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Billy Joel: Writer's Block?


Billy K.

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In this day and age of crap music, the absence of a new Billy Joel album seems to be a bit more conspicuous. When was the last one? 20 years ago? A bit ironic, since he used to have one out, roughly every 18 months, without fail.

As a writer myself, I go through periods of "writer's block" too, but manage to come out of it. I can't fathom this not happening to Joel.

Some people will suggest getting a collaborator, to get him back on track. But this is a guy that appeared to have a "singular vision" and rarely collaborates on writing songs with anyone else. On the other hand, his former drummer, Liberty DeVitto, filed a lawsuit, contending that he had actually written parts of Joel's songs---but just not credited for them.

Spouses/relationships? Yes, Joel got divorced from Christy Brinkley....married Katie Lee.....divorced her.....and then recently got married to some lady named Alexis last year. You can't make failed relationships the culprit here, either.....one of Bob Dylan's best works was "Blood on the Tracks" which came out of his breakup of his marriage. And part of Taylor Swift's success comes from songs inspired by her ex-boyfriends.

Elton John, at one time, dissed Joel for drinking too much. But he still managed to play well, for one thing and put on a good show, sober or not. And not to compare apples and oranges, John Lennon wrote some of his best material while intoxicated, as did Jimmy Page and many others. 

Age has almost nothing to do with it, either. Elton still manages to come up with new material all the time. Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney continue to put out new albums, as did Bowie, until his death.

Is there something we missed, because it wasn't played(or played minimally) on the radio. Nope. The last Joel-related studio album was a classical one, where he had another piano player(Richard Joo)play some Joel classical compositions. The last "real" Joel album was "River of Dreams"(1993).

What exactly IS it that is preventing Joel from putting out new material? It's a bit puzzling to see this go for so long. Anyone have any insight??








 

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Well, there's this from ABC NEWS (Oct 21, 2014):

“Some people think it’s because I’m lazy or I’m just being contrary. But, no, I think it’s just—I’ve had my say. If I put out an album now, it would probably sell pretty well, because of who I am, but that’s no reason to do it. I’d want it to be good.

"I’ve seen artists on that treadmill, putting out albums year after year, and the albums get worse and worse, less and less interesting, and it’s, like, 'Maybe you should stop.'

"I’m not crazy about going into a recording studio and doing that kind of life again, or taking on another project where there’s other people involved—arrangers and orchestrators and conductors and producers. I don’t want to deal with it...You have to have a certain amount of ambition to want to do all that. And I look back at the guy who was the recording artist, this Billy Joel guy, and I think, Who the fuck was that guy? He was very ambitious, very driven, and I don’t feel like that anymore.

“I had gone through this celebrity craziness with Christie, and the divorce. I felt like there was a proctoscope up my butt. Everybody interrogating, analyzing—everything I wrote was fraught with meanings—and I said, 'Wait a minute, I don’t want to rip myself open and let everyone see everything.' It was no longer comfortable.

"'Enough! I gave you enough!'”

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You know, Mr. Joel could have something there.  As part of his fan base, perhaps we don't want them to stop even if they need to, because they do what they do so well.  And we vicariously find release through some of their work.  Are music fans perhaps addicts of certain artists?  Becoming overly concerned if one of them stops?  Do fans get cranky going through the withdrawal of not getting new material from them?  :huh:

I get concerned if it is for a negative reason, like drug abuse, relationship war fallout, etc.  But if Mr. Joel decided he just wanted to stop --- well, I say okay.  He could always start up again any time he felt the urge to do so.  Until if and when he graces us with more of his compositions, my goodness, what a catalog he's given us to enjoy!!!   I would be hard pressed to find ANYONE who didn't love at least one song from his songbook.  :D

We'll just have to make do until something else comes along (I only pray it is another singer/songwriter of his caliber).

AnneNR

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I don't think there is a formula for songwriting. Speaking for myself, I can go two months without a song, then write four in a day. It just happens when the time is right. I recently had a huge lyric outbreak due to some personal issues. One song, I had the music written a year ago, but just could not get solid lyrics. I tried and tried and tried...changed the title, changed the chorus and nothing worked, but I loved the music.......I figured I would scrap the song, then one day, someone came into my life that made an impact and I literally wrote the complete song lyrics in ten minutes! Something I said about her just triggered it and I was like "where has this been hiding in my brain?"  Didn't Eric say he wrote "Let's Pretend" and "I Wanna be With You" in the same couple of hours? No explanation......

I would love to hear some new music from Billy, but if he feels he has "nothing to say" or just doesn't want to, I can support that. I think it is very hard for veteran writers to deal with all the new politics and protocal in this age of free downloads. I read an article by Van Dyke Parks where he said something on the order of "I wrote a song with Ringo and we were expected to share eighty dollars in royalties from it. Had I done that in the 60's or 70's, it meant a house with a pool in Beverly Hills". Unless you really feel you have something to get out there, why would you want to do all that work for eighty dollars, especially when everyone wants to put their fingerprints on it?

Also, where do the vets get played? Their old stuff is on classic rock stations, but where do you hear their new stuff? You don't...... unless you buy it and play it in your living room. Elton John said the other day that "when I play new songs in concert, I see people leaving for the bathroom. People don't want to give new songs a chance, they just want to hear the hits." That being said, Elton, Rick Springfield, and Paul McCartney still put out great records, IMO, but I feel alone in knowing that. I was at a Paul show last year and the local classic rock station sponsered it and after the show, my friend that was with me, said to one of the dj's outside at their tent, "why don't you play his new record?" and the guy looked dumbfounded! "well, uhhh, not sure."

It is a sad state of affairs for writers these days and it must change...."no motivation to get out of bed and carry on the charade" said one great writer!

 

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I have had discussions with Eric about this on a number of occasions and believe he feels the same way. Remember, guys like Eric were professional musicians. That means they were doing it to earn a living. I'm pretty sure that Eric never made a penny in his lifetime that didn't involve singing or songwriting. He wasn't doing it for fun. So, why do it now when there is technically no music "business." Creating music is something people are expected to do for free these days, with income derived almost entirely from touring. So if you're not actively touring, why write a new song that nobody is gonna play? To prove you can do it? Nah, been there, done that. So what would the motivation be?

As much as I'd love to hear new music from my heroes, I guess Billy said it best: "Enough! I gave you enough!"

Bernie

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If music is your art and you have a NEED to create, you'll make some music and then figure out how to market it.  Time will tell if a particular artists "NEED" is strong enough to give us a 'Brand New Album'.

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Yes, as I said before, Kirk (you make a very valid point, by the way) Mr. Joel could just as easily start again as he stopped.  I hope he discovers the motivation and appropriate circumstance(s) in which to get his music out for the public listening pleasure once again.  ^_^

AnneNR

 

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I'm surprised. Billy doesn't consider something different.

Why not just put out three songs at a time. - Songs in three, because it seems that internet song downloaders like just a few songs on any album. This will make selling easier, with the music consumers preference of a few songs from various artists. It also could allow songs to.be recorded over more time. This could make it better for Billy, as he could still have a normal life, and to enjoy chef cooked meals at home.( I think he has his own professional chef). And changing chef's, I guess to lose weight.

Billy could conduct  an orchestra; And playing other styles of music that he enjoys. An artist , who has recorded songs of The American Songbook, Michael Feinstein, conducted The Pasadena Symphony for awhile.

One artist he knows, Paul Anka, took very popular Rock songs (Titled Rock Swings),  and turned then into the jazzy Big Band style.  And they all turned out very impressively. I'm so glad that Paul did something so different. He has over 120 recorded albums. Averaging about two albums each year, over his career. ( Over fifty years).

We saw another friend of Billy's, Sir Paul McCartney l, in a Biographical Movie about Glen Campbell's Life( In some ways, similar to Billy's).  Paul and his wife Nancy are seen in the story. Paul has continued on performing. As well as Ringo.

From the Grammy Awards, Paul raised  his arm high singing to Glen's famous song Rhinestone Cowboy.  As Glen sang, Paul pumped his fist on the chorus words, Like a Rhinestone Cowboy. After the show, Paul is shown greeting Glen.

And Paul will have a North American tour, this summer.

Glen had identical experiences as Billy in marriage and drinking. his sorrows away.Maybe Billy's losses caused more focus on his past, and less on his future. But Glen has cognitive problems and had to retire from performing. Remarkably playing so well as before, but forgetting words. Sometimes forgetting what he said.  The movie will make anyone cry. (Available  on the internet,, to buy).

 

 

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Paul and Ringo are absolute musical icons with unlimited resources to do whatever they wish.  Their body of work influences every one of us, and who really cares if Paul's voice isn't what it once was?  People will still go see some performers because it makes them feel good.  

Other musicians may have moved on to another facet of life not truly appreciated or fully experienced in earlier life when they were in a more musically creative phase.  Some become more introspective and expressive in less expansive ways.

Not everyone is a David Bowie who shared even the end of his life openly with all of his fans and the world.

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Helen Reddy started touring, last year, after years. Paul Williams ( "Yes, I'm still alive", he said). He produced The Album Of The Year Winner, and toured last year. I'm not sure about this year.Our own Kirk met him, under a Paul Williams thread, on this site.( An evening with Paul Williams, in Cruisin Music thread, second page).

Sone had short careers, like Bobby Sherman (Julie Do Ya L ove Me). Http://www.Bobbysherman.com.

And some shorter, like The DeFranco's ( Every Heartbeat Is A Love Beat). And they went on to successful Real Estate careers.

Bobby wanted to give back  through public service, serving his community. 

Someone last year did a Billy Joel tribute concert. I would go to a tribute concert. 

With The Beatles, there are several tribute shows. And one in Las Vegas. One today at The Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet, where many Rock Group Tributes are played regularily.  Some change one letter in their name like Led Zepagen(Zepallin), or something like that. Also tributes to Journey, Rush, etc.

And Jason Bonham's Ultimate Led Zepallin Tribute who will perform tribute songs of Led Zepallin at a Southern California Indian Casino.

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I like Helen Reddy, even if she was a little too "women's lib" for my taste.  I still love her distinctive voice.  I am sorry to hear she is now dealing with dementia.  Having one's mental capacities start to decline is very difficult to cope with. 

I had a short taste of that with hypothyroidism when it was undiagnosed and I was not taking anything for it. I am much more clearheaded now that I am taking daily medication for it, but it took a couple of years to get under control.

It is scary and discouraging, so I can only slightly imagine how she might be feeling about what is happening to her in a lucid moment of thought.

Hopefully Ms. Reddy has loved ones helping her with this difficult condition, and pray the best care be given to her.

AnneNR

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Howard Kaylan from the Turtles is always on top of things trying to fix the payments for songwriters and being an advocate for writers rights, but today he writes that singer Pharell (Williams) had 43 million plays last year on Spotify for his song "Happy" and he was paid a grand total of $2,800.00.....

Sickening..............

and politicians make how much?

 

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Sounds like the "politicians" in the music industry got more than the lion's share of that total, Blackhawkpat.  Disgusting! :(  I am glad that I buy a physical CD and never download songs from sites like Spotify.  The artist(s) might have a better chance of getting paid through physical CD sales, that's my opinion anyways.

AnneNR

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Helen did a Chrstnas show that I found out about late,  last December.

Yes Pat and Anne. And now artists. can swirch to a prepaid streaming format. The Beatles have an agreement with nine streaming sites, through Universal Music Group Corporation, starting this past January. -Find a song, pay and. listen. I even heard. some of their own songs on a salon T.V. screen. Their own website plays only songs by The Beatles, and songs by each musician on their solo albums. Some people use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, etcetera. Some artists use Youtube to talk or to clear a personal matter that is not true. Telling their fans the true story.

Paul's only concern, Mary Ellen, he said was one day not being able to sing the high notes. His talking voice is at a lower pitch. A little water during a concert break also help one's voice. As well as warm mint tea, or chamomille tea, long after a concert. Some artists also use steamers to help more, too.

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Great tidbits of information, Mike C. :)

I have also heard that a teaspoon of olive oil swallowed just before singing helps the vocal chords.  I don't remember where I heard someone say that, but if I had problems with my voice, that would be something I would try that wouldn't have bad side affects like prescription or over-the-counter drugs could have.

Warm mint tea sounds good, as mint is great for respiratory needs.  Chamomile tea is notable not only for relaxing, but it deals with calming inflammation---if I remember right.  But Chamomile tea is an acquired taste (like wheat grass :wacko: shots).  I can't get my Matt to try it when he needs to relax enough to get to sleep without medication assistance.  He says it tastes like he is drinking "lawn flavored" hot water.

When you think about how much your livelihood depends on your voice if you are a singer, it seems it would be wise to learn everything possible about the proper physical care needed to keep it in optimum condition.  It must not be that easy to be so focused on such a specific single personal attribute.

AnneNR

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On ‎4‎/‎5‎/‎2016‎ ‎12‎:‎02‎:‎30‎, AnneNR said:

Sounds like the "politicians" in the music industry got more than the lion's share of that total, Blackhawkpat.  Disgusting! :(  I am glad that I buy a physical CD and never download songs from sites like Spotify.  The artist(s) might have a better chance of getting paid through physical CD sales, that's my opinion anyways.

AnneNR

One of the reasons why I feel comfortable, when buying CDs directly from the artists themselves.

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On ‎4‎/‎8‎/‎2016‎ ‎8‎:‎47‎:‎15‎, AnneNR said:

Great tidbits of information, Mike C. :)

I have also heard that a teaspoon of olive oil swallowed just before singing helps the vocal chords.  I don't remember where I heard someone say that, but if I had problems with my voice, that would be something I would try that wouldn't have bad side affects like prescription or over-the-counter drugs could have.

Warm mint tea sounds good, as mint is great for respiratory needs.  Chamomile tea is notable not only for relaxing, but it deals with calming inflammation---if I remember right.  But Chamomile tea is an acquired taste (like wheat grass :wacko: shots).  I can't get my Matt to try it when he needs to relax enough to get to sleep without medication assistance.  He says it tastes like he is drinking "lawn flavored" hot water.

When you think about how much your livelihood depends on your voice if you are a singer, it seems it would be wise to learn everything possible about the proper physical care needed to keep it in optimum condition.  It must not be that easy to be so focused on such a specific single personal attribute.

AnneNR

 

Strangely enough, I eat potato chips. This gets salt in the part of my throat that gargling salt water doesn't reach. Then have my tea.

Up in the Pacific Northwest, we not only have pollen problems, but also mold in many places, due to being cool and damp. So, a bit of a "double whammy" when it comes to respiratory issues.

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Yep, I hear ya, Billy K. 

The San Francisco bay area in the south end is not quite as wet year round as  say, the Petaluma/Rohnert Park area is---but mold is an issue as well as other respiratory irritants here where I am too.

About the best I can do is make certain I have a lot of fresh peppers of different types, and I love pepperocinis chopped up in my morning eggs, with a good home brewed hot tea.

Potato chips??  Huh, never thought about that one.  Definitely a unique way to get salt into the back of the throat!! ^_^ 

AnneNR

 

 

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  • 1 year later...

I know this is an older thread, but some artists just like to rest, get out of the limelight for a while, perhaps try something new such as production or becoming a mentor. (Pardon the pun about "mentor" since Mentor is mentioned in Carmen and Raspberries history).

It would be nice to see him return with more of his classy music, and I'm sure anything is possible. It sure beats the manure the milenials refer to as "music". Yuck,

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