Please enjoy Billy’s response in Part 5 of “An Evening Of Questions & Answers,” recorded live at Meistersinger Hall, in Nuremberg, June 1995.
Billy Joel began making videos, or what were then called “promo clips,” for his music with his first solo album Cold Spring Harbor in 1971. He actually made videos with his Long Island band, The Hassles, in the late 60s and these clips live today on YouTube (edited segments also can be seen in the documentary film “The Last Play At Shea”).
“Promo clips” were mostly live performances taped in a TV studio, at live concert events, in backyards, on city streets and sometimes in conceptual settings like piano bars, as was the literal scenario for the video of “Piano Man.” The clips were important promotional tools and helped the record company expose an artist’s music to a broader audience, especially in overseas markets before artists or bands could venture abroad. The music video became a necessary evil, but for most artists in the 1960s and 1970s, TV was considered an uncool medium. The cool artists avoided television at all costs and preferred that their music meet its like-minded fans on the airwaves of FM radio, at concert venues, and in the visuals vested in the album’s artwork.
This pro forma changed when video killed the radio star with the advent of Music Television, along with the slogan “I want my MTV,” which launched in 1981. Billy’s opinion of the oxymoron “Music/Television,” never changed from his intrinsic belief that music is best experienced with the ears, the heart, the soul, the groin, anything but the eyes, although he became an accidental video star with his videos, directed by Russell Mulcahy, for his pivotal and very conceptual “Nylon Curtain” album. He’s made some incredible and often award-winning videos throughout his career, but remains committed to his belief that he is not an actor and that music is best served as an aural experience.
Billy makes his case in this answer to the question “Do You Write Your Own Videos, Or Scripts, Like “The River Of Dreams,” Or Are They Written For You? This clip and other videos are available as part of our “Questions & Answers” lecture series.