♫ Piano Man ♫

Our friend Scottie mentioned this song in passing a few days ago, and ever since then I have had it weaving in and out of my head.  So, exorcism time again … time for me to transfer the earworm from my head to yours.  No no … no need to thank me … it’s my pleasure!  😄

In 1972-1973, Billy Joel worked at the Executive Room bar in Los Angeles as a piano player using the name “Bill Martin”.  He was in dispute with his then-recording company and took the job to pay the bills while waiting for his lawyers to straighten things out back in New York.  The song Piano Man tells of a number of different characters that were based on real people Joel met while playing in the lounge.

“It was a gig I did for about six months just to pay rent. I was living in LA and trying to get out of a bad record contract I’d signed. I worked under an assumed name, the Piano Stylings of Bill Martin, and just bulls–ted my way through it. I have no idea why that song became so popular. It’s like a karaoke favorite. The melody is not very good and very repetitious, while the lyrics are like limericks. I was shocked and embarrassed when it became a hit. But my songs are like my kids and I look at that song and think: ‘My kid did pretty well.'”

His ‘kid’ did pretty well indeed!  Piano Man peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1974. Following Joel’s breakthrough as a popular musician with the release of The Stranger, it became one of his most well-known songs. It is now a highlight of Joel’s live shows, where he usually allows the audience to sing the chorus in place of him. In 2016, the Library of Congress selected Piano Man for preservation in the National Recording Registry for its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance.”

Piano Man
Billy Joel

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin

He says, “Son, can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

La la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me”
As the smile ran away from his face
“Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

Songwriters: Billy Joel
Piano Man lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

24 thoughts on “♫ Piano Man ♫

  1. Pingback: ♫ Piano Man ♫ — Filosofa’s Word – Encore! Old Pianos with a New Song

  2. I was jesting with you, to be honest it was quite unkind of me…you remain a bit more sensitive to criticism, rightly so. I am happy that you did give the song a listen, the video makes the song. I am, nevertheless, not really interested in Billy Joel at this moment. As you have probably already heard, The Captain, of the talented duo of Captain and Tennille has died yesterday. I loved their songs and sound, captivated by their onstage chemistry. I was quite disappointed when they divorced in 2014 and more disappointed by Toni’s memoir in 2016…one never really knows what’s behind the facade, mostly more myth than truth. So, a wee request if you will…please play one of their songs. I’ll leave the choice up to your discretion and promise to respond kindly! Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, when I first saw your comment this morning, I had not heard about Daryl Dragon’s death and was taken aback! I then went digging and found you were indeed correct. Yes’m, I will be more than happy to play one of theirs for my Friday a.m. music post. I would ask which is your fave, but as it’s already after midnight and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be awake to answer, I will pick one and hope you like it. Stay tuned … 11:00 a.m.!

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  3. He went to the same high school as my sister and I –Hicksville High. She was eight years older than me, and she was in a different grade than him but remembers seeing him around. He practiced with his band in a garage that was a block in back of where I lived. I hung out at the Village Green that he sang about in one of his songs. I saw him several times in concert and he is truly an amazing talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I’ve always liked Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” melody and lyrics, it doesn’t hold a candle to his 1989’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”…of course his nickname, Piano Man, can be attributed to the former. But, it is the latter song’s fast-moving series of events over a 40 year period that captivates me. The official music video is a must see for those of us who lived and aged through those depicted times. I have always found it interesting that Joel himself criticizes the song, mostly on its musical merits, calling the melody terrible. Oh, sorry for the horrid lack of appreciation for your choice. Now, please excuse me while I find the video for my choice. An apology for my poor manners and umm, Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Would you believe … I never heard that song, We Didn’t Start The Fire … nor saw the video ’til tonight? Frankly, the music didn’t appeal much, but the video, the recounting of events I well remember as if it were only yesterday, did definitely draw me in. No apologies necessary, for you did say you liked the song, only that you liked another better … I’m not at all hurt or offended. Music is like art … very personal and we will not all always agree … I just play what I like and hope to hit on some favourites of my friends from time to time. I’m chuffed that you like as many as you do of what I play. And hey … I reminded you of one you love, and you went and listened to it, so I’m happy!

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  5. A sad song, full of a happy loneliness. As simple as the melody is, that is its secret weapon. It cheers you up whether you want it to or not. The chorus is catchy.
    I don’t think the song would have succeeded had he been a guitar player, it had to be a piano…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This stanza summarizes whole bunches of thoughts and emotions:

    And the waitress is practicing politics
    As the businessmen slowly get stoned
    Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
    But it’s better than drinkin’ alone

    I think of these lines so often when I enter a pub or tavern. Wickedly powerful song.

    Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    • I suspect a great many of us can relate to that stanza quite well. I know I can. Fortunately, these days I don’t have reason to inhabit the bars. 😉 As an aside, I mentioned that the characters in the song were based on actual people … the waitress was based on his wife at the time!

      Liked by 1 person

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