Glass Houses – Billy Joel

Released March 12, 1980 this is the seventh studio album by Joel and his first to have a #1 hit (“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”). The album was #1 on the charts for six weeks and #4 for the year. It was the 41st best selling album of the year (7.1 million in the US). It has a much more hard rock sound than his previous pop-albums. The album was Grammy nominated for Album of the Year and Grammy winning for Best Rock Performance-Male. It also won for Favorite Rock/Pop Album at the American Music Awards.

Jason: I have been looking forward to this one for over a year.

Brad: I bet you have! I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. It reminds me of Elvis Costello.

Jason: Interesting. This isn’t my favorite Billy Joel album, that’d be Turnstiles, but this is a pretty good one. There are a few songs on here that everyone knows.

Brad: The first four songs were all hits. 

Jason: Yes, side A has the hits. This album is 40 years old today!

Brad: We have really good timing! I think all four of those songs are some of my favorite Billy Joel songs. As you know, I don’t dislike Billy Joel but I’ve never considered myself a fan. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an entire Billy Joel album with the exception of An Innocent Man. So I was pleasantly surprised by this one and found myself listening at least 10 times. 

Jason: I listened to him a lot in high school and college. I remember my dad had An Innocent Man as well, which got me into more of his songs and somehow I landed on Turnstiles as my favorite album. You should give that one a listen. Joel always has some good lyrics. I like “All your life you had to stand in line / Still you’re standing on your feet.” Meaning that the guy in this song has been waiting in line for a job or for welfare many times but here he is still self-reliant and able to get by.

Brad: I will definitely check out Turnstiles. I will also pay closer attention to his lyrics.

Jason: Joel is often credited as one of the great American songwriters. I don’t think people get that at first. Rolling Stone puts him at #50 on the top #100 greatest songwriters ever – you could probably guess the top 5 (Dylan, McCartney, Lennon, Chuck Berry and I forget the other.) Anyway, what did you like about this album that surprised you?

Brad: The sound of it is a little different from the other Billy Joel songs I know. A little more rocking and a little more new wave. 

Jason: Oh, Smokey Robinson is #5 on that list. Yes, it’s a little different sound for him but still sounds like him, if that makes sense. The one song I don’t love is the French one but it’s okay. 

Brad: I like that one. The only one I don’t love is ‘All for Leyna” which if I didn’t know the title of it I would think he was saying “All for Later”.

Jason: I like “All for Leyna”, that was the first single off this album but it didn’t really chart. “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” was his big breakout hit.  I also like “Sleeping with the Television On” which starts with a sound effect that anyone under…30 won’t recognize.

Brad: Ha! Yes. That was a very distinctive experience when you would fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up to the National Anthem. I really like ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Sleeping With the Television On”. I think my favorite on this album is “Sometimes a Fantasy”. It kinda sounds like The Cars. I remember he played this one the last time we saw him at Wrigley and I loved hearing it live. 

Jason: Which also starts with a partially forgotten sound effect. A touch tone landline. That song is about a guy trying to get phone sex. 

Brad: Was that the song he said got banned from radio at some point?

Jason: No that was “Only the Good Die Young” because it was about teens having sex and one was a catholic girl and the church didn’t like that. [Insert your own Catholic priest joke here.]

Brad: Oh….that makes sense even though it makes no sense. But it sounds like something that would happen in the 70s and 80s. 

Jason: Yes, 1977. Any time you ban music it increases sales which is what happened in that case.

Brad: He was the 2 Live Crew of the 70s.

Jason: Unintentionally so. By the way, I have dragged you to several Billy Joel concerts.

Brad: You only dragged me to two actually and I enjoyed them both.  As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time in record stores and/or the record sections of other stores. For example, there used to be a small record section in Kroger grocery store which seems weird now. I used to study the album covers so closely but I was surprised that this album cover isn’t familiar to me. I really like it though. 

Jason: Oh, I am glad you brought that up. This album cover is not the best. He doesn’t seem like he knows how to throw a rock.

Brad: I like it. Maybe that is how I would throw a rock. So I can relate.

Jason: Ha! It’s like a “bloop!” That was his real house by the way, so maybe that is why he was being cautious. 

Brad: Maybe. What grade would you give this album?

Jason: I would give it an A-. How about you?

Brad: I would also give it an A-. And I will add Turnstiles to my Apple Music queue.

Jason: Good, when you listen to it all you’ll wanna do is dance.

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Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.