Monday, July 18, 2011
An Innocent Man
You know how I feel about mockery. When it comes to poking fun at, lampooning or just plain ripping the hell out of something, it's always no-holds-barred and there's nary a topic off limits. You can mercilessly ridicule God, the government, celebrities, dead people, kids, the mentally handicapped and every kind of religion, race and ethnicity for all I care. I'm cool with all of that.
But there's one thing you cannot mock, one thing that constitutes unacceptable blasphemy: Billy Joel.
The Twitter feed of Mike Madden, managing editor over at the Washington City Paper, led me to a throwaway piece written by some hack who I assume is under his purview named Benjamin R. Freed. (His name is really insignificant because he's a moron.) This Freed guy wrote a predictably "snarky" -- a word I use with every ounce of implied derision I can muster -- piece beating up on a Democratic congressional aide who apparently recorded an album. The review pretty much pillories the record, which I can't argue with one way or the other since I haven't heard it. What I have heard, though, is every song Billy Joel has ever recorded -- which is why I take umbrage at Freed's comparison of the supposedly awful musical stylings of this congressional aide with those of the great Mr. Joel; Freed writes, "On at least one track he sounds an awful lot like Billy Joel, that scourge of good taste and Long Island Expressway medians."
Now this is where I could mention that Billy Joel has six Grammys and that he's sold 158 million albums; that he's been inducted into both the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; that he's got millions and millions of fans around the world; but you know that I never put much stock in statistics like that. Celine Dion has Grammys up the ass and she's worthless; the most popular song in America right now is Party Rock Anthem from LMFAO. Fame has never directly correlated to quality. I could also bring up the fact that while it's easy to embrace indie bands that are so far underground they've never even heard of themselves because it makes you look cool and goes a long way toward helping you pick up that girl with the nosering and horn-rimmed glasses at the vintage book store you're always concerned is in imminent danger of being overrun by Barnes and Noble, a true appreciation of music means that your tastes should cut a wide swath -- otherwise you're nothing more than a self-satisfied elitist jackass who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. But that's not likely to have much of an impact. Or maybe I could get into how between 1973 and 1982 -- beginning with Piano Man and culminating with the brilliant The Nylon Curtain -- Billy Joel released more outstanding material than most bands these days see their entire careers; or how while so many rock and alternative musicians like to project the image of being tortured for their art, Billy Joel is the real deal -- a guy with ongoing substance abuse problems who loves passionately and yet can't seem to keep a relationship together to save his life and who has, on more than one occasion, turned that sadness and emptiness into unbelievably lovely and powerful music and who's generally attempted to smile through his pain the rest of the time. Or maybe I could just run down the list of all the modern musicians who cite Billy Joel as an influence or who borrow liberally from his mantle without even knowing it.
I could say all of that. But maybe it's best to keep it simple, in deference to Mr. Freed's obvious sensibilities.
Dude, seriously, go fuck yourself. Billy Joel rules.