Capitalist Interloper Billy Joel Plays Music
A newly-unearthed view of Billy Joel's music, until now hidden behind the Iron Curtain.
To celebrate the premiere of Showtime's documentary Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust - The Road to Russia, Previously.TV is proud to present a recently-discovered review of Joel's first Moscow concert, published in Pravda in August of 1987. An English translation of the article appears below.
Capitalist interloper Billy Joel plays music: A review
Ever since the days of musical appeasement by phenomenal American piano man Van Cliburn, few men have dared to travel to Mother Russia in order to bestow upon us the traitorous strains of their devilish Western melodies. Who would dare to hammer such sin into our ears, lest these tunes drown out the typical daily strains of Russia's own inspiring interludes, from "Synchronized Hammering Of Siberian Chain Gang" to the glorious "State Anthem of the USSR."
Lest the rabble not believe the international diplomacy efforts of the Ministry Of Culture And One Potato For Each Citizen On Red Army Day, a new musical luminary has been called to our shores to usher in the next generation of modernic demon swill. Thus, to the great land of Mother Russia is introduced Billy Joel. Unlike Van Cliburn, who sat upon a throne astride an ivory idol, Billy Joel too often abandons the piano and instead stands, legs apart, as though carrying a large load of waste in his pants. His posture is not unlike the similar American song man of "Born In The USA," who goes by Bruce Greensteen.
This last night appeared Joel's first concert at Moscow's arena, where the KGB certainly was NOT! Billy Joel arrived with elaborate concert paraphernalia and bunting seen only in this nation at the circus, or at festive secret beheadings of the state's political enemies. The copious band members felt no remorse about their unkempt hair, as if to publicly announce their lack of shame at having doubtlessly consorted in numerous basements with homosexuals, money lenders, and those who would dare possess religious idols.
Billy Joel, hair shorn more to the contours of a man, wore ultramodern fashions as have rarely been seen east of Belarus, or at least Estonia! He displays what modern vernacular refers to as "hip duds": the blue jeans so high-waisted as to end at the south lip of the belly button; the sneakers so white they shine as a totem to income inequality; the sports jacket none but kings or fourth-grade mathematics teachers would dare to chance.
The musical instruments were no less elaborately futuristic, as if flown back to our celestial body from a returning Sputnik. A singular wonder which is an electronic guitar with a keyboard on it, known as the "keytar," is sure to become the standard of all instrumentation and shall never seem dated. The keytar, comrades. Excepting the infinite wisdom of Marx, nothing in life shall ever be the same.
Then, there is the music. And in this paragraph, dear reader, seek truth. While Joel has a reputation as a cheesy soft-rocker and a lyrical simpleton, one need look just beyond the biggest hits to discover one of the most consistent catalogs in the pop music canon. Many of his best songs have never been heard on pop radio, and his enduring melodies span from piano-driven ballads like "Vienna" and "Last Of The Big Time Spenders" to jazz-infused classics "Stiletto" and "Zanzibar" to the near sonic perfection of the Beatles-influenced album The Nylon Curtain. And though frequently derided as simplistic, Joel's lyrics also deserve a critical reevaluation. Consider the introspection inherent in his melancholy "Summer, Highland Falls" from his 1976 album Turnstiles:
They say that these are not the best of times
They're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria
One hopes that Joel's musical output ends NOW, right now, in 1987, in order to avoid a precipitous drop in quality in any future times. Scarier yet, one hopes he doesn't use his newly-acquired historical perspective to try to synthesize the last fifty years of human history into one song, to be released in 1989. The result would include references learned on his current journey to Russia, from Pasternak to Khrushchev, and it would be just awful. He might as well reference his current tour directly and compose the couplet "Sheer cultural narcissism / Billy ended Communism."
Pravda - August 1, 1987