Song of the Day #312: ‘Tomorrow is Today’ – Billy Joel

coldspringharborMy latest theme week will be a special expanded edition that spans 12 days and covers all of Billy Joel’s studio albums. This should be a nice stretch for my regular readers — all big Billy Joel fans — especially after the Rufus Wainwright theme of a couple weeks back.

First, a shout out to a fellow blogger whose write-up of Billy Joel I stumbled across while looking for the material for these posts. His blog is called Bubblegum Aesthetics, and this write-up on Billy Joel says many of the things I’d like to, and far more eloquently than I’m bound to. So enjoy that. But it won’t stop me from babbling on anyway.

1971′s Cold Spring Harbor, Billy Joel’s first album, was famously mixed too high due to an engineering mistake, resulting in chipmunk-esque vocal performances by Joel throughout. That’s a shame, because it contains some of his finest early songs, including ‘She’s Got a Way,’ ‘Everybody Loves You Now,’ ‘Why Judy Why’ and today’s song.

12 years later, a remastered version was released, correcting the vocals but stripping away at least some of the original recording’s string sections. I believe that’s the version I now own on CD… the original exists only on vinyl, unless I’m mistaken.

Today’s clip contains one of those original versions. And while the vocals do seem higher than what we’ve come to expect from Joel, I don’t find it distracting. I think I even prefer it to the remastered edition.

I just read that the lyrics of this song come in part from a suicide note Joel once wrote (he obviously reconsidered). That’s a freaky thought… the literal adaptation of ultimate pain into art. I wonder if he imagined that funky bridge when he was writing the note.

I’ve been livin’ for the moment
But I just can’t have my way
And I’m afraid to go to sleep
‘Cause tomorrow is today

People tell me life is sweeter
But I don’t hear what they say
Nothing comes to change my life
So tomorrow is today

I don’t care to know the hour
‘Cause it’s passing anyway
I don’t have to see tomorrow
‘Cause I saw it yesterday

So I listen for an answer
But the feeling seems to stay
And what’s the use of always dreaming
If tomorrow is today

Still I’m waiting for the morning
But it feels so far away
And you don’t need the love I’m giving
So tomorrow is today

Oh, my. Goin’ to the river
Gonna take a ride and the Lord will deliver me
Made my bed, now I’m gonna lie in it
If you don’t come, I’m sure gonna die in it
Too late. Too much given
I’ve seen a lot of life and I’m damn sick of livin’ it
I keep hopin’ that you will pass my way

And some day if your dreams are leavin’ you
I’ll still believe in you

I don’t care to know the hour
‘Cause it’s passing anyway
I don’t have to see tomorrow
‘Cause I saw it yesterday

Though I’m living and I’m singing
And although my hands still play
Soon enough it will all be over
‘Cause tomorrow is today

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7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #312: ‘Tomorrow is Today’ – Billy Joel

  1. Amy says:

    Was Rufus a couple of weeks ago? Seems as though I just lived through that ordeal ;-)

    I agree that I’m so used to these songs that I almost think there’s something wrong witha correctly mixed version. I’d never realized this song was quite so literal. If that story is indeed confirmed by Joel, this song should be mandatory listening to anyone is a similarly dark moment in his life. Followed, of course, by all Joel accomplished after it was recorded (perhaps leaving out the myriad car accidents ;-)

    Regardless, I love the song and am very much looking forward to the theme week/s.

  2. Dana says:

    Well. needless to say, I am psyched about this theme week!

    As for today’s song, I’m impressed you were able to find the original, as I remember a few years back we were looking for it without success. I owned the original vinyl and, like a short-sighted idiot, sold it or lost it at some point during the transition to CDs. I now am left with only the CD version, which is fine and improved in some respects, but not in others. Today’s song is one of the losses in my view because I just always had a thing for the instrumental build up in the bridge and last verse. I suppose in the age of YouTube, it may well be possible to actually reconstruct the original album onto a CD. That would be a treat.

    As for the vocals, it seems to me that they really weren’t all that adjusted in the new version, but I suppose they did as much as they could without really slowing down the songs. It is also worth mentioning that some of the best versions of these songs are found on Songs In the Attic, where producer Phil Ramone, realizing how poorly recorded yet great Joel’s early works were, put them together through live versions. The standout redo from Harbour on Attic was Everybody Loves You Now, which contains such enormous life and energy largely missing from the original.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the week(s) ahead, and reliving my geeky childhood of spending WAY too many hours listening to these records:)

  3. Kerrie says:

    Wow! That’s what I call a big finish!

    I have never heard this song before (either version), and it was interesting to hear his voice manipulated in such a way. There is such a huge disconnect between the singing voice and the voice of the “pseudo rap” later in the song. Makes one wonder how the engineer could have made such a mistake – his voice is clearly not as high as the song would otherwise suggest.

    What I did love in this version (at least the one you found on YouTube) is the faint crackling that is the hallmark of a vinyl record. For me, that was almost the best part.

    I’m really looking forward to this extended theme week. Great choice.

  4. Clay says:

    Here’s the remastered version:

  5. pegclifton says:

    Great song and theme week!

  6. Amy says:

    How cute is Alexa Ray!?

  7. Clay says:

    Not bad these days, either.

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