Song Of The Day 7/27/2014: The Zombies - "Friends Of Mine"



88 Teeth: I'm a pianist. I'll play whatever keyboard you lob into my path, but at heart I'm not a keyboardist. I play piano.

It's not out of purist pride. Really it's about accessibility more than anything else. If I had money and space for all the things I'd need for a proper audio workstation I'd have one. It's never worked out that way. I've owned nothing but digital pianos since moving out of my parents' house and they've all been shoved into corners and coves. Although now I've got a keyboard with scads of sounds on it, all the non-piano sounds register as odd, detachable wavelengths that sound pretty weird when you play them solo. You don't have that problem with the piano. It's self-contained.

I also like weighted keys. If the keyboard doesn't offer resistance I feel like I'm playing on a Mattel device. It's too easy. A lot of non-weighted keyboards have touch sensitivity but it always sounded chintzy, and hard to manage.

When I was a teenager synthesizers dominated a lot of the musical pop milieu and I always thought a lot of them were being played wrong. Synthesized strings and horns, in particular, drove me nuts. They sounded like exactly what they were: cheap replacements for humans. If you're going to play a synthesizer you might as well make it sound like the electronic device it is. That's why I liked players like Thomas Dolby and Allen Ravenstine, and one reason I don't discard people who play contemporary EDM or experimental music: At least they own up to their artificiality and are less likely to abuse hair products.

You don't have these ethical quandaries with the piano. You don't even have those problems with vintage electric gizmos like the Wurlitzer or the Fender Rhodes. I even think Clavinovas have a soul, though sometimes it's wearing a loud leisure suit and insists on telling dirty jokes.

I thought I'd spend a week with songs that are driven by piano. Not necessarily in a flashy way, although I'll be offering a classic case of overplaying later in the week. But songs where the piano provides the pulse instead of the guitar, or songs with piano presences that I just like for some reason. Practical applications of the piano in pop music. There you go. No Scott Joplin rags or Art Tatum chariot races (though I like both), just songs that reassure me that if all my intellectual capacities float away I could still get a job at a casino through muscle memory.

I only really became aware of the Zombies' 1968 album Odessey and Oracle [sic] earlier this year, and I'm angry at myself for missing out on it all these years. There's too many great piano moments on it to count (well, you could probably count them), but I decided on "Friends Of Mine" because of this chord change that I really like. See, that's what we piano players do: get very specific and detailed about our chords. Many of them have numbers attached like "9" and "11" and "13." Although if you're using a 13 you might want to consider whether you've over-scaled. Enjoy your week.


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