Billy Joel Sci-Fi song expired last year.

Posted On: Wednesday - January 31st 2018 7:25PM MST
In Topics: 
  Music  The Future

First of all, before anything else, let me admonish the reader to never call ALL Billy Joel's music "Easy Listening". If anyone tells you that, you MUST play "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", and not on computer speakers either. Stuff on the shelf must be "literally" shaking, or you're not gonna get the full benefit of this rockin' song!

It irks me that I did not even think of posting this song in 2017, as it just wasn't on any playlist. Billy Joel wrote this song in 1975, 43 years ago now. It was at the time NYC was about broke after years of ctrl-left-run government, and I'll give belated kudos to President Jerry Ford, who was not going to ask for the Feral Gov't to bail that city out. Per NY Post headline FORD TO CITY: "DROP DEAD" This was when Billy Joel was finishing his coupla-year stint as a fairly unknown "Piano Man" in Los Angeles, and he headed back to New York afterwards. It is just amazing that this much time has passed, enough to where Peak Stupidity missed the damn date. This song was really science fiction, way back, but it has just expired. I'll put the lyrics below, because they are damn good, along with the version of this from Songs in the Attic, a great collection of some soft songs and some rock, all performed live. (Check out the live "Captain Jack".)

Nope, NYC is not being dismantled per the song, but the part about all the New Yorkers moving to Florida, that's not far off. An interesting thing also is that this song was written before Fidel Castro's criminal flotilla of Cubans, something like 200,000 of them that came to south Florida due to the stupidity of President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Miami may not work out for everybody, as most of it is a foreign country basically. Oh, how 'bout the bit about the Mafia having taken over Mexico? Maybe it's not the same Mafia, but it was a pretty good call.

About 9/11, speaking of the NY skyline falling, and all, in the lyrics, Wikipedia says:
Shortly afterwards, Joel performed the song at a benefit concert on October 20, 2001. Joel announced at the end of the song, "I wrote that song 25 years ago. I thought it was going to be a science fiction song; I never thought it would really happen. But unlike the end of that song, we ain't going anywhere!"
Now that's a little bit dumb. It was science fiction, but who says it won't happen - that's what science fiction is about, imagining the future, and sometimes it's right. (Of course, in the song, the city is being destroyed for some other reason - no ragheads were mentioned, least in the 1975 version.)

This live version of "Miami 2017", recorded in Madison Square Garden, downtown (well, whatever, midtown?) Manhattan, with an audience full of New Yorkers. Whatever one may think of New York City, the audience is just electrified by the rock and the lyrics about NYC, that it's just awesome. Billy Joel is a Long Islander, and so this was his audience too. (Listen to him pronounce "Norfolk" - pure Long Island.)

The whole song is New York City references, which is why the crowd was going nuts.

"I've seen the lights go out on Broadway.
I saw the Empire State laid low,
and life went on beyond the Palisades.
They all bought Cadillacs
and left there long ago.
We held a concert out in Brooklyn
to watch the island bridges blow.
They turned our power down
and drove us underground,
but we went right on with the show.

I've seen the lights go out on Broadway.
I saw the ruins at my feet.
You know we almost didn't notice it.
We see it all the time on Forty-second Street.
They burned the churches up in Harlem
like in that Spanish civil war.
The flames were everywhere,
but no one really cared.
It always burned up there before.

I've seen the rats lie down on Broadway.
I watched the mighty skyline fall.
The boats were waiting at the battery.
The union went on strike.
They never sailed at all.
They sent a carrier up from Norfolk
and picked the Yankees up for free.
They said that Queens could stay.
They blew the Bronx away
and sank Manhattan out at sea.

You know those lights were bright on Broadway.
But that was so many years ago,
before we all lived here in Florida,
before the Mafia took over Mexico.
There are not many who remember.
They say a handful still survive
to tell the world about
the way the lights went out
and keep the memory alive.

OK, it's Billy Joel, so you probably already assumed that any breaks in the lyrics will be filled with "Oh, ho, whoa-ohhhh"

Billy Joel's band during these shows:

Billy Joel – vocals, pianos, synthesizer, harmonica
David Brown – electric guitar (lead), acoustic guitar (lead)
Richie Cannata – saxophones, flute, organ
Liberty DeVitto – drums, percussion
Russell Javors – electric guitar (rhythm), acoustic guitar (rhythm)
Doug Stegmeyer – bass guitar
Richie Cannata – saxophones, clarinet

Those were mostly the players on the Turnstiles album that most of the live songs on Songs in the Attic were from, but not all - the first recordings of Turnstiles were made with Elton John's bass player and drummer, Dee Murray and Nigel Olson, respectively.

[Updated 02/02:] 1) It was the New York Post, not NY Times, with "City", not "New York". 2) Corrected the spelling of Sci-Fi (makes more sense, but "Sci-Fy" looks kind of modern. 3) Corrected the most egregious error, the lack of mention of Billy Joel's band at the time - it's the band that make the great sound, not just the one guy.

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