Billy Joel Pays Tribute to Phil Ramone: ‘He Was the King’

Billy Joel and Phil Ramone attend the 41st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis.
Billy Joel and Phil Ramone attend the 41st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis.

From Rolling Stone:

I first met Phil Ramone when I played Carnegie Hall in 1976. It was my first time headlining there. There used to be an Italian restaurant across the street called Fontana di Trevi where a lot of the classical musicians and opera stars from Carnegie Hall would dine. I had dinner with Phil there, and it really was the inspiration for “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.”

Before that, I had seen Phil Ramone’s name on a lot of recordings as an engineer. I was trying to find somebody to produce my next album. I had been working with Jim Guercio on the album prior to that, Turnstiles, but he didn’t get it. He wanted me to work with different musicians. Actually, he put me together with Elton John’s band. I had already been compared to Elton John endlessly. And just because I’m a piano player doesn’t mean I should work with another piano player’s band. It was kind of formulaic, which I hated.

I wanted to work with my own band. I’d had a good road band for a couple years, we were out just slogging away on the road playing clubs, theaters, colleges . . . you name it. And we were killing it. We were an opening act for everybody – the Beach Boys, the Doobie Brothers, Olivia Newton-John, the Eagles. And we were starting to be able to headline our own smaller venues and I thought my band was really the right group to record with.

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