Billy Joel Covers Bob Dylan in the Soviet Union - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Billy Joel Covers Bob Dylan in the Soviet Union

Watch Joel perform ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ during the Cold War

Not many people realized it at the time, but the Cold War was coming to an end when Billy Joel came to Russia for a historic six-date tour in the summer of 1987. He was the first American rock artist to play there somce the Berlin Wall went up in 1961 and he brought a film crew along to chronicle the journey. But the Long Island musician quickly grew dismayed when he realized that few people in the crowds were familiar with his material.  

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During a show in Moscow, a distressed Joel ordered the film crew to stop lighting the audience as he performed “Sometimes a Fantasy.” When they failed to obey, he flipped over his keyboard and then smashed his microphone to pieces. The meltdown lead to headlines all across the globe, but he soon calmed down and the tour resumed without further incident. 

Every night, he performed a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are-A Changin'” and gave a speech (with the aid of a translator) about the song. “I have a feeling that what’s going on in your country right now is very much like the 1960s,” he said one night. “This song has been going around and around my head since I’ve been here.” 

Here is a video of Joel playing the song on Russian TV. A live album entitled Концерt was released later that year. 

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