Day 115: A song you like that relies heavily on piano.
“Prelude/Angry Young Man” – Billy Joel
Billy Joel may be too obvious a selection for this, being the “Piano Man” and all. (But why should he get sole claim to the title just because he wrote a song with that name? Shouldn’t Elton John or Bruce Hornsby or even Liberace have a shot at it as well? These are questions that should be addressed.)
“Angry Young Man,” a song that originally appeared on 1975’s Turnstiles, typically starts Billy Joel’s live shows. I have seen him twice live and I know he played it the first time. I don’t specifically remember him playing it for the second show, but I’m going to assume he did. The energy of the song makes it a great way to start a show with a bang. Instant energy.
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I was first introduced to the song via a 1982 concert on HBO, from which the picture above comes. (Incidentally, it was also the first time I heard “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” which could very well be my favorite Billy Joel song.)
Oh, sure, the version on Turnstiles is good, but for raw energy, you can’t top this song live. Don’t believe me? Check out the video. Or this one. Or this one. The piano part that opens the song (which is the “Prelude” part) and closes the song (which should be called “Postlude” shouldn’t it?) is, without a doubt, integral to the whole piece. In fact, if you break it down, there really isn’t much “song” outside of the piano parts at the front and the back. And while the other instruments certainly complement Billy tickling those ivories (okay, pounding the ever-loving tar out of those ivories), this song simply could not exist without the piano.
While the piece is not technically hard, the speed is impressive. I’ve heard a number of versions of this: he’s usually pretty good at hitting all the right notes. (Although it you watch (and listen to) the video below, at 4:44 he does hit a bum note. But I’m not going to call him out on it. Oh, wait, I guess I just did.) How could you possibly hear this and not be completely geared up for the show? (You can’t, that’s how.)
After listening to it any number of times in preparation for this post, I’ve decided I must learn to play it. (Because I simply don’t have enough projects to completely sap my free time.) I’ll let you know when I can provide a respectable version. It’s quite possible it won’t be until this whole “365 Day Song Challenge” thing is finished, though. (Whose idea was this anyway?)
Sure, “Piano Man” wouldn’t be much without the piano (and wouldn’t make much sense, either); “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” has its fair share of great piano parts; even Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” or Elton’s “Take Me To The Pilot” could have been in the running. But I still think “Prelude/Angry Young Man” gets the nod.