Song of the Day #320: ‘I Don’t Want to Be Alone’ – Billy Joel

glasshousesGlass Houses, at the time, was a real kick in the ass for Billy Joel fans. The jazz touches and piano balladry of his earlier work was pushed aside for straight-up rock-n-roll. If there’s any piano on this album at all, it’s buried under layers of electric guitar, synths and heavy drums.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Led Zeppelin. By any measure, Glass Houses is pretty mild… but from the man known for ‘Piano Man’ and ‘Just the Way You Are,’ ‘Sometimes a Fantasy’ was downright dangerous.

Following the pattern of 52nd Street, the first several songs on Glass Houses — ‘You May Be Right,’ ‘Sometimes a Fantasy,’ ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’ — are the big hits but the least interesting. The album’s second half, which includes ‘Sleeping With the Television On,’ ‘Close to the Borderline,’ ‘Through the Long Night’ and today’s song, is the real treat.

I’m also a fan of the French ditty ‘C’Etait Toi (You Were the One),’ though apparently Joel was booed in France for his atrocious accent. I don’t know proper French from Swahili, so it makes no difference to me… it’s a great song.

‘I Don’t Want to Be Alone’ is a sweet relationship song about reconciliation and doubt. It’s a jaunty confection but the lyrics are thought-provoking, especially this couplet from the chorus: “No, I don’t want to be alone anymore and I want you tonight although you hurt me before.” Read apart from the song’s bouncy melody, that’s a pretty touching display of vulnerability.

She said she’d meet me in the bar
At the Plaza Hotel
“Wear a jacket and a tie”
“What’s the occasion?”
She just smiled and she wouldn’t say why
So here I am standing, waiting in the lobby
Sweating bullets in this stupid old suit
And when she sees me she busts out laughing
“You’re a sad sight honey, but you look so cute” and

I don’t want to be alone anymore
I was checking you out
I was just making sure
No, I don’t want to be alone anymore
And, I want you tonight
Although you hurt me before
It didn’t matter that I felt like a fool
‘Cause I forgot when she walked through the door
I said I’m sorry, but she said it was cool
And I don’t want to be alone anymore

It’s so confusing choosing sides
In the heat of the moment
Just to see if it’s real
It’s so erotic having you
Tell me how it should feel
But I’m avoiding all the hard cold facts
That I’ve got to face
So ask me just one question
When this magic night is through
Could it have been just anyone
Or did it have to be you
And, will you still be saying–

I don’t want to be alone anymore
I was checking you out
I was just making sure
No, I don’t want to be alone anymore
And, I want you tonight
Although you hurt me before
It didn’t matter that I felt like a fool
‘Cause I forgot when she walked through the door
I said I’m sorry, but she said it was cool
And I don’t want to be alone anymore

But, don’t you know that it’s wrong
It’s wrong, it’s wrong…
But like the song
Being caught by the wink of an eye
I can’t be sure we’ll get along
But I’m willing to try
As long as you can tell me–

I don’t want to be alone anymore
I was checking you out
I was just making sure
No, I don’t want to be alone anymore
And, I want you tonight
Although you hurt me before
It didn’t matter that I felt like a fool
‘Cause I forgot when she walked through the door
I said I’m sorry, but she said it was cool
And I don’t want to be alone anymore

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5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #320: ‘I Don’t Want to Be Alone’ – Billy Joel

  1. Amy says:

    French people are such idiots ;-) The man pays tribute to your language, comes to your frakking country to perform, eats your darned freedom fries, and you boo his accent. Come on! Come on!

    This morning, as we tried to guess which song you’d feature today, I realized I was attaching the chorus to “Sleeping with the Television On” to today’s song. Worked pretty well, actually :) I disagree that the first few songs on the album are the least interesting, as I’ve always been a huge fan of “You May be Right,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll” has some great, funny lyrics.

    Still, I agree that my favorite songs on this album are the two I inadvertantly combined this morning – the first time I heard him sing “wear a jacket and a tieieie,” I was hooked.

  2. Dana says:

    Glass Houses may have been the point where music critics, led primarily by Rolling Stone magazine, trashed Joel relentlessly and, in my view, wrongfully. RS declared “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” amongst the worst songs about rock and roll of all time (while giving praise to I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett). It seemed clear to me then, as it does now, that critics simply loathe artists who can sustain commercial success notwithstanding the critics’ stamp of approval. Even more telling, the critics warmed up to Joel on his next album, The Nylon Curtain, which achieved relatively less commercial success.

    Anyway, critics be damned, I think Glass Houses is great. And I agree with Amy that the first side should not be downgraded even though they were the hits. Sometimes a Fantasy in particular is a really cool song, as is Don’t Ask Me Why (which really wasn’t that big a hit anyway). But I also agree that the treats come on side 2, with the 1-2 punch of my 2 faves from this album, Sleeping with the Television On and today’s SOTD.

    Joel has often been described as a chameleon–borrowing liberally, conspicuously and unabashedly from other artists he admires and their respective musical styles. While such musical theft/homage may have been a bit less obvious on albums preceding Glass Houses, it began to boil over on this one–In particular, Joel’s admiration for the lyrical (and to a lesser extent musical) style of Elvis Costello is evident in songs like Sleeping with the Television On and I Don’t Want to Be Alone Anymore. Joel also takes a page out of Costello’s musical style on Sometimes A Fantasy with the “oh, oh uh ohs.” As someone who didn’t know Costello from a hole in the wall when I first heard Glass Houses, but now loves him, I find it interesting that I gravitated to the songs on Glass Houses most influenced by Costello.

    Anyway, great SOTD selection, particularly because, in my contest with Amy as to which song you will choose, I WIN TODAY!:)

  3. Clay says:

    I looked up that Rolling Stone review to see how bad it was… and OUCH!

    This one on AllMusic is more favorable, though shorter.

    I’ve always felt that music criticism should be written only by fans of an artist. That’s not to say that it should always be positive… because certainly fans can be disappointed, too. But you need to “get” somebody in order to effectively dissect him. Clearly this Rolling Stone reviewer has never been a fan of Billy Joel, so what good is this review to fans?

  4. Kerrie says:

    I have always loved this song. I can remember playing it over and over at some point because I liked it so much. I’m also a fan of the A side of the album, by the way, but I think what really appealed to me about this tune was the sort of “ska” sound he threw in.

    I really love this theme, Clay. You’re truly honoring the artist here and it’s a pleasure to “follow” his career from the beginning in this way. Good job!

  5. pegclifton says:

    I too am enjoying this theme, and last night we pulled out 52nd street and listened to Zanzibar and others. I’m also enjoying everyone’s commentary and learning a bit about the man and his music.

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