MIKE KEELER: Sing Us A Song, Piano Men

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Here’s a little post-pandemic musical realization. When springtime finally comes and it’s warm enough to go out in your garage and pore through the remains of a recent fire and restoration, and the left-behind possessions of two twenty-somethings, you eventually get to the record collections. All scrambled and piled up here and there. You gotta figure out what’s what, whose is whose, and what’s worth cleaning and saving. And, once done and all alphabetized on one rack, you realize you have a snapshot of the rock and roll era.

To wit: the largest number of albums in the collection (including duplicates) are of the two titans of rock, Bob Dylan and the Beatles (if you include the various member’s works, from ‘Band on the Run’ to ‘Bangladesh’). The next tier by volume is the acolytes of those acts, such as – on the Dylan side – Neil Young and Springsteen, and – on the Beatles side – the Rolling Stones and the Who. There’s also the enigmatic Grateful Dead, with a huge album catalog that frankly is immaterial; DeadHeads listen mostly to bootlegs.

The third tier has lots of singer-songwriters like Jackson and James and Joni. And in that category is an interesting anomaly: the two best-known piano-based rockers sit, alphabetically, side by side. Can you guess?

It’s Joel (Billy) alongside John (Elton), rubbing shoulders as if they are playing a duet. Which is funny because they have toured together twice. And which also reminds me of an interesting piece of trivia I learned not long ago. At the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ – which is not on Madison, isn’t Square, and is no longer a Garden, but that’s another story – Elton John long held the record for most shows played. But in 2015, Billy Joel passed him, with his 65th appearance. It was a pretty famous moment.

But now it’s an afterthought. Joel has since become an artist in residence, performing monthly shows at MSG, like other folks do in Vegas. You can call it cheating – all he has to do is schlep in from the Island – but, then again, he has been selling out every show for years. His MSG number is way past 100 now, while Elton John retired after playing his 70th show at MSG on the 70th date of his farewell tour.

The pandemic shut this all down, and we’ve all endured some live music limbo. MSG pushed Joel’s 2021 spring dates, first to the summer, and then to the fall.

But, hopefully with the arrival of vaccinations, musical acts both huge and tiny will take the stage again soon. To get ready, we’re buying a Bluetooth record player and pulling out some vinyl. Our set list includes, “I’m Still Standing,” “Help Is On The Way,” “I Shall Be Released,” “New York State of Mind,” “Let It Be,” “Start Me Up” and “Long Live Rock.”

The gentleman says, “’Live Music Is Better’ bumper sticks should be issued!” All in favor? Aye!!

Mike Keeler

– Mike Keeler