Billy Joel – Piano Man

There must be something in the air tonight – Jane Copland posted on Facebook that Uptown Girl was the #1 record in New Zealand when she was born, and The Guardian has a short piece about a track of Joel’s from the 70s called Souvenir.

It was whilst watching a video of Souvenir, a track I’d not heard before, that I saw this version of the amazing Piano Man. It made me realise, again, just how underrated Billy Joel is. As far as I’m concerned his output in the 70s was as good, and as important, in terms of US music, as Bruce Springsteen’s. In many ways, he was Springsteen with a piano – from New York rather than New Jersey, but telling similar tales of the thousands of small stories that go to make the huge tale that is America.

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.”

I’m honestly not sure that I can think of a song with a better opening than Piano Man, and if it wasn’t for Up Town Girl, he’d probably be revered in a way similar to Springsteen or even Dylan.

Piano by Marc Falardeu on flickr


  1. Yes but if you listen to this the whole way through, you’ll hear him fly off on a little solo run – way up the piano in a way that kind of breaks the whole momentum of the song.

    Now naturally it’s well done, and he’s soon back in the zone, but was it really necessary? Well perhaps only if you’re incapable of taking your own music seriously. And if the musician can’t take it seriously, even when playing, then might not others do the same…?

  2. I must have listened to this song hundreds of times, and have never noticed anything that ‘breaks the momentum’, at least not for me.

    I’d say two things – firstly, it’s meant to be in the style of a bar-room player, who would be likely to do exactly the sort of flourish you describe. The other thing I’d say is that I’ve always preferred musicians with a sense of humour – it doesn’t mean that they’re clowns, but does mean that they’re much more appealing than those who think they’re the next Beethoven.

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