This polarization hinges on one year, 1986, and one album, coincidentally called "The Bridge."
|Barry, as we'd like to remember him.|
BUT - let's just say Joel quits during that mysterious three-year gap between 1983's slammer-packed "An Innocent Man" and "The Bridge." He goes on an acid-dropping binge with Howard Jones and ends up like Brian Wilson, sparking the "Billy Joel Is A Genius Who Is Ahead of His Time" campaign.
Or - and this is totally macabre and in no way is meant to insinuate that I want Billy Joel dead - what if Joel went down in a plane crash after "Innocent Man" comes out and the videos for "Uptown Girl" and "Tell Her About It" and "The Longest Time" turn him into one of the world's biggest pop stars. Given that scenario, he becomes a modern-day Buddy Holly, right? His pre-death catalog instantly becomes spotless, and then the big "Greatest Hits Vols. 1-2" - the one every non-cool college freshman had from 1985 up through somewhere in the late 1990s - comes out, and it's easily the top-selling album of all time at that point.
|If you're 35+, white and say you never owned this, you're lying.|
|Bill is Hall-worthy just for pulling this off.|
This would have been the guy who wrote "Allentown," which would be considered the folk-pop equivalent of Bruce's "Atlantic City" instead of over-scrutinized because Joel wrote it about another Pennsylvania town (Some well-researched background here). He would be the slick-ass motherf*cker who got down on "Tell Her About It" (my sister always thought Joel was black. That's how cool he SOUNDED). "Pressure" would be perceived as a psych-rock classic. "Goodnight Saigon" would be on the top shelf of Vietnam vet odes with "Born In The U.S.A." "Songs In The Attic" would be "Sgt. Pepper's," "Piano Man" would be "Like A Rolling Stone," Christie Brinkley would be Yoko Ono ... maybe I'm getting a little out of hand, but you see where I'm going here.
Instead of all of that, Joel's record will be scarred by stuff like this. And this. And this. And, well, this: