No Man’s Land

“I grew up in Long Island. I saw the island get developed and developed. It used to be an island of small towns and farms and fishing communities but it got developed and it kept going and going and I just got this nightmare of these tractors eating up the land, these houses popping up. Anyway it was a nightmare scenario and I get angry about it sometimes. You can write good songs when you’re angry.”Billy Joel (42)

Captain Jack

“The character in ‘Captain Jack’ was a composite of different kinds of people. I was just sitting around one day looking out of the window wondering what I was going to write about, and kinda wrote about what was going on outside. I mean, Long Island is a suburb and it was about a suburban type of character. There’s a lot of frustration living in the suburbs – you don’t have an identity as you would if you came from the city or the country, there’s city music and there’s country music, but there’s really no suburban music, you kinda copy the city. You have both influences pulling on you.”Billy Joel (712)

Piano Man

“I went to California to try to get out of this deal [bad record deal – Ed] because the attorney was from California and the only way I could make any money without giving it to Family [Family Records – Ed] and Artie Ripp was to work under an assumed name. I worked in a piano bar. I auditioned, I got a job and I told them my name was Bill Martin. They didn’t know who the hell I was and I played in the piano bar, The Executive Lounge, for six months. And I was pretty stewed all the time I was doing it because you got free drinks. It was a dive. It was pretty depressing but I was making my own money and the woman I ended up marrying, my first wife Elizabeth, worked there as a waitress and between the two of us we were able to make the rent. It was pretty sleazy, though; like one night this guy came in, I think he was Japanese or Korean, and he was drunk and he had a gun and he was pointing it at the barman and pointing it at the patrons and you know that old thing about when a fight breaks out the band should just play an up tempo number – don’t stop playing, play, play, play, get everybody up and happy? Well, I started playing God Bless America. I don’t know why because the guy was obviously oriental. But he stopped, he just dropped the gun and people started singing God Bless America and the police came and led him quietly away and I was the hero of the night. I got good tips that night. Ah, the power of music. That’s what the whole piano bar thing was like but at least I got a song out of it, ‘Piano Man’, which was the title of the next album.”Billy Joel (713)


“I know people who moved to places like this, to these boom towns. They were promised a job, and it didn’t work out. The whole romanticism of unions and factories has gone right down the toilet. But it’s still a hopeful song. What I’m saying is that it’s getting hard to stay here, but we’re American and we’re going to stick it out. We have hope, but we don’t have that limitless boundless future outlook that our parents had after the war. There’s been a monkey wrench thrown in the works.”Billy Joel (1179)