Billy Joel prefaced his performance of The Entertainer last Saturday night with the statement that even though it wasn’t really a hit, it was the only song that in any way threatened to be a hit from his third album – Streetlife Serenade.
Indeed on closer examination, only one song – Piano Man – from his first four albums – reached the Top 30 in the American Billboard charts.
This didn’t stop him, however, from becoming the third-biggest selling solo artist in the US. Ever.
In preparation for the upcoming Theme Night #25, I just finished Tragedy – an account by Jeff Apter of the life and career of the Bee Gees. And I discovered something very similar. In fact their early career was even less successful than Billy Joel’s.
Flop after flop. Rejection after rejection. And then even after they achieved some success with the likes of Words, Massachussets, I Gotta Get a Message To You and To Love Somebody in the late 1960s, they had many more years in the doldrums before their huge disco breakout in the late 1970s. But then more failures again in the ’80s.
I’ve heard it said that you have to write 50 bad songs before you write a good one. But if the two cases above are anything to go by, you then have to write another 50 before you get another good one, and so on and so on.
Today both Billy Joel and the Bee Gees are known as great songwriters, having written songs that have lasted and will last the test of time.
And the BeeGees especially wrote many songs for others also – we all know the likes of Islands in the Stream, Chain Reaction, Heartbreaker – but they also wrote many songs that never saw the light of day.
Seriously. Read the book. The amount of failures they had is mind-boggling. But so is their success.
Think of this the next time something of yours doesn’t go as well as you hoped it would…
PS – Theme Night #25 – BeeGees and the Disco Era, featuring all the hits and none of the failures (!), has been sold out for weeks, but as promised in last Wednesday’s blog, a small number for the Wed and Fri shows were released today. Click here to get them before they’re gone.