Title: Storm Front
Weeks #1: One
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.
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