Music News

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me: Billy Joel’s ‘Glass Houses’ turns 40

Columbia Records

Columbia Records

Forty years after its release, Billy Joel’s album Glass Houses is still rock and roll to us.

Released this week in 1980, Glass Houses — the follow-up to Billy’s Grammy-winning smash 52nd Street — found Billy trading his signature ballads for a harder rock sound. As he explains in a video posted on his social media, he felt the need to create some songs that would sound great in venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“We had now had about two, three years of playing in arenas and coliseums, and I recognized that I needed to write bigger music,” explains Billy. “Songs like ‘Just the Way You Are,’ ‘Honesty’ — ballads…they don’t always fly that well in an arena. You need big sound!”

That’s why, Billy goes on to say, “I started writing harder-edged songs, more guitar-based songs…and it was fun to do.” 

Many of those guitar-based songs — “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Sometimes a Fantasy,” “You May Be Right” and “All for Leyna” — have become staples of Billy’s concert repertoire. “You May Be Right” was a top 10 hit, while “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” was his very first Billboard Hot 100 number one.

Glass Houses — whose cover showed Billy winding up to throw a rock at the two-story window on his real-life house in Long Island, NY — topped the charts for six weeks.  It was nominated for two Grammys, including Album of the Year, and won Billy the trophy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

“This was probably the most fun album that I ever made,” recalls Billy. “It just happened fairly quickly. The band loved playing it. Audiences loved the material that was on the recording, and we were on a roll!”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.