Song Of The Day 7/29/2014: Fastball - "You're An Ocean"



88 Teeth: Perhaps because of our mobility issues, pianists are far more likely to be support staff rather than the center of attention. That's something that's kind of worked to my advantage, since in the last few years the mere fact that I played piano afforded me the chance to play with quite a few groups of recent strangers, whom I grew quite fond of. I'd happily trade places with someone like Steve Nieve or Nicky Hopkins, traveling the world under the auspices of an actual star, who has to carry most of the load and usually has to bear the burden of the possession busts.

I admit it: I had a more ambitious game plan as a child musician. I had a lot of great album titles and concepts mapped out when I was 13. I even had song titles and designs on revenge. But I wasn't that great at writing songs. I could play Brubeck pieces with all his potpourri chords, but when I sat down to write something I'd just do the three-chord thing. Which is nice if you're playing an instrument other than one you have to sit down for and could hold a candelabra if you needed it to. My life experience at the time, or relative lack of it, hampered my ability to write lyrics that any of my friends could relate to. The piano gave me the charter, more or less, to be hamfisted and awkward in my writing. Not surprisingly the best song I personally think I've ever written was about a dead person and I wrote it on guitar.

So for all those reasons I found it just as rewarding to fade into the background and join the combo. You know, like (segue alert!) Billy Preston. You all know about his tenure with the Beatles during the star-crossed Let It Be sessions. This Beatles biography I read last year alleges that they were this close to asking Billy to join the band as a full-fledged member but I'm not sure how much stock I put in that. But his contributions to "Get Back" were, probably, the most famous sideman gig of all time, which was no doubt at the forefront of pretty good '90s relatively-alternative rock music purveyors Fastball when they snagged him to play some aggressively mean piano fills in their song "You're An Ocean."

This impressed the impressively-named website Listverse enough to actually call it the second greatest piano performance in rock history. That's a bit of an overstatement in my opinion, but it ain't bad, which it couldn't be since it apes Preston's own "Nothing From Nothing" fairly closely. One of the best benefits of being a sideman in music is you're entirely welcome, even encouraged, to steal from yourself. You can still from other people too, but it's classier to rob your own coffers.


Also appearing on this song: Fastball.

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