Friday, October 11, 1974

Billy Joel’s Streetlife Serenade released

First posted 5/9/2011; updated 9/21/2020.

Streetlife Serenade

Billy Joel


Released: October 11, 1974


Peak: 35 US, -- UK, 16 CN, 85 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag (instrumental)
  5. Roberta
  6. The Entertainer (11/30/74, 34 US, 13 CL, 30 AC, 30 CN, 89 AU)
  7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  8. Weekend Song
  9. Souvenir
  10. The Mexican Connection (instrumental)


Total Running Time: 37:41

Rating:

3.403 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)

About the Album:

With his sophomore album, Billy Joel had achieved success with “Piano Man,” but it threw him. Billy Joel was driven “to deliver an album that established him as both a serious artist and a commercial contender.” AMG While critics didn’t love him, his sophomore album had delivered big with the top-25 success of “Piano Man.” Now he needed to quickly release another album to maintain a high profile, but he’d used his best stuff on Piano Man, so he was short on material.

The resulting third album, Streetlife Serenade, was, therefore, “a bit of a slump.” AMG Still, “since he has skills, he's able to turn out a few winners – Roberta, a love song in the vein of Cold Spring Harbor, the mournful Streetlife Serenader, and the stomping” AMG and “vigorous Los Angelenos,” DB on which he “rocked an electric piano.” DB

“Joel is attempting a grand Americana lyrical vision, stretching from the Wild West through the Depression on ‘Los Angelenos’ and The Great Suburban Showdown.” AMG “Joel’s ruminations on suburban malaise…are at their most overblown.” DB In the end, “it doesn't work, not only because of his shortcomings as a writer, but because he didn't have the time to pull it all together.” AMG

“The presence of two instrumentals screamed, ‘Right – I didn’t have time to write songs for my new album.’” DB “Even if Root Beer Rag, yet another sign of The Sting’s influence, is admittedly enjoyable, they're undeniably fillers.” AMG

Stylistically, it was a reiteration of its predecessor’s” AMG obsession with Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, “spiked with, of all things, Rockford Files synthesizers and ragtime pulled from The Sting.” AMG “It’s no coincidence that the record’s single and best song, The Entertainer, shares a title with the Scott Joplin rag that provided The Sting with a main theme.” AMG

On that “astonishingly bitter” AMG song, “he not only disparages his own role, but is filled with venom over ‘Piano Man’ being released in a single edit, that made the subtext clear: he’d had enough with California, enough with the music industry, enough with being a sensitive singer/songwriter. It was time for Billy to say goodbye to Hollywood and head back home to New York.” AMG

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, October 5, 1974

Olivia Newton-John hit #1 with “I Honestly Love You”

First posted 10/24/2020.

I Honestly Love You

Olivia Newton-John

Writer(s): Peter Allen, Jeff Barry (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 3, 1974


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 HR, 16 RR, 13 AC, 6 CW, 22 UK, 11 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 4.5 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Jeff Barry made a name for himself co-writing songs like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack,” as well as #1 hits for the Dixie Cups, Manfred Mann, and the Archies. He set to produce Peter Allen’s first album for A&M Records. Allen had already written some tunes, but Barry didn’t hear any hits. He had an idea for a song which the two then wrote together and then they made a demo. BR1

The demo was just intended for themselves, but it made its way to John Farrar, the producer for Olivia Newton-John. He’d been a member of the Shadows but took up songwriting and arranging for Olivia. SF He played the song for her and she loved it. In her 2019 memoir Don’t Stop Believin’, she recalled thinking “that everyone would be able to make those words fit in their own personal story of love and perhaps even loss.” SF She told Billboard magazine “I flipped out when I heard it…I was terrified that I would find out it had already been done.” BR1 Barry convinced Allen to let her record it since she was one of the world’s most popular singers. SF

It proved a savvy move which helped launch Allen’s career as a songwriter, SF although he did release a version on his Continental American album which came out at the end of the year. WK She recorded the song in just three takes with vocals which were, at times, “almost a whisper,” as she said. SF Surprisingly, the label didn’t originally intend to release Olivia’s version as a single until radio demand pushed them to decide otherwise. BR1

Radio stations in Denver and Chicago ranked it the song of the year. WK VH1 ranked the song at #11 on its list of soft-rock songs. It also makes the DMDB’s list of the top 100 adult contemporary songs of all time. It won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Olivia Newton-John
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 378.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia