Vienna by Billy Joel- An analysis

By Flavia Sambra

Slow down you crazy child

You’re so ambitious for a juvenile

But then if you’re so smart tell me,

Why are you still so afraid? (mmmmm)

Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?

You better cool it off before you burn it out

You got so much to do and only

So many hours in a day (Ay)

Billy Joel uses metaphors in his song “Vienna” to expand the understanding of the passing of time. “Slow down, you crazy child,” Joel suggests that people tend to miss the whole meaning of life due to rush, and the urge to have everything together as one grows up. He encourages the youth to “take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while” which helps people realise the entire life they have ahead, and to really seize every part of it. Even though he does say to enjoy every part of a lifetime, he is also persistent in saying to take things calmly, and to not race or rush anything, because everything has its own moment. Joel uses repetition throughout every stanza in the song, for people to really take the connotation and meaning of it.

But you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want

Or you can just get old

You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (Oooh)

When will you realise… Vienna waits for you?

Slow down you’re doing fine

You can’t be everything you want to be before your time

Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)

As previously mentioned, Billy Joel encourages us to take one step at a time. “You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through ”. This line stands out to me because it really reflects how we often want to get certain things done by a specific age.

For instance, most people tend to think they need to have a golden ring in their hand by their 30s, and if they don’t, it’s all over, and that’s it. No more time. Instead, this song expands your mind to realise the entire life you have ahead, that everyone has their own pace, and that you have your own, personal path.

Too bad, but it’s the life you lead

You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need

Though you can see when you’re wrong

You know you can’t always see when you’re right (you’re right)

You got your passion, you got your pride

But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?

Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true (Oooh)

When will you realise… Vienna waits for you?

The meaning behind ‘Vienna’ was explained by Billy Joel to the New York Times in 2008. ‘Vienna’ is a metaphor for old age. Joel’s father left him when he was 8 years old to go to Vienna, Austria. When Billy was 23 years old, he travelled to Vienna to see his father after years of not talking to each other. As they were walking through the street, Joel noted something relatively weird. An old lady was sweeping the streets. “She must have been about 90 years old”. This was outstanding to him because “we treat old people in this country pretty badly. We put them in rest homes, we kinda kick them under the rug and make them believe they don’t exist”. Joel’s father explained to him that in Vienna it was normal for old people to have jobs, and that it made them happy, so that’s all that matters. It’s normalised that one’s life is relatively only ‘exciting’ when you are young, and after that everything is boring. We often don’t realise that we have a long lifespan for a reason, and that we should appreciate every moment of it. As said before, ‘Vienna’ is a metaphor for old age, so “Vienna waits for you” means that this city will always be there to welcome you, no matter your age.

Slow down you crazy child

Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while

It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two (oooh)

When will you realise… Vienna waits for you?

And you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want or you can just get old

You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (oooh)

Why don’t you realise… Vienna waits for you?

I chose to do an analysis of this song because it has helped me through a lot of tough moments, and it has given me a valuable lesson. These lyrics are always a reminder and a big comfort of mine because they make me prompt myself to take one step at a time, and that everyone has their own time for everything. 

When will you realise… Vienna waits for you?

Billy Joel’s Statement

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s