Flashback: Billy Joel’s ‘It’s Still Rock And Roll’ Hits Number One

It was 42 years ago today that Billy Joel scored his first Number One single when “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” hit the top spot for the first of two weeks. The song, which was the second single pulled from his multi-platinum, six-week chart-topping Glass Houses album, followed the set’s lead single, “You May Be Right” — a major hit that peaked at Number Seven.

Prior to “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me,” the closest Billy had gotten to Number One were a pair Top Three hits — 1978’s “My Life” and the previous year’s “Just The Way You Are” — which did hit Number One on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. In the following years, although Billy Joel scored 16 more Top 20 singles, he only returned to Number One twice more — first with 1983’s “Tell Her About It” and 1989’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

In 1979 when Billy Joel was composing the songs for the following year’s Glass Houses collection, he made a concerted effort to write and record more “arena friendly” material: “We had now had about two, three years of playing in arenas and coliseums. And I recognized that need to write bigger music. Songs like ‘Just The Way You Are,’ ‘Honesty’ — ballads — they don’t always fly that well in an arena. You need big sound. So I started writing harder-edged songs; more guitar-based songs — ‘Sometimes A Fantasy,’ ‘It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me,’ ‘You May Be Right,’ ‘Close To The Borderline,’ ‘All For Leyna.’ The band loved playing it, audiences loved the material that was on the recording, and we were on a roll.”

Glass Houses hit Number One on June 14th, 1980, ending Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band‘s own six-week run with Against The Wind. Billy was knocked out of the top spot by the Rolling Stones‘ then-new album, Emotional Rescue — which bested both Billy and Seger by holding down the Number One position for seven straight weeks. All told, Glass Houses stayed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 for 25 weeks.

Two more singles were pulled from Glass Houses — “Don’t Ask Me Why,” which peaked at Number 19 — but was a two-week chart-topper on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart; and the album’s final single — “Sometimes A Fantasy,” which barely squeaked into the Top 40, stalling at Number 39. In the UK “All For Leyna” was released as a single and also underperformed, stalling at Number 39.

In 1981, Glass Houses snagged the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance – Male. He had been nominated for the coveted Album Of The Year prize, but lost out to Christopher Cross‘ self-titled debut. In 1981, Glass Houses won the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Album.

Categories: Pulse Music