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cXnX: Shallow Analysis (or Billy Joel's Humiliating Beginnings)

4:07:00 PMPaul

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

Paul: I understand going solo to a bar sometimes wanting to embrace a random encounter or conversation with a stranger but as soon as a guy starts banging his drink I would politely change seats. It being only 9pm it would eliminate the excuse of it being late in the night were possibly weird things happen as results of dares or the always dangerous "double dog" dare. Mr. Joel obviously has no problem with this happening around him since he watches long enough to even take notice of what type of liquor is being fornicated with. I wonder how we knew it was gin instead of vodka?

Ian:  Why are we assuming it's 9 PM?  If the "regular" crowd is shuffling in, I suspect they are the early bird diners, adorned with walkers and probably too hard of hearing to really enjoy a piano man.  It very well might be the morning at some dudded up IHOP, which inhereted a piano and some stranger, not necessarily Billy Joel, comes often enough to know that around 9, you'd better have ordered yer last cup o coffee, because the regulars will have the waitresses running too hard to notice you.
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."

Paul: I guess as this old man is balls deep in a rocks glass he looks Billy in the eye and requests a song that he not only has no clue what it is, but demands it should carry a special meaning to him. I am going to assume that they have not met before since the old man is calling Billy "son" unless it is his dad then he should really take him home and address his sexual attraction to glassware.  So the old man puts his song request in to Billy who was once just a bar patron watching him make love to a beverage, to someone responsible for his nightly entertainment.

Ian:  There are only one of two plausible interpretations of this request.  Either this old man wants the speaker to re-enact some scene from the man's youth, perhaps his first sexual encounter with stemware, or more likely, he intended, as is observed above, to request a song but is so drunk that he slurred the word melody, as we'll see momentarily is the focus of this piece.  Does the last line of this verse imply that the man is wearing no clothes?  What exactly are a younger man's clothes?  Are we living in some dystopian future where we are assigned dress by our age?  I can't shake the image of this alcophile donning an ill-fitting little boy's sailor suit and trolling bars for underage shot glasses.
la la la, di da da
La la, di di da da dum

Paul: I don't care how drunk you are, but unless you are Reggie Watts or Rahzel that shit is not going to pass for live entertainment. The question was never posed that Billy maybe intoxicated as well, which would explain the non-aversion to the old man procreating with his drink, and taking a song request while at the bar. Mr. Joel being drunk might describe the absolute nonsensical trash that follows.

Ian: I think in the speaker's defense, he was just making up something to passively aggressively get this libation-rapist off his back.  I assume the reaction was something like, "Yes! Yes! That's it! Thanks you [wet hug]!"
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 all feelin' all right

Paul: The old man mention previously in the song now speaks for the whole bar demanding a song that he's never heard of that means something to him, and now requires melody. I'm guessing the level of intoxication he's reached would not lead him to the conclusion that after Joel's first try at a song, that he is incapable of all of those requests. If the old man's interpretation of "feeling alright" is sexing gin in a glass (maybe neat w/ no rocks?) I would now consider finding a new place to drink if that's what type of behavior is encouraged at this establishment.

Ian:  Additionally, who who would ask the piano player to sing.  Joel's Brit counterpart goes so far as to exclaim Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player, downplaying his associations and abilities in other realms.  I guess the wordless interlude is what you get when ask the piano player to sing.  But why would we even have to ask?!  Yeah, anytime now, sometime tonight, if you can start playing, that'd be great...  If this is his job, shouldn't he have been firing up the tunes before 9, when he knows the tour bus of elderly tourists to be arriving??
Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke and he'll light up your smoke
But there's some place that he'd rather be
He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me."
As his 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"

Paul: John, the oblivious bartender, obviously knows Billy to be a regular and hooks him up with drinks in exchange for probably half of gate and free drinks. My question is that how has Billy been booked for multiple shows if his "go to" song is simply "la la la, di da da La la, di di da da dum?" The old man, who is speaking for the bar now, was not impressed and asked for a real song after that shameful display. 

You want Joel, you're going to get all of me!

 Anyways, John is a depressed man, he has dreams that are not being fulfilled. He confides in Billy about his dark thoughts that is met with no sympathy or even an understanding ear. If someone told me that I would at least feign interest to comfort someone who was nice enough to share that part of them with me. It seems like old hat to Billy, who ignores him hopefully conjuring a song to appeal to the crowd hungry to a competent song.

Ian:  I don't know that I would trust a word out of John's mouth.  What bill is he referring to?  The bill that has yet to be paid by the lacadasical musician, or his doctor's bill to take care of whatever's killing him?
Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Paul: At this point my patience would be worn out with this poor excuse for music. Billy had the whole bar clamoring for a song, and I'm sure he sucked down enough free booze between ignoring the subtle pleas for help from John to just spit out more garbage like that. I would almost laugh thinking it was a Tom Green prank.  Amazingly, this song continues on a painful 5 more minutes at this point.

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: Shouldn't he be singing a song now? Is he back at the bar? I get it, he's a regular in a bar full of regulars with appropriately named professions to match their names. I'm guessing Jeff the chef doesn't show up until 10?

Ian:  Where is the market for fiction that revolves around the trials and tribulations of house sales? Maybe a novelization of the 1973 Prudential procedural manual?  And I guess I don't get it.  Is it supposed to make me feel sad or better than these people or something?  Is the piano player just sorta laughin at them behind their backs because he gets paid to basically do nothing?  Maybe Dave likes being in the Navy.  I doubt he'll be there for life, since the military probably has a good pension plan set up for him.  I know the Navy worked out pretty well for this guy.
And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessman slowly gets stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone

Paul: Now still not performing and leaving the audience with two "Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dums" he watching a waitress chatting about current events while this business man lights up in a bar.  Now this is 1973, I don't think that was ever allowed in fact it's been illegal since 1937. This bar has some low standards of public decency, drug law, and music taste. He notices them being lonely, but isn't that why you go to a bar to talk to the opposite sex? Maybe the businessman would have an easier time finding a woman if he would just listen and not get high when someone is talking to them. I will not again, still - no song. 

Ian:  I think what's actually going on here eerily foreshadows the events of the past two months.  I think this businessman is slowly gettting stoned, perhaps by the piano man himself,  for his shady banking schemes and the waitress is leading the fray with forced chants that barely rhyme "One Two Three Four/I spilled your order on the floor!" Occupy this crummy hotel bar!  Eventually though, they are able to sort out their differences and enjoy a drink.  I'm guessing "Loneliness" is a concoction created by that terminal case John and the recipe is something like, "One Part Gin, One Part Tonic, One Part Roofies".
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 got us all feeling alright
Billy Joel plays when Billy Joel is ready!! Grrrr!
Paul: This is the second request for a song. Obviously not satisfied with anything that's been going on so far. They want entertainment, it's Saturday, they are feeling good; deliver something Billy! Stop staring at the crowd passing silent judgement on them. You are the designated piano man, do your job.

Ian:  But what has he already done to get them feeling so good that they pass on sex with women (the concept of a woman) in favor of a glass of gin?
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 their life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnivore
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?"

Paul: What the fuck?! Still no song after two requests. What is he waiting for? So far this has been just one inner monologue describing the people who came to have a good time and maybe listen to some fucking music! The manager now gets involved and I'm guessing encourages him to get his shit together and sing the song the crowd has been asking for. Billy knows his role, and that he hasn't fulfilled it yet. He sits by the house piano, and the diseased mic watching the people again putting sandwiches in his tip jar. At least the crowd gets a little nasty by asking if he's not going to play a song what is he exactly doing here. Pressure is on now, we have the manager, crowd, and him sitting by the piano (what was he doing before?) ready to go.

Ian:  I can only agree that I doubt it's him they've been coming to see if it's a pretty good crowd.  Perhaps this is a chronicle, like Paul says of an early Andy Kaufman performance at The Improvisation.  What troubles me most is that his piano sounds like a meat eating beast.  As opposed to a vegetarian?  That doesn't sound very melodic at all, and maybe it isn't his fault that he's reduced to lazily humming half-remembered tunes if the equipment they provided for him is completely useless and clunky.  But if, if, this piano is a carnivore, then why are people feeding it bread?!  Give this thing a nice medium rare steak and maybe we'll get some use outta the thing!  I do applaud the speakers sommelier level olfactory capabilities that he's able to determine that the mic smells like exactly one beer, and he probably knows which craft brewed pint has sulled the foam cover.  Maybe the manager is Bill Lumbergh or something...

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Paul: God fucking damn it. At this point I might be laughing convinced that this was a prank and that he's doing it to intentionally get a rise out of the crowd.

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 got us all feeling alright

Paul: I can only assume that this is the last thing Billy heard before the crowd beat him unconscious and hopefully took back their hard earned Schwebels.

Ian:  I think at this point, the manager, who was likely stoned himself, realized there was no performance and after several weeks of this ruse, finally showed the lazy hack the door, perhaps turning him into the subject of a previous Shallow Analysis. 

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