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"60 Seconds: Billy Joel"
(July 6th, 2006)
US singer/songwriter Billy Joel has had hits since the 1970s with songs such as "Piano Man" and "Uptown Girl," selling more than 100 million albums and winning five Grammys and being awarded another Grammy. He's been married three times and has recently been treated for alcohol problems. He's currently on his first tour of Britain since 1994, playing Wembley Arena on July 10th, 2006 and July 12th, 2006.
Question: Why have you been away so long?
Answer: The last time we played a Britain gig was in Glasgow in 1998. I got sick with an upper respiratory infection. Normally, I'd just bawl my way through it, but this time I was just croaking. I felt bad that the audience had to tolerate that singing. So I bowed out and went back to the States to recuperate.
Question: Do you feel fit and healthy again after your recent treatment for alcohol abuse?
Answer: I've never been not fit or not healthy. I realized it was becoming a problem and I did something about it. In my business, it's sort of like getting your teeth cleaned. You know, New York has a pub on every corner and it doesn't matter if you're a musician or you have a regular job; at the end of the day, everybody ends up at the pub. I keep telling people: 'Don't make me the poster boy for AA because I don't know a lot about sobriety but I do know a lot about drinking.'
Question: Before you became a musician, you were a boxer. What drew you to the sport? I can't even watch boxing now.
Answer: I know how violent it is. I've still got damage - my nose is broken, I've got scars all over my knuckles and I've probably got brain damage. I was drawn to it because I got beat up as a kid - I was the kid with the piano books in a New York neighborhood. I liked it for a while but realized that boxing only makes sense at 16 or 17 because you're so hormonal and full of rage. That's why they put you in the army at that age - you just want to go kill somebody and they spot that and say: 'He's our guy.' But then you start to have relationships with women and you release a lot of hormonal feelings and whatever, and you think: 'That feels so much better now.' I definitely prefer being a lover than a fighter.
Question: Your father was a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Germany and suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Has that affected how you see the world?
Answer: Well, I didn’t know my dad all that much. He and my mum split when I was pretty young and I really didn’t know much about my family until recently. I have a half-brother who I'm very close to, named Alexander. He's an opera conductor in Vienna. We get on like a house on fire and he filled me in on all that kind of stuff. My dad's family was from Nuremberg, Germany and his father had a very successful mail order textile business. He was in Germany when it was getting pretty lousy and he was forced to sell his business to some Nazi named Neckermann, who became a post-war industrial miracle worker. My parents moved from Europe, first to Cuba for three years and then to America, where my dad joined the army. I'm a history nut to start with and I knew all about that sort of thing but I didn't know specifically about my own family until Alexander filled me in. It's really the story of the United States in a way. I mean, pretty much everyone's family was either chased out or ran away from some sort of horrible situation in the old country and made something of themselves in America. If it hadn't been for some disastrous things happening in Europe, I wouldn't be here to tell the tale.
Question: Is America still welcoming to immigrants?
Answer: I think historically America has been pretty tolerant. It seems when there's a mass influx from one place, that's when it becomes problematic for Americans. They're welcoming to people from pretty much everywhere, but when it's all coming from one nationality, it kind of tips the scales a bit. I think that's when people start to get paranoid. There's a deep-seated paranoia that Americans have about not being 'Americans' or something - who knows? I live in New York and we're pretty much a polyglot - there are so many different ethnic diversities, which is part of what makes it so interesting. It really is a world city.
Question: One of your first bands was called Attila. Do you think the name had something to do with the band's lack of success?
Answer: I think it had to do with the fact we were terrible. It was a heavy metal duo and we were just god awful.
Question: After being dropped by a record company, how do you pick up and start again?
Answer: It just comes with the gig. Most musicians will tell you it's really hard to make a living as a musician. It's almost impossible. I've been asked many times what is the most satisfying award or platinum record or Grammy I've got. But none of that compares to the day I realized I could pay my rent from being a musician. It may have been one of the best days of my life. I thought: 'I'm a professional musician, I don’t have to keep that factory job' - and I quit. I ran around my apartment and threw my clothes off and danced around, saying: 'I'm a musician, I'm a musician.'
Question: You wrote "Piano Man" about your job playing at a Los Angeles piano bar in the early 1970s. What do you remember about that job?
Answer: It was a gig I did for about six months just to pay rent. I was living in Los Angeles, California and trying to get out of a bad record contract I'd signed. I worked under an assumed name, "The Piano Stylings of Bill Martin," and just bullshitted my way through it. I have no idea why that song became so popular. It's like a karaoke favorite. The melody is not very good and very repetitious, while the lyrics are like limericks. I was shocked and embarrassed when it became a hit. But my songs are like my kids and I look at that song and think: 'My kid did pretty well.'
Question: You received death threats after releasing the song "Only The Good Die Young." What was the fuss about?
Answer: That song was released as a single back in 1977, I think. It was not really doing very well, just languishing in the charts. Then it was banned by a radio station in New Jersey at a Catholic university. The minute the kids found out it was banned, they ran out in droves and it became a huge hit. If you tell kids they can't have something, that's what they want. I don't understand the problem with the song. It's about a guy trying to seduce a girl but, at the end of the song, she's still chaste and pure and he hasn't got anything. So I never understood what the furor was about. But I did write a letter to the archdiocese who'd banned it, asking them to ban my next record.
"Billy Joel: Four Stars"
NEC Birmingham, England
By: Dave Simpson
(July 7th, 2006)
There are some things you'd never expect at a Billy Joel concert: the artist hurling a microphone stand 12 feet into the air; a roadie called Chainsaw taking lead vocals on a "religious song" which turns out to be AC/DC's "Highway To Hell." However, after years off the road, the "Piano Man" has obviously decided that the one thing left to conquer is his terminally naff public image.
While many have come for ghastly 1980s hits such as "Tell Her About It," Joel virtually ignores them all in favour of early material like "Prelude/Angry Young Man." Back then, he says, he was "always bitching about something", but he still delivers fame-game rants "Everybody Loves You Now," and "New York State of Mind" with extraordinary venom. Showcasing the songs with three times more energy than usual presents lyrics about Long Island fishing communities and dagger-laden love songs in a new light. Maybe Joel was documenting Noo Yawk life as effectively as Lou Reed all along.
Between songs, he's hilariously pithy: patting his bald head, beginning to play Rule Britannia only to snort: "Ah, always a cheap trick!"
Perhaps if it hadn't been for the likes of "Uptown Girl," Joel would still have been considered a peer of Springsteen. Here, he first sends the song up - adopting the romantic persona "Julio" - then switches to the veiled loathing of Sid Vicious doing "My Way." He seems far happier tearing through rockers like "You May Be Right" and It's Still Rock and Roll To Me."
As he leaves, he pours water over himself and tells the cheering hordes: "Don't take any shit from anybody." Pop music has rarely been much weirder. At 57, Billy Joel has become a punk.
"Billy Joel: Three Stars"
NEC Birmingham, England
By: David Sinclair
(July 7th, 2006)
Sometimes it seems absence really does make the heart grow fonder. How else to explain the full house and rapturous reception afforded to Billy Joel on the opening night of his first British tour for almost a decade? Joel, who hasn’t released an album of new songs since 1993, and who pulled out of his last tour here (with Elton John) for health reasons, has weathered a period of turbulence both professionally and personally.
Although the hits have dried up, the turnover of wives now rivals that of Phil Collins. "This is for 'Ex' Number One," he said, with a jovial flourish, as he introduced "Just The Way You Are," one of those smoochy perennials that sounded uncomfortably close to middle of the road.
With considerably less hair than before (or "more head," as Joel preferred to put it) and wearing mismatched jacket and trousers, the 57 year-old looked like an uncle at a wedding, never more so than when he started twirling his microphone stand behind his back and over his head in the style of a young Rod Stewart during "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me." Even more bizarre was a version of AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" during which Joel played the riff on a Les Paul guitar while handing over vocal duties to a roadie named Chainsaw, presumably after the sound of his voice.
Such moments of whimsy aside, the show offered a serious trawl through the vast repertoire that has elevated Joel to a position of eminence far removed from the mundane matter of the charts. During the first part, every song he introduced - "The Entertainer," "Zanzibar," "New York State of Mind," The Downeaster 'Alexa'" - seemed to have originated from a different album. All were performed with enduring conviction by Joel at the piano, supported by a five-man band of consummate professionals.
As the show gathered momentum, so the hits emerged with increasing regularity: "She's Always A Woman," "Movin' Out," "Uptown Girl," and a rip-snorting "We Didn't Start The Fire." It ended with Joel - harmonica rack round his neck, singing the plaintive refrain of his first hit, "Piano Man" - back where he started, after all this time.
"Billy Joel's 88 Ways To Woo A Goddess"
How Did Billy Joel Get Elle & Christie? By Being The 'Piano Man'
By: Pete Paphides
(July 7th, 2006)
"Birmingham - it's an R&B town, right? Didn't Cream come from Birmingham? Can we do a Cream song tonight?" Three hours before the first show of this greatest hits tour, Billy Joel sounds out anyone within earshot about the possibility of a last-minute cover version.
"I don't think Cream came from Birmingham," suggests his guitarist. "How about Black Sabbath?" Looking more like a member of the road crew in his baseball cap and khaki shorts, the 57 year-old singer pads off to the dressing room doing a surprisingly good impression of Ozzy Osbourne on "War Pigs." Joel is in ebullient form. His only palpable vice since last year, when he checked out of the Betty Ford Clinic after being treated for alcohol addiction, is an occasional cigarette.
He won't be joining his band for the soundcheck, which means that while a stand-in gives his piano a thorough workout he can ponder the thorny subject of tonight's set-list. Tonight, apparently, sees the first performance of "Uptown Girl" for two decades. It's not a prospect that Joel sounds overly excited about. "Do I want to sing it again? No, I can't say I do. It was sort of a novelty song. I mean, that whole album "An Innocent Man" was a homage to The Four Seasons. Frankie Valli sings as though someone's squeezing him in the corleones, you know. It's supposed to sound like you're in pain. But that’s easier to do in the recording studio than night after night on tour."
Still, I suggest that, as a memento of his early courtship of the supermodel (and mother of his daughter, Alexa Ray) Christie Brinkley, it must hold a special place in his heart. Judging by the reaction on Joel's face, it's not the heart that springs to mind. "You want to know what that song's about?" he smiles. "I had recently gotten divorced (from his first wife, Elizabeth Weber). And now, here I was, a rock star who was suddenly single.
I made the most of it. I dated Elle MacPherson half a year before Christie. So the original song was called 'Uptown Girls.' I was like a pig in shit."
There's no delicate way to approach this inquiry, but it's worth a try. How does a short, "schlubby" ex-amateur boxer from Long Island, New York pluck up the courage to hit on Elle MacPherson? Joel's answer? With a piano you don't need to. Holidaying in the Caribbean, he found himself at a hotel where MacPherson, Brinkley and a yet-to-be-famous Whitney Houston were staying. "Whitney was a model then, and there was a photo shoot. I went to the piano in the bar and started to play 'As Time Goes By.' I looked up and there were these three gorgeous women looking at me from the other side of the piano. I looked back down at the piano and just said: 'Thank you!'"
If Joel evinces the Zen candour of a millionaire in retirement, then it's not altogether surprising. It's been 13 years since he abdicated the singer/songwriter mantle with "River of Dreams." Since then, and mostly for his own pleasure, he composes the odd classical piece. With the exception of "It's A Good Life" - an anniversary present in 2005 for his current wife, the food writer Katie Lee - he has written only one pop tune since 1993.
Once in a while he takes to the road and bashes out a set of his most well-loved songs. But, save for a live CD, entitled "12 Gardens Live," and another compilation (this time entitled "Piano Man") there's nothing new to promote.
Joel is visibly amused by the quandary in which this leaves his record company. When he first served notice of his withdrawal from the recording process, Columbia's response was disbelief. "Actually, they thought I was just negotiating - and this was the start-off point."
Since then, Joel's profile has been kept high by a procession of compilations. "It's ridiculous," he says, "If it's not 'The Ultimate Billy Joel,' it's 'The Essential Billy Joel' or 'Really & Truly The Very Best of Billy Joel'." The lion's share of his disdain though, is reserved for "My Lives," the 2005 boxed set that gathered together four CDs of outtakes spanning his entire career. "The idea as it was presented to me was: 'OK, we’re going to take everything you left on the cutting room floor, we're going to put it in a box and charge people 50 bucks.'"
"It's not like I had a choice - they own it all. I read in the liner notes that I personally 'curated' all this stuff, which is a crock of shit. I didn't curate a single thing."
If there's no love lost between Joel and the music business, perhaps it's not so surprising. By the time he scored his first hit with "Piano Man" in 1973 - the song inspired by his six-month stint playing a Los Angeles bar - he had already accrued first-hand experience of the industry's shady underside. When he was 20 he famously signed away his publishing rights to the (now defunct) Family Records in order to record his 1971 debut album "Cold Spring Harbor." By the time the record appeared, a mastering error meant that Joel appeared to be on helium for all ten songs.
All things considered, it's little wonder that this was also the year he attempted to end his life. Unable to pay the rent, he was forced to take a job in a factory. His girlfriend had left him. It was, as he tells it, a Woody Allen kind of suicide - death by furniture polish. "What does furniture polish taste like? It tastes like shit." I looked in my closet and it was a straight choice between chlorine bleach and furniture polish. They both had a skull and crossbones on, so I that was promising. I thought, 'Hmmm, which one will taste better?' "Well, the polish said that it was lemon-scented, so I figured it had to be that one. I didn't die, obviously. I just farted furniture polish."
He says that checking himself into an observation center directly afterwards "was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me, because I met people who had real problems."
Though Joel got better, his cynicism never quite dissipated. One notable outtake on "My Lives" is "Oyster Bay," a 1973 vignette about a rock star who yearns simply to escape his punishing schedule and go out fishing off the picturesque Long Island, New York coastal town. Tellingly, the song was written when he had yet to score a hit single. Even when "Piano Man" finally arrived, Joel followed it with "The Entertainer," which suggested that his ultimate fate was "to get put in the back at the discount rack/Like another can of beans."
His outsider's perspective has served him well, though. At the show later on, the bestreceived songs are "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," and "Allentown," journalistic paeans to the travails of ordinary people. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Joel sees no innate virtue in their workaday struggles. "What Bruce does," he ponders, "is consciously write about a working-class guy. I don’t set out to write about any particular life. It’s just how it comes out."
Except, of course, that it no longer comes out - a fact that seems to cause Joel no discernible heartbreak. Now clean for over a year and free of the album/tour cycle, he says his life is better than it has ever been. Following the success of Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" - the Broadway show based around his music - he has fielded further ideas for musicals. If he is to get involved, though, he says it has to come from within.
An idea for a possible book suggests that Joel has some distance to go before he moderates his thoughts on the industry that brought him to prominence. Entitled "A Good Career Move," the plot is predicated, Joel says, on the record industry's belief that established rock stars are much more useful dead than alive. If he gets around to writing it, then he’ll come up with some songs to go with it.
Right now though, music is just one of a range of outlets available to Joel. In 1996, seeking to buy himself a yacht "that didn’t look like a penis extension," he reawakened his childhood interest in technical drawing and took his design to a Long Island boatmaker, who made the craft. The ensuing interest in Shelter Island Runabout - a modern version of the yachts used by wealthy New Yorkers for commuting to Manhattan in the 1930s - prompted Joel to go into business. Since then he has sold 42 of them at $500,000 a throw.
Then there's his motorcycle design company, which takes new Harley-Davidsons and "soups them up to look like 1946 Knuckleheads. But you know, these things don't take up a whole lot of my time. I probably spend more time with my wife or walking my two pugs around Oyster Bay."
So he really did end up in Oyster Bay? Just like the guy in the song? Joel shows momentary surprise, as though the thought hadn't occurred to him. "I did. But let me tell you, that's where the similarity ends. I'm always on my fucking boat."
"Billy Joel Beats Traffic Jams To Get To The Rose Bowl On Time"
By: Jenny Makin
(July 15th, 2006)
He was determined that nothing would stop him from keeping his date with his thousands of fans on the south coast.
In a car, because the helicopter he had been due to fly to the Rose Bowl in had broken down, Billy Joel could not have foreseen the sheer weight of traffic as he fought to get out of London on a Friday afternoon.
Gridlocked somewhere near Richmond because of an accident he was eventually whisked away to take the scenic route of the A34 where he found himself stalled because of a major fire.
Joel told the crowd: "Man, you've got some serious traffic issues here. It's worse than New York. I couldn't get out of London and then the A34 or whatever it is called had a bush fire. Then we were on the M3 and it was backed up for 35 miles."
But at just gone 8:00pm with an anxious crowd in wait the rock star made his way on to the stage and began an energetic two and a half hour set of just what he does best.
"Billy Joel Motors On"
Watch Out! The 'Piano Man' Gets A New Set of Wheels On 'American Chopper'
By: Bill Harris
(July 16th, 2006)
There is something inherently funny about Billy Joel volunteering to be part of a special two-hour episode of "American Chopper."
The veteran musical performer has had his share of run-ins with the law regarding his tendency to, well, allegedly enjoy a few alcoholic beverages before taking the wheel.
You may recall a hilarious skit on "Saturday Night Live" a couple of years back, with Horatio Sanz playing Joel as he serves as chauffeur for a group of young girls (including Lindsay Lohan) and wreaks havoc on the quiet streets of Long Island, New York.
Joel's status as a comic punching-bag notwithstanding, he's the center of attention again, as the guys from "American Chopper" are commissioned to build him a custom motorcycle.
If you're unfamiliar with the "American Chopper" reality series, which has been running since 2003, suffice to say it's a weird show.
Orange County Choppers is a custom-bike company in Montgomery, New York, owned by tattoo-adorned, no-nonsense boss Paul Teutul, Sr. Among the staff are Teutul's two sons, Paul, Jr. and Mikey, along with employees Vinnie and Rick.
At the heart of the show are the crude, blue-collar examples of office politics that can be applied universally. Paul, Sr. is the bullying dad. Paul, Jr. is the lazy heir. Mikey is the goofy one. Rick is the sensitive one. The verbal battles are as predictable as they are vicious.
The 57 year-old Joel, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, has decided he wants a "bobber," also known as, a "Billy Bob." He's a demanding customer, asking for something that looks like it was made in the 1930s or 1940s, then was modified in the 1950s, but with updated technology to make it purr like a 21st-century kitten.
There's a funny scene early in the show when Joel, The "Piano Man," is asked if he wants any signature artistic touches on his bobber, like, say, some painted piano keys.
"Deliver me from piano keys," Joel barks. "People are always sending me frickin' scarves...I hate piano keys."
That, of course, gives the OCC guys the idea of making up a piano spoof bike, complete with a working keyboard and a microphone just in case Billy wants to break into song while he drives.
Joel's reaction when the spoof bike is unveiled is not quite as demonstrative as the producers might have liked, but it still is an amusing moment.
As work on the real bike progresses, there are problems, of course.
Billy doesn't like the way things are going. That annoys Paul, Sr., who at one point says, "(Joel) has to do more concerts - he has too much free time."
There is some butt-kissery of Joel, too. At one point a voice-over from Mikey states, "(Joel's) first album was released back in 1972 and he's pretty much been at the top of the charts ever since."
Well, not the charts we've been checking lately, bub.
There really was no reason for this to be a two-hour episode. An hour would have sufficed. Some of the bits when they actually are building the bike could have been edited, but supposedly that's what keeps the gear-heads happy.
The finished product is presented to Joel on-stage during a concert at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
Joel announces to the crowd and to the guys from "American Chopper," "I'm gonna go home, I'm gonna bring this bike back, I'm gonna ride it, man!"
"Billy Joel's On The Boil"
By: James Wigney
(July 16th, 2006)
In a career spanning almost 40 years, Billy Joel has sold more than 100 million albums, circled the globe countless times, achieved wealth and fame beyond his wildest dreams and survived just about every rock and roll cliche in the book.
So why, well into his 50s and with a young wife at home - is the "Piano Man" still working his guts out for more than two hours a night for his global legion of fans?
"Because I still can," says Joel, relaxing in his dressing room before a packed-out show in Britain a few days ago ahead of his first Australian tour in eight years.
"I'm 57 years-old now and I don't know when the hand of time is going to say: No more, Stop.
"And my voice is holding up OK."
A couple of hours later, the pianist extraordinaire will charge around the stage in front of a six-piece band, tossing microphone stands, pounding the keys with his behind and tearing through an impressive back catalogue of tracks from his 1971 debut "Cold Spring Harbor" through to his 1993 "River of Dreams."
With no new material to promote these days, Joel hits the road only when the mood takes him. Most artists tour when they put an album out. In Joel's case, the new album - recorded over his record-breaking 12-night stand at New York's Madison Square Garden - was born out of the tour.
"The tail wags the dog now," Joel says, "but that's kind of where it all started - none of us were recording stars when we started out, we were just playing for an audience in clubs, schools, dances and parties, so it's all come back to that."
Joel is somewhat ambivalent about the procession of repackaged releases from his record company.
"I haven't had a new album out since 1993," Joel says.
"They keep putting out these compilations "The Best of..." and "The Greatest Hits" and "The Ultimate Collection," "The Essential," "The Really, Truly Best of..." - there is nothing I can do about it. They own the recordings so they can do what they want, but I hope people don't think I'm putting this shit out."
Joel's self-assessment is a little harsh - the live CD is a good one as far as live CDs go, a sprawling mix of hits, album tracks and Joel's personal favorites.
"It's kind of an oxymoron, isn't it: a live recording? But let's face it, I haven't given them anything new in 13 years, so that's all they got and I suppose there are some people interested in that."
While his fans and his record company might be lamenting his decision to retire from writing pop music, Joel says it was time. "The danger for people who want to be musicians or people who want success in the entertainment industry is that sometimes you want it so much that you sell little pieces of yourself without even realising it," he says.
"You give away too much of yourself and then at the end of the day, what do you have? I got to a point at the end of the "River of Dreams" album with "Famous Last Words," which is basically the last song I ever wrote, and I wanted to close this book. I didn't want it so bad that I was willing to give up all of me.
"Joni Mitchell said the same thing when she walked away from recording albums. You are really cutting off pieces of yourself and throwing it out there and you have to leave something or else you are gone."
No doubt contributing to the decision to give it away were the frequent dramas that saw Joel in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. From his marriage and subsequent divorce with supermodel Christie Brinkley (the two remain friends), to financial disputes with managers, car crashes and battles with the booze, Joel has done it the hard way. But he remains level-headed, saying that he was homeless as a young man and suicidal at 21, so anything since then has been water off a duck's back.
He had a stint in rehab last year to treat alcohol abuse, and says he has given up drinking. He knew he had a problem at the time when he realised he was chugging wine rather than drinking it.
Joel still writes, but these days he prefers classical music. He released a collection of piano pieces, "Fantasies & Delusions," in 2001, which topped the classical charts in the US.
Occasionally he records basic versions, but for the most part his compositions are fragments in his head, which might one day turn up on a movie soundtrack or in a symphonic score.
"It's really not important to me that they are published or recorded or even heard by anybody," he says.
"It's just important to me that I am able to write this stuff for my own gratification and productivity."
Yet there's a glimmer of hope for diehard fans. Joel has written his first pop song in 13 years, which he hopes Tony Bennett will record and release. Joel played him the tune when the two teamed up to record "The Good Life" for Bennett's coming album of duets.
"'Piano Man' Billy Joel To Play Here"
By: James Wigney
(July 17th, 2006)
Man" Billy Joel is coming to Australia for his first tour in eight
Although Joel retired from writing pop music after that tour, the past year has been something of a renaissance for the 57 year-old.
A report yesterday said Joel had sold more tickets in the US in the year ending June 30th, 2006 than any other artist - including Madonna, U2, and The Rolling Stones. While Joel sold more than twice as many tickets as top-earner Madonna, she and The Rolling Stones earned more because of much higher ticket prices.
Tickets to Joel's Melbourne shows will cost $128.00 to $189.00. Joel's tour will be his first since a stint last year at the US Betty Ford Centre to treat alcohol abuse.
"Billy Joel Returns"
By: Vanessa De Groot
(July 17th, 2006)
The "Piano Man" is set to return to Australia for his first concert tour here in eight years.
With the recent release of his greatest hits album, "12 Gardens Live," Billy Joel will do one show in Queensland, Australia on November 21st, 2006 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
The last time he performed on his own was in 1994 with his "River of Dreams" Tour. In 1998 he toured with Elton John on the "Face 2 Face" Tour.
Joel has entertained more Australians than any other American artist, selling more than a million concert tickets in Australia during his career.
According to Pollstar's annual Top 100 Tours report, he has sold more tickets to his shows in the last 12 months than any other artist in the world, including Madonna and U2.
Joel will also perform in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. Tickets will go on sale 9:00am on Monday - July 31st, 2006.
"Billy Joel To Tour Australia"
By: Paul Cashmere
(July 17th, 2006)
Billy Joel is to return to Australia for the first time in eight years.
Joel holds the record for having sold more tickets to Australians than any other American performer.
His last Australian tour eight years ago was with Elton John. His last solo tour of Australia was the "River of Dreams" Tour in 1994.
Most recently, the "Piano Man" performed 12 consecutive sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York. It was a first for any performer. The event was captured for his new album "12 Gardens Live."
Tickets for Billy Joel in Australia go on sale, on July 31st, 2006.
"Billy Joel Gets The Crowds"
(July 19th, 2006)
When it comes to touring in 2006, Madonna makes the money, but Billy Joel sells the tickets. Madonna's "Confessions" Tour has topped Pollstar magazine's list of the biggest-earning tours of 2006 so far. She's raked in 54.3 million bucks to date. Billy Joel, who's number three on Pollstar's list, has earned "only" 47.2 million bucks this year, but he's sold the most individual tickets of any other artist. So why has Madonna earned so much more money? Simple - she's charging twice as much for her tickets.
"Billy Joel at MEN Arena"
By: Paul Taylor
(July 19th, 2006)
16,000 sweaty souls eagerly awaiting his arrival, Billy Joel didn't exactly need a cheerleader.
But he got one
anyway in the cuddly shape of Peter Kay, the Bolton funny man making
good on his promise to attend all of Joel's first UK dates for 12 years.
It was Kay - sitting just yards from the stage - who urged the crowd to their feet, clapping enthusiastically and mouthing the words to every song.
"Peter Kay's here," Joel declared. "Whaddya got, a private jet? How do you get to all these gigs."
Kay yelled back that he only lived 20 minutes away.
Joel never was much of a pop star in the usual sense. Songs like "Prelude/Angry Young Man," "My Life," and "The Entertainer" seem as if some stubby bloke in a stage musical has just leapt up to tell you his life in song.
Little wonder that 24 of those songs have already been recycled into a Broadway show.
That stubby bloke is still well in touch with his history has a lounge pianist.
The songs were always a bit too polished, a bit too cabaret.
But they are for Joel to critics' praise as well as the 100 million record sales.
It's just that timeless, old-fashioned sound, which means that Joel's songs scrub up so fresh for 2006.
Not that he is precious about his repertoire, wise-cracking that he will "throw up" if he has to sing one more "mushy" song "Just The Way You Are." ("written for my first ex-wife").
"The Entertainer" is dripped with cynicism for the entertainment business Joel had only just entered when he wrote it in 1974. But he was wrong on one score.
"And I won't be here in another year if I don't stay on the charts," he sang.
The truth is, he is packing them in like last night having delivered not a single new pop song to a waiting world since 1993.
You suspect that many of last night's crowd had waited almost that long for this gig.
In June 1998, Joel cancelled an appearance at Lancashire County Cricket Club because of a respiratory infection. It's taken this long for him to get back to the city.
On the hottest night of this and many other years, the "Piano Man" was making good on one of the longest rainchecks in rock history.
"Billy Joel Exclusive Irish Concert"
(July 21st, 2006)
Pop music icon Billy Joel plays Dublin's Croke Park on Saturday, July 29th, 2006. This exclusive Irish date is part of Billy Joel's first major solo concert tour in eight years and he will be performing with his eight-piece band (including his four-piece horn section).
Tickets for this fully seated event are from €66.50 including booking fee and are on sale now.
A 6-time Grammy award winner, Billy Joel has sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide and was the first artist to have five albums past the seven million mark. Billy Joel is back in Ireland to perform hits from his massive repertoire, including "The River of Dreams," "We Didn't Start The Fire," "New York State of Mind," "Just The Way You Are," "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "Piano Man," "Tell Her About It," and "Uptown Girl" and countless others.
He will be accompanied on stage by his long time backing band, which includes, among others, Mark Rivera on saxophone, guitar, percussion, Crystal Taliefero on percussion and sax, and from the original 1970s line-up, Richie Cannata on saxophone. He is in the middle of breaking a world record for selling-out New York's Madison Square Garden, 12 consecutive nights, beating Bruce Springsteen's previously held record of 10 nights.
"Billy Joel Heads Under"
(July 23rd, 2006)
Currently in the midst of a European summer tour, Billy Joel has added a four-date Australian arena trek to his fall calendar.
Joel will play Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane on the visit, which will run from November 7th, 2006 to November 21st, 2006. His remaining UK and European dates include a free concert at the Colosseum in Rome July 31st, 2006.
Earlier this year, the "Piano Man" embarked on a sold-out tour of the US, including a full 12 nights at New York City's Madison Square Garden. A 32-track live album was compiled from the New York City shows and released in June as "12 Gardens Live."
Prior to this year's shows, Joel had not toured as a solo act since 1999, focusing instead on a number of co-headlining collaborative tours with Elton John.
"Exclusive: Superstar Billy Joel On Life Without Music"
By: Billy Sloan
(July 23rd, 2006)
Music legend Billy Joel yesterday told how his songs saved his life.
The "Piano Man" from New York beat the odds and a tough up-bringing to sell more than 100 million records around the world.
Billy fears only his music prevented him from ending up in jail, addicted to drugs, or insane.
The straight-talking musician - born in New York's notorious South Bronx - says his life would have been very different if he'd not written a string of classic hits.
"Going to jail would definitely have been a possibility for me. That and drug addiction. I'd also have been homeless or ended up in an insane asylum," said Billy.
"I think I would have been a real desolate soul had I not been a musician."
And the star revealed the person most shocked by his global success is himself.
He said: "My success is pretty bizarre - because I don't think I'm all that great.
"I think I'm just competent about what I do. I know how to write, play, sing, perform and record. There's a lot of people out there who can't do that stuff."
The 57 year-old star is heading for Scotland to play two shows at the SECC in Glasgow, tomorrow and Thursday.
He's also planning a trip to his favorite watering hole, the Horse Shoe.
"I love that bar. I had a few beers last time I was in town and I'll be back if I can."
Billy has chalked up millions of sales, won a clutch of Grammy Awards and has his own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
No mean feat for a guy whose dreams of becoming a history teacher were dashed when he failed to graduate at high school.
I met Billy backstage at the Hallam FM Arena in Sheffield, England on his first major UK tour in almost a decade.
He reflected on a rollercoaster 35-year career which has included two failed marriages and a spell in the Betty Ford Clinic for alcohol addiction.
Billy looks more like a car mechanic than a superstar - but it hasn't affected his way with the ladies.
He's romanced some of the world's most beautiful women.
Billy married first wife Elizabeth Weber in 1971 but they divorced after 12 years. He dated supermodel Elle MacPherson - before marrying catwalk rival Christie Brinkley in 1985. The couple had a daughter, Alexa Ray who is now 20. But his marriage to Christie - who inspired one of his biggest hits, "Uptown Girl" - ended in 1994.
Billy wed his third wife - beautiful US TV presenter Katie Lee - in 2004.
He told me: "In the early days, I'd go to a party and there would be better "1 looking guys with smooth, suave chat-up lines. I'd go into the corner, play the piano, look up and there would be - girls.
"I thought, 'This is great'. That's how I met women. I didn't think I'd be a big star. My main goal was just to make a living."
"I'm a working guy. It's just that I make a lot more money than most other people. But I still know where I came from."
Billy was bullied at school when kids discovered he was taking piano lessons.
To defend himself, he took boxing lessons and could have made the grade as a prize fighter.
"I had to walk down the street going to piano lessons with my music books under my arm," said Billy.
"My teacher also taught ballet so you can imagine the reaction of the other kids. They'd hit me in the face or knock my books out of my hands.
"I took up boxing so I could take care of myself. I went back to my school, walked up to the biggest guy who used to pick on me and clocked him pretty good. Nobody bothered me after that."
Billy's father Howard was a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Germany. He split from the singer's mother Rosalind when Billy was 10 years-old and moved back to Eastern Europe.
"My dad wasn't around, so I never saw him much," revealed Billy.
"I had friends who said, 'You'll never make it as a musician, you're gonna starve'.
"But my mom used to sing in an operatic company so she encouraged me.
"When I didn't graduate, I said, 'I'm NOT going to Columbia University, I'd rather go to Columbia Records'. That's what I did." Several of Billy's hits were inspired by growing up in NewYork. How did he feel about the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack?
"I grew up 25 miles from Manhattan and as a kid the first chance I got I'd jump on a train and go into the city," he said.
"There were bright lights, great stores and pretty girls. New York colored my life so much. When the city came under attack I went into a deep depression. It was so hard to fathom that kind of monstrous hatred for humanity.
"I'm still not over it. I think New York has changed. There's a sadness there which didn't used to exist. When I go by Ground Zero, it's very moving and emotional." At the last count, Billy had scored 33 Top 40 hits since releasing his first album "Cold Spring Harbor" in 1971, including "Just The Way You Are," "Piano Man," "Tell Her About It," and "An Innocent Man."
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and despite flunking high school he's been awarded honororary doctorates.
The star now funds the Billy Joel Endowment a scholarship to encourage kids to pursue a music path.
"There wasn't anything like that when I was a kid. My family didn't have any money to help me further my music education and I wasn't good enough to win any scholarships," he said.
"I just figure, the more opportunities there are out there for kids to learn to write and play, the better."
At 57, Billy has no plans to retire.
"I'm looking forward to playing in Glasgow, Scotland again. The last gig I played in the city was in 1998 when I was sick with a terrible sore throat.
"So if anybody who was at that gig is reading this - I don't really sound that bad. This time, I'll sing a whole lot better."
"Transcript: Billion-Dollar Billy"
By: Don Dahler
(July 23rd, 2006)
Here's some trivia for you. Did you know we made Billy Joel a star?
That "Piano Man" was first a hit here in Australia? Or that he's sold 100 million albums and more concert tickets worldwide than Madonna?
Billy has made so much money he could afford to lose $30 million without noticing. If nothing else, those few facts should help dispel any thoughts you might have had that Billy was a bit, well, past it.
That and the fact he's married again, this time to a 25 year-old and what's more, the happy couple's ready to start a family.
Tara Brown: He is and always will be the piano man. Even in rehearsal, Billy Joel is master of the keyboard. Does it feel like an extension of you?
Billy Joel: No. No, no, no. Sometimes you've got to get away from this. It could be your best friend. It could be your worst enemy.
Tara Brown: It's been your best friend over the years, hasn't it?
Billy Joel: It's been a very good friend, but sometimes we don't get along. Sometimes we need a little break from each other.
Tara Brown: But not tonight. In a few moments, Joel with his piano will perform for a sell-out crowd at London's Wembley Arena. Do you have any sort of pre-concert rituals that you do?
Billy Joel: Yes. I go from my dressing room to the stage.
Tara Brown: At 57, he's done this countless times. But there's no place that he'd rather be. After all these years, it's still fun?
Billy Joel: It's the best job I've ever had. What kind of job where everybody goes, "We love what you're doing. Yay, hooray!" And they throw buckets of money at you, and girls actually look at me as if I'm interesting. It's a great job.
Tara Brown: Billy Joel's life began in the Bronx, New York. As a kid, he took piano lessons and boxing classes. His ambitions were modest, but his song-writing talent connected with a massive audience that has never stopped listening.
Billy Joel: It became a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming.
Tara Brown: When did you realise you were a superstar?
Billy Joel: When I came back off the road and I looked at my bank account. Said, "I guess we're doing all right."
Tara Brown: In the music industry, success is measured in album sales. And Billy Joel has sold an incredible 100 million since 1974. They're songs we all know. The ones that stay in your head. And, of course, the one that started it all - 'Piano Man.' Tales collected from his own time performing in a piano bar.
Billy Joel: I don't write for audiences, I don't write for the record company, I don't write for radio, I don't write for critics. I pretty much write for me.
Tara Brown: Why do you think that appeals to so many people?
Billy Joel: I don't have a clue. I wouldn't know a single if it bit me in the butt. I don't have a clue.
Tara Brown: Even now?
Billy Joel: Even now. I was always shocked when we had hit singles. A song like 'Just The Way You Are' - we almost didn't put it on an album. We were sitting around listening to it going, "That's a chick's song," you know.
Tara Brown: You've got to trust in chicks, you know.
Billy Joel: Absolutely. Women know a lot better.
Tara Brown: And Billy's known a lot of women, among them supermodel Christie Brinkley, his second wife and mother to their daughter Alexa Ray. He immortalised their unlikely pairing in his hit 'Uptown Girl.'
Billy Joel: You know the song originally was called 'Uptown Girls,' not 'Uptown Girl.'
Tara Brown: Okay. You're showing off now, you know.
Billy Joel: No, no, no, no - I know it is associated with Christie, but when I started to write that song, I had recently divorced, prior to meeting her - all of a sudden I'm a rock star and I'm divorced. All these women were going to go out with me. I went out with Elle MacPherson.
Tara Brown: What is it about Billy Joel and beautiful woman - is it just the rock star thing?
Billy Joel: I have a great job. Hey, some guys go out and get a sports car, because they think that's going to do it. I have to credit the piano. I ain't no matinee idol. I look in the mirror every morning and, "You're a rock star. That's funny," but I'm not quitting.
Tara Brown: And why would he? Two years ago, Billy married Kate Lee, a glamorous 23 year-old television star. What is marriage like the third time around?
Billy Joel: It's great. I like being in a monogamous relationship. I was lucky enough to meet Katie. It was pure serendipity.
Tara Brown: With an age difference of 32 years, Billy Joel was a superstar before Kate Lee was even born. Did you always believe that age was no boundary to love?
Billy Joel: You know, I've been asked about that - "She's 30 years younger than you." I thought about it - you know what - I would have wanted to marry her if she was 30 years older than me. We just hit it off. She's probably more mature than most women her age anyway and I'm extremely immature for my age. So we kind of meet in the middle.
Tara Brown: Are you guys talking about kids? Are you expecting to be a dad again?
Billy Joel: Nothing is in the offing right now. As soon as you say that, they go, "Oh, she's pregnant." But, yeah, we want to have children, sure.
Tara Brown: Billy Joel's great and not so great times are all there in his music. The ups and downs of life, the emotions of everyday people. People have described your music as the soundtrack to the lives of millions and millions of people. Is that a huge pressure for you, a huge responsibility?
Billy Joel: It is a little daunting when people say that - "You wrote the soundtrack to my life." Oh, man, you must be lost. I tell people I'm in the dark as you are. I don't have the secret answer to life.
Tara Brown: Billy Joel has the same failings as the rest of us. His are just more public and on a grander scale. He is said to have made more than $1 billion, but he hasn't always kept a close eye on the books. Do you know how much you lost?
Billy Joel: Over the years, probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30 million has disappeared.
Tara Brown: How do you lose $30 million?
Billy Joel: Well, you probably don't know you have it in the first place.
Tara Brown: That's a nice position to be in.
Billy Joel: Well, you know, it's one of those businesses where if you don't look after it, there's plenty of people willing to take it away from you. But you make stupid money. You make a lot of money. I almost didn't want to know back then how much money I was making because it makes you guilty. It makes you feel strange. It is completely out of proportion to what you're doing.
Tara Brown: You've come to terms with it now, though?
Billy Joel: Yeah. I'm very comfortable with it now.
Tara Brown: These days Billy Joel seems more comfortable with much of his life. In 2003, he admitted to a problem with alcohol and was twice treated for binge drinking. A couple of years ago you said, "If the demons get me, I'll go on a bender." What did you mean by that?
Billy Joel: Well, you know, everyone's got their demons. Everyone's got their dark side, sometimes it catches up with you, and you react in ways you wish you hadn't.
Tara Brown: But in terms of your demons and in terms of dealing with them, do you still use alcohol to do that?
Billy Joel: No. No, I used to. Sometimes I would drink too much. That's just a form of self-medication, you know. It kind of numbs you for a while. Then you do stupid things that you wish you hadn't done. It's not a solution. I don't use that any more.
Tara Brown: So what are your demons about?
Billy Joel: I don't always understand it. I have a theory. Right before you die, you get it. You understand it. You go, "Oh, I get it," then you're gone.
Tara Brown: That's not fair.
Billy Joel: No, it's not fair. But life isn't fair.
Tara Brown: I read somewhere that you said you feel beautiful when you perform.
Billy Joel: Not beautiful. I feel like I transcend whatever physical limitations I have.
Tara Brown: What would they be?
Billy Joel: Look...look at the camera. It's pretty obvious. That's why I'm a musician. My music is...it's wizardry. It's a form of sorcery. That's what I like about it.
Tara Brown: And tonight do you feel ready to perform some magic?
Billy Joel: Absolutely. That's why I'm here. I still to this day dream music. I don't even feel like I made a conscious decision to be a musician. It was just always there. I think a lot of musicians will probably say that. It's not something you choose. It chooses you.
Tara Brown: These days he is writing symphonies rather than hit singles. The style might be different, but the struggle is the same.
Billy Joel: If I don't come up with writing something that I want to be really, really good, I get really bugged about it and it will haunt me. It will torment me. There's a downside to it, too. The upside is sometimes I come up with something I really like and I walk away and I'm, "Hey, I did that. Ha, ha, ha."
Tara Brown: After four decades on the road, Billy Joel is still one of the biggest acts on the planet. On this world tour, he's outsold Madonna, and at Madison Square Garden, in New York, he sold out 12 successive shows - something no other artist has done.
Billy Joel: I never looked at what I did as if it was somewhere in the cosmos, as if I was in some kind of ivory tower. It's my job. That's what I do. When I go home, I take that hat off.
Tara Brown: But you've got to get carried away with it sometimes. Don't act like the rock star occasionally?
Billy Joel: Hey, it helps to get in a restaurant. I give you that. I can always get a table. I think it's funny. I haven't lost sight of the fact that it is kind of really silly. It's a silly job. It's the best job I ever had, but it is a silly job.