Billy Joel said he wishes he could strike “at least 25%” of his songs from the record.
“I’ve written some real stinkers I wish I could take back,” the Piano Man told The Los Angeles Times ahead of his tour with Stevie Nicks. He named “When in Rome” off 1989’s Storm Front and “C’etait toi (You Were the One)” off 1980’s Glass Houses as examples of subpar craftsmanship.
“Sometimes I’d get six or seven songs I thought were pretty damn good, then there’d be a couple of squeeze-outs at the end just to fill up the album,” he said. “I realize now I shouldn’t have done that.”
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Joel has not released an album of original popular music since 1993’s River of Dreams, and his final overall studio album was 2001’s classical endeavor Fantasies & Delusions. When asked about ending his writing career, he explained, “I didn’t make that decision based on whether it was right or wrong. It just felt like it was time for me to stop writing songs. I didn’t have the same motivation anymore. You need inspiration to create good new music, and if you don’t have it, don’t bother. Get off the treadmill, for Christ’s sake.”
He added that “you can always tell” whether a song is good or bad and said the writing process no longer appealed to him. “It also just got to a point where it was getting excruciating for me to write. The enjoyment went out of it. I just read an interesting quote by [Ernest] Hemingway. Someone asked him, ‘Why is it so easy for me to read your stuff?’ And Hemingway said, ‘Because it was so goddamn hard for me to write.'”
Listen to Billy Joel’s ‘C’etait Toi (You Were the One)’
Looking back on his career, Joel said he enjoyed touring with Elton John because he felt part of something bigger than his solo road trips. Unlike John, however, Joel said he has no plans to stage a farewell tour.
“That was brought up the other day,” he said. “But I have a disdain for capitalizing on that: ‘Let me threaten that it’ll be the end, and then I’ll make a lot of money.’ I’ve seen bands so many times announce their farewell tours and then they never go away. I’ve seen a couple of the Who farewells at this point.”
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