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Billy Joel talks 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant': I couldn't do a show without it

Billy Joel performs during "The Stranger" tour at

Billy Joel performs during "The Stranger" tour at Nassau Coliseum on December 11, 1977. Credit: Sony Music Entertainment / Art Maillet

Billy Joel song of the day: "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" (from 1977's "The Stranger")
The song is a seven-minute-plus epic -- a suite of pieces inspired by side two of The Beatles' "Abbey Road" and marked by moments of musical mastery on piano and saxophone -- about what happens when ambitions dry up for a pair of Long Islanders.

Joel fills the song with images from his childhood -- the Parkway Diner in Hicksville, "hanging out at the Village Green" refers to the West Village Green in Hicksville -- and populates it with traits from various people he knew in those days to create Brenda and Eddie. (The "Italian Restaurant" of the title is a combination of Il Cortile in Little Italy and Fontana Di Trevi in midtown Manhattan, near where the song was recorded. Sorry, Long Island Italian restaurant owners.) The song and its characters became the basis of the Tony-winning Twyla Tharp musical "Movin' Out" in 2002.

"I always considered myself an album artist. I don't think we built our success just on singles -- although we were lucky to have a lot of Top 40 singles. We did have album cuts that people liked, like 'Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.' That ended up becoming a very important recording in my career. Towards the end of the night, that's one of the big finale songs. I don't think I could do a show without performing that song -- which is why I'm sick of it.  ...  [laughs]. It's basically the story of Brenda and Eddie told through a meeting at an Italian restaurant during a dinner. It's something that a lot of Long Islanders do, kind of reminisce over Italian food. And everybody's got their Italian restaurant."

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