Billy Joel's 'The Stranger' at 40: A Track-by-Track Guide

The Piano Man was on the verge of getting dropped by his label when he unleashed the biggest album of his career

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"The Stranger"

The title song to The Stranger didn't have an intro when Billy Joel began tracking it. He wanted to create an evocative mood, sort of like what Orson Welles did in The Third Man, but he couldn't quite come up with anything. He whistled an idea merely as an example of something that could be emulated on an instrument. "I look at [Phil Ramone] and I said, 'So what instrument should that be?'" Joel recalled. "And he looks at me and he goes, 'You just did it.' I hadn't even considered that. I'm not the greatest whistler in the world, but he said that's what should be on the recording. And I listened back and I went, 'Holy shit, he's right.'"

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