Billy Joel – You May Be Right

You May Be Right was released on the Glass Houses album in 1980. I liked this song…it was more of a rock song from Joel.

Glass Houses was more of a rock album than his previous albums. He did that on purpose because he wanted something different than his previous albums The Stranger and 52 Street.

The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #9 in the UK and #6 in New Zealand.

This is the opening track to Billy Joel’s album Glass Houses. Right before the song, there is the sound of shattered glass, to match the cover picture of Joel throwing a rock into the window of an all-glass house…it was a parody of the saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” This was Joel’s statement to his critics.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote: “It may not be punk — then again, it may be his concept of punk — but Glass Houses is the closest Joel ever got to a pure rock album.”

You May Be Right was the first single released from Glass Houses…The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100, #6 in Canada, and #23 in New Zealand in 1980.

Billy Joel: “I could have come out with a record that would have guaranteed a certain amount of sales – just by repeating either The Stranger album or the 52nd Street album, by doing something similar,” Frankly, I would have been bored to do that. I would have been a dead duck, career-wise. You have to discard an audience to pick up another one.”

“It’s a definite temptation to repeat a successful formula. But I have never done the same thing twice. I don’t care what anybody says,”  “After Stranger, I could have done Son of Stranger, but I’ve never done that. To keep me interested, there always has to be something new, something different.”

From Songfacts

In this song, Joel takes the persona of a guy who is told he is reckless. Joel confirms the suspicion, admitting that he is crazy and extolling the virtues of a more carefree, but dangerous existence.

This was used as the theme song to the TV show Dave’s World, which ran from 1993-1997 on CBS. Like Joel’s “My Life,” Billy didn’t sing the version used on the show. The version of “You May Be Right” on Dave’s World was sung by Southside Johnny.

The Chipmunks covered this song on their 1980 album Chipmunk Punk. Joel says he thought it was great.

Joel tends to prefer his more obscure songs over his hits, but “You May Be Right” is one of his favorites. Speaking with Stephen Colbert in 2017, he listed it as one of his Top 5.

In The Office episode “WUPHF.com” (2010), Michael sings this after Pam tells him Ryan is taking advantage of him. It was also used on Glee (“Movin’ Out” – 2013) and in the movies Girl Most Likely and The Edge Of Seventeen (2016).

You May Be Right

Friday night I crashed your party
Saturday I said I’m sorry
Sunday came and trashed me out again
I was only having fun
Wasn’t hurting any one
And we all enjoyed the weekend for a change

I’ve been stranded in the combat zone
I walked through Bedford Stuy alone
Even rode my motorcycle in the rain
And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I’m insane

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for
Turn out the light
Don’t try to save me
You may be wrong for all I know
But you may be right

Remember how I found you there
Alone in your electric chair
I told you dirty jokes until you smiled
You were lonely for a man
I said take me as I am
‘Cause you might enjoy some madness for a while

Now think of all the years you tried to
Find someone to satisfy you
I might be as crazy as you say
If I’m crazy then it’s true
That it’s all because of you
And you wouldn’t want me any other way

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for
It’s too late to fight
It’s too late to change me
You may be wrong for all I know
But you may be right

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for
Turn out the light
Don’t try to save me
You may be wrong for all I know
You may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right
You may be wrong but you may be right

Billy Joel – Allentown

A great single by Billy Joel with a song off of the Nylon Curtain album.

Allentown is a town in Northeast Pennsylvania about 45 minutes away from the Pocono mountains. An industrial town, many of the once-thriving factories and mills had fallen on hard times when Joel wrote the song, and unemployment in the area was at an all-time high of 12%.

Also mentioned in the song is nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, whose main employer, Bethlehem Steel, had been closing operations. Joel sings about the unemployed workers in the line, “Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time, filling out forms, standing in line.”

When the album and single were released in 1982, the Mayor of Allentown PA was Joe Dadonna, who had the difficult job of promoting the image of his city during the worst economic crisis of its history. While many locals viewed “Allentown” as a put-down of their declining city, Mayor Dadonna saw it as an opportunity for some publicity and promotion.

The song was on the Nylon Curtin released in 1982.

The song peaked at #17 in the Billboard 100 and #21 in Canada, and #1 in New Zealand in 1982.

The steel mill this song is written about is now a casino.

From Songfacts

Billy Joel did not grow up in Allentown – he grew up in Levittown, on Long Island. In an interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, he compared Allentown with his hometown while he was growing up, noting the similarities. Joel stated that the original title was “Levittown,” and the original lyrics seemed kind of bland, and he felt that they would possibly be considered boring to the listeners.

Some of the original lyrics included lines like, “Well we’re living here in Levittown. And there’s really not much going down. I don’t see much when I look around. The grass is green, the trees are brown. And we’re living here in Levittown.” So, during the time of the upcoming studio sessions for The Nylon Curtain, Billy took a trip to Pennsylvania. It was here that he came up with the idea for new lyrics. At that time, he had Bethlehem in mind, but was worried people would suddenly get the impression that the song was religious (the birth of Christ was said to have happened was Bethlehem, Israel). It is worth noting that Bethlehem and Allentown are right next to each other. So, he started writing down some lyrics for what later became the song “Allentown.”

The distinctive chord at the beginning was originally a mistake, but Joel decided he liked the way it sounded and left it in.

The song starts with the blowing of a steam whistle in a factory. This was common in the days of steel mills and lumber companies. Usually, whistles were blown at the beginning of a work day, to summon workers to their duties, to announce shift changes, to call them to their lunch hour at noon, and at the end of a work day, to let them know that it was 5:00 and it was time to go home. Also, when listened to carefully, in the background with the music, one can hear the rhythmic pounding of a pile driver, a machine for delivering repeated blows to the top of a pile for driving it into the ground. The machine consists of a frame which supports and guides a hammer weight, together with a mechanism for raising and dropping the hammer or for driving the hammer by air or steam. 

Joel played a benefit concert in Allentown, Pennsylvania on December 27, 1982 as this song was climbing the charts.

The video was directed by Russell Mulcahy, whose work was all over MTV in their early years, with many videos to his credit by Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Duran Duran. Billy Joel had little interest in music videos, so he let the directors control them. The “Allentown” video stays true to the song in the sense that we see young men coming back from the war and struggling to find work, but these men are far more shirtless and muscular than you would expect. In I Want My MTV by Craig Marks, Joel said: “It’s really gay. There’s a shower scene with all these good-looking, muscular young steel workers who are completely bare assed. And then they’re all oiled up and twisting valves and knobs. I’d missed this completely when I was doing the video. I just thought it was like The Deer Hunter.”

This is the biggest hit to mention the state of Pennsylvania in the lyric (“for the Pennsylvania we never found”). Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?,” a 2003 song about the September 11 attacks, was the next hit to mention the state.

Allentown

Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line
Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers in the USO
Asked them to dance
Danced with them slow
And we’re living here in Allentown

But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to stay

Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron and coke
And chromium steel
And we’re waiting here in Allentown

But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face

Well I’m living here in Allentown
And it’s hard to keep a good man down
But I won’t be getting up today

And it’s getting very hard to stay
And we’re living here in Allentown

Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

I always liked this song. Billy Joel was inspired by the suite of songs on Abbey Road. It was never released as a single but has remained one of Joel’s best known songs. The song was on the album The Stranger which peaked at #2 in 1978.

The restaurant which inspired this song, since closed, was the Fontana di Trevi at 151 West 57th Street in New York City, right across from Carnegie Hall. Joel talked about the restaurant: “It was for the opera crowd, but the Italian food was really good. They didn’t really know who I was, which was fine with me, but sometimes you would have a hard time getting a table. Well, I went there when the tickets had gone on sale for my dates at Carnegie Hall, and the owner looks at me and he goes (in an Italian accent), ‘Heyyy, you’re that guy!’ And from then on, I was always able to get a good spot.”

From Songfacts

This song is about people who peaked too early: the popular jocks in class who went nowhere in life. Like most of Joel’s songs, he composed the music first, which in this case was inspired by The Beatles, specifically the suite of songs on their Abbey Road album where a few unfinished tunes were put together to create one coherent piece.

On an A&E special, Joel said he came up with the “Bottle of white bottle of red” line while he was dining at a restaurant and a waiter actually came up to him and said, “Bottle of white… bottle of red… perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?”

The “Things are okay with me these days…” part was an old piece of music he had written a long time before The Stranger album – he just changed the words around to update them. The third part of the song is an old song he had written called “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie.”

Many towns on Joel’s stomping grounds of Long Island have a spot or field surrounded by trees called “The village green,” similar to the one he sings about here. Joel was in a gang (not a very rough one) in Levittown, Long Island called “The Parkway Green Gang.”

Joel outlined to USA Today how the Beatles inspired this song: “I had always admired the B-side of Abbey Road, which was essentially a bunch of songs strung together by (producer) George Martin. What happened was The Beatles didn’t have completely finished songs or wholly fleshed-out ideas, and George said, ‘What have you got?’ John said, ‘Well I got this,’ and Paul said, ‘I got that.’ They all sat around and went, ‘Hmm, we can put this together and that’ll fit in there.’ And that’s pretty much what I did.”

In a 2017 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Joel ranked this #1 on his list of the top Billy Joel songs. He has also cited “New York State Of Mind” as his favorite.

After adding Mike DelGuidice to his touring band in 2013, Joel began leading into this song in concerts with DelGuidice singing Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” DelGuidice formed a popular Billy Joel tribute band called Big Shot, which get the attention of the real deal, who offered him a gig.

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead
We’ll get a table near the street
In our old familiar place
You and I,face to face

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
It all depends upon your appetite
I’ll meet you any time you want
In our Italian Restaurant.

Things are okay with me these days
Got a good job, got a good office
Got a new wife, got a new life
And the family’s fine
We lost touch long ago
You lost weight I did not know
You could ever look so good after
So much time.

I remember those days hanging out
At the village green
Engineer boots, leather jackets
And tight blue jeans
Drop a dime in the box play the
Song about New Orleans
Cold beer, hot lights
My sweet romantic teenage nights

Brenda and Eddie were the
Popular steadys
And the king and the queen
Of the prom
Riding around with the car top
Down and the radio on.
Nobody looked any finer
Or was more of a hit at the
Parkway Diner
We never knew we could want more
Than that out of life
Surely Brenda and Eddie would
Always know how to survive.

Brenda and Eddy were still going
Steady in the summer of ’75
When they decided the marriage would
Be at the end of July
Everyone said they were crazy
“Brenda you know you’re much too lazy
Eddie could never afford to live that
Kind of life.”
But there we were wavin’ Brenda and
Eddie goodbye.

They got an apartment with deep
Pile carpet
And a couple of paintings from Sears
A big waterbed that they bought
With the bread
They had saved for a couple
Of years
They started to fight when the
Money got tight
And they just didn’t count on
The tears.

They lived for a while in a
Very nice style
But it’s always the same in the end
They got a divorce as a matter
Of course
And they parted the closest
Of friends
Then the king and the queen went
Back to the green
But you can never go back
There again.

Brenda and Eddie had had it
Already by the summer of ’75
From the high to the low to
The end of the show
For the rest of their lives
They couldn’t go back to
The greasers
The best they could do was
Pick up the pieces
We always knew they would both
Find a way to get by
That’s all I heard about
Brenda and Eddie
Can’t tell you more than I
Told you already
And here we are wavin’ Brenda
And Eddie goodbye.

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant.