Billy Joel – Tell Her About It

First Hit #1: September 24, 1983

Tell Her About It was produced by Phil Ramone, who also produced Maniac. I mention that because these are two songs that could not be more different. Maniac was contemporary dance and film music, Tell Her About It is decidedly retro. It wouldn’t feel out of place decades earlier, it has traditional pop harmonies, a slight big band influence, and a general mood that makes the song of a piece with early Beatles and girl groups. Even the video is heavily indebted to the past, with nods to Ed Sullivan and retro set design.

It’s a throwback, but a loving and well executed one. I’ve always found Billy Joel to be one of the more retro-minded pop stars of the ’80s, and this might be one of his more deliberately retro recordings to date. But all pop music is really built on the same foundation, so it still does have a place and it isn’t dated at all. It’s just a bit closer to its influences than some other songs.

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One Response to Billy Joel – Tell Her About It

  1. Robert Berman says:

    I’m not peeking ahead, so I wasn’t sure if Billy Joel was going to make it to #1 in 1983 on this blog. I had hoped he would; the “Innocent Man” album was both terrific and inescapable on the radio that year. Musically, this song is like a lost 60s soul hit. Great vocals (higher than you’d think from his effortless delivery; just try to sing along), spry melody, classy arrangement, surprise key change between the chorus and verse. Lyrically, the verses and bridge incentivize us to listen to the chorus’ punchline: Tell your lady that you love her, because romance makes people feel uncomfortably vulnerable, and saying, “I love you,” is reassuring. I once quoted Joel’s observation to my then-girlfriend (now-wife). My intended point was the part about feeling vulnerable in a relationship. She for some reason zoomed in on the previously unarticulated implication that I loved her. So yeah, a pop song with actual insight into romantic affairs.

    Pop musicians used to hit their peak influence around age 30 (more like age 20 now though), which is probably why the music styles of twenty years prior (when they were impressionable 10 year olds) often experiences a renaissance. Harry Nilsson tributed crooners while Linda Ronstadt raked it in with Buddy Holly covers. Billy Joel and Phil Collins (and, as mentioned yesterday, many New Wavers) pay tribute to pre-Beatles early 60s pop idioms like Doo Wop and girl groups. Nirvana did David Bowie covers and celebrated the amateurism of punk rock. Hall and Oates and Journey have been big again in the last several years. One braces one’s self for the inevitable Limp Bizkit/Korn revival due in the next couple of years.

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