Song Of The Day 7/28/2014: NRBQ - "Roll Call"



88 Teeth: One limitation of being a piano player is the imposed range of movement. You're constricted in your lodgings by a one-ton casket. You can't get too far because it won't follow you. Even with a more nimble electric keyboard you're still confined to a practical radius even if you can stand up. This was, for many obvious aesthetic reasons, not something the keytar could remedy.

Many piano players have tried to compensate by acting out, and a few of them did, but mainly in rock and roll's early stages when nobody knew what to expect.  Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard could get away with it. After the singer-songwriter era emerged and tempers slowed down a bit, a few of us got a little awkward about our gesticulations. Elton got away with it because he wore a duck suit. But you can't be as nuts because you're sitting down and you're working with a linear plane. The guitarist can act crazy because he's standing up, and the drummer is paid to beat on things.

Terry Adams of NRBQ is one of my favorite keyboard performers. He was constrained by the weight of the piano, but on the other keyboards he tried to break the plane of lateral movement. When I saw NRBQ open up for R.E.M. back in the elusively-defined "day" Adams worked his Clavinova like a handcar, tipping it backward and forward, but never really running the risk of tipping it over. No, it didn't make up for our inability to express our inner psychopath. Girls were still going to have to love us for our minds.

"Roll Call," from NRBQ's 1980 album Tiddly Winks, doesn't address this issue in any detail, but it's a great piano piece. I like how Terry Adams was able to harness the yacht-rock chords in the chorus and make them full-bodied. Then again, Adams played for one of the most versatile American bands of their time, so actually I'm not that surprised. Adams would never fall under the spell of the keytar. Unless he needed one to whack a gong.


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