Joel blasts Roanoke Times from JPJ stage

At his February 23 show at John Paul Jones Arena, Billy Joel opened the evening with "Angry Young Man," a song that contains the lyric, "I believe I've passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage." Then, moments later, one of the best-selling recording artists of all time let his audience know that he was conscious of what a local paper had written about him, and that it had sent him into a bit of a rage.

In what was probably the oddest bit of locally-related stage banter at a Charlottesville concert since Mick Jagger gave a shout out to Midlothian, Joel took a moment to say that the Roanoke Times had written something that, "makes you want to, uh, bang your, uh, head." Later on in the show, before he and his band launched into a rendition of the AC/DC song "Highway to Hell," Joel made a point to say, "This one's dedicated to the Roanoke Times."

So what were the offending words that drew Joel's ire? Tamara Gaskin's one-sentence item in the February 22 edition of the Times' daily "Short List" calendar of events that read, "Aww, yeah. The Piano Man will ROCK you. With his, uh, hard-driving, um, head-banging piano."

Gaskin didn't find out about Joel's bon mots until she came into the office Monday morning, but got the personal message loud and clear in the form of the many e-mails she got from fans who attended the show. Gaskins was shocked by the response but concedes that Joel's fans may be right, and she may be crazy.

"I was stunned but I can see where the misunderstanding was," she says, "It was just meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and in no way did I intend or expect any of this."

As for her personal taste, Gaskin says she's more or less indifferent about Joel. "I have no problem one way or the other with his music," she explains, "The biggest experience I had with his music was I saw [Joel's Tony-award winning musical] Movin' Out on Broadway, and I loved it!"

Given the chance to speak to Joel personally, Gaskin said she'd happily take the opportunity to patch things up. "I didn't mean it the way he took it, but if that's how he took it, then he clearly did a good job with it, based on everything I've heard about the show," she says, "I would hope he wouldn't let a misunderstanding keep him from coming to see his fans here in Virginia who clearly love his music and want him to come back."

Gaskin was a little less conciliatory one day ago. In Monday's episode of the "TimesCast"– the Times' daily, decidedly irreverent video podcast– she said, "I mean, seriously, the dude is super rich, he's got tons of passionate fans– as evidenced by my inbox. So, lighten up, I say. But those crazy fans beg to differ," and adds that, "despite my attempt at light-hearted humor blowing up in my face, I still think Billy Joel's fine, in a before-I-was-born kind of way."

And if that doesn't raise Mr. New York State of Mind's hackles, then surely today's TimesCast will. In it, Times online entertainment editor Tad Dickens sings the following words to the tune of Joel's "It's Still Rock 'n Roll to Me."

People say that he's an impaired driver [Joel crashed his car after a party in 2003]
But you know that it ain't his fault
He hasn't made a hit in forever
Just a box set of crap from the vault
Still bitches 'bout the newspaper stories
He's a lifetime away from all his former glories
Old man, old songs, even if they're played wrong
He's still Billy Joel to me

Neither Joel nor his representatives had commented at the time of this post.

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4 comments

Wow-- someone reads the Roanoke Times? And it turns out to be Billy Joel? And the Roanoke Times has funny writers? Who knew?

People who write these seemingly factual entertainment calendars have shown a penchant for cruelty from time to time. For instance, I read about a calendar listing for a book called FATGIRL SPEAKS that called on "fatties" to "grab a typing stick" and type up their own review (because their "sausage fingers" otherwise hit too many keys on the keyboard). Mean!!!

Roanoke Times???? give me a break
Billy Joel could sing to the smallest crowd he could draw anywhere, anytime, anyplace and beat their circulation.
Give me a break.
Whoever wrote that article will be out of a job before Billy Joel does not have a loyal audience who appreciates quality . . . which is lacking in the Roanoke Times.

Hey, Roanoke Times; lighten up and thank Billy Joel. I had never heard of the Roanoke times before his concert! So there you are...fame at last.