Song of the Day #322: ‘Leave a Tender Moment Alone’ – Billy Joel

innocentmanJoel followed up Nylon Curtain with one of his best-selling albums, the 50s flavored An Innocent Man. This is one of his slightest albums, most likely by design. The doo-wop ear candy of ‘The Longest Time’ and the cornball ‘Uptown Girl’ are about an inch deep, inspired by similar songs Joel loved as a kid.

But the album contains a few more meaningful gems, including the nostalgic ‘Keeping the Faith,’ the Beethoven-sampling ‘This Night’ and the excellent title tune. Joel was in fine voice on this album, as evidenced by the fact that he could actually hit the notes in the chorus of ‘An Innocent Man,’ a task he had to delegate to a backup singer on later tours.

Another fine vocal performance is found on ‘Leave a Tender Moment Alone,’ a sweet song about uncertainty and fear in a relationship. The Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica part feels a bit dated — as in early 80s, not the 50s sound he’s intentionally channeling — but that’s a minor quibble about one of the better songs from this album.

For some reason there is a lot of animosity toward Billy Joel by “hip” music fans, as it he epitomizes safe easy-listening pop music. My guess is much of that sentiment can be traced back to this album — it’s simply hard to believe anybody familiar with his output prior to this would find fault with him (save soft exceptions such as ‘Just the Way You Are’ and ‘Honesty’). I imagine the ubiquitous video for ‘Uptown Girl’ alone could turn somebody against him.

But taken for what it is, a loving tribute to a specific era in popular music, it’s hard to beat up on An Innocent Man. Even if it is Joel’s shallowest work, it’s also his most fun.

Even though I’m in love
Sometimes I get so afraid
I’ll say something so wrong
Just to have something to say

I know the moment isn’t right
To tell the girl a comical line
To keep the conversation light
I guess I’m just frightened out of my mind

But if that’s how I feel
Then it’s the best feeling I’ve ever known
It’s undeniably real
Leave a tender moment alone

Yes I know I’m in love
But just when I ought to relax
I put my foot in my mouth
Cause I’m just avoiding the facts

If the girl gets too close
If I need some room to escape
When the moment arose
I’d tell her it’s all a mistake

But that’s not how I feel
No that’s not the woman I’ve known
She’s undeniably real
So leave a tender moment alone

But it’s not only me
Breaking down when the tension gets high
Just when I’m in a serious mood
She is suddenly quiet and shy

Leave a tender moment
Leave it alone

I know the moment isn’t right
To hold my emotions inside
To change the attitude tonight
I’ve run out of places to hide

And if that’s how I feel
Then it’s the best feeling I’ve even known
It’s undeniably real
Leave a tender moment alone

You got to leave a tender moment alone
Leave a tender moment
Leave it alone
You’ve got to leave a tender moment
Leave a tender moment alone


5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #322: ‘Leave a Tender Moment Alone’ – Billy Joel

  1. Amy says:

    Love the song. Love the album. Love your “review.”

    The one quibble I have is that these songs are shallow. Just because they go down easy, musically speaking, doesn’t mean they don’t have substance. Most are about relationships, but what could be more substantive that relationships? And, as you point out, “An Innocent Man” and “Keeping the Faith” are quite deep, even as they blend in with the fun songs on the rest of the album.

    I wonder if Joel’s dismissal wasn’t a combination of the video for “Uptown Girl” and his love affair and marriage with that video’s star, his very own “Uptown” Christie Brinkley. You’d think the rock star wooing the pretty, vacuous model would earn him some more rock cred, but both Billy and Bruce Springsteen suffered criticism and snide comments when each seemed to turn his back on the earth subject matters of which he’d been singing and choose to link himself to such an obvious bauble of a woman. At least Bruce bounced back, marrying Patty “I breathe rock cred” Scialfa, while all Billy could muster was to be alone for years before ultimately marrying a girl who was playing in her exersaucer when he was recording “An Innocent Man.” Just sayin’.

  2. Dana says:

    I’m not sure I agree that the harmonica sounds dated to the 80’s as I really don’t recall it being all that prevalent in the 80’s. How can you knock that Stevie Wonder style?

    After the relative lack of commercial success of Nylon Curtain, I think Innocent Man was actually a pretty big gamble. Who would have thought that the public in 1985 would be craving late 50’s/early 60’s styles? And yet, that gamble cleary paid off in spades to the point where I became sick of the major hits like Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl and even the wonderful The Longest Time. And so it is, indeed, the “lesser” hits like the title track and this SOTD that seem to wear better with me. I’ve also always liked Easy Money (though Amy doesn’t). Christie Lee is fun also, and This Night is cool. Never cared much for Careless Talk, but I do like Keeping the Faith a whole lot.

  3. Clay says:

    I don’t really mean that that harmonica sound is typical of the 80s… just that it makes this song feel a little old-fashioned to me (but not old-fashioned in the 50s sense the album is going for). I can’t imagine many songs today using that harmonica effect.

  4. Dana says:

    Well, I’m sure you would hear it more if artists today could get Toots Thielemans to play on the record:)

  5. Clay says:

    Ah, Toots…

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