So the other day, somebody who I won't mention -- but whose initials are Shady Dame -- wondered if I was going to put up a new Weekend Listomania ever again.
I had no cogent answer for her, but I thought it might be fun to post this one -- from April of 2008 -- and see what the responses would be. I've personally changed my mind on one or two of the entries, so we'll see what you guys think after all this time.
In any case...go to it, if you don't mind going to it. -- S.S.
BEST PIANO PART ON A POST-ELVIS POP/ROCK RECORD !!!!!!
By which we mean the most melodic, the most effective, or the most inventive. It can be a solo, an entire part as played through the length of a song, or simply a riff -- whatever gets you off.
But, and at the risk of belaboring the obvious, it has to be played on a piano. No synths, organs, or even clavinets need apply, although by piano we do mean of both the acoustic and electric varieties. On the other hand, if somebody nominates anything played on the shimmering Fender Rhodes (as we used to say in the '70s) I'm gonna take a hostage blah blah blah.
Oh, and one other totally arbitrary rule: The record said piano part adorns has to come in at under four minutes in length, which is pretty much the limit of my attention span where these things are concerned. This, of course, has the virtue of eliminating almost any dreaded prog rock I can think of, although it also means I can't include two of my personal faves, Bruce Springsteen's gorgeous piano-driven "Incident on 57th Street" (sorry, David Sancious) and Traffic's ridiculously infectious "Glad" (forgive me, Stevie Winwood).
Hey, life's a trade-off.
Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Ten:
10. Bruce Hornsby and the Range -- The Way It Is
From the YouTube comments: "Does anyone know if he was famous before 2pac used the tune?"
Sigh. Incidentally, there are many reasons that Sean Hannity will someday burn in hell, but high among them is the fact that the odious racist fuckwit has the gall to use this passionately anti-racist song as a lead-in on his radio show.
9. The Chiffons -- One Fine Day
One of the greatest opening riffs in rock history, played here by its auteur, Carole King. It's so good, as a matter of fact, that a decade later the Raspberries were moved to recycle it on twelve-string guitar for the intro of their equally epochal "I Wanna Be With You."
8. A three way tie --
The Beatles -- Tell Me What You See
The Beatles -- You Like Me Too Much
The Beatles -- In My Life
Don't know which Beatle is playing the brilliantly simple mini-solos on the first tune but it's a perfect part, and heard in tandem with Ringo's quasi-Phil Spector drum fill, it's pretty breathtaking. Apparently that's Paul and George Martin on "You Like Me" (one of George Harrison's best early songs), and then it's all Martin on the "In My Life" solo, which (note to aspiring pianists) is actually in the key of C although the track itself is speeded up so that it plays in B flat.
7. Ben Folds Five -- Philosophy
Punk rock for sissies. I like the sound of that. Odd to think, though, that Folds may well turn out to have been the last great piano man in rock history.
6. The Moody Blues -- Go Now
This is, of course, the kickass r&b-inspired early Moodies featuring the great Denny Laine, not the Justin Hayward-led ensemble responsible for such over-ambitious albums as The Moody Blues Cure Cancer. Incidentally, the arrangement here is lifted pretty much note for note from the original version by Bessie Banks; Mike Pinder's trenchant piano solo, however, is totally his own invention.
5. Johnny Cash -- Hurt
I'm not sure who's actually playing the piano here -- the video suggests it's the Man in Black himself, although from what I can tell from the album credits it could be Benmont Tench, Roger Manning or even(!) Billy Preston -- but whoever it is, it's brilliant. In fact, that droney thing may be even cooler than John Cale's similar octaves on the Velvet's "All Tomorrow's Parties."
4. Nina Simone -- My Baby Just Cares For Me
This after-the-fact video is so hilariously apt that you can almost miss the fact that Nina's solo is as perfectly constructed as any in the entire history of jazz OR pop/rock.
3. The Rolling Stones -- Street Fighting Man
The late great Nicky Hopkins, of course. He played on just about everything good out of England or San Francisco in the mid-to-late Sixties, including the Beatles' "Revolution," the sort of spiritual flip side of this one. Which is, you'll have to admit, one hell of a hat trick.
2. Ray Charles -- What'd I Say
IIRC, this was the first time a Wurlitzer electric piano had been heard on a pop single. In any case, the sound of the thing sold this record almost as much as Ray's brilliant (and subsequently endlessly imitated) minimalist funk phrasing.
1. The Zombies -- She's Not There
There's more sheer drama and atmosphere in the ten or twenty odd seconds of Rod Argent's solo here than can be found in the entire ouevre of countless keyboard-dominated prog bands I could mention. Simply brilliant, and for this, if for no other reason, I can forgive him for "God Gave Rock and Roll To You."
Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?