Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Allentown" by Billy Joel

Song#:  1263
Date:  11/27/1982
Debut:  76
Peak:  17
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After years of rockin' out Joel decided to show his "serious" side with his LP "The Nylon Curtain." While the album was well-received and even caught a Grammy nod for Album of the Year, the singles issued didn't really burn up the charts. The first song released, "Pressure," stalled at #20 while this single fared only slightly better. Despite not being a major hit at the time, the song ended up having some longevity years after its release thanks to its subject matter, which turned it into a working class anthem of sorts.

ReduxReview:  At first I thought this opening track of the album was quite good and reflected what Joel was trying to do with the album. Then as a single it kind of wore on me. As much as I appreciate and like the song, it's not something I'd put on repeat. Hearing it once in a great while is just fine, especially when listening to the album as a whole. At the time I didn't think this single would do well, so it was a pleasant surprise when it got into the Top 20.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Joel began work on this song in the 70s and at the time it was called "Levittown," a Long Island city that was next to Joel's hometown of Hicksville. The song lingered as he thought the lyrics were a bit boring. The song got a new life after Joel visited Pennsylvania. The decline of the steel industry was in process and places like Bethlehem were in trouble. Although the next town over, Allentown, wasn't as vested in the steel industry, there were still associated effects. Joel rolled all this into the song and called it "Allentown" as that name worked better than Bethlehem and it would avoid any confusion with the city in Israel. Although folks in Allentown were initially a bit divided on the song (some thinking it was disparaging to the town and blue collar workers), most were won over after it became a hit and the mayor awarded Joel with a key to the city.


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