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singer-songwriter :: Blog

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Piano Man"

Wednesday, May 9: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Billy Joel's "Piano Man" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Cold Spring HarborBilly Joel's debut solo album, failed to make a strong impression upon its release in 1971. Worse still, it was released with a curious mastering gaffe that sped up songs and altered the pitch of Joel's vocals. Frustrated and seeking a change in scenery, Long Island native Joel packed his bags for Los Angeles. There he took any and every gig he could find as a lounge singer/pianist (performing under the name Bill Martin). From these long L.A. nights of cigarette smoke and boozy requests, however, came the inspiration and images for "Piano Man" – the title track of Joel's 1973 album for Columbia Records and one of his signature songs. It stands as a classic of the Seventies singer/songwriter movement. Playing expressive piano, reaching into his upper vocal range, Joel rues his own failings while finding hope and even humor in his interactions with the bar's patrons and staff. An old man, a waitress, Paul the "real estate novelist," Davy "who's still in the Navy" – listeners can imagine them all joining in on the song's indelible chorus: Sing us a song, you're the piano man/Sing ...


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Today in Rock: Bruce Springsteen Lands an Audition with Columbia Records

Thursday, May 3: 12 p.m.
Bruce Springsteen's big break came in 1972

By the time Bruce Springsteen walked into CBS Studios in New York in May of 1972 to audition for Columbia Records, he’d been playing in rock and roll bands for seven years – from the garage rock/soul hybrid of the Castiles to the thundering guitar jams of Steel Mill to the soul music of the Bruce Springsteen Band. Steel Mill built up a following along the East Coast and even recorded a few demos for Bill Graham in February of 1970. But Springsteen had no experience with record companies or serious recording studios. He was also at a crossroads in his career. Although he’d had local success, he was unsure of his future direction. He signed a management contract as a solo artist with Mike Appel, who encouraged him to develop his songwriting, in hopes of possibly having Springsteen emerge in the popular singer-songwriter mold.

Appel managed to get an audition for Springsteen with the legendary John Hammond – a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee. Hammond had been at the center of popular music since 1938, when he organized the From Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall. He signed some of the most important artists of ...


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