Great Rock Albums of 1982: Billy Joel- The Nylon Curtain


April Fool’s Day has past and I am glad that everybody enjoyed my little joke last week but as Rich from Kamertunes pointed out, many of us have our musical guilty pleasures, here’s mine. I freely admit that back in the late 1970s, I liked the music of Billy Joel. I thought that “The Stranger” and “52nd Street” were both good albums and they led me to find an album that I thought was even better than those, “Piano Man.” The title cut and “Captain Jack” from that album are my two favourite Billy Joel tunes. Then in 1980, he put out the “Glass Houses” album, which confirmed my belief that he had it in him to rock. Therefore, I was pretty optimistic when I heard about his 1982 album, “The Nylon Curtain.”

This album takes Billy in a totally different direction. It’s not a rock out like “Glass Houses” but he doesn’t sit behind the piano on every song like the albums before that one. In fact, he plays other keyboard type instruments and has more musicians behind him in making the album. The result for me was quite interesting.

“The Nylon Curtain is yet again another album from 1982 that begins with its best known single. I’ve always liked “Allentown” because of the use of the acoustic guitar and what the song is about. Back in the early 1980s, factories, mines and other types of manual industry were being closed down resulting in unemployment soaring to over 10%. Many Americans felt that the American Dream had ended and this song is a good tribute to those who suffered during those times. I’m tempted to go political here but I won’t and if you listen to the lyrics of the song, you will see what I mean.

While it might not be guitar rock, there are some rocking moments on “The Nylon Curtain.” One of these is certainly “Goodnight Saigon.” That song not only rocks but it is the second song that year which paid tribute to the Vietnam Veterans. “Still in Saigon” by the Charlie Daniels Band was the first. “Pressure” is a good new wave type song where Billy goes wild on the keyboards. He does deliver on that one. The hidden surprise for me on this album has to be “Surprises” (no pun intended.) This starts like it is going to be a traditional Billy Joel tune but he does go in a rock direction on it. I can’t fault any of the other songs on the album even if they don’t stand out as much as the ones mentioned.

Track Listing:

1. Allentown

2. Laura

3. Pressure

4. Goodnight Saigon

5. She’s Right on Time

6. A Room of Our Own

7. Surprises

8. Scandinavian Skies

9. Where’s The Orchestra

Billy Joel

Billy Joel

Billy Joel- vocals, piano, organ synthesizers, Synclavier II

David Brown- lead guitar

Dominic Cortese- accordion

Liberty De Vitto- drums, percussion

Eddie Daniels- saxophone and clarinet

Russell Javors- rhythm guitar

Charles McCracken- cello

Rob Mounsey- synthesizer on “Scandinavian Skies”

Doug Stegmeyer- bass

Bill Zampino- field snare on “Goodnight Saigon”

For me, this would be the last good album from Billy Joel. He would sell out with his next album and I wouldn’t take him seriously after that. All of the Billy Joel albums before this one were good and showed his musical ability. It’s just a shame that he would settle for being popular.

Next post: Bruce Springsteen- Nebraska

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9 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1982: Billy Joel- The Nylon Curtain”

  1. Nothing to be guilty about with this one. Billy Joel is an amazing artist who had an incredible run of albums from the early-’70s through the mid-’80s (I don’t see his next couple of albums as sell-outs…just different extensions of his personality. He even “co-wrote” a song with Beethoven), and his band kicked as much ass as The E Street Band without getting the same kind of recognition. I was thrilled to see Billy for the first time at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve ’82/’83 on the Nylon Curtain tour. Needless to say it left a lasting impression on me. He even played a Zeppelin song shortly after midnight (I believe it was “Communication Breakdown”).


    • I’ve heard that he is very good live so that must have been an awesome concert. It would have been good to hear him play a Led Zep song. I just couldn’t get into the next album and the less said about “Uptown Girl” the better for me. I really hate that song. I do believe his band was very good.


      • He was great live in the ’70s & ’80s. Once he broke up the original band it was never the same, but I’m sure people at his monthly sold-out shows at MSG the last couple of years would disagree with me. I understand your feelings about “Uptown Girl.” I enjoy that song although it’s not an “essential” Billy Joel song for me. There’s a lot of great stuff on An Innocent Man and The Bridge. Only “Christie Lee” on the former makes me cringe.


  2. My favorite Billy Joel album. Really from Turnstiles to this one (and by extension the live Songs From the Attic) he was on point. Great band, incredible drummer, great sounds.

    The thing I love about this one how deep it is. It isn’t just a depth of style, its depth of substance as well. It is here in spades. He wouldn’t reach these highs again though I don’t believe his subsequent releases are sell outs. He just went in different directions. Yes he became very popular, but he did stay true to his vision, his code. Very hard to do and stay popular, especially in the MTV age.


    • So true about this album in so many ways. As you say, it is very deep. However, for me he lost all credibility with “Uptown Girl” but maybe I should give his later stuff another chance.


  3. I really dig An Innocent Man. The only Billy Joel album I have in my collection. I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I do enjoy it (even Uptown Girl).


  4. Great album.


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