Video & Audio
After the release of The Nylon Curtain in 1982, a motorcycle accident, and the divorce from his wife Elizabeth, Billy took a much needed vacation in the Caribbean. It would change his life. While tinkering around at the piano at a hotel lounge in St. Barts, he met supermodels Christie Brinkley, Elle McPherson, and Whitney Houston at a chance encounter. Sometime later after returning to the U.S., Billy and Christie eventually started dating and Billy returned to the recording studio in 1983 to record An Innocent Man. Read this Rolling Stone article about Billy's and Christie's courtship (starting about 1/3 of the way down). Billy was a man in love, and it shows on An Innocent Man. The songs are fun, ebullient, effervescent. He said the songs just came pouring out of him.
"'That's how I felt, and you don't fight that,' Billy Joel explained, to Ultimate Classic Rock. 'The material was coming so easily and so quickly, and I was having so much fun doing it. I was kind of reliving my youth.' After recording the first song live in the studio, Joel found that the rest of the material came together at a fast clip, with the bulk of An Innocent Man written in just six weeks." He was inspired. The album was a labor of love, not laborious.
Billy was inspired not only by the new romance in his life, but also his lifelong love of rock and pop music. The songs on the album draw from the various styles of music which were popular during the Fifties and Sixties. "Easy Money" is a James Brown or Wilson Pickett-like soul tune complete with beefy horns, "Tell Her About It" is a nod to The Supremes and the Motown sound, "Uptown Girl" is a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and "An Innocent Man" recalls Ben E. King's "Stand By Me."
It all worked. Billy crafted a wonderful tribute to the music he grew up with and several songs became hits. If The Nylon Curtain was an homage to The Beatles of the late 1960s, then An Innocent Man is an homage to everything that came before that. The closing song "Keepin' The Faith" sums it all up: "I'm going to listen to my 45's, ain't it wonderful to be alive, when the rock and roll plays, when the memory stays, that's why I'm keeping the faith."
While the retro homage may not have been everyone's cup of tea, An Innocent Man showcased Billy's gift for melody and for creating catchy pop riffs. He could have been a songwriter in the Brill Building during the late 50s and early 60s, like Carole King, churning out hit after hit. Fortunately, both Billy and Carole became singer-songwriters and performed their own songs. (Billy later covered a song that had been co-written by Carole King, "Hey Girl," in his Greatest Hits III in 1997). Billy would have been a successful songwriter and musician in any era.
Oh, I'm going to listen to my 45's
An Innocent Man's popularity was bolstered by several engaging music videos that captured the retro-style of the songs with clever story lines and images. And two of them, the videos for "Uptown Girl" and "Keeping The Faith," featured Christie Brinkley who would later become Mrs. Billy Joel in 1986. Music video director Jay Dubin did the videos for "The Longest Time," "Tell Her About It," and "Uptown Girl." He discusses how these videos were developed in this interview.
The album cover was shot at 142 Mercer Street in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. It has since become a popular spot for Billy Joel fans to find and to take a selfie on the same steps that Billy sat on, in the same pose.
Billy Joel (1983). An Innocent Man publicity photo by Gilles Larrain.
Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley (1983). Photo by Gilles Larrain.
Screen shot from "Tell Her About It" video.
Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel in the video for "Uptown Girl."
Billy wrote an article in Hit Parade magazine (1983) about how he came up with each song on the album.
B. Joel, Liberty Devitto (standing), Russell Javors, David Brown, Doug Stegmeyer, Marc Rivera.
YouTube and Others
Interviews & Features
Various Interviews. This playlist contains a series of video and audio recordings in which Billy discusses An Innocent man, or are interviews from the time when the album was released.
Live in Wembley Arena (1984). This is another good televised concert, this time from the UK at Wembley Arena. It was billed as Billy Joel: From The Piano Man to An Innocent Man, and was broadcast through much of Europe. The first clip is the entire concert, and then the later clips are individual songs. Billy and the band were in fine form.
Live at MSG and Providence (1984). Playlist consisting of audio clips from two concerts.
1. Madison Square Garden: Short playlist of songs from a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden (MSG) in 1984; videos posted by Jennert. Features: Angry Young Man, An Innocent Man, The Longest Time (preceded by Teenagers in Love), Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, and Piano Man.
2. Providence: Two videos (audio with still photos) of concert in Providence, Rhode Island in 1984. Thanks to Reggie714 for posting.
Ultimate Classic Rock
"An Innocent Man: Guilty As Charged," by Billy Joel (song-by-song review of An Innocent Man by Billy Joel)
Having proved himself as a consummate singer-songwriter, Joel took a bold step with An Innocent Man by embracing the music of his youth and re-presenting it as a counterpoint to the more contemporary synth-heavy musical trends of its day. For those of Joel’s age it may have felt like an easy bet, but the success of it amongst young music buyers who didn’t share the same musical reference points showed that Joel was able to deliver music that would become equally as timeless.
– Andy Healy, Albumism
As Joel strolls through the archives of soul, his writerly eye hones in on one style after another until An Innocent Man becomes a panoramic overview of what it must have been like to be a Long Island kid with an ear glued to the radio during the golden dawn of rock and soul and doo-wop. . . . I can find no other reason to be cynical about a record that’s so plainly a labor of love. An Innocent Man is an affectionate, spirited paean to an undefiled past that’s truly forever.
– Parke Puterbaugh, Rolling Stone
1. Easy Money (4:04)
2. An Innocent Man (5:17)
3. The Longest Time (3:42
4. This Night (4:19)
5. Tell Her About It (3:52)
6. Uptown Girl (3:17)
7. Careless Talk (3:48)
8. Christie Lee (3:31)
9. Leave A Tender Moment Alone (3:56)
10. Keeping The Faith (4:41)
Released: August 8, 1983
Recorded: Chelsea Sound and A&R Recording, Inc., New York, NY Spring, 1983
Genre: Rock, rock and roll, pop rock
Producer: Phil Ramone
All Songs written by Billy Joel except track 4 ("This Night") written by Joel and L.V. Beethoven (chorus)
Recorded at Chelsea Sound and A & R Recording, Inc., New York, NY
Mixed at A & R Recording, Inc., New York, NY
Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York, NY
Billy Joel – Baldwin acoustic piano (SF-10), Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ, lead & background vocals
Liberty DeVitto – drums
Doug Stegmeyer – bass guitar
David Brown – electric & acoustic guitars (lead)
Russell Javors – electric & acoustic guitars (rhythm)
Mark Rivera – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, percussion
Ralph MacDonald – percussion on "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" and "Careless Talk"
Leon Pendarvis – Hammond B3 organ on "Easy Money"
Richard Tee – acoustic piano on "Tell Her About It"
Eric Gale – electric guitar on "Easy Money"
"String Fever" - strings
Ronnie Cuber – baritone saxophone on "Easy Money", "Careless Talk", "Tell Her About It" and "Keeping the Faith"
Jon Faddis – trumpet on "Easy Money"
David Sanborn – alto saxophone on "Easy Money"
Joe Shepley – trumpet on "Easy Money", "Careless Talk", "Tell Her About It" and "Keeping the Faith"
Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone on "Careless Talk", "Tell Her About It" and "Keeping the Faith"
John Gatchell – trumpet on "Careless Talk", "Tell Her About It" and "Keeping the Faith"
Tom Bahler – background vocals
Rory Dodd – background vocals
Frank Floyd – background vocals
Lani Groves – background vocals
Ullanda McCullough – background vocals
Ron Taylor – background vocals
Terry Textor – background vocals
Eric Troyer – background vocals
Mike Alexander – background vocals
Toots Thielemans – harmonica on "Leave a Tender Moment Alone"
Mark Rivera – alto saxophone on "Keeping the Faith", "This Night" and "Christie Lee"
Producer: Phil Ramone
Engineers: Jim Boyer, Bradshaw Leigh
Assistant engineers: Mike Allaire, Scott James
Production coordinator: Laura Loncteaux
Mastering: Ted Jensen
Horn and string arrangements: David Matthews
Background vocal arrangements: Tom Bahler
Musical advisor: Billy Zampino
Photography: Gilles Lorrain
Cover design: Christopher Austopchuk, Mark Larson
Single cover for "Christie Lee" is fictional (photo is by Gilles Lorrain). "Easy Money" is from the movie poster.
Columbia Record publicity photo. Photo: Britain Hill
Columbia Records publicity photo. Photo: Unknown, though likely by Gilles Lorrain
Columbia Records publicity photo. Photos: Unknown, though likely by Gilles Lorrain