It was 12am at night, in the middle of winter and I was chatting to a new employee at a gas station who was being shown the ropes as he was going to do the graveyard shift on two nights over the weekend each week. I was to do Sunday to Thursday and he do Friday and Saturday as a part time job. A song came on the radio and you guessed it, it was Billy Joel’s Piano Man. As I started to sing it with gusto I saw this man smile and listen to me.
But first, let me digress.
A year before I had been at an Amway convention and a speaker had spoken on dreams and how to reach yours. He was speaking on how to turn a dream into reality and how to set goals and achieve them. He said that speaking your dreams out is powerful but putting them on paper is even more powerful. He said to try it out, we should go home and write down a list of ten people we would like to meet in person. Well that was twenty five years ago and so I don’t know if I wrote down ten names but I wrote down two singers that I loved. One was Peter Garrett from an Australian band called Midnight Oil, a born again Christian who never preached to people, but who sung songs of justice and issues, and another name I wrote was Billy Joel.
Well, four weeks after I wrote the name Peter Garrett on my list I was taking my next door neighbour up to Manly beach to get her Methadone (heroin substitute) for the day. We had parked the car and were walking across the street and crossing without lights and so we were running. I was watching for cars and when I got midway across the street I looked up and Peter Garrett was standing right next to me waiting for the “walk” sign to light up. I smiled up at him and said, “Hi Peter”, and then rushed across the street without waiting for the “walk” sign.
I didn’t even wait for him to say hello. Man I was pumped up! Only a month before I had put him on my list and I had already met him. It gave me hope. I could have engaged him then and chatted till the “walk” sign flashed for a minute or two. The list proved it was possible. I hope to meet Peter in my future.
Okay so about 10 months or so I am speaking to my friend in the gas station. It’s a Tuesday night, I have done all my jobs and there is nothing to do but to wait for customers who are up late.
When I finish singing the song, I ask him why he claps.
He says, “I know Billy. I knew him when he played in that bar where people put bread in his jar and said Man what are you doing here!”
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here.”
The guy was an American and I am a person that tells the truth and so I don’t often think anyone is telling me lies, but this was amazing.
“How long ago was that? I asked.
He answered and gave me a year which I forget twenty five years later.
“Tell me how do you know him?
“Well I used to work in a suit shop in Rhode Island New York in a shopping plaza. In fact I worked in the suit shop and Eddie Murphy owned a shop and worked selling shoes. I would sell them a suit and send them to Eddy for new shoes. And Eddy used to sell new shoes and send them to me for a suit. And at lunch time we used to go down to this bar where Billy Played.”
I think that’s what he said. Perhaps they went down at night as it says 9pm at night, but I am sure he said it was their local bar. Perhaps they went on Friday nights and that was after the working week and when Billy Played, but nonetheless, Billy played at the bar they always went to for lunch.
In fact Eddy Murphy, the comedian got a stand-up routine on a show called American Bandstand over there while he was working at the shop and that’s where he made it big in the USA. It was that national appearance that started it big for Eddy Murphy and soon enough he sold his shop as Billy sings here in a song called “My Life”
Got a call from an old friend
We used to be real close
Said he couldn’t go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house
Bought a ticket to the West Coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A
That was Eddy Murphy his friend. Well another friend he was really close to was the guy I was training. Billy Joel came to Sydney while I worked and this guy said I could come and I turned him down. This was six months later when I got the invite. It was enough to be invited and to know more about Billy as this guy and I talked about Billy Joel, my Childhood idol, all night that night.
One day on a DVD, I am going to send Billy Joel a copy of my singing this Piano Man as a cover before I preach a sermon on it. So with no further ado let me give you a few minutes on what I might say in half an hour and twenty scriptures on that DVD.
It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The Regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin
This is not a work night like Friday night. This is a party night. The crown is regular in two ways, it’s around 9pm people start to get to town and leave between 2am and 4am. On a Friday they start about 6pm and go home about 12 am. Saturday night starts late and slow and finishes busy in the taxi game. Friday night starts busy and finishes slow.
So they come in when Billy is only a few minutes at the Piano and if they don’t come every week they come a lot because they are regulars at this bar. And why? Because Billy is fantastic and this is a very classy bar.
He says, “Son, can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”
A nice man, a person of great character is a man that treats an old drunken wino with the same respect as a businessman. But anyway this man has class because he is drinking tonic and gin. But Billy mixes and can speak with all classes as we know in uptown girl that he was of poor stock and his uptown girl was a girl from money and class. Billy has never forgotten his poor roots.
The guy asks for Billy to play a request. A cover. Not one of Billy’s repertoire but hopefully one Billy has learned to play at one time. And I reckon if Billy knew the song by heart he would have played it for the man. Why else would this be a lyric in his song? Because Billy would play requests if he could.
Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright
It’s Saturday. No work. Work and the drudgery of work has been forgotten and Billy is so good a player and he plays so damn good that you cannot help stop talking to your friend and start to sing, clap along and dance. Some entertainers are worn out and some just do a great job and make you feel good.
Billy was the latter.
Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.”
As the smile ran away from his face
“Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”
Now I don’t know the fate of John. I never asked my friend this. John either talked and cried and died crying about a future he could have had if he had the courage to go after his dream and leave paid work behind. Many actors in Hollywood and New York are serving drinks, waiting tables, and washing dishes hoping for that break. Perhaps John is going to auditions each week and just can’t crack a part or perhaps he is just dreaming and yearning for something better. I wonder if John wrote his dreams down or simply wished in his head. He certainly told Billy and if a reporter asked Billy today, Billy would know if John ever made it to a film that the USA saw.
Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the navy
And probably will be for life
Paul has it together. He is in a good occupation that pays well if your apply yourself and you are honest. And he is not talking about his dream he is writing novels. I have written two novels. One in my cab between passengers. One in six weeks after my first breakdown while I was trying to get my head back together on medication. I wrote the second to prove to myself I wasn’t just a one hit wonder.
Davy might be sad, or perhaps his happy, but he is in a secure government job that will have him till he retires on a good pension.
I worked in a good government job for three and a half years and left because I wanted to be able to make it in a private occupation with my payroll clerk experience, not work in a lazy job where they can’t sack you. It takes guts to leave a government job and that security and you have to have a better life you are shooting for to try. Billy reckons this guy has not much ambition to further himself. The novelist isn’t guaranteed of being published but he is practicing his craft and if he gets good enough he will get published, but he isn’t too proud to chat to a regular guy who hasn’t big ambitions.
And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone
The waitress is going places and the businessman is letting his hair down and maybe trying just to relax with that herb so many people use for that, and yet saying this drug reference says that Billy is fine with people smoking drugs if they chose and the drug reference in the song gives the song coolness among people who like to get stoned also.
Yet everyone here in the pub he has mentioned is lonely. I have been lonely with a hurt and broken personality for much of my life and if you drink alone at home you really are sad and sorry. Better to drink with drinkers and speak about lost opportunities and the dreams you have if only you could get the courage to go after your dream.
Well Billy did do it. He was from downtown and married the Uptown girl and became a superstar. He had more then empty dreams and though this is Billy’s most popular and most requested this is a song of Billy’s past and he does not like singing about his past. He sings the song, but he does not like to sing it.
It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
Saturday night is a day where your forget about the bills, the mortgage, your boring job and like catching a good movie, drinking and singing along with Billy helps you let your hair down and forget about life for a while.
I dream of meeting Billy. I know one day I will sing his Piano Man to a good crowd and then do a good sermon using it as my points. Perhaps that will have Billy laugh. Perhaps he might even see this article on Google.
Yes, work your job, work your job for the bills, but work part time on your dream, commit your dream to paper, make plans and follow the plan.
I can already sing Billy’s songs pretty good with plenty of feeling and they all have meaning for me. Even though Billy losing his wife broke my heart as a young man, it set me up to lose my own wife. If you want to read about my wife leaving me and how I love her so read, “A look at Wild World lyrics By Cat Stevens- a positive look at divorce.”
It’s no good talking about the what if I had done that when you’re an old person.
It’s not good to drink in a pub each week and wish that you could leave the pub and act.
Talk is cheap.
You have to commit to paper.
Take steps to follow the plan.
And you like Billy might change the world.
Let me close with a prayer.
Father give the reader the courage to chase their dreams. Let them be the barmaid studying politics or the Real Estate novelist. Give the desires of their own heart and bless them dear Father. In Jesus name I ask. Amen.