There are make-or-break moments in every successful musician’s career. Sometimes they’re huge, cataclysmic events. Other times, they’re subtle nods that point a performer in the right direction.
For Billy Joel, a pair of shows in November of 1973 was the latter. And, we have the tapes to prove it. Piano Man had just been released, and Billy was grinding out dates opening for the Beach Boys and the Doobie Brothers.
Being an opening act wasn’t suiting Billy, so he took up a local DJ on his offer to play a show at the Roxy Theatre in Northampton Pennsylvania, a few miles north of Allentown.
By all known accounts, it would be his first time headlining a theater. And, put into the context of his career up to that point, it’s safe to say that this engagement informed his business strategy, as well as some of his song material, afterward.
The DJ, Denny Somach, recorded the shows and rediscovered the tapes a few years ago. He made four of the songs available on YouTube, including one that was never released on an album.
As intriguing as these early renditions are, the big draw here is Billy’s off the cuff comments that reveal much about his career and outlook up to this point.
In this episode, we’re exploring both the songs and the conversation on the Roxy tapes. We also spoke with Denny Somach and also Rick Wolfe, who worked at the theater during those concerts and is still there today.
We also spoke with Denny Somach to learn more about the events leading up to the shows.
Join us, as we dig deep into the audio artifacts of Billy Joel’s first headlining theater engagement.
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