Billy Joel – ‘Big Shot’
  • Writer: Billy Joel
  • Producer: Phil Ramone
  • Recorded: Spring 1978 at A&R Recording in New York City
  • Released: Fall 1978
  • Players:
    Billy Joel — vocals, piano
    Doug Stegmeyer — bass
    Liberty DeVitto — drums
    Richie Cannata — organ, saxophone, clarinet
    Steve Kahn — guitar
    Donnie Dacus — backing vocals
  • Album: 52nd Street (Columbia, 1978)
  • Also On:
    Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Columbia, 1985)
    Kohlept (Live In Leningrad) (Columbia, 1987)
    The Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997 (Columbia, 1997)
    2000 Years: The Millennium Concert (Columbia, 2000)
    The Greatest Hits Collection, Volumes I, II & III (Columbia, 2000)
    My Lives (Columbia, 2005)
    12 Gardens Live (Columbia, 2006)
  • Due to the success of his previous album, The Stranger, Billy Joel had to cram the recording of 52nd Street into breaks from touring.
  • “Big Shot,” which kicks off the album, is a reflection of Joel’s observations about stardom, including references to Park Avenue clothes, limousines, Dom Perignon champagne, cocaine, and trendy hangouts such as Elaine’s in New York City.
  • It’s also something of a self-commentary, as Joel has said he was also guilty of the stoned, arrogant behavior he complains about in the song.
  • “Big Shot” peaked at Number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • The song — which was one of the few out-and-out rockers in Joel’s catalog up to that point — became a standard show-closer for him.
  • The 52nd Street album spent eight weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200. It’s sold well over seven million copies.
  • 52nd Street won the Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1979.


  • Joel stopped recording pop music after 1993’s River Of Dreams and has devoted himself to classical and instrumental music ever since, though he did release a one-off pop song called “All My Life” earlier this year. He put out his first classical album in 2001 and has said he’ll continue in that vein.
  • Joel continues to tour periodically, both by himself and with Elton John in their Face To Face concerts.
  • Joel has received career citations from the publishing house ASCAP; the Songwriters Hall Of Fame; the Grammys, which gave him the Living Legend Award in 1990; Billboard magazine, which gave him its Century Award in 1994; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, when he was inducted by his idol Ray Charles.

A stage production called Movin’ Out, which paired Joel’s music with choreography by Twyla Tharp, had a very successful run on Broadway in New York City. Joel shared the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations with Stuart Malina.