26 years later, i appreciate a billy joel song on a new level

i recently wrote about how the world is sure a terrifying, depressing place, but not necessarily anymore so than it was in the past. that post is here. well, then the other day i had the billy joel song, we didn’t start the fire, stuck in my head. i don’t think i’ve heard that song since i was 9 or maybe 10 years old. it reminds me of being young and carefree, listening to said song on LG73 (an AM radio station, and the coolest one for all us kids at the time), and going to mason’s beach with friends in the summer.

i finally got around to listening to it and i give my 9-yr old self credit for having such good taste in music. what an awesome song. some critics at the time didn’t like the production but i think they’re out of their minds. it’s busy and frantic and complexly layered yet wonderfully crisp, clean, and powerful. i never would have understood that stuff as a kid but i think i must have in an uneducated way. as an adult now, i just think “holy shit. that sounds fucking great.”

i also didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics. i liked the lines that stuck out to me but i didn’t get what the hell he was talking about. some sort of world affairs bullshit that was outside my realm at the time. again, i now have a deeper appreciation for them. lifted from the wikipedia page:

Joel got the idea for the song when he had just turned 40. He was in a recording studio and met a friend of Sean Lennon who had just turned 21 who said “It’s a terrible time to be 21!” Joel replied to him, “Yeah, I remember when I was 21 — I thought it was an awful time and we had Vietnam, and y’know, drug problems, and civil rights problems and everything seemed to be awful.” The friend replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s different for you. You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties”. Joel retorted, “Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?” Joel later said those headlines formed the basic framework for the song.

and that’s where this ties back in with my recent post on shitty times. there’s always something shitty going on. whatever is happening now seems shittiest to everyone that is alive now, but every other generation probably felt that way too. that’s not to say that some generations don’t have it worse than others, but the point is that it’s a tough haul for everyone.

what’s really rad is that billy joel made a song that’s basically about global fears and turned it into an upbeat, bittersweet, politically conscious pop hit. what a fucking guy.

incidentally, i was amazed to see the video has 30 million views on youtube. like i said, i haven’t heard the song in forever, nor have i heard anyone else even talk about it even though it was a massive hit back then. i wonder who is quietly listening to that song in their home in the year 2015, besides me, while everyone else is eating up iggy azalea and rhianna and all that other bullshit i hate.


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