Billy Joel went from “Piano Man” to rock and roller with his seventh studio album Glass Houses, released by Columbia Records in 1980. After finishing the 1970’s with two of the best selling albums of the decade, The Stranger and 52 Street, Joel decided that he needed to do something much different and new with his sound to keep himself interested and to prove to audiences that he was more than a balladeer. Wearing a leather jacket while preparing to throw a rock through the windows of a nice house (his house at the time on Oyster Bay), the cover of Glass Houses signaled the different, tougher look Joel was after. Explaining it in Playboy, Joel said


“It was, ‘I’m going to throw a rock at the image people have of me as this mellow balladeer,’ “We had been doing rock ‘n’ roll before, but there happened to be more of it on this record. The old thing about people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones — I don’t believe it. I think, ‘Why not? Take chances.’ I really wanted to throw a rock at my own house.”

Glass Houses has much more of a hard rock feel than any of Joel’s previous works, the closest he ever came to a pure rock album. Famously beginning with the sound of broken glass, the album had big sound and more guitar based songs, with a hard edge to them. The sound was developed with the fact in mind that Joel would be playing in stadiums with much larger crowds due to his rising popularity, which was later enhanced by the album. Glass Houses would sell seven million copies in the United States alone, which resulted in it earning 7x Platinum certification by the RIAA. The album would be Joel’s second consecutive number one and his third top five album. He would also win a Grammy in 1981 for Best Male Rock Vocal Perfrmance from Glass Houses. Joel’s celebrity would only continue to rise to even higher heights, and he still tours (and sells out venues) regularly, coming to Philadelphia’s Citizen Bank Park in July.

Track listing

Side One (All singles from the album)

  1. You May Be Right – 4:15
  2. Sometimes a Fantasy – 3:40
  3. Don’t Ask Me Why – 2:59
  4. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me – 2:57
  5. All for Leyna – 4:15

Side Two

  1. I Don’t Want to Be Alone – 3:57
  2. Sleeping with the Television On – 3:02
  3. C’etait Toi (You Were the One) – 3:25
  4. Close to the Borderline – 3:47
  5. Through the Long Night – 2:43

All songs written by Billy Joel

Produced by Phil Ramone


Billy Joel – acoustic piano, synthesizers, harmonica, electric pianos, accordion, vocals

David Brown – acoustic and electric guitars (lead)

Richie Cannata – saxophones, organs, flute

Liberty DeVitto – drums and percussion

Russell Javors – acoustic and electric guitars (rhythm)

Doug Stegmeyer – bass guitar


Our Quick Pick Five:

  • You May Be Right
  • All for Leyna
  • It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
  • Sometimes a Fantasy
  • Don’t Ask Me Why

The album sounds pretty good, we listened to am original 1979/1980 pressing. Across the board you can tell it is far from a traditional Boring Joel album (as Jim calls him). The album rocks from start to finish, with side one containing all the memorable hits highlighted by the still current hit It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me. Side 2 is the same rocking style with less memorable songs, but they are still good, and finish the album out strong. Be sure to check out C’etait Toi where Joel sings in both English and French. 

Glass Houses took Joel into the 1980s and continued his string of hits, while making him a rock star. If you think Joel’s music is to soft or boring for you, this album will change your opinion. 


Album cover


Album back