New York City, with Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and the Who, all returning to perform at the Garden and joined by even more A-list stars.  All artists can be commended for donating their time to a worthy cause. (Donations to Sandy victims can be made here.) But this was a nearly six-hour concert which means there were moments that were awesome ... and moments that were the opposite.
Awesome Things That Happened
Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen’s mini-set included “My City of Ruins,” which was written for a then-moldering Asbury Park, played to great effect at the 9/11 telethon and at any number of benefits since, and will now unfairly be known as That Song Bruce Plays When Bad Things Happen.

Jon Bon Jovi duets with Bruce: The Bon Jovi frontman came onstage for a great/weird “Born to Run” and, at least once during the evening, hugged Springsteen with the sort of familiarity the Boss never would have tolerated during Bon Jovi’s hair metal years. Chris Christie isn’t the only New Jersey icon towards whom the Boss has considerably softened.
The Rolling Stones: They played two songs, “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” each a marvel of acrobatic peacocking and general showing off-ness. The good news: Everyone appears to still be alive, though we’ll have to get back to you on Keith Richards. The bad news: They didn’t do “Shattered.”

Alicia Keys and Billy Joel: Keys and Joel are the benefit concert equivalent of first responders. They always show up, they’re always prepared, everybody is happy to see them and their presence is weirdly comforting.
Chris Martin: He wore a suit, played an acoustic guitar, and generally carried on like the leader of a Merseybeat band in 1961. He seemed genuinely honored to be there, and humbled. He brought out R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe — who hasn’t been either of those things since 1987 — for Stipe’s old band’s mega-hit “Losing My Religion.” Martin then told the viewers that, when trying to decide how much money to donate, they should think of a figure that approached the average age of the evening’s performers. Truer words.

Other Things That Happened
Roger Waters: The former Pink Floyd leader played a dipped-in-amber greatest hits set so long and lugubrious that even Eddie Vedder, guesting on “Comfortably Numb,” couldn’t save it.

Bruce duets with Jon Bon Jovi: The Boss, visibly caked in makeup, joined forces with JBJ for the tragic bronzer explosion/exercise in unintentional irony that was “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” perhaps not the best song to perform for thousands of people who actually can’t go home, because their houses are in the ocean.
Eric Clapton and the Who: Both nicely done, but emblematic of the evening’s main problem — this was an evening of classic rock acts playing their greatest hits.

Kanye West: This was ... off, somehow. It was poorly lit with muddy sound, and West seemed ill at ease during an extended medley that included “Power,” “Jesus Walks,” “Stronger” and “Gold Digger,” though he found his footing towards the end.
Paul McCartney fronting the remainder of Nirvana: Sir Paul played a few Wings songs, he did a few Beatles songs, he performed with Diane Krall, like you do at this sort of show. He then brought out Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear for the Nirvana non-reunion you’ve (never) been waiting for. Not-Nirvana played a strange-but-not-unpleasant, “Helter Skelter”-like new song called “Cut Me Some Slack.” It felt less like a Nirvana reunion than simply like watching Paul McCartney playing with a crack backing band. Painless, really. And witnessing Sir Paul introducing Pat Smear was worth the six-hour run time. (Okay, it wasn’t.)

The grand-ish finale: McCartney, Keys and a host of first responders performing “Empire State of Mind.”
Some lingering questions

Why did Roger Waters play 57 songs over a 10-day period, and the Stones play only two?
Where was Jay-Z?

Why did so many well-known artists — Eddie Vedder, Chris Martin — perform without their bands? Was this a logistical thing, or a high-profile opportunity to get audiences used to them as solo artists?
Why was Jon Bon Jovi dressed like a French mime?

Like 9/11 Benefit Concert, McCartney, More Turn Out For Superstorm Sandy Victims
(By Associated Press, 12 December 2012)

Call the “12-12-12” benefit show “The Concert for New York City” 2.0. Eleven years after the benefit concert in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was held at Madison Square Garden, many of the same top musicians came together to raise money for those suffering from Superstorm Sandy, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, The Who, Eric Clapton and Bon Jovi.  Those singers set a serious tone Wednesday night, wearing mostly black and gray onstage as they encouraged people to call and donate money to those affected by the devastating storm that took place in late October, killing about 140 people and damaging millions of homes and properties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas.
Alicia Keys, who grew up in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, closed the night with her New York anthem, “Empire State of Mind,” as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and others joined the piano-playing singer onstage. They ended the night chanting “U.S.A.”  Keys was one of two women who performed at “The Concert for Sandy Relief.” Diana Krall backed McCartney, who sang his solo songs, Beatles songs and played the role of Kurt Cobain with Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear during the nearly six-hour show.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the night, performing songs like “My City of Ruins,” ‘’Born to Run” with Bon Jovi and some of Tom Waits’ ”Jersey Girl.”  “I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey shore because that’s what makes it special,” the New Jersey-born rocker said, referring to how the Jersey Shore attracts an ethnic and economic melting pot of people.  E Street band guitarist Steven Van Zandt said backstage that musicians and entertainers always show up when tragedy hits.  “It’s more personal because literally the Jersey Shore is where we grew up ... but we’d be here anyway,” he said. “You don’t see oil companies here, you don’t see insurance companies here, the Wall Street guys, with all due respect, they’re not waiting in line to help anybody, so we’re here.”
The sold-out show was televised live, streamed online, played on the radio and shown in theaters all over the world. Producers said up to 2 billion people were able to experience it live.  But the night wasn’t all serious: Comedy helped break up the weightiness of Sandy’s devastation, including jokes from Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Stephen Colbert and Adam Sandler, who performed a hilarious parody of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Even Coldplay’s Chris Martin brought on the jokes.  “I know you really wanted One Direction,” Martin said of the popular British boy band. “But it’s way past their bedtime.”  Martin was joined onstage by Michael Stipe, as they sang R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” And there was another collaboration with Roger Waters and Eddie Vedder on “Comfortably Numb.”

The participants, many natives of the area and others who know it well, struck a defiant tone in asking for help to rebuild sections of the New York metropolitan area devastated by the storm. About half of the performers were British.  “This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden,” said Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, who performed two songs. “If it rains in London, you’ve got to come and help us.”  Waters, who has lived in New York for 11 years, said “there’s a great feeling of camaraderie” backstage and that he’s excited he could help those who are suffering.  Richie Sambora said he “had to hold back tears” when he visited New Jersey and saw the devastation. “My mom’s house (in Point Pleasant, N.J.) got trashed. They had to evacuate her. She’s living with me until we fix it up.”
Most of the acts performed about four tunes. McCartney performed for 40 minutes and The Who were onstage for 30. They weaved Sandy into their set, showing pictures of storm devastation on video screens during “Pinball Wizard.” Pete Townshend made a quick revision to the lyrics of “Baba O’Riley,” changing “teenage wasteland” to “Sandy wasteland.”  Joel performed one of his most recognizable songs, “New York State of Mind,” changing many of the words to localize, mentioning Breezy Point and Oceanside. His “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” sounded prescient, with new Sandy-fueled lyrics smoothly fitting in. He was also the only artist to mark the season, working in a little of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Kanye West’s performance gave the crowd a different sound, as the music lineup was heavily weighted toward classic rock, which has the type of fans able to afford a show for which ticket prices ranged from $150 to $2,500. Even with those prices, people with tickets had been offering them for more on broker sites such as StubHub, an attempt at profiteering that producers fumed was “despicable.”  Proceeds will go to the Robin Hood Foundation, which said it raised $30 million from ticket sales and sponsors ahead of the concert. The organization also stressed that the earnings will get to those who need assistance.  “We will make sure that that money goes out right away to the most affected (places) in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut,” David Saltzman, the organization’s executive director, said backstage. “The money that we raised from this concert will be distributed in the days, weeks and months, not years.”
Robin Hood is working through existing organizations that “know what to do and know their communities,” he said. Saltzman added that Fuse TV, which is owned by Madison Square Garden, was giving its YouTube revenues earned from airing the concert to the victims, and that StubHub has donated $860,000 from fees from those selling tickets.  The sold-out “12-12-12” concert was shown on 37 television stations in the United States and more than 200 others worldwide. It was to be streamed on 30 websites, including YouTube and Yahoo. The theaters showing it included 27 in the New York region.