TICKETS TORN IN HALF: February 18,1972- Billy Joel with Beefheart
What a strange year 1971 was with the MANSON trial and conviction, Lt. CALLEY found guilty and THE TROUBLES in IRELAND even more intense that before with THE BRITISH adding internment without trial to captured IRA members. Television had a new hit with ALL IN THE FAMILY while the MARLBORO MAN and cigarette ads in general were banned. The Allman Brothers record the LIVE album and a few months later help close out FILLMORE EAST for good. The STONES relocate to France to avoid taxes, while George Harrison is bringing attention to BANGLADESH when it declared its independence from Pakistan.
Just when I thought that 71 was as crazy as it could get along come BLOODY SUNDAY in Northern Ireland, Israeli athletes murdered in the summer Olympics, NIXON is re-elected in a landslide over George McGovern, and someone comes up with the idea which later becomes known as WATERGATE, all while AMERICAN PIE is played endlessly on the radio.
With FILLMORE EAST closed most mid range (those avoiding or not as popular to play at MSG) entertained the Rock N Roll crowds at the ACADEMY of MUSIC on 14th Street or at THE CAPITOL in Port Chester, NY.
On February 18, 1972 ,a Saturday night when it snowed like crazy but I drove my trusty VW to NYC to see the J. Geils Band/Capt. Beefheart/Billy Joel @ Academy of Music, the Late show. I took a friend of mine who to this day states, “BEEFHEART stole the show”. The J.GEILS BAND was the rising stars at this moment. The opening act, Billy Joel, did an imitation of one, JOE COCKER, as well as bad mouthing his own current album “Cold Spring Harbor”, stating it was mixed at “Mickey Mouse speed” or something to the effect. In 1972 Billy Joel was virtually a newcomer to the NY stages.Granted we had seen him many times as the organist of the Long Island band THE HASSELS, as well as he being a member of the ill fated ATTILA, a two piece heavy metal-ish organ drum outfit, which was horrible.Tonight at The Academy was different. According to my journal which I usually wrote in after a show, BILLY JOEL played piano, did a song or two from “CSH”, another song about playing piano in a bar in Los Angeles, a song about getting high, and finished with THE STONES “Honky Tonk Woman”. My BEEFHEART notes were far more extensive so I guess one can determine which band I was there to see.
Anyway, back to the good ole days…I liked the HASSLES as a local live band (66-67@ Hullabaloo) and I especially enjoyed their HAMMOND B-3 (Rascals like)sound. So when opportunity knocked while in the record department of TSS I grabbed their first album on UNITED ARTISTS RECORDS, along with their 45 RPM cover of SAM and DAVE’s “You Got Me Hummin” which is labeled incorrectly as “You’ve Got Me Hummin” (jive ass white suburban kids). The album includes “Every Step I Take (Every Move I Make)” a tune written by Billy Joel ( with a great drum part which I practiced routinely)and the band’s cover of TRAFFIC’s “Coloured Rain”, a so-so rendition Also, this being the fifteen minutes of fame for another Long Island phenomena VANILLA FUDGE, The HASSLES did “A Taste of Honey” ala The FUDGE but worse, as a matter of fact it is laugh out loud funny bad.
Their second LP “Hour Of The Wolf” was released in January of 69 but I passed on it as did most of the record buying public.The band subsequently breaks up and Billy Joel has a short career as the duo ATTILA with Jon Small, drummer from The Hassles. They regularly played the “family” owned ACTION HOUSE which is another story unto itself. Billy then disappears to Los Angeles as a lounge singer, Bill Martin, before returning in 1971 with “Cold Spring Harbor” his first solo endeavor on Family Production Records.
While this collection of tunes was making little or no noise on the charts, BILLY JOEL starts to hit the clubs where his live act gains the notice of Columbia records which after intense negotiations buys out his previous contract. Billy Joel prepares to record “Piano Man”, his major breakout. November 9, 1973 it is released.
So my story is: from February 18, 1972 until November 18, 1973 I saw Billy Joel only once and that being the opening act for J.Geils Band/Captain Beefheart. To present, since the release of “Piano Man” he has a shitload of album releases, singles on the charts,multiple marriages and divorces, made millions of dollars,and has a “residency” at Madison Square Garden which sells out the minute a new date is announced, and he is a local guy to boot…yet I only saw him once.And most of my friends love to see him…regularly.
PS: I still have “Cold Spring Harbor” and the only other album is “Piano Man”.I sold the single at a nice profit.