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Guitar Tabs For Billy Joel’s Laura

These days, Billy Joel is generally being brushed off as an 80’s sellout wanker (here’s looking at you, Uptown Girl), but I really think The Nylon Curtain features some terrific songs: there’s Allentown, Pressure, Goodnight Saigon — and then there’s Laura.

Okay, so I’m admittedly somewhat obsessed with this song (previously) and its intricate chord changes in particular. Sat myself down with my guitar for half an hour in an effort to figure out the chords, as the Google had failed me dismally. Here’s what I came up with — mainly for my own reference, so hold your horses…

G- D# - C

Main theme (as in Laura Calls me / In the middle of the night):
G - Em - A7 - C7

First bridge (as in I’m on her side / Why does she push the poison on me?):
F7 - Em /* @TODO: that 'oh wow wow' */

Second bridge (as in Here I am / Feeling like a fucking fool / Do I react…):
A# - C7 - Cm - A#

Now these chord changes may well owe their exotic feel due to my picking G as the root chord but still: cleverly done Mr Joel, most cleverly done…


  1. AJ

    Really sorry to be negative, but a lot of these chords are not correct (although I appreciate your efforts in working them out, because, as you say, they don’t seem to be available anywhere else!!)

    The song is actually in Bb, not G. If you want me to post the corrct chords, I will.
    Best regards (and no offence meant!),

  2. moonbug

    Why I shall delete your comment promptly! Haha, just kidding – no offense taken. I knew I was way off the original with my notation, heck I didn’t even listen to the song while trying to figure out the chords. So, by all means: do post the correct chords!

  3. JK

    Hi! I’m kind of obsessed with this song too. You mentioned the chords sounding exotic. If you’re interested, there is a neat reason for it sounding that way. The opening for Laura is Bb – Ab – Gb – Eb and repeat, then you’ve you got the verse right in the key of G. The exotic quality you’re talking about comes from two neat musical tricks. The first is called Modal interchange. He starts in the key of Bb but then borrows from the parallel minor scale of Bb minor and takes the Ab and Gb (in Bb these chords would normally be Am7b5 and Gm7) from there, then pops back to the home key by way of Eb to give an imperfect cadence of chord IV to chord I of Bb major. Second is that joel has substituted the mode of the second chord of the key from Minor to Dominant. In the Key of G that you chose, the A7 chord in diatonic harmony would normally be an A minor 7th chord. But substituting the Dominant 7th for the minor is a trick used a lot in music. He uses both tricks a lot in his music. One of the reasons it’s all so great to listen to.

  4. moonbug

    JK: thanks for that wonderful explanation! I reckon I’m not too far away from how it should be played then…

  5. John

    Hey Im one of those freaks that has perfect pitch and can tell chords/harmony with one listen and i listened to this song just now on Youtube…Like the guy above said its in Bb…I think what is confusing everyone is after that 1st verse he goes to B7 then to F which is unusual as B7 is not something someone would usually go to in a Bb – Gm – C7 – Eb progression

    So it’s intro: Bb-Ab- F#- Eb 2x

    Verse: Bb- Bb(A bass) – Gm – C7 – Eb……. Bb- Bb(A bass) – Gm – C7 – F#

    (shouting part) B7 – F7 – Gm -F# 2x then it goes back to the verse etc ect

    then the bridge with the cursing he goes to Db I believe to Eb….I should have wrote it down, I forget how the bridge went ha ha but you get the idea

  6. moonbug

    Awesome! Many thanks John!

  7. Sam

    So I just became obsessed with this song, JOHN you’re chords are correct but I can’t figure out the damn Bridge where he starts with

    “Here I am
    Feeling like a fucking fool
    Do I react the way exactly
    She intends me to?”

    Any help? If someone can just lay out the chords I’ll love them forever lol.

  8. John

    Ha I hit this website by accident when I was looking through my web history and read your note. Sorry about that, I forgot to add the end

    It’s Db – Eb7 – F#m7 – Ab – Db

    Then it goes to this tricky part

    Db – Eb7 – F#m7 – Ab – Ab (with A bass) – F7

    That Ab with A bass, I forget what the chord is called, but if you play a Ab on guitar like a bar chord on the 4th fret and just lift your index finger to the A note on the 6th (heavy) string while still making that Ab chord you’ll get the chord sound and if you are playing piano, just play Eb-A-C notes with the right and with the left hand play an A note.

  9. Shirley

    I took much of the above info and worked out a chord chart on my own. For organization purposes, I split it up into four sections: intro/outro, verse, chorus, and bridge.

    P.S. How many of us have been troubled by a girl named Laura?

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