Sunday, June 16, 2024

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Billy Joel’s Piano Man, Bruce Springsteen’s Wild Innocent & E Street Shuffle, Paul Simon’s American Tune


It’s hard to believe but this week marks two 50th anniversaries for Columbia Records.

Billy Joel’s album, “Piano Man,” was released exactly five years ago today.

Three days earlier on November 5, 1973, Columbia released Bruce Springsteen’s second album that year, “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.”

Columbia also released the single of Paul Simon’s “American Tune” after “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like a Rock” had been hits from “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon,” which had been out in May.

We are awash in 50th anniversary celebrations. Last week, it was Ringo Starr’s “Ringo!” album.

For New York area teenagers, though, the Billy and Bruce releases were monumental, to say the least. “Billy Joel’s from Long Island!” the word went out. “Bruce Springsteen is from New Jersey!”

The two young rock stars were heralded as the new Elton John and the new Bob Dylan. They were loved instantly. For Billy the title song continues to resonate as a great short story, one up there with Damon Runyon. All the characters at the bar, kind of losers, while Billy takes tips and dreams of being a star. Is that what happened to him? we wondered. Everyone was fascinated. You couldn’t hear it enough, in addition to “Billy the Kid” and “Captain Jack.” The whole album became a must have piece of your record collection.

And then there was Bruce. “Wild, Innocent” is my sentimental favorite Springsteen album. “Rosalita” is the main attraction, but the whole thing is incantatory, a long meditation or poem set to non stop rock. We already knew him from January’s “Greetings from Asbury Park.” “Blinded by the Light” was an FM radio hit, so was “Spirit in the Night” if you listened to WNEW. “Rosalita” was the real introduction of the horn sound, and the R&B themes that would come to frame Bruce’s career. Today this day I am transported by the piano into to “Incident on 57th Street.” And the end of it — how it segues into “Rosalita” — is magical.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Windows are for cheaters chimneys for the poor Closets are for hangers winners use the door.

Who was better? I felt then it was Billy by a mile because of his proximity. New Jersey was a distant land. But then I got the chance to go to their one joint concert, a fundraiser for Barack Obama in 2008 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, and I realized they had become equals a long time ago.

Billy’s words resonate today, don’t they?

These days I don’t know whose side to be on
There’s such a thin line between right and wrong
I live and learn, do the best I can
There’s only so much you can do as a man

It’s hard to believe it all happened five decades ago and we there in real time. Wow. Why were we naive enough to think it would keep going and going?

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News