MotoKicX serves up a song about or starring motorcycles every Thursday. This week: Billy Joel with ‘You May Be Right’.
The fortune that Billy Joel amassed with world hits like ‘We didn’t start the fire’, ‘Uptown Girl’, and ‘Piano Man’ has at least partly been spent on his second great passion: motorcycles. This is how he has since 2010 your own custom motorcycle shop on Long Island (with clients such as Bruce Springsteen) and its own motorcycle museum where no fewer than 60 of Joel’s own motorcycles are displayed. His business has specialized in building so-called restomods: engines that look classic down to the last detail, but are actually brand new. Motorcycles also play a prominent role in his songs; in 1992 he recorded a demo called ‘Motorcycle Song’, but already in 1980 ‘You may be right’ was released.
I’ve been stranded in the combat zone
I walked through Bedford-Stuy alone
And I rode my motorcycle in the rain
And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I’m insane
Especially the ‘I made it home alive’ characterizes the motorcyclist in Billy Joel. In an interview he once said that he sees motorcycling as an ‘amusement park’. “It’s dangerous and everyone on the road wants to catch you. A truck will blow you off the road and cars will cut you off like you don’t exist. So you’re playing a deadly game of chess. Ideal for blowing all cobwebs out of your head.” On April 15, 1982, it didn’t matter if ‘Piano Man’ had never touched a key again. He crashed his Harley into a car that had ignored a red light and was seriously injured in both hands. Since then, his left thumb has had to do without the top phalanx, although that doesn’t stop Joel from continuing to ride. “If I ever have a motorcycle accident like this again, I’ll continue to play with my elbows. That’s rock ‘n’ roll.” Amen.
Photography header: Archive A. Herl