Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Goodnight Saigon" by Billy Joel

Song#:  1386
Date:  03/19/1983
Debut:  71
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Joel's peak behind "The Nylon Curtain" gave him two Top 20's, "Pressure" (#20) and "Allentown" (#17). A third look would produce this Vietnam-themed single that couldn't quite get into the top half of the chart. Joel's more serious tunes would help the Grammy nominated LP reach double-platinum status, but that was actually a significant drop from his previous three studio albums which all would eventually sell between 7-10 million each. He would rebound to those levels with his next set of songs.

ReduxReview:  Joel's bid to be considered a "serious" musician continued with this song. At the time there was a lot of focus on the Vietnam war, the soldiers who returned, and the after-effects. Joel's song was a well-timed release that a lot of critics seemed to appreciate. It is indeed a well-written observation piece that culminates in a moving "we will all go down together" refrain. However, as a single there are a couple of problems. First is length. Even the edited single is close to 6 minutes - an eternity in pop radio. It had better be a highly popular and requested tune for a stations to play something that long. I can honestly say I never heard this on the radio. Second is that the song is not something someone is gonna hum along with while driving home from work. It's just a little too serious for that. I'm sure that Joel and the label wanted to draw attention to all the Vietnam issues at the time and chose to release this epic, but this is really a key album track and not a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Joel's lyrics reflect the experience of a group of Marines during the Vietnam War. The song references many key touch points from the era including Parris Island (a Marine training facility in South Carolina), a hash pipe, The Doors, Bob Hope, and "Charlie." Apparently Joel was approached to write a song by a veteran's organization. Since Joel did not serve in the military, he had no real experience as a basis for the song, however members of the organization did. With their input and that of other friends/crew members who served, Joel was able to fashion the song from their experiences.



  1. It may not be a great pop single, but it's still a great song, in my opinion.

    1. I agree. It is an essential track on "The Nylon Curtain."