Billy Joel’s favorite song in his catalog is “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” His daughter Alexa used to call Paul McCartney “Uncle Paulie.” And the original title of “Only the Good Die Young” was “The Evil Shall Live Forever.”
Those were some of the many revelations from Joel’s appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Monday night, though that last one was a joke. (So was Colbert’s revelation that “The bottle of red was ketchup. The bottle of white was horsey sauce. And the Italian restaurant was Arby’s.”)
Joel, who will put tickets for the April installment of his Madison Square Garden residency on sale Friday, rarely does TV interviews these days. And Colbert pulled out all the stops for Joel’s first appearance on his show, projecting images of piano keys in the dome of the Ed Sullivan Theater, putting up a sign of “Who Started the Fire?” possibilities and even singing a song made up of Joel song titles directly to him.
“You should come to The Garden and do that one night,” Joel told him.
Joel brought a prop of his own — the broken voltage regulator from the motorcycle he built in his Long Island shop for Bruce Springsteen that broke down on the side of the road in November. Of course, Joel’s best contribution was an unscheduled performance of “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out)” that had Colbert dancing behind the scenes.
Joel’s performance also made an impression on “Colony” actor Josh Holloway, who offered to sit in a different chair because Joel’s greatness was still in the one closest to Colbert.
Being in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where, in 1964, The Beatles were introduced to America, Joel recalled how the Fab Four influenced him to play rock music.
“I love classical music,” Joel said. “But The Beatles kind of kicked me into doing that.”
He added that they made it seem possible that a guy like him could make it as a performer. “They’re from Liverpool,” he said, “which is even worse than where I’m from — Hicksvillle.”