Attila (feat. Billy Joel): S/T (1970)

It seems silly to waste space criticizing universally-panned, truly terrible music. Fun, sure, but I'd much rather spend my time trying to turn the 1-2 people who read this thing on to some great music they might have missed than slagging something nobody in their right mind would (or should) spend much time listening to.

Still, to be acknowledged as among the worst albums ever recorded is of some note. Personally, I place the one and only album from Attila alongside the Osmonds' Crazy Horses -- the first LP I ever owned, picked up back when the Osmonds starred in a Saturday morning cartoon -- as (by far) the two worst albums I own.

Attila, of course, would hardly be worth a mention were it not the brainchild of one Billy Joel, a one-time, misguided stepping-stone between his two albums with otherwise forgotten R&B/pop act The Hassles and his enduring solo career. Joel and the Hassles' drummer briefly formed a two-piece, with Joel cranking his organ up to 11 to deliver blistering, sludgy, proto-heavy-metal. The sound calls to mind other late 60s post-psychedelic hard rock bands like Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, and Iron Butterfly, only with the guitars removed, and with even worse material.

Actually, "California Flash" is only marginally god-awful, a legitimately poppy (though generic) track but for the cloying organ sound. Elsewhere, like on the closing "Brain Invasion," Joel seems to be channeling ELP's Keith Emerson, keyboard wonkery that's not really servicing a worthy tune. But in between it's largely metallic sludge, again rendered interesting only by trying to imagine these songs emanating from the guy who a year later would be singing "She's Got A Way" on 1971's Cold Spring Harbor, as shocking a transition as any in rock history.

The album briefly circulated as a semi-legitimate release called California Flash, credited to Billy Joel, which I'm sure many Joel fans -- this was at the height of his early 80s popularity -- were a little freaked out by when they brought it home thinking it was a new Joel album.
Anyway, if you haven't heard it, it's worth a hate-listen just for shits & giggles.  It doesn't stream (not surprisingly, given Joel's understandable embarrassment), with the exception of the noisy (and helpfully-titled) instrumental "Amplifier Jam," found on a later Joel box set. But here's a rip of the whole god-forsaken thing:
Here's an audio rip of "California Flash":
Incidentally, I was surprised to find an actual Hassles video on YouTube, one of their songs which actually seems to point in the direction Attila would take:


  1. Awesome, thanks. I smell a book here.

  2. Ion again. I have nothing to say about this record. I just like clicking on the bus pictures to prove I'm not a robot.

  3. Attila was the best thing Billy Joel ever did. The Hassles were blah and his solo stuff is puke induction.

    1. Fair enough, though in my old age I have moved from actively hating Billy Joel's oeuvre to tolerating it as non-intrusive background music to please my wife (at least the earlier solo stuff).

  4. almost as bad as the rest of Billy Joel's songs!


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