Saturday, January 6, 2018

Music Reviews: Billy Joel's Laura

Although I am a modest Billy Joel fan I didn't hear this song until recently. "Laura" was on The Nylon Curtain album. The only songs I was familiar with from that album were the ones like "Allentown" and "Pressure" which got heavy radio play and "Goodnight Saigon" which shows up routinely on greatest hits compilations. The Nylon Curtain came out after John Lennon's death. The album in general and this song in particular had a strong Beatles influence. The guitarists on "Laura" sound like George Harrison while Billy Joel appears to be doing his best John Lennon vocal impression. And the backup vocals are very Beatle-esque. All in all "Laura" sounds very much like something Lennon or McCartney could have written. The lyrics contain the only profanity which Joel had used up to that point, perhaps his only profanity ever as far as I know. Perhaps that is why I never heard this song on the radio back in the day.

For the longest time (heh-heh) Joel was cagey about what had inspired this song or what the lyrics meant to him. When pressed he would say that the lyrics could be about anyone (family member or romantic partner) who knew just when and where to push your buttons for maximum emotional damage. This action might or might not be malicious on their part. After his mother's death, Joel admitted that the song was about his complicated relationship with her. As Joel mentioned, the line about the umbilical cord should have been a dead giveaway. 
I thought it was at least somewhat respectful that Joel refused to publicly confirm hanging out his mother's dirty laundry though since presumably she knew exactly whom Joel was talking about perhaps it didn't really matter that much to her. My brother thinks this is a sad song. Maybe so. The people who are closest to us always know all of our weak spots. We are all mixes of good and evil, pain and pleasure. It is always fascinating to me when an artist takes something that is very personal to him and turns it into something universal to which most people can relate. With time, healing, and maturity we are able to understand and perhaps even forgive some of the people who hurt us and made us who we are today for better or worse. You can recognize someone's flaws or how they hurt you and still love them fiercely.

Calls me
In the middle of the night
Passes on her
Painful information
Then these careless fingers
They get caught in her vice
Til they're bleeding
On my coffee table
Living alone isn't all that
It's cracked up to be
I'm on her side
Why does she push the poison on me?

Has a very hard time
All her life has
Been one long disaster
Then she tells me
She suddenly believes she's seen
A very good sign
She'll be taking
Some aggressive action
I fight her wars
While she's slamming her doors
In my face
Failure to break
Was the only mistake
That she made

Here I am
Feeling like a f****** fool
Do I react the way exactly
She intends me to?
Everytime I think I'm off the hook
She makes me lose my cool
I'm her machine
And she can punch all the keys
She can push any button I was programmed through

Calls me
When she needs a good fix
All her questions
Will get sympathetic answers
I should
Be so
To all of her tricks
She's surviving
On her second chances
Sometimes I feel like this
Godfather deal is all wrong
How can she hold an umbilical cord
For so long?
I've done everything I can
What else am I supposed to do
I'm her machine
And she can punch all the keys
She can push any button I was programmed through

Loves me
Even if I don't care
That's my problem
That's her sacred absolution
If she had to
She would put herself in my chair
Even though I
Faced electrocution
She always says
I'm the best friend that
She's ever had
How do you
Hang up on someone
Who needs you that bad?

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