Thursday, May 22, 2014

Billy Joel: The Entertainer

As I was contemplating the blog last night, I thought that it was time to change up my Thursday feature to something new. Today, I introduce to you a brand new spotlight – “Thirty Something Thursday.” Every song with this new feature will have only topped the Hot 100 charts between the 30th and 39th positions. I figure I can cover some new ground with this new showcase.

Today’s selection was the only single release from Billy Joel’s 1974 “Streetlife Serenade” album. While this LP is generally not considered one of Joel’s best, I really liked it and played it to death. “The Entertainer” was Joel’s cynical and autobiographical look at the music business.

Some believe that Joel took a jab at his record company’s decision to edit his previous hit “Piano Man.” He sings, “It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long. If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit. So they cut it down to 3:05.” Although “Piano Man” was edited for the single release, it clocked in at 4:30 with the edit. “The Entertainer,” ironically, is exactly 3:05.

Charting at #34, “The Entertainer” is chock full of great features. It has a driving acoustic guitar, great lyrical content, and a few instrumental surprises. During the intro, Joel provides harmonica that is strategically mixed so that it adds texture.

Joel also plays some interesting runs on a Moog synthesizer – which is double tracked later in the song. Critical to the arrangement is Tom Whitehouse’s contributions on banjo and pedal steel guitar. Good stuff from “The Entertainer”: Billy Joel.

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