Billy Joel – Say Goodbye To Hollywood

I missed this song when it came out on Joel’s 1976 album Turnstiles but I earned about it later in 1981.

in the early eighties I joined Columbia House I ordered Billy Joel’s album Songs in the Attic. I ordered it right after I purchased his album Glass Houses at a record shop. This song really caught my attention, and I became a fan of Joel that year.

This was released in the US as the B-side to “I’ve Loved These Days” a month before it was put out as an A-side single. Neither song charted. In 1981, a live version recorded at the Milwaukee Arena was released on Joel’s Songs In The Attic album. It peaked at #17 in the Billboard 100 and #27 in Canada.

Joel’s influence was The Ronettes, specifically their song “Be My Baby. Joel was a big fan of ’60s girl groups and loved both Phil Spector’s production and Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector’s voice. Joel met Ronnie a few times over the years, but only after he wrote the song.

When he wrote this song, Joel had recently moved from Los Angeles to New York, which helped inspire it. He didn’t care for the west coast.

Ronnie Spector, who was the influence on this song, released her own version in 1977. Her version was produced by Little Steven and was backed by The E Street Band.

Ronnie Spector: “In a way it’s my life story ’cause I was married in Hollywood, I lived in Hollywood, my life fell apart in Hollywood and now I am saying goodbye to Hollywood.”

From Songfacts

This song is a look at the temporary nature of most relationships, as people are always coming in and out of our lives. It’s told through the eyes of two characters, Bobby (in the first verse) and Johnny (in the second). They do their time in Hollywood, but now find themselves moving on with their lives, a natural progression in the series of hellos and goodbyes in life.

On The Howard Stern Show, Joel explained that he wrote “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” in a high key that was challenging to sing – he had an easier time hitting those notes when he wrote the song.

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

Bobby’s driving through the city tonight
Through the lights
In a hot new rent-a-car
He joins the lover in his heavy machine
It’s a scene down on Sunset Boulevard

[Chorus: ]
Say goodbye to Hollywood
Say goodbye my baby
Say goodbye to Hollywood
Say goodbye my baby

Johnny’s taking care of things for awhile
And his style is so right for Troubador’s
They got him sitting with his back to the door
Now he won’t be my fast gun anymore

[Chorus: ]

Moving on is a chance that you take every time you try to stay together
Say a word out of line and you find that the friends you had are gone
Forever…forever
So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last, some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again

[Chorus: ]

(Repeat 3rd verse)

[Chorus: ]

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “Billy Joel – Say Goodbye To Hollywood”

  1. You’re on a roll, yesterday Seger, today Billy… two of my favorite songs of 80-81. This one isn’t my fave Joel song, but it is really good and vastly under-rated. Like you, I got ‘Songs in the Attic’ from Col.house and this song stood out, I would have never guessed Ronnie Spector & the E street Band would have worked together let alone done this song!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He said in his biography that he smoked a lot to lower his voice – it definitely worked. He had to get someone in to sing the high notes on An Innocent Man on his 1987 Russia tour, while he could hit them himself in 1983.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great record i love the Spector vibes and The Ronettes Be My Baby is epic, dad bought the single snd i played it a lot as a kid. Billy Joel has a major fan in the uk who does his own material and tours but he also tours concerts comprised of only billy joel songs. His enthusiasm is infectious and its a great smallscale live gig. He really brings out the classical piano background and love of 50s 60s rock pop. His name is Elio Pace and i love billy joel even more than i did at the time he was releasing stuff thanks to him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sax it awesome…CB…did you like Eddie and the Cruisers? The movie…it seemed up your alley but I could be wrong…the sax reminded of it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep. “Tom Cody.” He was also really good in The Philadelphia Experiment and was on the Houston Knights TV show for a short time with Michael Beck (think Xanadu).

        He was hhhhhhhhot. LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea CB…he is good in this…and I think the music is good…John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band did the music well and authentic.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice tune. I’ve listened to Billy Joel quite a bit, though it was mostly 30-plus years ago while living in Germany. While I had known about Joel’s fondness of the ’60s (his 1983 album “An Innocent Man” is an homage to that decade), I had not been aware of the Ronnie Spector connection.

    I saw Joel in Madison Square Garden in the late ’90s – great show! It’s amazing how an artist who released its last pop album in 1993, secured a concert residency with that prominent venue in 2014 and sold out dozens of concerts.

    His upcoming shows at MSG for February, March, April and May are all sold out as well. I assume these may be rescheduled gigs. In any case, it’s astonishing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He has a library of so many. You know what? I think he knows he will not be able to top what he has done. The times are different now and he could write the best song ever and it would not get played…that is what is sad…and most older artists are facing that.

      I bet it was great

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re probably right, Max. Plus, obviously he continues to sell out show after show without writing any new music that likely would sell dismally compared to the days when he still released new albums.

        And, yes, that concert back in the late ‘90s was cool – pretty much his greatest hits live from “Piano Man” to “River of Dreams”.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Max thank you for bringing this song back to me. I adore it. When I think of how many Billy Joel tunes I love, why don’t I just admit he’s one of my favorites. I started with “The Stranger” album and had one more but lost them (gave them up, like an idiot) in my divorce in the 1990s. Of course the album collection now sits collecting mildew in a forgotten corner of a basement 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I said goodbye to Hollywood over a decade ago. My brother in law lives in LA so we went for a visit and drove around Hollywood for awhile and went to his recording studio at the time. Fun trip…but that has nothing to do with the song which is fantastic btw!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s clear from the opening notes that Joel got his inspiration for the song from the Ronettes’s music, but I never knew about that connection. Nor did I know Ronnie Spector also recorded her own version. I really like them both. Regarding the song’s message, I sometimes feel sad over the many people I no longer have contact with who I once considered friends important to me at a particular period of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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