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Monday, July 19, 2004
Two notes on the aforementioned Billy Joel song, "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll To Me":
1) I really picked it to sing because I wanted to sing a non-ballad Billy Joel song. (I wanted to sing a Billy Joel song because I love Billy Joel.) I hadn't really expected it to "work," really, I just wanted it to be the same kind of fun, dance-like-an-idiot sort of thing I usually get with my kareoke selections, i.e. "Pretty Woman" or "Love Shack" or things of that sort. But it really did work in that context, much to my surprise; I started off just singing it, but by the end I was sort of snarling/yelling the chorus.
The song itself seems like a transparent Joel conservative move, of "man, all this new music is just good ol' rock." Which is sort of a justified stance for him to take, given his history, but is also sort of annoying. But the whole thing becomes weird when you sing it about retro revivals, because...well, look:
Where have you been hidin' out lately, honey?
You can't dress trashy till you spend a lot of money.
And then, later:
Hot funk, cool punk, even if it's old junk
It's still rock and roll to me
"Should I try to be a straight 'A' student?"
"If you are then you think too much
Don't you know about the new fashion honey?
All you need are looks and a whole lotta money"
It's the next phase, new wave , dance craze, anyways
It's still rock and roll to me
So I dunno. It seems grumpy-old-manish when it first hits, and it's still that to a degree, but while it wasn't really true at the time (punk was quite consciously not what "rock 'n' roll" had come to mean), today we remember these movements but meld them quite freely. Electroclash is presenting itself as a faithful revival but is really only taking a few old elements and adding a bunch more. Some stuff might sound just like the Human League or Suicide or Blondie, but for every imitator there's something that really is a new sound, or as much of a new sound as you can reasonably expect. And a large part of this new sound, interestingly enough in the context of Joel's song, comes from rock. It is all rock, but...it's not.
2) I think I've liked this song longer than I've liked any non-Beatles pop song. I had to do a report on some pop band for music class in sixth grade (this would be about 1990), but I really didn't like any at the time. My parents suggested Billy Joel, I'm still not entirely sure why--maybe because I was listening to some 50s rock at the time, maybe because I liked songwriter-y things, maybe because I liked the Beatles, I dunno--and so I went with that. (It was a partner project, and my partner was overjoyed that I did all the work, even though he had no idea who Billy Joel was.) In retrospect, this is really weird. Not only was I not doing it about Guns 'n' Roses or New Kids or something, not only was I doing it about an album 10 years old (I think I actually focued on Glass Houses), I was doing it about something that had no cachet whatsoever. It's not like I brought in Mozart or old jazz or something like that as my alternative to present-day pop. I brought in...Billy Joel. I was a weird kid. I guess I still am. But I do still like Billy Joel a lot.
2a) Tangentally: do you think Paul Simon is pissed off because Billy Joel's musical is doing fairly well and his bombed?