Song of the Day #4,150: ‘Zanzibar (Live)’ – Billy Joel

Our next Billy Joel anthology song comes from 1978’s 52nd Street, and this one is not about a person but a place.

‘Zanzibar’ wasn’t a hit at the time but it became a staple of Joel’s concerts and is a fan favorite. It’s a perfect representation of the jazz style Joel introduced to his pop rock for this album. Just check out those horn solos.

This episode could be about the love affair between a New York fella and a sports bar waitress, but I’d rather it focus on Zanzibar itself. Who are the other regulars? The other employees? I’d set the whole thing in the smoky shadows of the bar.

Note: Because I’ve featured the studio version of ‘Zanzibar’ on the blog already, I’m posting a live version today. This clip comes from a show Joel played to mark the closing of Shea Stadium. Quite the crowd! He makes a couple of lyrical changes here, singing about Pete Rose not making the Hall of Fame and turning the sly “pull the curtains down” metaphor into the more explicit “pull her panties down.”

[Verse 1]
Ali dances and the audience applauds
Though he’s bathed in sweat he hasn’t lost his style
Ali, don’t you go downtown
You gave away another round
For free

Me, I’m just another face at Zanzibar
But the waitress always serves a secret smile
Whoa
She’s waiting out in Shantytown
She’s gonna pull the curtains down
For me, for me

[Chorus]
I’ve got the old man’s car
I’ve got a jazz guitar
I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight, that’s where I’ll be, I’ll be

[Verse 2]
Rose, he knows he’s such a credit to the game
But the Yankees grab the headlines every time
Melodrama’s so much fun
In black and white for everyone to see
Whoa

Me, I’m trying just to get to second base
And I’d steal it if she only gave the sign
Whoa
She’s gonna give the go ahead
The inning isn’t over yet for me, for me

[Chorus]
I’ve got the old man’s car
I’ve got a jazz guitar
I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight, that’s where I’ll be, I’ll be

[Piano Solo]

[Trumpet Solo]

[Verse 3]
Tell the waitress I’ll come back to Zanzibar
I’ll be hiding in the darkness with my beer
Whoa
She’s waiting out in Shantytown
She’s gonna pull the curtains down
For me, for me

[Chorus]
I’ve got the old man’s car
I’ve got a jazz guitar
I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight, that’s where I’ll be, I’ll be

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,150: ‘Zanzibar (Live)’ – Billy Joel

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Another great pick for the anthology!

    And I love this live version of Zanzibar, particularly the smile on Joel’s face as he looks onto the crowd, appreciating the moment of playing at Shea.

  2. Amy says:

    One of my favorites, too.

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