Experts Fear Proliferation Of Billy Joel

WASHINGTON -- As a half-century dominated by the looming shadow of the Cold War draws to a close, experts are alarmed at the continued spread into the developing world of one of the more potent weapons in the U.S. arsenal: The charismatic yet introspective singer-songwriter Billy Joel.

See also...
... by Andrew Rosenblum
... in the Whoa! section
... from August 3, 1999

Backed by a built-in state-of-the-art marketing and distribution system, Joel's music is capable of infiltrating private homes and public institutions like department stores and low-end food service establishments within days of release, effectively eliminating music indigenous to the area.

"The issue is not the music itself -- 'Piano Man' has gotten me through some dark nights," said Ken Leibowitz, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. "However, Billy Joel has sold 97 million albums during his career. That kind of proliferation has clearly retarded the development of acts like Richard Marx, and might one day even threaten the viability of Elton John himself."

The darkest fear, particularly in light of the recent Chinese spy scandal, is that Mr. Joel himself will be stolen. He is kept secure at the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) complex at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado suspended in a warm gelatinous solution carefully calibrated to maintain his positive outlook and youthful-looking skin.  The NORAD facility is considered one of the safest locations on U.S. soil.

Billy Joel was developed in the early 1970s by the Lockheed Martin Corporation as a "diplomatic weapon" that would spread a sense of pleasant complacency and optimism in a world plagued by Cold War tensions, food shortages, and non-cheerful music. The Pentagon acquired the rights to Mr. Joel, and he became the perfect tool with which to implement the foreign policy doctrine of "No Rap, and No Hard Stuff" devised by Henry Kissinger. In 1987, the C.I.A. deployed Mr. Joel to perform in Leningrad and record his Kohuept album, an event widely credited with hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union by providing a taste of the musical glories offered by capitalism.

Despite tight security, troubling questions about the possibility of Joel-like technology falling into the wrong hands remain unanswered. The greatest attribute of the music -- its incredible capacity to reproduce itself -- has sparked alarm that foreign governments hostile to U.S. interests might use a stray album or video to reverse-engineer a diminutive hitmaker of their own. The consequences of a rogue nation like North Korea, Libya, or France developing a competing star could be devastating to national security.

Reports that Chinese scientists have completed a comparable weapon known as Thin Lizzy remain unconfirmed.

Andrew Rosenblum writes about music for Mother Jones, has served as an assistant producer for NPR's "Jazz From Lincoln Center," and is a first-year graduate student at UCLA.