Saturday, October 29, 2011

NUMBER 1 ALBUMS: BILLY JOEL - STORM FRONT

Storm Front
Artist: Billy Joel
Title: Storm Front
Year: 1989
Weeks #1: One
Label: Columbia
Producers: Mick Jones and Billy Joel
Track listing: That's Not Her Style / We Didn't Start the Fire / The Downeaster "Alexa" / I Go to Extremes / Shameless / Storm Front / Leningrad / State of Grace / When in Rome / And So It Goes.



Storm Front marked a major change for Billy Joel: It was the singer/pianist's first album in 12 years that wasn't produced by Phil Ramone. "The album that came out in 1986, The Bridge, was not a happy experience," says Joel. "It felt like a marriage that had gotten old. The band wasn't really motivated and there was a lot of complaining about stuff other than the music. Also, I didn't feel like Phil and I were sparking any more."

While recording The Bridge was an ordeal, the album reached number seven, continuing Joel's run of top 10 studio albums, which had begun in 1977 with The Stranger. Yet prior to the recording of Storm Front, Joel decided to take a step back and reevaluate his career. "I decided that I had to find out why I do what I do," Joel says. "Every artist has to reinvent themselves constantly, which I try to do on every album, but aside from that you have to find your motivation. At that point I had forgotten. On Storm Front, I rediscovered the joy of rock 'n' roll."

In his quest to rediscover his inspiration, Joel enlisted Mick Jones of Foreigner as his co-producer. Jones also had a co-producer credit on Van Halen's 5150, that group's first Number One album. "Mick brought an English rock sensibility, which is somewhat perverse and deviant," Joel says. "He was also someone who was very material-oriented, because he was a songwriter in his own right."

As with his previous effort, Joel went for a whole album of quality recordings, rather than a few choice hit singles and some filler. The title track, which features the Memphis Horns, was a particular favorite, although "it didn't get a lot of airplay, because it wasn't released as a single," he says. Another album track, "Shameless," which Joel calls his tribute to Jimi Hendrix, would go on to become a hit for country superstar Garth Brooks.

Yet Storm Front wasn't without its share of hits. "We Didn't Start the Fire" became Joel's third Number One single. "Originally, that was a completely different song, a country song that I had in the spare-parts bin called 'Jolene,'" says Joel.

Billy Joel
The song was inspired by a visit to the studio by Sean Lennon, the son of late Beatle John Lennon, and a group of his friends. "One of his friends had just turned 21," Joel says. "And he was saying that it was really a tough time in the world to be that age. 'We've got AIDS, homeless people, and crack.' I said, 'Hey, it was a tough time when I was that age, too. We had Vietnam, there were drug problems, there was lot of violence, and presidents were ling assassinated.'" The youngster turned to Joel and said, "Well, at lees you grew up as a kid in the '50s. Everyone knows nothing happened in the '50s." As Joel recalls, "I said, 'What? Didn't you ever hear of the Korean War the Suez Canal, and Castro?' So I started writing these things down and I realized that there was this whole generation that really didn't know anything about history, except what went on in their lives. Also, I had just hit 40 years old, and as most people know that's a good time to take inventory. The combination of me turning 40 and the conversation with that kid inspired me to kind of sum up where I was. I started with Harry Truman, because in the year I was born, 1949, Harry Truman was president. From there it kind of wrote itself."

On December 9, 1989, "We Didn't Start the Fire" hit the top of the Hot 100, becoming Joel's third Number One single. A week later Storm Front joined the single at the top, giving Joel is third chart-topping album.
 
THE TOP FIVE
Week of December 16, 1989
1. Storm Front, Billy Joel
2. Girl You Know It's True, Milli Vanilli
3. Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson
4. Forever Your, Girl Paula Abdul
5. Hangin' Tough, New Kids on the Block

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