Billy Joel: The Rolling Stone Interview

November 6, 1986 12:00 AM ET

Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 486 from November 6, 1986. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

The atmosphere at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens combines all the giddiness and physical discomfort of a back-to-school shopping spree. Billy Joel has interrupted rehearsals for his first tour in nearly three years to sample the latest fashions for potential stage wear -— and he's getting expert advice from his wife, model Christie Brinkley, who's sitting on the floor with their nine-month-old daughter, Alexa Ray.

The short, broad Joel — whom Christie always calls Joe — waddles into the room, decked out in a flashy, double-breasted gray suit. "Do I look like an English rock star?" he queries in a mock-British accent, while bumping and grinding his hips and growling out the riff to Robert Palmer's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On." Christie, meanwhile, is up on her feet, walking around Billy, examining the look. "When you get that suit made in your size, don't get it made too small," she advises. "And don't do that short-sleeves routine…. Those pants make you look really slim, honey, and they lengthen your legs."

When Christie leaves the room, Joel slips into absurdly tight black jeans and a fluffy white shirt open to the waist with the collar turned up. When he's got the get-up together, he looks for Christie in the next room. "Honey, this is the look, right?" he asks gleefully. "Yeah," she agrees, playing along, her eyes dancing around his chest as if the sight of all that body hair had stripped her of self-control. "But I think you need some gold chains." Joel nods thoughtfully in agreement and strikes a dramatic, lounge-act stage posture. "Don't go changin'…" he begins to croon, and the room erupts in laughter.

These days, Billy Joel is a happy man. His new LP, The Bridge, is a smash, but that's just a small part of it. His marriage to Christie and the birth of their daughter seem to have settled him in a profound way. He's still feisty and combative, but what the world thinks of him or expects from him — which once seemed his total obsession — doesn't appear to matter as much now. And though he sometimes denies it — "I'm supposed to have mellowed," he says wryly; "I have not mellowed" — his own expectations have taken on a more human scale. Following his own advice from "You're Only Human," Joel seems to have remembered his "second wind," and its momentum is carrying him along quite nicely.

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