“Laura” – Billy Joel

My favorite Billy Joel song of all-time. From Joel’s underrated 1982 album “The Nylon Curtain,” this was Joel’s attempt to create the ambience of a mid-period Beatles album. While I can’t say he completely achieves this goal, there are moments of brilliance on this album that come close. “Laura” is one of those moments.

This song has haunted me since I first heard it in the fall of 1982, especially given the early 1970s John Lennon-like feel of the arrangements and vocals. Critic Chuck Klosterman came close to describing to what I always thought the song was really going for in that he thought it was “about a relentlessly desperate woman … who is slowly killing the narrator by refusing to end a relationship that’s clearly over. Making matters worse is the narrator’s inability to say ‘no’ to Laura, a woman who continues to sexually control him.” I thought Klosterman nailed this song’s meaning to a T and for any of you hipsters that dismiss Joel on sight, the song is as emotionally complex as anything Elvis Costello or Richard Thompson has ever done. And not just because it contains the only “f-bomb” I’ve ever heard in a Joel song.

However, leave it to Joel to destroy these illusions by revealing to Klosterman in a later interview that “Laura” is actually about a co-dependent family member. While Joel’s intent may override what Klosterman (and subsequently, I) think the song is about, I would argue that Klosterman’s interpretation makes more logical sense and it’s the way I always took this song to mean for the past 30 years.

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