I moved to California in 1995 after a few years in New England, but I was born and raised in New York City and environs, and will always be a New Yorker deep inside.
I’d be hard-pressed to describe what makes one a New Yorker. Well, for one thing, we know the difference between the Bruckner and the Deegan and whether it’s better to take the Whitestone or the Throgs Neck. We love bialies and knishes and how to navigate the subway system. We’re jaded and take every annoying inconvenience in stride (alright, so I’m not so good at that one).
For many of us who came of age in the 1970s, being a New Yorker meant nurturing a deep and abiding affection for Billy Joel and Barry Manilow. Now, back in college, I was on the receiving end of a lot of (not so) good-natured teasing about my appreciation of Barry’s music. But there is something about the hits of Billy Joel that scream “Big Apple” like nothing else. My sisters and I deconstructed the lyrics of nearly every song on The Stranger, and I managed to have the chutzpah to quote the lyrics to “Allentown” in one of my college term papers after I devoured The Nylon Curtain in all its vinyl glory on the turntable in my bedroom.
There is nothing like hearing Billy Joel croon about The New York Times and The Daily News, “don’t care if it’s in Chinatown or on Riverside” to bring it all back to me in a flood. Among my favorites is Joel’s early recording, “Summer, Highland Falls,” not only for the melody, but also because the place referred to holds some very specific memories for me.
So it was with great delight that I recently learned that SiriusXM satellite radio has launched, for a limited time, The Billy Joel Channel on Ch. 18. Aside from the songs sending me tripping down Memory Lane, I am enjoying the interviews in which he explains the influences and inspiration associated with many of his hits. And I have discovered a number of tunes with which I was not familiar, such as the amazing piano instrumental “Root Beer Rag.”
The timing of this is excellent, as Billy is placing me in the right frame of mind for a cross-country road trip to New York that we are planning to take a few months hence. (More about that in a later post.)
I will conclude by mentioning that Billy Joel being piped into my ear buds from my trusty iPhone has raised my spirits greatly in the past week or two. Believe me, I’ve needed it. We recently switched health care plans through my job, and tomorrow, I get the pleasure of starting all over again with a new doctor at (cough, ack, eek!) Kaiser. Medical stuff gets me depressed, and I am quite aware that I have plenty of it ahead of me.
I don’t care if you have to do a million tests and then cut me up and put me back together, Doc, just don’t make me use up all my annual leave so we can’t go to New York. I mean it, Doc.
I’ll sic Billy Joel on you.