1983 Billy Joel – Pressure
Billy Joel hit the top of the Hot 100 for the first time in 1980 with the song, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me. After that, his records began underperforming: he failed to reach any higher than #17 for a few years. It’s not that he stopped recording good music, the singles just weren’t commercial enough for that chart.
His 1981 album Songs From The Attic spawned three live singles that covered songs from earlier in his career; two of them reached #17 and #23 while the third failed to reach the Hot 100 at all.
In 1982, Billy began work on a more ambitious album, The Nylon Curtain. He wanted to create a “sonic masterpiece” and spent a great deal of time in the studio crafting it. He became hung up on the feeling that the Reagan years had left the country in a state where kids would not be able to reach the same heights as their parents. He succeeded in many ways.
Partway through the creation, he felt he was out of ideas for more songs. When he tried to explain the pressure he felt about creating more, his secretary jumped into the conversation: “Wow, you look like you’re under a lot of pressure. I bet you that’d be a good idea for a song.”
He thanked her and promptly wrote the song Pressure. The song became the first single from the album and peaked at #20 on the Hot 100 in 1982. The video is unique thanks to its use of water/liquids standing in for pressure.
The second single from the album was Allentown, a song about the impact of closing steel plants in the nearby Pennsylvania home of Bethlehem Steel. The song became controversial, but the locals in Ohio eventually accepted it and Allentown even gave Billy a key to the city. The single peaked at #17 late in the year.
The third single from the album became Goodnight Saigon, a song about the experiences of soldiers in the Viet Nam War. It may well have been too soon for that song; the country was still reeling from the long-term impact of the war. The single peaked at only #56 on the Hot 100.
Better times followed quickly when Billy led off his next album with Tell Her About It and reached the top of the Hot 100 for a second time.
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