illy Joel was so unhappy as a young man that he tried to commit suicide, says Jeff Gordinier in Details. In 1970, when he was 20, Joel was a member of a heavy-metal duo called Attila. For an album cover, Joel dressed like a barbarian and was surrounded by hunks of raw meat. “I knew that was going to haunt me all my life,” he says. “I thought it was a horrible idea. But the guys from the record company are going, ‘No, this is a great idea,’ and the art director’s saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to be fantastic.’ I said, ‘This is stupid and I feel like an idiot.’ I was right.” After the album tanked and Attila broke up, Joel drank a bottle of furniture polish. “I was suicidal. I was 21. It’s a tough age. A relationship with a girl had ended and I was devastated, and I just figured the world didn’t need another failed musician. You take yourself so seriously—you’ve got your head so far up your a-- you can’t see straight.” The polish did no real damage, but Joel is rueful that he almost ended his life before it had started. “I suppose that is part of the reason I wrote the song “The Stranger.” We’ve all got a dark side. And maybe we’re not always aware of it. Maybe it shocks us when it pops out.”
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