This one doesn’t need too much setting up. My new dream job is to be a pianist in a piano bar a-la Billy Joel. I need to do several things to make it happen. Learn the piano and travel into the past; legend has it that Billy Joel was avoiding a bad record deal when he was playing in that famous Los Angeles piano bar under the name Billy Martin. I don’t need to copy that, my problems with the Australian Tax Office will probably suffice.
So, I’m headed straight for La La Land in ’73, ’74 or ’75. I’ve got a scorching set list planned. Obviously, I have quite a lot of Scott Joplin via Marvin Hamlisch (The Entertainer, natch) in mind, some Grace Jones covers, Lynyrd Skynyrd (Free Bird?) and a whole buttload of Roberta Flack.
Obviously Joel’s mega-smash hit Piano Man is the inspiration. I am particularly taken with this line, “They sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say, man, what are you doing here?” My answer would vary, from the glib, “I’m changing the world one key at a time” to the scarily enigmatic, “When I play the screaming stops.”
Thing is, when you’re tickling the ivories, you’re The Man. Whether you’re Dooley Wilson in Casablanca, Oscar Levant in any film with Oscar Levant in it (The Band Wagon) or even…other piano players whose names escape me…it’s not a long list, but to suffice to say if you’re the kind of cat who can swing like a gate on the old 88, then you – or in this case I – owe it to the world.
It’s my opportunity to be comical, pithy, melancholy, sad and musical all in one. If the mood in the bar is a little down, I’ll knock out “The Rhythm of Life” from Sweet Charity; or even the hilarious theme to “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.” If I want to give this Nixon Era crowd something to think about then I’ll roll into Elvis’s “In The Ghetto” or Herman’s Hermits “No Milk Today”.
I’m seeing it now. It’s 8’ o’clock on a Saturday, Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore have just been seated. Teri Garr is at a table with Jimmy Connors, Helen Reddy, Don Adams, Berry Gordy, Irving “Swifty” Lazar and Dorothy Hamill. Adrienne Barbeau from television’s Maude comes over to me and requests the Golden Globe Winning song “We May Never Love Like This Again” from the soundtrack to Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno. She says it exactly like that. Word for word.
Elevate The Insignificant,