It's impossible to overstate just how gigantic a star Billy Joel was at his peak. The piano playing star managed to crank out hit after hit of his unique blend of piano-based rock that managed to split the difference between Tin Pan Alley songwriting, '50s rock posturing and the ever-evolving sounds of the '70s. Joel was no stranger to chart-topping success, as he played piano on the Shangri-Las' massive hit "Leader of the Pack" when he was only 16 years old, but one of his solo albums found itself at the top of the Billboard album chart on this day in 1978 when his sixth LP 52nd Street climbed to the top of the mountain.
52nd Street was an eagerly anticipated follow-up to Joel's breakthrough 1977 album The Stranger, which contained some of his biggest hits so far (including "Only the Good Die Young" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"). Despite the fact that most of his albums had spawned big hits and his concerts were quickly becoming a huge draw, Joel had always managed to narrowly miss the top spot on the album chart. But 52nd Street was a new beast entirely, and it expanded his sound to include bigger rock moments and more eclectic instrumentation (especially on "Rosalinda's Eyes").
The album was a massive success, remaining at the top of the charts for seven weeks, eventually going platinum seven times and earning a distinction as the top selling album of 1978 despite the fact that it came out with only a few weeks left in the year. It also won the Grammy for Album of the Year and was the first CD ever produced by Joel's label Columbia Records. In honor of one of the huge star's biggest moments, check out "Big Shot," a signature hit in the Joel oeuvre.