After the warm reception the first edition of Open Mic Adventures received, I figured I’d keep the fun going with a second installment.
This week’s featured tune should come as no surprise, seeing as I play the piano and sing. The technical, industry term for this combination is “singing pianist.” It says it all!
That said, even though I’ve been singing and playing piano for years (and in earnest for ten years now), I somehow never managed to perform Billy Joel’s iconic hit “Piano Man.”
Sure, I know the song, and I’d picked out the chords years ago, as it’s always a favorite for students. It’s not terribly difficult if you know the chord inversions, and the descending bass line is a fun and easy way to teach those inversions.
That said, it’s one of those songs with which I have always struggled in a live performance setting. It’s because of the lyrics. I know them all, and well, but I never quite know what order they’re in. When trying to play it from memory, I’m always mixing up stanzas, swapping out characters in the song’s story willy-nilly.
There’s also that darn harmonica solo, which apparently comes in eighteen different times. I’m still not sure where I’m supposed to let the harmonica take a ride, and when I’m not.
My buddy John and I have slightly different philosophies about covering songs: he thinks they should be played verbatim (or as close as possible) as they are on the recording. I, on the other hand, think some artistic license is acceptable, especially with structure, and the song should be adapted to fit the needs and limitations of the musicians and their equipment.
Well, John usually wins out on that one, so we got the version with the eighteen harmonica solos (and probably some that weren’t supposed to be there).
Nevertheless, my sweet lady friend requested this one, and I was happy to oblige. It came out pretty well, I think:
Not bad. I need to tighten up some spots, but the lead sheet John put together did help immensely, especially with the song’s roadmap.
One final coda: if you notice, the song is all about how great Billy Joel is as a barfly pianist. Everyone comes to see him, according to the song.
Nice one, Bill.