Billy Joel Still Has A Bit Of The Angry Young Man Left In Him

Maura | August 11, 2008 - 1:00 am

Last week, the New Zealand newspaper the Sunday Star-Times ran an interview with Long Island songsmith Billy Joel that had a little bit of criticism mixed in with its boilerplate profile-quotes. Writer Grant Smithies said that while much of the Piano Man’s ’80s and ’90s output was “sentimental rubbish,” he had an affection for Joel’s earlier material and pugilistic persona an opinion that sounds familiar to this writer. (Although she would like to posit that “A Matter Of Trust” still owns.) But Joel wanted to know why, exactly, Smithies hadn’t shared these sentiments with him during the interview, since it would have at the very least opened up the floor for some lively quotes. After the jump, Joel asks why, exactly, Smithies had to be a big shot, and why he didn’t elect to open up his mouth while the two of them were on the phone:

“I had no idea when you interviewed me that you considered much of my later work to be `sentimental rubbish’, or that you thought songs like “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” were `abominations’. And your back-slapping, buddy-buddy style of conversation betrayed no indication that you actually compared talking with me to `sleeping with an inflatable girlfriend’,” Joel fumed.

“You didn’t bring any of this up during the interview, and I certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss those kinds of things, person to person. I believe that it’s always best to be upfront with someone when you have strong opinions about their work or their image, simply as a gesture of respect, or if the respect isn’t there, then purely as professionalism. Had I known you felt this way, I still would have done the bloody interview, but your comments reveal you to be already critically predisposed and somewhat insincere. You are still welcome to attend our concert in Auckland, but just as a safety precaution, please wear a hockey mask.”

Smithies, as it turns out, will not be attending the Auckland show. But Joel’s objections do raise a good point about the line between “critic” and “profiler” being blurred, and what a writer should do when faced with covering a subject who may not be all that appealing. Do you ask, head-on, “hey, so what were you thinking when you wrote ‘River Of Dreams,’ because that shit is straight-up garbage?” Or do you keep your mouth shut and save your opinions for print? Or do you just keep your mouth totally shut in your “professional” capacity, and spill your guts on a friends-only Livejournal? While the first option obviously seems more straight-up–the “stabbing a subject in the face” option, as opposed to putting the knife in one’s back–it does open the door for things like being hung up on. Or punched out.

Billy Joel’s fuming: We’ve gone and started a fire [Sunday Star-Times via Gawker]