It’s no secret that I love Billy Joel. A big part of me secretly wishes that I could be Billy Joel. And this song, Vienna, is one that I particularly adore. I know exactly where I was when I first heard it, and even now I pull it up, the first song of the B-side of The Stranger, to work through some nostalgia or some tangled psyche or just to hear that simple but impassioned piano. That intro is creepily beautiful (and harder to play than you’d think, or at least I find ways to mess it up a lot), and the chord progression and extra riffs draw me in every time.
Thing is, when we all played it together as a band for the first time in rehearsal, it spontaneously morphed into something that I’d never heard before. It was no longer just Billy Joel’s song, but strangely it wasn’t ruined, either. It was our own. The song rings true to me personally, but more than this it resonates as testimony to what it means to play with others, to be in a band. We don’t play Vienna like anyone else or even like I’d ever imagined, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s something else, too. When we first played this for an audience and Caryn introduced it, she told the story of how it relates to Joel’s father who spent time in Vienna, and how the city represented not only a geographical place but a state of mind. “You can get what you want or you can just get old … when will you realize, Vienna waits for you?” It’s about taking hold of moments when you have them, paying attention to what’s important, making sure you embrace the opportunities you have to be who you want to be. Vienna is an appropriate song for us to end a set on, because it’s a bit about us as a band. This project is our Vienna.
[Video courtesy of Karyn Johnston.]