There’s always been something about Billy Joel’s music. They capture moods, they paint aural murals to be taken in, savored, and stored away for future enjoyment. Perhaps one of Joel’s finest aural murals is Captain Jack.
At over seven minutes long and chocked full of images it’s easily one of his “busiest” pieces. He sings of what we know, either from our own experiences or because we know or are at least peripherally familiar with the people of which he sings. The thing which makes the song so deeply personal is the level of detail Joel uses whether it’s the “tape deck in your brand new Chevrolet” or whether “they just found your father in the swimming pool” the details are so incredibly specific yet at the same time so universal that Joel is able to “connect” with all of his listeners. He hits that melancholy nerve of ennui that so many of us suffer from and he pulls it all together with the fictitious drug dealer, “Captain Jack.”
We all have our own “Captain Jack”—that someone or something that makes life enjoyable or bearable, that magical thing which gives us our escape from the madness of life. For some it’s drugs, others alcohol, but for many of us its nothing so glamorous or damaging. Simple companionship is the Captain Jack that so many of us long for. So, part of what makes Captain Jack such a well-painted aural mural is that it gives that sense of companionship. In many ways, the song itself is a “Captain Jack.” Because it captures that chord of melancholy and loneliness so well, Billy Joel, is essentially letting us all know that even in our darkest hours, those moments when life has landed you with the mother of all sucker punches… You aren’t alone. Captain Jack is just the reminder we all need from time to time that whenever life gets us down, when we’re at our worst and loneliest. We’re not alone in our experiences.
So now I’m left to ask, who or what is YOUR “Captain Jack?”