The Theme of Relationships in Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

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“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. I love the song so much, that I have the vinyl version of Joel’s 1977 album, The Stranger, framed and hung in my room. The song features three different songs merged into one, making it Joel’s longest song. The song highlights many different parts of relationships, including both the good parts and the bad parts.

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The first part of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is a piano ballad. This part of the song is about two old friends meeting in an Italian restaurant that they used to go to together. He refers to the restaurant as their “old familiar place”. The slow, gentle music goes hand-in-hand with the meaning of the song. The Italian restaurant and the friend that Joel is meeting with is familiar and comforting. It’s not a fast paced part of the song because it is about two friends relaxing at dinner, chatting and drinking wine.

The third part of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is where Knapp’s model of relationships really comes into play. This part of the song is known as “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie”. This part of the song has more of a rock and roll sound and is fast paced. The relationship the song is about was a quickly moving relationship, that moved up (and then down) Knapp’s model of relationship fast. The “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie” starts in 1975, with Brenda and Eddie already in the intensifying stage of Knapp’s relationships model. At this point they were already “going steady” and everyone at their school knew. They were the prom king and queen and the hit of their local diner.

The other students at school looked up to them because they “never knew [they] could want more than that out of life”. They looked at Brenda and Eddie as the perfect couple. Then the song goes into the bonding stage of the model and mentions Brenda and Eddie getting engaged. That is when people started questioning their decision to get married. They were getting married in the summer of 1975 (right after they graduated) and they clearly were not ready to get married. “Everyone said they were crazy” but Brenda and Eddie ignored them and got married anyway. Brenda and Eddie moved into an apartment and used their savings to get it ready, but then they “started to fight when the money got tight” and the relationship began to move down Knapp’s model. They are now in the differentiating stage as they begin to argue.

The next part of the song said “They lived for a while in a very nice style but it’s always the same in the end”. This implies that they were in the stagnating part of their relationship: things were going wrong but they were still going through the motions. However, they then terminated the relationship and got a divorce. They realized that they weren’t meant to be married, but they “parted the closest of friends.”

The final part of “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie” get back together. They started back at the initiation stage, but they knew that they couldn’t just go back to the relationship they once had, and “the best they could do was pick up the pieces” and return to the experimentation stage. They then made it work again. Joel then says that that’s all he could tell us about the relationship because that’s the last he heard about Brenda and Eddie.

Part of the reason I love “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and more specifically, “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie” is that it describes a couple that isn’t perfect. In the beginning of their relationship they were going steady and everyone thought they were the perfect couple. However, once they decided to get married everyone started to have their doubts, but Brenda and Eddie didn’t care. Once they got married, the relationship then starts its downfall, where we see that they were too young to get married.

Even though they were still in love, a marriage just wasn’t right for them yet. Then the couple used their love to try things again and work on their relationship. I love that the song doesn’t just display the positive aspects of are relationship or just the negative aspects. It shows the full relationship model as Brenda and Eddie climbed up the relationship model, then fell down, but then went back up. Not every relationship works, but sometimes if you love each other enough it’s worth trying again and working together to fight for your relationship.

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The Theme of Relationships in Scenes From an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel. (2022, Oct 04). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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