The secrets behind Billy Joel’s breakout hit “Piano Man” have been revealed to Totes Real News by someone named Billy Joel Expert, because if you have some money to spare you can change your name to just about anything. Through the conversation with Mr. Expert, who must know a lot because his name says he does, several surprising facts about the lyrics to “Piano Man” came to light.
One fascinating tidbit involves the old man who sat next to a young Billy Joel. This old man knew the words to the song he wanted played as recently as two years earlier, which was the time he was wearing a younger man’s clothes. In the late 1960’s, the old man had a 24-year-old neighbor, and this young man was making his way up in the advertising world and therefore spent a lot of time away from home, so the younger man paid the older man to look after his dog. This continued without any criminal activity for months, until an unpleasant odor revealed a need to clean up the dog’s mess in a closet, and this closet contained some very nice clothing which fit the old man perfectly.
So the old man took one outfit, figuring the young man wouldn’t miss it, and then another and another, until eventually the thievery was discovered and the old man had a brief but traumatic stay in prison, after which he developed a major drinking problem which led him to forget the words to all of his favorite songs, which is why he needed Billy Joel to sing the song to him.
Additionally, the place where John the bartender would rather be isn’t necessarily in Hollywood, but anywhere besides the bar. John didn’t even particularly want to pursue a career as an actor, but rather was equating the likelihood of movie stardom with the likelihood of leaving, since John had been hit with a restraining order by someone living exactly five hundred feet away from the bar, so the moment he stepped outside the bar he would have been in violation of the order. And there were no windows on the other side of the building, and the landlord would have sued him for trying to make any, and then he wouldn’t have even been able to go to court and defend himself due to the restraining order.
Another mystery which was resolved by Billy Joel Expert is the nature of Paul’s profession as a real estate novelist. He was, unsurprisingly, a novelist who wrote about real estate, since a realtor who wrote novels would be a “realtor and novelist,” which works just as well in the song since it has the same number of syllables. What is less clear about Paul’s situation is the figurative language used by Mr. Joel in this verse when he was inspired by a famous expression to equate time with money. Paul did not have the money to get married because hardly anyone wanted to read novels about people buying houses. Paul might have fared better if he wrote during the era of real estate television, but back then he was stuck lamenting his troubles to Davey.
Mr. Expert also discussed the waitress who, like Paul, was ahead of her time. She practiced politics by pretending to take away people’s healthcare. She would go up to customers and ask them what doctor they saw and then tell them their insurance didn’t cover that doctor any more and they had to pay a lot of money if they ever wanted medical treatment again. She did this because she was drunk, which was unprofessional, but John could not go out and hire a better waitress when he couldn’t leave.
Another common misconception about the song is that when the businessman was getting stoned, he was getting stoned off the effects of alcohol, but that was not the case. Davey and Paul would throw pebbles at him because Paul blamed price gouging for the public not having leftover money to buy his books, and Davey resented the businessman for repeatedly refusing to hire him for enough money that he could quit the Navy. This continued for years, sometimes just by Paul and sometimes by Paul and Davey and sometimes others joined in, and John wouldn’t do anything about it because he couldn’t kick out his best customers. And the businessman wouldn’t leave because he liked the waitress too much, but eventually his doctor made him stay home to recover from his gradually acquired injuries, which happened after Piano Man was recorded.
Loneliness, as it turns out, was the name of an actual drink served at John’s bar. It was ironically named, because this combination of several bottom-shelf liquors and liqueurs, along with multiple juices and sodas in a sixty-ounce glass, could almost never be finished by one person. It was only because of the shared alcoholism of the businessman and waitress that they could finish it together, even though it did go down very easily. This was not the case for “drinking alone”, a smaller cocktail containing gin and milk and horseradish which was not intended to be consumed by anyone, alone or otherwise.
These lyrical explanations have not been confirmed by Billy Joel, only by Billy Joel Expert, but the opinions of an Expert should be valued over all others so the only opinion which matters is the opinion that these Piano Man facts are totally true.