“Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel
The setting of this song, as the name implies, is inside an “Italian restaurant”. And the way the narrative plays out is as if the singer is meeting up with an old friend whom he hasn’t seen in a while. And accordingly they do a lot of reminiscing and catching up.
So Billy begins by asking him what type of wine he prefers. Then he gets to telling this person how his own life has been going, with everything being “new” and “good”. Afterwards he likewise complements his friend, who is seemingly doing quite fine himself.
But most of the song is actually dedicated to the story of “Brenda and Eddie”. They were like the most-popular couple when the narrator and his friend was in high school. And they proved to be enough in love to end up getting married shortly thereafter. However, due to financial concerns, the marriage eventually fell apart. And now both Brenda and Eddie find themselves “back to the green”, i.e. back in the ‘hood, pretty much at the same point where they all started.
So as such, it has been generally interpreted that the idea this song is meant to convey is more or less a warning against moving too fast at an early age. And another interpretation that has been put forth is that it is based on the notion of teenage years being but a moment in time, with adulthood being vastly different.
Facts about “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”
It has been noted that this song has a multi-layered approach, as in consisting of different musical styles and narrations. This is because it is actually three songs in one. First is “The Italian Restaurant Song”, second “Things Are OK in Oyster Bay” and third “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie”. And Billy Joel’s inspiration for doing so was based on The Beatles’ approach on their classic album “Abbey Road” (1969).
This song came out on 29 September 1977 as part of Billy’s fifth-studio album, which is entitled “The Stranger”. The label that put it out is Columbia Records. And despite never being released as a single, it is one of the top tunes from the Piano Man’s entire catalog. For instance, it is known to be a staple of his live performances. In fact according to some reports, it is Billy’s favorite amongst all the songs he’s ever released.
Moreover as late as the year 2020, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” holds the distinction of being the longest song Billy has ever dropped.
It is believed that the actual restaurant which Billy based the setting of this track on is one called Fontana di Trevi, which is adjacent to Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.
In 2019 it was announced that a television-anthology series was being produced based on the characters from a number of Billy’s songs. And the entire series was to be entitled “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”.
Even More Facts
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant finally received a music video, which is an animated affair, in late 2021. It was created by an Ohio-based company called Lightborne Communications.
The issuance of the clip at this date coincides with the release of an anthology project entitled Billy Joel – The Vinyl Collection, Vol. 1, which, on top of other goodies, features the Piano Man’s first six albums, including “The Stranger”.
Indeed 2021 has been a big year for this track. For instance, the song had been placed on Rolling Stone‘s updated list of the “Top 500 Songs of All-Time”.