Billy Joel’s 1977 masterpiece Vienna was an unassuming song from The Stranger album which ended up being the B-side for She’s Always A Woman. However, Billy Joel has ranked it as one of his two favourite songs, along with the wonderful Summer Highland Falls (which I played way back in January). For Billy, Vienna represents “the rest of his life”. In 2008 he explained that his father moved to Vienna from Germany after the war. Vienna was a crossroads, half way between western Europe and the Eastern bloc, and was a place where there was a different attitude to older people:
So I go to visit my father in Vienna, I’m walking around this town and I see this old lady. She must have been about 90 years old and she is sweeping the street. I say to my father, “What’s this nice old lady doing sweeping the street?” He says, “She’s got a job, she feels useful, she’s happy, she’s making the street clean, she’s not put out to pasture.” We treat old people in this country pretty badly. We put them in rest homes, we kinda kick them under the rug and make believe they don’t exist. They [the people in Vienna] don’t feel like that. In a lot of these older places in the world, they value their older people and their older people feel they can still be a part of the community and I thought, “This is a terrific idea – that old people are useful – and that means I don’t have to worry so much about getting old because I can still have a use in this world in my old age.” I thought, “Vienna waits for you…”
So Vienna waits for you, and I think my friend Scott has waited for Vienna for 283 days since I started doing my 365Songs challenge this year. Happy birthday, Scott – I’ve even got the accordion out for this one!
There’s more Billy Joel here, and if it’s your first time on the site, find out why I’m playing one song a day for the whole of 2015 or listen to my October songs here.