Glass Houses (album)

Glass Houses is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel, released on March 12, 1980.[3] It features Joel's first song to peak at No.  1 on Billboard's Pop Singles chart, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". The album itself topped the Pop Albums chart for six weeks and was ranked No.  4 on Billboard's 1980 year-end album chart.[4] The album is the 41st best selling album of the 1980s, with sales of 7.1 million copies in the U.S. alone. In 1981, Joel won a Grammy Award for "Best Male Rock Vocal Performance" for his work on Glass Houses.[5] According to music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, the album featured "a harder-edged sound" compared to Joel's other work, in response to the punk and new wave movements.[6] This was also the final studio album to feature the original incarnation (Joel, Richie Cannata, Doug Stegmeyer, Russell Javors, & Liberty DeVitto) of the Billy Joel Band, albeit with new lead guitarist David Brown.

Glass Houses
Billy Joel - Glass Houses.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 12, 1980
Recorded1979 at A&R Recording, New York City
LabelFamily Productions/Columbia
ProducerPhil Ramone
Billy Joel chronology
52nd Street
Glass Houses
Songs in the Attic
Back cover (some versions)
On the LP and some CD releases, Joel is shown looking through a hole after throwing a rock in the glass house. This is also seen on the front cover of some of the single releases from this album.
On the LP and some CD releases, Joel is shown looking through a hole after throwing a rock in the glass house. This is also seen on the front cover of some of the single releases from this album.
Singles from Glass Houses
  1. "All for Leyna"
    Released: January 1980
  2. "You May Be Right"
    Released: March 1980
  3. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"
    Released: May 1980
  4. "Don't Ask Me Why"
    Released: July 1980
  5. "Sometimes a Fantasy"
    Released: 1980


This album was the third collaboration between Joel and producer Phil Ramone, following The Stranger and 52nd Street and the final such collaboration in association with Home Run.

Opening with the sound of glass shattering, Glass Houses has more of a hard rock feel than Joel's previous albums. The cover shows Joel poised to throw a rock through the two-story window of his real-life waterfront glass house in Cove Neck. On some versions, the back cover shows Joel looking through the hole that the rock made in the glass. This alludes to the adage that "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

In 2004, the pop-culture journalist and rock critic Chuck Klosterman praised the album in an essay on Joel titled "Every Dog Must Have His Every Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink" from his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (the title of the essay refers to a line from the Glass Houses song "Don't Ask Me Why").[7] In particular, Klosterman praised some of the more obscure tracks from the album including "All for Leyna", "I Don't Want to Be Alone", "Sleeping with the Television On" and "Close to the Borderline."[7]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [8]
Blender     [9]
Christgau's Record Guide: The '80sB[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [10]
The Great Rock Discography6/10[11]
Rolling Stone     [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [13]
Smash Hits8/10[14]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote retrospectively: "It may not be punk — then again, it may be his concept of punk — but Glass Houses is the closest Joel ever got to a pure rock album."[8] Rolling Stone critic Paul Nelson stated: "Billy Joel writes smooth and cunning melodies, and what many of his defenders say is true: his material's catchy. But then, so's the flu."[12] In Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990), Robert Christgau said: "From the straight-up hubba-hubba of 'You May Be Right' to the Rick Wakeman ostinatos of 'Sometimes a Fantasy' to the McCartneyesque melodicism of 'Don't Ask Me Why' to the what-it-is of 'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me,' it's all rock and roll to him, but to me it's closer to what pop meant before ironists and aesthetes, including yours truly, appropriated the term. Closer than any skinny-tie bands, that's for sure: gregarious, shameless, and above all profitable. Of course, if it doesn't make up in reach what it lacks in edge, ironists and aesthetes needn't notice it's there. And beyond 'Sleeping With the Television On,' I couldn't tell you thing one about side two, which I just played three times."[2]

Track listingEdit

All songs written by Billy Joel.

Side one

  1. "You May Be Right" – 4:15
  2. "Sometimes a Fantasy" – 3:40
  3. "Don't Ask Me Why" – 2:59
  4. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" – 2:57
  5. "All for Leyna" – 4:15

Side two

  1. "I Don't Want to Be Alone" – 3:57
  2. "Sleeping with the Television On" – 3:02
  3. "C'était Toi (You Were the One)" – 3:25
  4. "Close to the Borderline" – 3:47
  5. "Through the Long Night" – 2:43




  • Phil Ramone – producer
  • Jim Boyer – engineer
  • Bradshaw Leigh – assistant engineer
  • Ted Jensen – mastering at Sterling Sound (New York, NY).
  • Brian Ruggles – technician
  • Steve Cohen – lighting
  • Jim Houghton – photography
  • Michele Slagter – production assistant
  • Jeff Schock – product management


Grammy AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Glass Houses Best Rock Vocal Performance - Male[5] Won
Album of the Year[15] Nominated

American Music AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Glass Houses Favorite Pop/Rock Album[16] Won
Billy Joel (performer) Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist[16] Nominated


Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[42] Platinum 50,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[43] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[44] Gold 7,500*
Japan (Oricon Charts) 317,000[45]
United Kingdom (BPI)[46] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[47] 7× Platinum 7,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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  3. ^ "Billy Joel - Glass Houses | Shop the Billy Joel Official Store". Retrieved 2019-06-21.
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  5. ^ a b "Past Winners Search". Retrieved 2011-11-01.
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  12. ^ a b "Billy Joel: Glass Houses: Music Reviews: Rolling Stone". 2008-02-28. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  13. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). "Billy Joel". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 434–35. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
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  47. ^ "American album certifications – Billy Joel – Glass Houses". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.