Billy Joel Talks Aging, Elton, Trump, & 'Captain Jack'

Billy Joel spoke with Rolling Stone about his historic birthday this week and shed light on where the "Piano Man" is at as he hits 70. When asked about how he feels about taking the stage on Thursday night (May 9th) at Madison Square Garden, Billy admitted, "I got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I’m happy to be alive. On the other hand, I don’t know how much of a party I deserve just for making it to 70. I mean, it’s a work night -- you can’t have birthday cake, you can’t do any of that stuff."

He went on to talk about aging in rock: "This is a Peter Pan kinda job. You start out, and you’re young, and you’re rockin’ and rollin’, and that’s what you do all your life. You become a little myopic about how old you actually are. I see pictures of myself at the Garden recently, and I go, 'That don’t look right.' I got old, I lost my hair. I was never a matinee idol to begin with, and there I am onstage still doing the same job I was doing when I was 16. For me to try and look like a movie star would be ridiculous. I’ve always been a schlubby-looking guy, and I ain’t about to change. Plastic surgery, wigs, I don’t know. It has nothing to do with music. It’s all about an image and look. I am 70-years-old. I’ve never hidden my age, so why should I start now?"

Over the course of his Garden shows -- and even out during his road dates -- Billy Joel taps into all the corners of his back catalogue -- except one bonfide crowd favorite has gone MIA in recent years -- "Captain Jack." Billy explained why, saying, "He didn’t age well. Captain Jack’s been demoted to Private Jack. In the verses, there’s only two chords, and it goes on and on, and it’s kind of a dreary song if you think of the lyrics. The kid is sitting home jerkin’ off. His father’s dead in the swimming pool. He lives this dull suburban existence until he gets high. One of the last times I was singing the song, I said, 'This is really depressing.' The only relief you get is when the chorus kicks in. When I’m doing the song, I feel kinda dreary and I don’t like doing the song anymore, although we’ll probably do it again."

Regarding whether he'll ever play a farewell tour, Billy said, "No. I think the way it’ll happen is there’ll be a night where I feel like I can’t do it well anymore -- I can’t hit the notes, I don’t have the physical stamina, I’m not into it. And that night, I’ll know it’s time to stop. I might even decide right then and there this is my last show. Although my agent will come up to me afterward: 'Oh, no! We can make a lot of money if you do more shows now.'"

Billy touched upon his 2017 gig in which he wore a yellow star in onstage after Donald Trump saluted the "very fine people" who marched in Charlottesville: "I was pissed off. It’s bulls***. There’s no fine Nazis. My father’s generation fought a war to put an end to Nazism. When they see these guys with the swastika armband, I’m amazed they don’t run out on the street and smash them over the head with a baseball bat. So this president missed the boat. He had a great chance to say something meaningful and he blew it."

When pressed if he would ever consider going out the road with his somewhat estranged old touring partner Elton John, Billy said, "I would if he asked me to, sure. We worked together for 16 years, and those were good shows. I thought they were good value. I would work with him again, absolutely."

The newly released concert collection Live Through The Years features three tracks captured during Billy's June 1990 concerts at Yankee Stadium. Billy, who was born in the Bronx, recalled playing the hallowed ballpark: "Yeah, Yankee Stadium was a whole jump in the level of things. I don't think we had headlined stadiums before that. But that, I think, was our first major stadium gig. And no one had really played Yankee Stadium. We were, I think, the first major headline act to sell a concert at Yankee Stadium on our own. It was really, really exciting. I mean, this is in 'the House the Ruth built' -- there you are, you're playing there! They're comin' to see you -- not the Yankees. It was huge. . . just the hugeness of it all was staggering, I remember that."