Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Two Billy Joel Eras and How I Met His Mother in the Second Era

"Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item." - Benny (Rumble Fish, 1983) 

So I'm in the basement, alone but for the animals, listening to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. For me, there are two Billy Joel eras: Before I could buy his albums and after. Meaning, I didn't have any money or nothin' when his first few albums came out. I was just a dumb kid. I wasn't buying ANY albums. Just listening to my parents' collection (something I still do today: John Denver, Clancy Brothers...) But once I hit 5th Grade and found myself surrounded by music fans (most with older brothers & sisters), I began to buy my own albums (I had a small cassette collection that started with a birthday gift of a tape recorder in probably 3rd or 4th grade -- Donny & Marie, Kenny Rogers, the "Grease" soundtrack). Funny that I was buying cassettes before records (meaning vinyl), but cassette was king at that time (late 70s, Hicksville Sears).

Speaking of the Hicksville Sears, that's where I purchased my first Billy Joel lp, "Innocent Man." That was the first purchase of second-era Billy Joel (we had "The Stranger" on 8-track). So "Innocent Man" has always figured in my musical timeline as "late-era" Billy Joel, which it wasn't (I guess it's mid-era).

Listening to it tonight, I was struck (as I often am), by its release date - the release date of this perceived "late-era" Billy Joel music. 1983. Nice. Here I am still following the advice he offers in "Tell Her About It" and applying it to my wife. Who was two years old. In 1983. As I purchased the record with, I don't know, lawn-mowing money, from some shlep on Rte. 107, while my mother buys me slim Toughskins in the Boy's department.

None of this would matter, except everything matters.

Coda: So I'm at Sears thumbing through the Billy Joel's looking for his new album and an older woman asks me, "So you like Billy Joel?" "Yeah," I croak, terrified (I'm certain). "I'm his mother," she offers. I'm not sure what or if I replied.

Was that Mrs. Joel? I've always assumed so. She did live in Hicksville at some point. Unless she was a real nut. What's the angle pretending to be Billy Joel's mother to a 13-year old? No angle. So yeah, I met Billy Joel's mom at the Hicksville Sears.

(For all you non-Long Islanders, Hicksville is a town in Nassau County, home to malls and strip malls and a small movie theater where I tried to sneak into "Day of the Dead" after watching "Troll" but got caught and had to pay, but also felt so guilty I bought a "Day of the Dead" t-shirt from the concession stand.)