The Nylon Curtain
Billy Joel survived punk and new wave, giving it a good shot with Glass Houses. But by 1982, Ronald Reagan was president and baby boomers were settling into a reality of an America that was producing less and consuming more. John Lennon had been shot little more than a year earlier, further coarsening the atmosphere. Billy Joel set out to make the most ambitious album of his career, one that could stand together as a thematic whole; it'd end up as the best-sounding album in his catalog. He succeeds on most counts. It's among his favorites and was among the first albums to be recorded, mixed, and mastered digitally. On "Allentown," Joel was remarkably in sync with another East Coast rocker, Bruce Springsteen, who released Nebraska the same year. "Pressure" inhabited John Lennon's rage and spread it with Paul McCartney's sense of melody. "Goodnight Saigon" addressed the Vietnam War. The full chime of "She's Right on Time" and the synth textures of "Surprises" proved Joel was, above all, a peerless craftsman who could write and layer music like few others in pop music.