Billy Joel: “Fuck You”

A few days ago, I openly pondered why Billy Joel’s “A Matter of Trust” was released to the airwaves. I vowed to track down the people responsible, but, frankly, I forgot about the issue altogether. But tonight, Billy Joel responded from Australia (where he is now preparing for a few tour dates) through one of his Robert Burns LLC email accounts with the following comment:

Here’s my ‘ouvre’ – Fuck You. Sincerely, Billy Joel

Presumably, the jet lag that Mr. Joel was suffering from caused him to misspell “oeuvre.” Or perhaps he is not accustomed to typing. But I’m disappointed. Frankly, I expected more from Mr. Joel. Perhaps some lengthy explanation on why he steered down this regrettable musical path and gave us “A Matter of Trust.” Perhaps a defense of the endless F Sharps and C Sharps within this particular song. Yes, it can’t be easy to take some constructive criticism when you’re sitting on millions of dollars. And it can’t be easy when you’re a major pop star now relying on AutoTune to sing the national anthem on live television. But let us give Mr. Joel the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Mr. Joel is suggesting with his answer that his entire career has been predicated on saying “Fuck You” to the general public. And if that’s the case, then I thank Mr. Joel for his candor. Perhaps things would be different if a little bit of this “Fuck You” attitude was in the new material. But “Fuck You” is Mr. Joel’s explanation. And “Fuck You” represents Billy Joel’s career from 1985 onwards. Which is a pity. Because I actually kind of liked his early stuff.

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41 Comments

  1. Glass Houses was the pinnacle of his career. Or maybe Piano Man. Either way, I’m also of the “early Billy” camp.

  2. No love for 52nd Street, Annalee?

  3. […] And just for fun: Billy Joel registers a weak defense of one of his worst songs. […]

  4. A “fuck you” from Neil Diamond would’ve been hipper.

  5. “Yes, it can’t be easy to take some constructive criticism when you’re sitting on millions of dollars.”

    It’s brilliances like this that makes me read American blogs!

  6. Wrong again, professor. The ‘Fuck You’ was meant for you and your pathetic assumptions . I don’t owe you a lengthy explanation for anything. The representative melody notes you wrote in your constructive criticism” were wrong, your theory regarding what kind of radio format the song was intended for were wrong, your description of the vocal performance was wrong, [ I was actually trying to sing like Robert Palmer – although I probably failed miserably ], your inability or your refusal to follow a simple lyric pattern is symptomatic of either a mental disorder or a hearing defect, and your accusation that I used an ‘Auto Tune’ device is an outright lie. I’ve never used a pitch-corrector and I never will. As for your insistence on referring to my work as my ‘oeuvre’ – that is about as ‘fey’ as it gets. I don’t write for you OR an audience, Champ; I write for me. And if I don’t wish to continue providing pleasing little tunes for you, or remaining in the comfortable little box that you insist I should stay in, that is your problem – not mine [ as is your insipid comment about my millions of dollars ]. So Fuck You once more – just for old times sake. Sincerely, Billy Joel

  7. Okay Billy: Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. How do you explain the odious modulation in pitch in the above clip? Obviously, SOMEONE was fucking with your voice. And I highly doubt that a guy who has your resources would NOT have been aware of this. There are these things called soundchecks. So don’t even begin to declare me “mentally retarded” when the evidence above indicates that you were singing very much like a mental retard due to AutoTune or some other wretched pitch modulation, which you claim that you “never use.” Except that’s exactly what happened here, didn’t it, Billy? Boy, it must suck to be caught with your pants down. And you can’t even provide an explanation for the above video clip! Which if you are such a pure artist and all would seem to me the thing to do.

    And Robert Palmer? Don’t even begin to tell me that mimicking Robert Palmer is your way of standing out like fucking Paul Robeson or Enrico Caruso. You write for YOU, you say? Just be honest, Billy. You did it for the cash. The guy who wrote the sardonic anti-yuppie song “My Life” is gone. (Indeed, you’ve BECOME that yuppie.) Just come clean. We’d totally respect you for that. And after all, this little exchange is all about respect in the end, isn’t it?

  8. One other thing: Before the modulation mishap is revealed to the public, it is very evident that you cannot hit the notes on the “see” in “O say can you see.” The sound then magically recovers a bit in the next two lines. And then disaster on “o’er the ramparts” — distinct mechanical modulation, you being aided by artificial sweetening, except it seems to have been tuned at a different key, which is too bad for you. And like Eddie Van Halen, you try to compensate. But the distinct audio artifacts remain.

    We all recognize that the national anthem, with a range of an octave and a half, is difficult to sing. But who do you think you’re fooling, Billy?

  9. Okay Know-it-all. Here’s the problem with that broadcast. I was asked to pre-record the National anthem like many others have done. I refused to do so. All I needed was a working set of sound monitors so that I could hear myself. I rehearsed the song while watching a stopwatch because the performance had to be timed exactly with a jet fly-over at the end. The rehearsals went just fine. When the actual show was set to start, it began pouring rain on the open field, and the television technicians never turned on my monitors. I had to sing the entire National Anthem without being able to hear my piano or my vocals in a giant stadium in a downpour while watching a stopwatch to try and time the fly-over. I assume because I couldn’t hear my piano and had no idea what key I was singing in at first that my pitch was bad at the beginning of the song and some bright boy in the television control booth decided to use whatever auto-tune equipment THEY had to correct my pitch. I had absolutely no idea that they did this and never authorized it. I asked the television producer afterwards if they did this on their own and never got a satisfactory answer. You have no idea how television people fuck up what musicians do. You’ve got some god-damned nerve accusing me of using some kind of goddamned phony gimmick to do what I’ve been doing all my life, and then calling me a liar on top of it. And you don’t have a fucking clue why I do what I do, so don’t throw that “you did it for the cash” bullshit at me. THIS IS MY LIFE. This is what I do and who I am, and your ignorant, self-righteous ‘sellout’ attack is typical of a dilettante, an amateur, and an abject failure. It was never about “the cash”. You will never know the joy I have known, and you will never accomplish anything in your life until you learn humility the way I have : The hard way. Not by posting your miserable opinionated blogs about what other people actually DO. So Fuck You for the last time. And for Christ’s sake – DO SOMETHING! Sincerely, Billy Joel

  10. I know very well you don’t care what I say anymore and that this is your life. But I want to assure you that I am going ahead with my own life and that you’ll be left alone.

    An explanation was all that was required, instead of your extraordinary defensiveness and ridiculous swagger. Nevertheless, I thank you for your clarification. But consider this, Billy, if the television people are fucking you over, has it ever occurred to you that transparency directed to alternative media would have quelled the considerable speculation from many with good ears inside and outside the industry?

    I’m certainly not the first to suggest that you’ve sold out. And I’m hardly a dilettante. If you’re so joyful about it, why do you keep coming back? Why did you spend more than a decade not writing or recording any new material? I won’t take the cheap shot of delving into your personal life, Billy, because I’m not about that. But judging from the slivers we’ve seen through the wall, it seems that honesty remains a lonely word for you. Which is a shame. Because your best work has always been predicated upon being honest, as opposed to being Robert Palmer or somebody else who you’re not.

  11. …Let’s see: the simultaneous births of 666 cigar-smoking fetuses in blackface (check)… a flame war between William Joel and Edward Champion (check)… I now await, in numbed silence, the seventh, final sign of the Apocalypse…

  12. And, by the by, while we’re on the subject of alternative media’s role in getting the apparent truth out there, if you want to clear ALL of the extenuating matters up, answer to all the rumors, correct the so-called misinformation that you insist has been disseminated, and deliver some of your Fuck Yous to me in person (where I can then suggest better castigatory retorts for you to practice your alleged humility), I’d be happy to schedule an in-person interview for my radio program when you’re back in New York. (You see, I’m giving you a fair shot here.)

  13. If you caught the guy with his pitch-corrected pants down, good for you–I guess. But please, enough nonsense about him selling out, or failing to respect the “transparency directed to alternative media.” Who did he sell out to? How was “A Matter of Trust,” with its streamlined melody and minor triad (not patented by the Carpenters, Ed), an affront to his audience? He’s certainly not singing the national anthem for the cash. Your pugilistic reflexes are betraying you here. It doesn’t help that Billy Joel is plenty pugilistic himself, but since you opened the conversation by calling him a hack, it’s not surprising. Oh, finally, good artists mimic other artists all the time. Call it homage, flattery, or a mixture of (as Bob Dylan might say) love and theft. However you slice it, I don’t believe that Billy Joel was ever intimidated by Robert Palmer. Come, sir.

  14. Mr. Joel, a word to the wise — if you’re still reading. Tune out and say no. For the past five years Mr. Champion has plied a similar method to publishers and writers: insult the famous, then invite them on his “show” as a chance to correct his idiotic assumptions, a clever method ripped off from the Republican right and it’s worked well. Look, we’re both reading, waiting for the latest car crash. And oh, my Champion, “retard” has long since been the vocabulary equivalent of the n-word. Grow up.

  15. “And oh, my Champion, “retard” has long since been the vocabulary equivalent of the n-word.”

    Certainly, for *racists* it has.

  16. I’m the guy that informed Ed that the song stuck in his head was Joel’s “A Matter Of Trust.” I probably shouldn’t add my two cents here, but I’m going to anyway.

    Aside from any debate about technologically sweetened voices, to which I am unqualified to add, I want to say that I got my Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time issue the other day. Notice, not “the best voice” but “the greatest” in terms of being able to “sell” a song. Aretha is #1, Joel’s hero, Ray Charles #2 etc. But no Billy. Huh?

    Now on the list we’ve got Lou Reed, Patty Smith, Neil Young, Dylan, Lennon, McCartney, etc. No Billy. Personally, I think that it is ridiculous for a tunesmith/singer on the order of Mr. Joel to not be on that list. As only one example of many, I think of his song “Until The Night” from his album 52nd Street, where he manages to create a Righteous Brothers vibe — and he sings just as well as not one, but both Brothers, taking the highs as well as the lows! Was he channeling them when he wrote and recorded the song? Who cares, it’s a great song.

    And by the way, The Righteous Brothers didn’t make the list either. WTF?

    Jann Wenner should hang his head in shame.

  17. Mr. Cutter is absolutely correct. I have conducted more than 250 interviews without being even remotely curious, interested, or passionate about any of the subjects. My m.o. for four years has been to terrorize, to hurt, and to maim. Marilynne Robinson came onto the show only after I threatened to barbeque her pet cat and feed it to the homeless. For Mike Leigh, I had a passionate affair with his son, getting him acquainted with a cock ring and a cat o’ nines, and dumped his son shortly after I interviewed his father, the famed filmmaker. John Updike came home one day to his home to discover that all of his expensive rugs had disappeared, and called the phone number listed on the ransom note. The interview was conducted; the rugs were returned.

    I am a dangerous person who has been reported in three states. The newspapers publish my writing not because it is any good, but because my baroque manipulative methods are known throughout the country.

    The only person who was wise enough to avoid these tactics was James Marcus, who I have fenced with on numerous occasions and who is responsible for the glass eye I now wear.

    In four years, I have never once changed my mind about a person or a topic. I have never once had a kind word to say about anyone. And I shave my pubic hair daily to John Philip Sousa marches, which explains why I am so familiar with patriotic music.

    Consider these dire conditions, Mr. Joel, before accepting my humble and entirely uninquisitive offer.

  18. Okay. I give up, and would like to confess my role in this hostile exchange. I sang “We Didn’t Start the Fire” roughly 257 times aloud in front of Ed while we were growing up. I had no idea it would later come to this…
    Mr. Joel, if you are still listening, I am very, very sorry. I was only a sixth grader! I didn’t know! Maybe Ed is going to strangle me, but that clip didn’t sound like voice correction, either. Your explanation makes sense. May you have a lovely tour!
    PS: for the love of God, no one bring up the musical ANNIE, or next I’ll be forced to apologize and explain myself to Albert Finney. I am a terrible sister.

  19. ‘Innocent Man’ *was* the Apocalypse.

  20. I kind of think that this is the coolest thing I have seen all day, and agree with Billy Joel.

    He’s a very very very good singer. Of all the people in “the business”, he doesn’t need to “fix” his voice. I never really cared for his music, but come on, the man has some serious skills.

    As for selling out, I think that Billy has kept a pretty low profile in this capacity. Where is his album that you can only buy in certain megastores? Where is “Tell Her About It” in the herpes awareness ads?

    Get off his back.

  21. Hey Billy, I love “My Life.”

  22. does the writer of this bog also claim to be Jesus? there goes 2 minutes i’ll never get back

  23. I am a big fan of Billy, and to my knowledge I do not remember him ever selling out anything but venues. What does he owe to any of us?

  24. […] his music than as the guy who went all Courtney Love AOL95 on Ed Champion’s comments here and here. More from Idolator on […]

  25. Billy Joel is a personal favourite. Not just his music but also the character of the man (or as much as one can infer from interviews and the like). That said, I think he over-reacted to the original post (which itself was borderline scurrilous).

    But at the end of it all, we get to read WM Joel’s personal reaction (which may yet feature in an unauthorised biography) and we get to see that the writer here can be pretty funny when he steps out of the ring.

    J.A.P.

  26. i like your music these people are just jealious of you… they need to get a life.

  27. You’ve got to be kidding me! First of all, is this even auto-tuned? I’m a producer, and I’m pretty sure its not. He hits a bad note up front (while the sound is adjusted), so I really don’t think it was tuned. He delivers a fine national anthem, loaded with his personal sound and attitude, and the crowd seems to enjoy it just fine.

    Now, as for “Matter of Trust” – what is wrong with this tune? You could point at many rock greats and call much of their 80’s work crap, but “Matter of Trust” and the album that spawned it is decent. Sonically it may not have worn as well as his more piano based records (this one has lots of synth), but the writing is inspired, and in all its a fine album.

    I don’t know much about Ed Champion, but I’d like to hear his songs, or know what kind of an authority he is on music before I give his criticisms any credence.

    I’m kind of sick of Billy Joel bashing. Even DownBeat Magazine has done it recently. 100 million BJ fans can’t be wrong..

    KEEP GOING BILLY! GIVE US SOME NEW MUSIC.. MAY THE SCREAMING FANS DROWN OUT THESE ASSHOLES!

    D Yoel

  28. Yes, it is me Billy JOEl. Look forward to my new album soon.

  29. Well the deal is this, take a look at any artist(s) I am guessing the lifespan of their creativity is about 5 years or 3-5 albums and then the creative juices expire. Elton John is an exception although he has reinvented himself about 5 times none of which come close to the first 69-76, after that is as far as many of us are concerned, it was all shit.
    I have to say that Joel never reinvented himself although he had a longer run at his initial creativity from about 74-85 and to be honest by 85 it was really falling off. So if he wants to cruise the rest of his life from payola off those years more power to him. I’d like to meet him in person and say hey Son, thanks for all those great memories I think you made growing up a hell of a lot more fun. You can be a direct arrogant little bastard sometimes but overall you are a cool fucker and really connect with an audience. I would come off the wagon to drink a beer with you. I tried hard one time to meet you at a concert and just got in trouble because he thought I had sent a threatening email to one of his band members after the show. I didn’t, it’s a long story but anyway. Elton gets on him for resting on his ass and others do as well. To be honest he, Elton or anyone else from that era could ever made music as good as then and for numerous reasons least of which we are all getting older and where the FUCK would it be played on the radio? Mike Nesmith has the idea with his Video Ranch where fans can get a feed of some new music via the net maybe this is what is needed, hell I don’t know. Anyway at this point in my life fuck the 70’s, fuck what used to be, fuck all these musicians fuck Elton and even fuck Billy (unless you want to have a beer with me), fuck it all it can never be the same no matter what you write or compose just ain’t gonna happen. Enjoy what was if you can but don’t dwell too long on it because it’s just FUCKING depressing! Thanks for the memories Billy Joel, but don’t worry about making new ones.
    You have a personal response send it to allreltney@yahoo.com
    Thanks

  30. Oh and one more thing, who in the FUCK believes that is REALLY THE Billy Joel on these comment responses???? LOL Boy have you been had. You actually think Billy Joel is going to get on here and say something to us peons? He probably doesn’t even use the net besides how could he type with a drink in his hand? Ya Phools, ya been had boys!
    Billy Joel on here making comments, I have a 10 pound sack hanging betwixt my legs too if you believe that! What a riot, what maroons, what in valids, you’ve been had Doc!
    Alvin T.

  31. Hey yeah it’s me Billy Joel, look for me to have a drink in each hand later tonight, nay, make that in the next hour! Don’t take any shit from anyone, except me you slags. You bunch of Big Shots, if your so good, you go make some albums with Italian overtones, get wealthy and then see how you handle it. Tend to you own life and leave me alone.
    Zula! By the way that is Zula Cole from Fairdale I was referencing you know at the end of the fucking song where I go “ZULA”! She isn’t Italian either and made one hell of a clump of popcorn balls at Halloween. Now bang off you slags.

  32. Hey I am back you slugs, what no more comments?
    I mean here you have THE fucking B.J. talking to you scabs on the Net and you don’t even talk to me. Look if it wasn’t 8am I’d have drinks in hand and not be typing on this waste of time blog. So I guess this is it of the discussion, I thought so you pussies! Just don’t leave anything else on here because I am NEVER coming back to this hell hole. I have to go cash these fucking royalty checks anyway, I don’t have time to address you pieces of shit. Musak played fucking “just the way you are” 10 million times last month and this check is burning a fucking hole in my pocket so fuck you I have to go.
    WBJ

  33. William A Bong July 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    You know after further review of this whole deal I have to agree with the Professor, Joel has been shit since 85, probably earlier than that to be honest. I don’t care for the way the fucking ingrate treats his fans when he says he doesn’t write for the Audience he writes for himself. My question is what changed in 85 or so that took all his recordings to shit street? Maybe you did write for the audience at one point Billy and maybe you should again before it gets to fucking late you old fuck. I mean it’s already got to the point you think you are attending your Grandfather’s recital at the fucking Home when going to a show of yours.
    I dunno, probably the best thing for everyone to do is just remember how great it was at one time, that goes for you too Billy.
    Just remember how great you were and how good your shows were and don’t try to fucking write anything else and fuck live shows. Come to think of it, it’s fucking over why are we even discussing this? Who gives a fuck, our lives are shit and your talent and music are shit. A wash. long live the mid 70’s! Now go have a fucking drink.

  34. Do all you douche bags who posted in 2011, check the dates,…this blog is 3 years old!

    The only problem I have with “A matter of trust” is all the anti Catholic rhetoric. The song references first communion, stained glass, the rosary, all the while telling Virginia to ignore her religious upbringing, loosen up and have sex with him. Great message! Did you teach that to your own daughters Mr Joel?
    What’s the matter Billy? Did a nun slap you too hard when you were in elementary school?

    I hope you’ve grown past this over the years and realize the absolute BS you were peddling in this song.

  35. Sure did jiz stain, but womb knows maybe that fucker Joel will get drunk one night and revisit this waste of space. Now do you realize that it was months ago that I posted and came back?
    Go listen to Captain Jack Saturday Night.
    Al

  36. Matt are you claiming to be some kind of fucking fan of mine when you can’t even fucking get the song straight? All the above lyrics you are referencing are from “Only the Good Die Young” you stupid fuck. Additionally none of the fucking lyrics mean shit they just popped in my head in a drunken stupor. My fucking nut sack is hanging low and I don’t have time to fuck with complete morons that don’t know the songs or lyrics I have put out in the 1970’s. Sure I haven’t been worth a fuck since but fuck me I get the royalty checks!
    BJ

  37. Who gives a flying fuck about one song sung in the rain! I just finished watching 2 of Billy Joel’s live concerts and I cant think of anybody else that tops that kind of performance. Seriously people, get a friggen life!
    He’s the best songwriter/musician/singer almost ever. After watching those concerts I went online to find out what he’s up to. We want him in Toronto! and this is the shit I have to see. You know what Edward Champion…..FUCK YOU!
    Sincerely,
    Becky Weinstein
    Toronto, Canada

  38. Billey joel is such a little bitch i would love to kick your ass sir i hope you kill yourself yu piece of shit

  39. First who gives a damn when this thread started? Second, Beckey are you off your clit? Joel The best songwriter/musician/singer ever???? The fuck hasn’t put out anything in 20 years and prior to that it was a handful of exceptional stuff and a shitload of middle of the road pop. I think you need to rethink that statement. Sure the fucker is lazy, probably a lush, doesn’t have any reason to write pop again but he’s like done. Sure if you can catch him in person he puts on a decent show but it’s the same ole songs we;ve heard a million times. Even if he or any of his age and status decided to put shit out there how would they market it? Those days are long gone. And you can probably shove the internets up your ass for that. Anyway love the tone of these posts it’s great! I just wish Billy Joel’s lazy ass would wonder back in here and say a few more things but he’s probably fucking drunk.

  40. Wow man this thing is still going on from 08? Don’t you fucking losers have better things to do? Look I do what I want, I have no desire to write any more little pop fucking songs or whatever you call em. My life is mine and all I need to be happy is a fucking drink in each hand. I wouldn’t sit to write a pop song if Jamie Pressley had both my nuts in her gullet and was looking up at me. As for that bitch Elton John, he’s a she and a little control freak. Sure it’s ok for him to stuff enough cocaine up his fat Brit nose to cover Mt Everest, or drink and be a dick head to everyone even after rehab…but fuck me I can’t have my booze. You know Elton you are a dick head fucked up or sober so what’s it matter? I am so tired of little dick heads and fans trying to tell me what the hell to do. You sons of bitches just wish you were me. I hit it big, I an ugly fuck and get more pussy than you could ever buy, ok so I am still a stupid fuck for not knowing not to get married because the bitches are just after my bread but what the hell. And I guarantee you if not for viagra I wouldn’t even sniff a chick under 50, so I got it pretty good for just a few little 3 minute songs. Now politely fuck off and leave me alone.
    BJ

  41. Jack Mehoffer May 14, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    So, I really need to ask (even though it’s a pointless question) …but is that REALLY Billy Joel’s comments in this “blog”?

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