In her preview of Billy Joel's Thursday night show at KeyArena in this week's Wire, Erika Hobart recounts a well-trod story, first reported in the New York Times, of Billy Joel throwing a total shitfit onstage in the Soviet Union in 1987, overturning his piano after bright lights flooded the audience and declaring: "It's my show!" Hobart's writeup gives the impression that Joel was upset with audience members, whom he compared to "an oil painting in this corner of the room."
Well, it turns out Billy Joel is already in town -- and he reads the Weekly. How do we know this? Because we just returned a call to a downtown hotel that shall remain nameless, where Joel is staying under a clever pseudonym that shall remain nameless. Joel wanted to set the record straight about that night in Moscow. Here's his take on what transpired (we swear we're not making this up): "Remember, this was the Soviet Union in 1987, and they'd never had a major rock concert before. There was a film crew filming a documentary, and they turned very bright lights on the audience. The audience was having a good time -- until they turned the lights on. They froze; they turned paranoid. There was a lot of anxiety -- why are we being looked at? And whenever they turned the lights on, anyone who was overreacting was being pulled out of the audience by a security guard. I wasn't yelling at the audience -- I was yelling at the film crew. So I threw the piano, and that got their attention. Then they stopped lighting the audience, and everybody started rocking out. That was the reason for that action -- not because they looked like an oil painting. That was something I said to a reporter after the big shots in the Communist Party, despite our best efforts, sat in the front row at one of the shows. They looked like an oil painting. The regular people in the back were rocking out. Hey, I hate the camera being on me. If you looked like me, you wouldn't want the camera on you either."