John Gibson: I’m in Billy Joel’s debt

Billy Joel. Picture: AP

Billy Joel. Picture: AP

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What can I write about Billy Joel that doesn’t offend? If only for one of his compositions, Just the Way You Are, I’m in his debt.

Not that he’s short of a cent. Sold 150 million albums, leaving Bruce Springsteen in his wake.

What niggles is his current UK tour. Friday he played Dublin, London tomorrow night, this Friday Birmingham. We won’t be seeing him this side of the Border, uptown or downtown.

Billy wants for nothing. All he craves now is a live audience, loves the feel of an audience on stage. At 64 he has changed. You’d never recognise him if you passed him in the street. The man can be excused if he’s gone a tad grey with it.

He’s saying now: “I was 15 when I saw the Beatles and I remember thinking they looked like me and my friends. They looked like working-class stiffs. They didn’t look like they were fabricated in Hollywood.”

Self-deprecation works in his favour, though. What’s bugging him, maybe, is Barry White’s version of Just the Way You Are, considered here, up town, to be superior. And Billy does get girny: “I did a few tours with Elton John and the show never changed. It was basically the two of us doing our greatest hits. It became stale.

“I have a face made for radio but I don’t care that I’m not a handsome guy. I want my girlfriend to be good-looking, not me. People want to know about your private life, your girlfriends, your habits. None of your business. I feel like I give enough away by writing the music. I opened up my soul – what else do you want?”

The tour has sold out by the way, reportedly at £100 a ticket.