Song of the Day, January 9: Scandinavian Skies by Billy Joel
January 9, 2017 Leave a comment
Today’s song is a perplexing delight. After the smash success of Glass Houses, Billy Joel took a brief detour with the live album Songs From the Attic, exploring some of his earliest songs in new settings. He followed that with one of his most ambitious recordings, The Nylon Curtain. It’s a fascinating disc, mixing the very personal, the overtly political, the romantic, and the mysterious. The production is much more complex than most of his recordings, and the result is reminiscent of late-period Beatles through an 80s pop lens.
One of the standout tracks is Scandinavian Skies, a six-minute epic of dislocation. Using airport sound effects, backward strings, and a very Lennon-inspired vocal, Joel crafts a compelling, elliptical track. Critics praised the song while admitting to being baffled by its meaning. At the time, Joel was content to let listeners wonder, saying only that it was “a drug and decadence song [about] the nightmare of my generation’s drug experiences.” Later, he confessed that the lyrics drew on his one experience with heroin. The result is a distinctive standout in the Joel catalog.
Enjoy this fascinating song today.