Saturday, February 9, 1974

Billy Joel charted with “Piano Man”

First posted 4/28/2020.

Piano Man

Billy Joel

Writer(s): Billy Joel (see lyrics here)

Released: November 2, 1973

First Charted: February 9, 1974

Peak: 25 US, 16 CB, 19 HR, 23 RR, 4 AC, 1 CL, 10 CN, 20 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.1 US, 0.5 UK, 0.6 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 192.1 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

“Great songs tell a story and…‘Piano Man’ paints a vivid portrait of a specific place and time, every time you hear it.” UCR Joel crafted “an indelible mental portrait of the characters who inhabit a watering hole on a Saturday night.” UCR “You can almost see the haze of cigarette smoke and hear the clinking of glasses.” UCR

The song grew out of Joel’s six-month stint as a lounge pianist in which he “he pecked out standards for lost souls.” RS500 It was 1971 and he performed under the name Bill Martin at the Executive Room in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles. SJ He left his native New York City to perform under an alias in another state and get out of his recording contracts with Ripp and Paramount Records after two failed bands – the Hassles and Attila – and a solo album that bombed. SJ As he said, “It was all right…I got free drinks and union scale, which was the first steady money I’d made in a long time.” RS500

“Piano Man” referenced real people he met while working there – John the bartender, Davy who really was in the Navy, and real estate broker and wanna-be novelist Paul. He also sang about the “Hollywood types” who “put bread in my jar, and say, ‘Man what are you doing here?’” SJ

One of them was Clive Davis, the president of Columbia Records. Davis signed him SJ and the resulting Piano Man album featured the title cut which launched Joel’s career. He was “one of the biggest singers of the next 25 years” UCR and although he had bigger hits – including three pop chart-toppers – “few could be considered more beloved.” UCR

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Saturday, February 2, 1974

Barbra Streisand hit #1 with “The Way We Were”: February 2, 1974

First posted 2/2/2012; updated 1/29/2020.

The Way We Were

Barbra Streisand

Writer(s): Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman/Marvin Hamlisch (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 20, 1973

Peak: 13 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 RR, 12 AC, 31 UK, 11 CN, 6 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming



“The Way We Were” “capped a rare entertainment grand slam” AMG in that the song, album, and movie all hit #1. AMG Streisand was no stranger to the Billboard pop charts, having racked up 20 hits since “People,” taken from the musical Funny Girl, charted in 1964. However, “The Way We Were” was her first chart-topper – she would accomplish the feat four more times – and her second of eight to the adult contemporary charts.

Barbra conveys “the lyric with great passion and style, without resorting to overly sentimental histrionics.” AMG The result was the biggest song of 1974 WHC-101 and one of her “finest performances.” AMG The song is “ingrained into the memory of anyone who was listening to radio in the mid-’70s.” AMG

The movie “starred Streisand and Robert Redford as a pair of opposites who fall in love. They are followed “from college to marriage to divorce and beyond.” BR1-356 The use of the word “memories” throughout the song perfectly captures the essence of the film’s focus on “emotions of long-term (and long-lost) love.” AMG

The original movie version of the song was recorded with an orchestral backing which was scrapped in favor of a more pop arrangement for the single and Barbra’s subsequent album of the same name. BB100

When awards season hit, the track took home prizes for Best Song at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The song was also ranked #8 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 film songs of all time. WK

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