Saturday, July 19, 1980

Billy Joel “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” hit #1

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Billy Joel

Writer(s): Billy Joel (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 13, 1980

Peak: 12 US, 13 CB 14 HR, 14 RR, 45 AC, 1 CL, 14 UK, 13 CN, 10 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.21 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 32.0 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Billy Joel launched his solo career with 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor and found top-ten success with “Just the Way You Are” (1977), “My Life” (1978), and “You May Be Right” (1980). However, he was still that “critics still lumped him in with the middle-of-the-road-soft-rock balladeers of the era.” SG He “saw the kind of press that punk and new wave bands were getting, and he decided that there wasn’t actually anything new about these new bands.” SG For his 1980 Glass Houses album, he aspired “to show that he could rock as hard as anyone else.” SG

While Joel intended to “throw a rock at the image people had” FB of him, he didn’t win everyone over. Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh said, “Glass Houses is Joel’s attempt to establish once and for all that he is a rocker to the core, which is a nearly disastrous error, not so much because he can’t rock as because he is better at several other things.” FB

The album’s first single, “You May Be Right,” was “basically an Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson new-wave rave-up.” SG The follow-up single, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “is a sharp, well-written song” SG that “works in the same mode…but with some angry snark in the mix, as well.” SG His first #1 found him “sarcastically raging against the idea that he should have to switch his style up, to adapt to a new sound…even as he… [does] exactly what he complains that he shouldn’t have to do.” SG Interestingly, even Marsh acknowledged that the song “redeemed the project commercially.” FB

Musically, it “is more mannered than ‘You May Be Right.’…It’s a controlled and locked-in rockabilly shuffle – as if Joel is proving how old these new sounds are by making them sound as old as possible.” SG “At times, it nods in the direction of Bruce Springsteen, Joel’s fellow tri-state beach-town road warrior; Richie Cannata’s saxophone solo is a straight-up Clarence Clemons bite. But Joel never tries to wail his way into transcendence, the way Springsteen always did. Joel is more concerned with airing out petty grievances.” SG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Billy Joel
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 527.
  • SG Stereogum (3/30/2020). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 6/30/2022; last updated 10/28/2022.

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