Billy Joel’s keyboardist and Music Director David Rosenthal has attentively arranged all the tracks from Joel’s 1982 album to combine the piano parts and vocal melodies into playable arrangements with accurate transcriptions of those classic piano parts that are integral to each song. It also includes a foreword by David Rosenthal as well as great photos of Billy throughout. Joel called this album “the recording he’s most proud of” and it includes the big hits “Allentown” and “Pressure” and seven others: Goodnight Saigon • Laura • A Room of Our Own • Scandinavian Skies • She’s Right on Time • Surprises • Where’s the Orchestra?
Click to read David’s Foreword
Released in 1982, The Nylon Curtain was Billy Joel’s eighth studio album and the fourth to be produced by Phil Ramone. It was one of the first albums ever to be digitally recorded, mixed and mastered. The album peaked at number seven on the Billboard Charts and yielded two top 20 singles: “Allentown” and “Pressure”.
Billy set out to create a masterpiece like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, crafting the songs in the studio during the recording process and “playing” the studio as though it were another instrument in the band. It took a long time to record but to this day Billy says The Nylon Curtain is “the recording I’m most proud of and the material I’m most proud of.”
Lyrically he dove deep into many of the topics of the day – from the soldier’s point of view during the Vietnam War (“Goodnight Saigon”), to America’s declining steel industry (“Allentown”), to dealing with the stresses of life (“Pressure”). Musically he took chances with adventurous chord changes such as in “Laura” and “Surprises”, and the entire work is conceptually “bookended” when the main melody of the first track “Allentown” returns at the end of the album during the fade out of “Where’s The Orchestra”.
Having played keyboards in Billy Joel’s band since 1993, I have an inside perspective into his music. Accordingly, Billy asked that I review every note of the sheet music in his entire catalog of songs. As a pianist, he entrusted me with the task of correcting and re-transcribing each piece to ensure that the printed music represents each song exactly as it was written and recorded. This is the latest edition in our series of revised songbooks in the Billy Joel catalog.
The challenge with each folio in Billy’s catalog is to find musical ways to combine his piano parts and vocal melodies into playable piano arrangements. First, the signature piano parts are transcribed and notated exactly as Billy played them. The vocal melodies are then transcribed and incorporated into the piano part in a way that preserves the original character of each song. Billy’s piano embellishments between his vocal phrases are also included wherever they’re playable along with the vocal melodies.
The ascending thematic intro of “Goodnight Saigon” is played many times throughout the song. However, each time it is slightly different depending on which part of the song it transitions to. The subtle variations of this theme are critical in tying together the different sections of the song, so each of these piano parts are transcribed exactly.
The chromatic, almost atonal themes of “Scandinavian Skies” push the limits of tonality while supporting the mood of the lyrics. These themes (played by a string quartet) are transcribed exactly. The rhythm of the string quartet in the choruses is quite tricky to play at the same time as the melody, so I simplified it a bit to make it more playable. However the actual rhythm that’s on the record is shown as an ossia part at the bottom of the page.
On “She’s Right on Time”, the three-part vocal harmonies in the chorus are an important part of the character of the song so they are written into the piano part. The vocal harmonies are also shown on an additional vocal staff as cue notes so that the lead vocal melody can be shown on its own staff.
The piano voicings in “Where’s the Orchestra” are written as close as possible to the record while still being able to be played simultaneously with the vocal melody. On the record the song fades out during the reprise of the “Allentown” theme, so I included the ending that we play when we perform it live.
All of the songs in this collection received the same astute attention to detail. The result is sheet music that is both accurate and enjoyable to play, and remains true to the original performances.
Billy and I are pleased to present the revised and now accurate sheet music to the classic album The Nylon Curtain.