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.