Billy Joel sits at the piano in a smoke-filled bar in 1973. It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday, and he’s just finished performing a new original song entitled “Piano Man” off his forthcoming album.
BILLY JOEL: Thank you, that’s called “Piano Man.” Now this next song—
JOHN, AT THE BAR: Whoa, hold on a second. What the hell was that?
BILLY JOEL: What do you mean?
JOHN, AT THE BAR: Well, Bill, you’re a friend of mine so I don’t want to sound rude, but that sounded kind of familiar. Don’t you think?
BILLY JOEL: I’m not sure what you’re getting at…
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: That’s about us!
BILLY JOEL: What? No, no, not at all.
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: You say our names in it, Bill!
WAITRESS: Consider yourself lucky, just “waitress,” Billy? Really? We’ve worked here together for years. Do you really not know my name?
BILLY JOEL: What? Of course I know your name…you.
OLD MAN: Hold on, are you trying to say that I requested a song without giving you the name or melody? That I just expected you to guess, like a mind reader or something? That never happened; that’s slander! And who the hell calls it a tonic and gin?
BILLY JOEL: Listen, it is very, very loosely based on my experience performing at various different piano bars. Don’t read too much into it. Anyway, this next one is called—
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: So you meet a lot of real estate novelists named Paul, do you? They’re just scattered up and down Long Island, are they? Unbelievable.
BILLY JOEL: Aspects may be inspired by my time here, but that’s it. Very loosely inspired.
DAVY, U.S. NAVY: “Probably will be for life”? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
BILLY JOEL: Don’t take that personally, Davy, I just had to make a rhyme; I swear I didn’t mean anything by it.
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: Oh, you mean you needed something to rhyme with your jab about me not having a wife?
DAVY, U.S. NAVY: You could’ve said “and has a really great life,” I feel like you were being needlessly harsh there. And did anybody else feel like the entire song was about how the only thing that makes our pathetic lives worth living is listening to him play the piano?
BUSINESSMAN: My friends and I are here for a work function, we’re not here because we’re lonely, that’s really jumping to wild assumptions.
BILLY JOEL: Listen, everybody, I’m sorry if I crossed any lines; it really wasn’t my intention to—
DAVY, U.S. NAVY: When we asked you to sing us a song tonight, we were thinking more along the lines of “She’s Got a Way” or something.
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: I mean, you go on and on in the song about how you help us forget about our problems. What made you think we’d want to hear a song primarily about our problems? That’s just cruel.
JOHN, AT THE BAR: Now everybody gets to hear about my dream of being a movie star, which I told you in confidence! And why’d you go blabbing about me getting you free drinks, the manager is gonna have my head.
WAITRESS: My name is Pam, jackass!
PAUL, A REAL ESTATE NOVELIST: Do we at least get some royalties out of this? I don’t remember signing away my life rights for your little song. What if I was going to use this as material for my novel?
BILLY JOEL: It’s just one song, guys. There’s a whole album full of others. It’s not like I’ll be playing it constantly. Nobody will even hear it, I’m sure of it. It probably won’t be that popular, so don’t worry about it.
JOHN, AT THE BAR: Well, you may be right, Bill, and I may be crazy, but I think you better stay away for a little while, just so everybody can cool off a bit.
BILLY JOEL: Where am I supposed to go?
JOHN, AT THE BAR: I can get you a gig at this Italian restaurant I know. My friends Brenda and Eddie told me about it.