The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)

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"The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)"
Song by Tom Waits from the album Small Change
Released October 1976
Length 3:37
Label Asylum
Writer(s) Tom Waits
Producer(s) Bones Howe

"The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)", often referred to as "The Piano Has Been Drinking", is a song written and performed by Tom Waits. The song first appeared on his 1976 album Small Change, and an extended live version on the 1981 compilation album Bounced Checks.

Lyrics[edit]

Throughout the song, Waits imitates a drunkard, spouting nonsense phrases with the piano tune occasionally stumbling over itself, recalling a "somewhat abused, slightly-out-of-tune piano that one would expect to find in the corner of a bar or left out in the rain."[1] Waits repeatedly comments and complains about numerous inanimate objects with such lyrics as "The carpet needs a haircut." The song has been described as "[inhabiting] that late-night hades, the club where you can't find a waitress, "even with a Geiger counter"; where "the spotlight looks like a prison break" and the owner has "the IQ of a fence post."[2] The song's full title includes a reference to Pete King, co-founder and club director of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, at which Waits performed from May 31 to June 12, 1976.[3]

Live performances[edit]

In the mid-1970s, Waits occasionally performed the song as a medley with "Makin' Whoopee."[3] The song was performed, in truncated form, on the short-lived US television show, Fernwood 2 Night in 1977, during the promotion for Small Change. The appearance also included a short skit in interview form, premised on a broken-down tour bus, during which Waits asks to borrow money from the hosts. [4] [5] Waits performed an extended version of the song in Dublin in March, 1981, which appeared on the 1981 compilation Bounced Checks.[3]

Reception[edit]

Patrick Humphries, in his book The many lives of Tom Waits, believed "The Piano Has Been Drinking" to be "the archetypal Waits song: the laconic bar-room philosopher delivering pithy lyrics, in a voice that sounds like a garbage crusher."[2] Bill Janovitz, writing for Allmusic, wrote that the song "deflates the myth that there is glory in a life on the road, the darker reality of Kerouac's romanticizing, but it does so without being didactic or even very serious."[6] The song has twice been covered by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, for his albums Beatin' The Heat (2000) and Alive & Lickin' (2001).[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kessel, Corinne (2007) The words and music of Tom Waits, Praeger, p23
  2. ^ a b Humphries, Patrick (2007) The many lives of Tom Waits, Omnibus Press, p92-3
  3. ^ a b c d "The Piano Has Been Drinking" lyrics - Tom Waits Library - accessed November 16, 2010
  4. ^ IMDb - Season_01, episode_21 - aired 1977-August-01st
  5. ^ youTube - Tom Waits - the Piano Has Been Drinking - 1977
  6. ^ "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)" review - Allmusic review by Bill Janovitz - accessed November 14, 2010