Listening to: Vienna    

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Synopsis  |  Album Notes  |  History  |  Classical Foundation  |  Austria Game  |  Lyrics 

Synopsis: "Vienna" is off Billy Joel's album "The Stranger".  It was published in 1977-1978 by Sony Music, in conjunction with Maritime Music (Billy Joel's little music company).  Even more specifically it falls under their Columbia music label.  "The Stranger" was produced by Phil Ramone.  "Vienna" is track 5 on the CD which was recorded in Stereo in a Studio.
Album Notes: He's known to many as an inoffensive pop balladeer, but at the arguable peak of his career in the late '70s, Billy Joel released his darkest, most emotionally charged album. "The Stranger" abandons the grandstanding and broad melodic sweep of Joel's earlier records for a more intimate, introspective sound, effectively communicating Joel's ruminations on the perils of life and love. "Movin' Out" is something of an existentialist anthem, chronicling the way people's dreams are often irreparably crushed. The ominous-sounding title tune examines the many guises with which lovers disguise themselves in their attempts to entrap and deceive each other. "Only the Good Die Young" is hedonism at it's most iconoclastic. Even "She's Always a Woman," ostensibly a romantic piano ballad, is full of thorny, less-than-complimentary observations about its subject. Joel's emotional honesty would never be this clear-eyed and unabashed again.

"The Stranger" is now sold as an Enhanced CD containing both a full audio program as well as video clips for the songs "The Stranger," "Just The Way You Are," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and "Only The Good Die Young."  It was recorded at A&R Recording, Inc., New York, New York.

History: Billy Joel's father lives in Vienna.  Many think there is a direct corollary between when he wrote this song and his return from a trip visiting his dad.  Billy was asked about the significance of Vienna, and why it was dedicated a song, and replied (paraphrased by Ann M. Leonhardt (

He told us that he was very impressed at the respect given to elders in Europe. One day he saw an old woman sweeping a public street with great pride, and it made an impression. He wanted people to realize that there is time in life to accomplish our goals and everything doesn't have to be at a break-neck speed. Instead of fearing old age as we do here, it should be anticipated and valued. So, instead of rushing to accomplish everything in youth you should remember, "Vienna waits for you."

This is just what Joel speaks about in his song.

Classical Foundation: Since the early Classical period, composers understood that Vienna was the place to be for links to orchestras, chamber groups, commissions, and the nobility to appreciate such things. The young Mozart hated working for a single patron, so he headed for Vienna to try to make it on his own. I think the reference here is to a place where a musician goes to be truly tested (as the song talks about the need to be patient with oneself) sort of like Tin Pan Alley to songwriters here in the 20's, or Los Angeles or New York City these days. I have no knowledge of whether Billy may have actually mentioned the Vienna reference or not. But I suspect, in the absence of any other information, that telling someone that "Vienna waits for you" is telling them to be patient.
Austria Game: Click on where Vienna is on the map below:

Lyrics: Slow down you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart 
Tell me why are you are still so afraid?

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do 
And only so many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off 
Before you even get halfway through
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be before your time
Although it's so romantic 
On the borderline tonight

Too bad but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself that you forget what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right

You've got your passion, you've got your pride
But don't you know only fools are satisfied?
Dream on 
But don't imagine they'll all come true
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It's alright 
You can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize...
Vienna waits for you.
 © 2001 Michael Zilinskas.  All Rights Reserved.