Friday, October 13, 1978

Billy Joel’s 52nd Street released

First posted 3/28/2008; updated 10/17/2020.

52nd Street

Billy Joel

Released: October 13, 1978

Peak: 18 US, 10 UK, 15 CN, 15 AU

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.1 UK, 12.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


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

  1. Big Shot (2/10/79, 14 US, 9 CL, 13 CN, 91 AU)
  2. Honesty (4/21/79, 24 US, 8 CL, 9 AC, 16 CN, 80 AU)
  3. My Life (11/4/78, 3 US, 2 CL, 2 AC, 12 UK, 3 CN, 6 AU, platinum single)
  4. Zanzibar (23 CL)
  5. Stiletto (23 CL)
  6. Rosalinda’s Eyes (25 CL)
  7. Half a Mile Away
  8. Until the Night (3/79, 34 CL, 50 UK)
  9. 52nd Street

Total Running Time: 40:26


3.777 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


About the Album:

“Fame can be a bitch, and so were, apparently, many of the people around Joel after The Stranger made him a star. Sounding paranoid and defensive, even on a bouncy trifle like My Life, he slid from tough to boorish as he sang about betrayal, hangovers, name-dropping cokeheads and affairs with waitresses.” DB

“Luckily, he offset those traits with punching-bag rockers and sublime, Broadway-worthy ballads.” DB He may have sounded angry on “the infectious ‘My Life,’” GR but it “still rings out with the bright bounce and touch of edge for which Joel has become known.” GR 52nd Street shows an artist who doesn’t abandon the sound “of his wildly successful previous LP, 1977’s The Stranger,” GR but someone intent on not repeating himself.

Joel returned to the studio with Phil Ramone with the aim of making the follow-up “more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy.” AMGHe expanded his “rock vocabulary and influence” GR by injecting “his sound with a new swing, enlisting jazz musicians.” GR “Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan – indeed, his phrasing and melody for Zanzibar is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan.” AMG That song and Rosalinda’s Eyes “offer a glimpse into Joel’s range as artist and Ramone’s willingness to explore.” GR

Joel “never shies away from big gestures and melodies.” AMG “Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like Stiletto, but when he’s rocking out on Big Shot. That isn’t necessarily bad, since Joel’s strong suit turns out to be showmanship – he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances.” AMG

“He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs…and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone’s seamless production and Joel's melodic craftsmanship.” AMG

“It’s remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula – one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement.” AMG It also won him Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male.

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