On this day in 1980: Billy Joel was enjoying his second and final week in the #1 spot on the U.S. singles chart with “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me.”
The song spent 11 weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the 7th biggest hit of 1980 according to American Top 40. The single eventually reached Platinum status from the RIAA for sales of over 1 million copies in the United States.
A music video for the song was made, showing Joel performing the song live with his band. According to his band members, the song vocals were performed live by Joel during the video’s filming.
In this song, Billy Joel was making a comment on musical styles and trends. At the end of the disco era, the music press began touting the “New Wave” sound, which included bands like The Police and The Cars. Joel thought that this new sound was just a variation on power-pop that had been around since the ’60s. He didn’t have a problem with the music, just the way it was being categorized. “I like it, but it’s not particularly new,” he said.
Around this time, Joel was often abased in the music press as a provider of middle-of-the-road “trash”. Popular artists are often targets for journalist criticism, but while most of these artists choose to ignore it, Joel responded in this song. The lines, “It doesn’t matter what they say in the papers, ’cause it’s always been the same old scene” and “There’s a new band in town, but you can’t get the sound from a story in a magazine,” were specifically written to attack the press that was bringing him down. While you can real all you want about a singer or band, the only way you’ll really know what they sound like is by listening.
“Sometimes the press gave me a hard time, and liked giving them a hard time back,” Joel told Howard Stern in 2014. “In my neighborhood, somebody hits you, you hit them right back.”
Here’s a look at the complete Top 10 on the U.S. singles charts from this day in 1980:
1 1 IT’S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME –•– Billy Joel (Columbia)-10 (2 weeks at #1) (1)
2 7 MAGIC –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-10 (2)
3 3 LITTLE JEANNIE –•– Elton John (MCA)-13 (3)
4 4 CUPID / I’VE LOVED YOU FOR A LONG TIME The Spinners Atlantic-11 (4)
5 5 SHINING STAR –•– The Manhattans (Columbia)-14 (5)
6 2 COMING UP (Live At Glasgow) / COMING UP –•– Paul McCartney and Wings (Columbia)-14 (1)
7 6 STEAL AWAY –•– Robbie Dupree (Elektra)-16 (6)
8 12 TIRED OF TOEIN’ THE LINE –•– Rocky Burnette (EMI-America)-12 (8)
9 11 TAKE YOUR TIME (Do It Right) (Part 1) –•– The S.O.S. Band (Tabu)-9 (9)
10 8 THE ROSE –•– Bette Midler (Atlantic)-19 (3)