Song 6:365 is my version of the classic Simon and Garfunkel song, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Released in 1970 it became the duo’s biggest hit single and went on to be one of the most performed songs of the 20th century, covered by over 50 artists from Elvis to Aretha Franklin. I hope you enjoy my version.
Continuing my retrospective posting of 2010 piano songs, here’s my version of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. This has always been one of my favourite songs to play. It originally appeared on the 1976 Turnstiles album, and was never a hit in its own right, but took on something of a new meaning when Billy performed it at the Concert for New York City in October 2001 in honour of those affected by the events of 9/11.
Over the past twelve months I’ve been playing a song every day and posting it to this blog. I’ve tried to include most musical styles, playing everything from the children’s TV theme tunes to operatic arias and a healthy selection of 1980s pop classics, totalling over 24 hours of music. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing something on the piano most days, but at times it has been challenging, especially since I’ve been travelling a lot in 2015 and a 10-day trip meant recording 11 or 12 tunes while I should have been packing! I’ll not be repeating the challenge in 2016, not least because combined with my 2010 piano tunes, I’ve now recorded over 730 songs in total, and I think that’s enough for now!
When I started wondering about which song to finish this year with, there was only really one option: Billy Joel’s 1977 masterpiece Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. This is a song which I’ve loved for many, many years. I’ve seen Billy perform it three times in Glasgow, once in Birmingham and once in the Hammersmith Apollo. I imagine that a highlight of 2016 will be Scenes at the Wembley concert in September.
Music critic Scott Floman gave a very apt description of Scenes in Goldmine magazine: it’s an “epic multi-sectioned masterpiece which starts as a slow smoky ballad, builds up to a jaunty piano rocker with a New Orleans flavor that also shows off Joel’s knack for telling stories and creating rhymes, before finally returning to smoky ballad territory again.” And where exactly is the eponymous Italian Restaurant? It is apparently Fontana di Trevi, just across from Carnegie Hall where Billy Joel ate during a series of 1977 concerts. Indeed, the line “A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?” was actually spoken to Billy by a waiter at Fontana di Trevi! Oh to see that napkin…
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant isn’t really the kind of piece you can just play on the piano, so I’ve done a full arrangement including bass, guitar, accordion, strings, horns and percussion. I’ve used a brilliantly programmed drum track from a midi file online – I’ve tried to identify who arranged this track but haven’t been able to. However everything else is me, including the dodgy keyboard sax – sorry Joe Moretti!
I hope you enjoy this piece, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my 365songs this year. Happy 2016 to everyone who has listened!
There is, of course, a bit more Billy Joel in my collection and some of my 2010 songs are on this album. If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my December songs here.
For my penultimate song of the year I’m returning once more to ABBA and the wonderful Intermezzo No. 1. This instrumental performed by Benny Andersson was included on the self-tilted ABBA album in 1975, and was one of only two instrumentals in the entire ABBA catalogue, the other one being Arrival. In his book about the stories behind the songs, musicologist Christopher Patrick Tesch describes the “whimsical and melodramatic” Intermezzo No. 1 as “a sophisticated pastiche of all that is great and wondrous in the world of classical music, injected with a shot of late twentieth century pop enthusiasm”. Kudos also to “Tom” from Tom’s ABBA Midi files for the very well programmed drum track I’ve used on this recording!
If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my December songs here. If you’re looking for more ABBA songs, have a listen to my Tribute to ABBA album or check out this year’s ABBA songs from my archives.
Today’s song is another classic in my final week of 365Songs for this year: Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. First released on their 1978 album Jazz, Don’t Stop Me Now has gone on to become one of the best known Queen songs, and one of my favourites! If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my December songs here.
Today’s song is the lovely Joni Mitchell song from 1971 in which she laments on the end of a relationship as Christmas approaches. (Cheery, I know!) River has been covered by many artists, from Ronan Keating to Lea Michele, but I think my favourite cover is by Madeleine Peyroux. I hope you enjoy my version.
I’m running a bit late with today’s song after a marathon recording session for Coffee Break Spanish. I’ve decided to play Chris de Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling which dates from 1975. Although not a hit in the UK when it was first released, this song has since featured on countless Christmas compilation albums.
Around the time he wrote the song, de Burgh had read Erich von Däniken’s book Chariots of the Gods and this book apparently made him think “what if the star of Bethlehem was a space craft and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things we do to each other”.
I’ve tried to make a reference to the 1970s style of the original with my choice of instruments for this one. I hope it works! If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or for more Christmaciousness, see all of my December songs here.
I saw a bit of Happy Feet Two this evening and it reminded me that I’d never played Queen’s Somebody To Love which was one of the main songs in the original Happy Feet movie. Somebody To Love dates from 1976 and ever since has been one of the all-time Queen classic songs. After Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, George Michael sang this song at the tribute concert at Wembley and his performance was considered to be so good that serious consideration was given to have him continue Freddie Mercury’s role and perform with the remaining members of Queen.
I’ve probably ended up playing this a bit too fast, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. There are more of my Queen performances here and if it’s your first time on the site, find out why I’m playing a tune a day here or see all of my November songs.
Today’s song is ABBA’s Eagle, dating from 1977. This was officially the longest track they ever recorded, at 5:51, 1 second longer than The Day Before You Came. While the song wasn’t particularly well-received at the time, it has come to be recognised as one of the band’s most outstanding tracks in terms of lyrics.
I hope you enjoy my version. If it’s your first time on the site, find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my October songs here. If you’re looking for more ABBA songs, have a listen to my Tribute to ABBA album or check out this year’s ABBA songs from my archives.
Billy Joel’s 1977 masterpiece Vienna was an unassuming song from The Stranger album which ended up being the B-side for She’s Always A Woman. However, Billy Joel has ranked it as one of his two favourite songs, along with the wonderful Summer Highland Falls (which I played way back in January). For Billy, Vienna represents “the rest of his life”. In 2008 he explained that his father moved to Vienna from Germany after the war. Vienna was a crossroads, half way between western Europe and the Eastern bloc, and was a place where there was a different attitude to older people:
So I go to visit my father in Vienna, I’m walking around this town and I see this old lady. She must have been about 90 years old and she is sweeping the street. I say to my father, “What’s this nice old lady doing sweeping the street?” He says, “She’s got a job, she feels useful, she’s happy, she’s making the street clean, she’s not put out to pasture.” We treat old people in this country pretty badly. We put them in rest homes, we kinda kick them under the rug and make believe they don’t exist. They [the people in Vienna] don’t feel like that. In a lot of these older places in the world, they value their older people and their older people feel they can still be a part of the community and I thought, “This is a terrific idea – that old people are useful – and that means I don’t have to worry so much about getting old because I can still have a use in this world in my old age.” I thought, “Vienna waits for you…”
So Vienna waits for you, and I think my friend Scott has waited for Vienna for 283 days since I started doing my 365Songs challenge this year. Happy birthday, Scott – I’ve even got the accordion out for this one!
There’s more Billy Joel here, and if it’s your first time on the site, find out why I’m playing one song a day for the whole of 2015 or listen to my October songs here.