This week marks the 40th anniversary of Billy Joel’s 1980 album Glass Houses. The LP was a huge success that topped the Billboard Album Chart and generated the hit singles “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “You May Be Right,” but the first song anyone actually heard from the album was lead single “All for Leyna.”
At the time, Joel was coming off a huge string of enormous hits like “Honesty,” “Big Shot,” “My Life,” and “She’s Always a Woman,” and there was much excitement for Glass Houses, but “All for Leyna” didn’t even ding the Hot 100. This was a year before MTV, but a video was still shot for the track. As you can see, it looks like it took about 15 minutes to create.
“All for Leyna” is told from the perspective of a guy who becomes obsessed with a woman named Leyna after having a one-night stand with her. “I’m failing in school,” Joel sings. “Losing my friends/Making my family lose their minds/I don’t want to eat/I don’t want to sleep/I only want Leyna, one more time.”
The tunes was recorded right as the Knack’s “My Sharona” was blaring out of radios all across the country. Both are songs about an undying obsession with a woman that has a very unusual name ending with the letter “A.” Unlike Leyna, however, Sharona was a minor and the focus on her is beyond disturbing when examined today. (Sample “My Sharona” lyric: “Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind/Always get it up for the touch of the younger kind.”)
We don’t know much about Leyna beyond her decision to break things off with the narrator after a single night. For whatever reason, radio programmers and the general public vastly preferred hearing about Sharona. Don’t feel too bad for Billy Joel, though. His next two singles were “You May Be Right” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” The Knack dissolved just two years later (though there would be multiple reunions) and Joel continues to pack stadiums and arenas all across the globe.
He’s also managed to give “All for Leyna” a second life. He dusted it off in 2002 after not playing it for years and it’s become a regular part of his show. Fans that ignored it back in 1980 now sing along to every word. And somewhere in the world a grandmother named Leyna is like, “You’re still going on about that one night? Get over it!”