Top ten best deep cuts by Billy Joel

Joel has given us great singles but some of his best songs are ones we do not hear as much.

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“MIAMI, 2017 (SEEN THE LIGHT GO OUT ON BROADWAY)” from Turnstiles (1976)

The final track on Joel’s fourth album is an epic, apocalyptic fantasy about the destruction of New York. It was written during the 1970s when the city was on the brink of collapse, but it has taken on an almost mythic stature as the Big Apple confronts one new Armageddon after another. This was never truer than in the aftermath of 9/11 when Joel’s opening lyrics – “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway – I saw the Empire State laid low” – seemed eerily prophetic. Joel would play the song at post-9/11 benefits, cementing his status as New York’s preeminent pop chronicler in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Songs that use a date stamp are fascinating cultural documents. He wrote this song about New York from his current then-home in Los Angeles and projected it 40 years into the future. But time and distance did nothing to quell the accuracy of the end of his story – “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway – I saw the mighty skyline fall – The boats were waiting at the bowery – The union went on strike, they never sailed at all – They sent a carrier out from Norfolk – And picked Yankees up for free – They said that Queens could stay, they blew the Bronx away – And sank Manhattan out at sea.” Try and tell me anyone would be shocked if we saw that exact story on tomorrow’s news.

“EVERYBODY LOVES YOU NOW” from Cold Spring Harbor (1971)

Joel’s first album, recorded when he was just 22, was a modest success. You can quibble with me as to whether this song was a single or not. It wasn’t. It was released as the B-side of both actual singles – “She’s Got a Way” and “Tomorrow is Today.” I know of no mathematical equation in which two B-side releases equals one actual single.

“Everybody Loves You Now” would prove to be highly representative of the things Joel would do best throughout his career. He engages in plenty of rapid-fire pyrotechnics on his piano, he name-drops New York landmarks (the Staten Island Ferry and Cold Spring Harbor), and he writes some snarky lyrics about a stuck-up girl he can’t seem to shake. All in a catchy upbeat 3-minute earworm.