Song Of The Day 7/31/2014: Billy Joel - "Prelude/Angry Young Man"



88 Teeth: (Sigh...)

Okay, look.

You know that when I put Billy Joel anywhere on this blog, it's for one of two reasons: (A) to highlight the "work" of his heavy-metal organ band Attila (none of that phrase sounded good), or (B) personal responsibility.* Acknowledgement. I kind of stole from Billy this week when I decided the title of this series would be 88 Teeth.

That comes from an interview with Billy years ago in which he described the humbling, debilitating process of songwriting. He said something to the effect of "Everything's going great, etc. etc., then you have to go to the studio to write -- and there's this beast with 88 teeth staring at you..."

In fact, you know what? He's still using that goddamn line! He used it again just this last April! Christ! Does he wear it around his goddamn neck or something?

I didn't like the "beast" part, but I liked the "88 teeth" part, so... well, I was going to say I owed him, but if he's still throwing that line out there like a thong on spring break maybe I shouldn't feel so culpable. That harlot metaphor.

Anyway, it's all right, because there are a few Joel songs that depict what I was going to write about today: overplaying. Every pianist tries it at least once since it's a measure of how many notes we can stuff in as small a crawlspace as possible, and how quickly. There are two pieces I've practiced nearly my entire piano-playing career, just to gauge whether I can ever play one of them right at least once. One is Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk." The other is the opening phrase to Part III of Billy's pre-yuppie suite "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant." (The "Brenda & Eddie" part.) I've tried playing that phrase at least 5,000 times. I've gotten it right... maybe six?

But it's the "Prelude" to Joel's "Angry Young Man" from Turnstiles which there's just no point in trying. As you'll hear right off the damn bat, Joel's primary instrumental motif is built on a riff filled with 32nd notes. For you non-musicians out there, that's a stupidly short note. We rarely go shorter than a 16th note. That's about as wild as we get. A 32nd note is half that and it's only attempted by circus freaks. I believe Joel actually called this practice "piano drumming". No. Don't call it that. Don't you ever call it that.They will laugh you out of Julliard and Berklee if you mention that phrase. The School Of Rock will put you in detention.

Oh, forget it. "Prelude/Angry Young Man" by Billy Joel. Here it is. Listen to it if you want. I'm leaving. I have to watch Sharknado 2 again.

(Editor's Note: Whoops, forgot, there's another condition under which I put Billy Joel on this page: (C) When he's part of a mashup with Jay-Z. Christ, I've already featured Billy on this blog three times this calendar year. I need to brush up on the manual.)




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