The other night I heard a Billy Joel song on the radio that I’d thankfully blocked from my memory for some time, “The Entertainer.” It occurred to me, as I made myself listen to the entire heaping pile of Broadway sea shanty shit, that I may hate this song more than what I’ve long considered The Worst Song in Rock ‘n Roll: Blood, Sweat & Tears‘ “And When I Die.” At least that BS&T turd is performed with true zest.
I know a lot of you can’t stand Billy Joel—and you can include me in that tally—but at least I can honestly state that I enjoy one of his songs without reservation, “Uptown Girl.” In other words, I’m not being unfair here because I dislike almost everything the guy stands for. “The Entertainer” combines many of the worst ideas ever put forth in a rock song: lyrics bemoaning not only the plight of the entertainer, but the phony “humble” entertainer; a fast-strummed Ovation acoustic roundback guitar; a possibly “odd” time signature (and definitely not a rock ‘n roll beat of any sort); Paul McCartney-cum-Sammy Davis Jr-style “blackface” singing; and a recurring “pennywhistle” synth part. It’s like he took all the worst bits from Emerson, Lake & Palmer and combined them with god knows what—probably “And When I Die.”
So, I’m willing to argue (with myself) that “The Entertainer” is The Worst Song in Rock ‘n Roll. I don’t need your assistance on that front, but what I am asking you to help me with is whether there is any redeeming value in Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer.” Consider this mission along the lines of one of those “If you can’t say anything nice…” threads.
I look forward to your assistance.