This Day in Music, May 9: Billy Joel, Boomtown Rats

Billy Joel turns 62 and Bob Geldof still hates Mondays.

By , Contributor

May 9

1949 - Billy Joel

Happy birthday to William Martin "Billy" Joel, singer, songwriter and pianist, born on this day in 1949. Since releasing his first hit song "Piano Man" in 1973, Joel has become the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, achieving 33 Top 40 hits.

Born in The Bronx and raised in Hicksville, New York, Joel decided to pursue a full-time musical career after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, joining local group The Echoes when he was just 14.

He moved out to Los Angeles early in 1972, and started performing under the stage name Bill Martin. It was during a six-month residency at The Executive Room piano bar on Wilshire Boulevard where he composed his signature hit "Piano Man."

Joel scored the worldwide #1 "Uptown Girl" in 1983, which was written about his then girlfriend and future wife, who featured in the video, supermodel Christie Brinkley (who he married in 1985). The couple, who divorced in 1994, have remained the best of friends, we are told.

So, let's have some things you didn't know about "the Piano Man." During the '90s he turned his lifelong passion for boats into a money-making venture, forming the Long Island Boat Company, who make powerboats. Joel also opened a shop to manufacture custom-made, retro-styled motorcycles and accessories.

In 1987 he became the first US pop star to bring a fully-staged rock production to the Soviet Union under the US Soviet General Exchanges Agreement of the Reagan-Gorbachev 1985 Geneva summit.

And here's one for trivia buffs: Joel is the only performing artist to have played both Yankee and Shea Stadiums, as well as Giants Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum! Not bad for someone who attempted to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish. Joel later said of the incident, "I drank furniture polish because it looked tastier than bleach."


1980 - Boomtown Rats

"I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats won the best pop song and outstanding British lyric categories at the 25th Ivor Novello Awards.

The Boomtown Rats' lead singer was inspired to write the song after reading about the tragic shooting spree which happened on January 29, 1979. Sixteen-year-old Brenda Spencer killed two people and wounded nine others (including a police officer) when she fired from her house across the street onto the entrance of San Diego's Grover Cleveland Elementary School using a .22-caliber rifle her father had given her for Christmas.

Spencer's family tried unsuccessfully to prevent the single from being released in the United States. Despite being a major hit in the United Kingdom, it only reached #73 on the US charts.

Spencer showed no remorse for her crime and when asked why she did it, she answered, "I don't like Mondays, this livens up the day."

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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