Friday, May 4, 2012

Where's Davy?

I’ll be the first one to admit I’m not up on the zeitgeist, particularly when it comes to music. I’m still stuck in the sixties and seventies, and it’s music from this era playing in the background as I write this. But I’ve recently noticed something peculiar going on. We baby boomers have become accustomed to corporations using our generation’s anthems to sell their products, like Ford cashing in on the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up, or Beatles songs used to sell diapers at Target. But I’m referring to something far more sinister.

Back in 1973, Billy Joel produced the song that would become his hallmark—Piano Man. I can’t analyze music the way I can art so I can’t tell you if Piano Man is a good song or not, I just know I’ve been moved by it since the first time I heard Billy pound those piano keys.

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessman slowly gets stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone

Still gets to me, but I’m a sentimental softy and unapologetic about it. So here’s my problem. As you might imagine, I know all the lyrics to this song, and several months ago when it aired on my RAV’s radio as I drove to my morning swim, I noticed something missing in the song. Surely it was my involvement with driving that caused me to miss one of my favorite passages, but a few days later there it was again, Piano Man blaring from my car radio. I tuned in closely for my favorite part, and again it was missing:

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

Davy, who’s still in the Navy and probably will be for life, was conspicuously missing. Where had he gone? I’ve always sympathized with Davy. In my mind he never matures into a Dave or David, probably enlisted in the Navy when he was eighteen and now, like an institutionalized inmate, is terrified of release.

I realize that songs, like movies on TV, are often shortened and I don’t expect to hear the long version of ballads like Don McLean’s American Pie, but Piano Man isn’t a particularly long song. I mentioned this to Mrs. Chatterbox, who’s much more into the zeitgeist than I am, and at first she didn’t believe me when I said Davy was MIA.

But several days ago she came home from work and said, “Piano Man came on the air while I was driving home. I listened closely, and you’re right. No Davy!”

I was shocked. I’m not told very often that I’m right. But she did confirm my suspicions that Davy had disappeared. Was Davy a casualty of our wars to provide Homeland security? Were the lyrics considered anti-Navy, and thereby anti-military and unpatriotic? Is Davy no longer sitting at the bar listening to the Piano Man on your radio?

Davy—where are you?

Is Davy still hanging around your radio? Check for me the next time you hear Piano Man.


  1. Wow! Nice catch. That is curious. I love this song too. When I was in college I was visiting my boyfriend where he worked on a dude ranch near Jackson Hole, WY. In the lodge was an old upright piano with a single book of music: Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. I sat down at the piano and opened the first page. Inscribed was, "Dear Bob, Thanks for a great week. Billy" I played a few lines of Piano Man on that keyboard--it felt sacred! :)

  2. The only radio I listed to is on Pandora and they play the complete version. I don't know why they'd cut it. It seems like a harmless line. I always thought it just meant Davy would be in the Navy for 20 years or so and then retire. So if it was cut for some PC reason that seems really oversensitive.

    Incidentally I've been to a few Billy Joel concerts and this song is always fun in concert because most everyone knows the lyrics so you get a big singalong. Also at Red Wings games on Saturday nights around 9pm they'll play the opening lines from the song. And while I'm at it there's a "Robot Chicken" parody where Paul the real estate novelist takes his revenge on Joel.

  3. I had not noticed that, and I heard it not too long ago. I will certainly be listening for it now. Hmmm. What could be the reason???

  4. How weird! I wonder if they have radio-shortened versions of a lot of songs that we don't consider "long" and we just don't notice? And now I want to see that Robot Chicken episode! Odd note: my cousin used to make puppets, etc. for Robot Chicken.

  5. this goes back to the days of the 7", 12" and album versions of songs.

    Like one of my favourite early U2 songs New Years Day - the 7" version cuts out most of the guitar solo and one of the end verses of the album version, and of course the 12" has a lot of superfluous bits badly added on

    and when someone suddenly plays a version of the song that you're not familiar with - its really odd, and a bit frustrating particularly if its your favourite bit

    As for analysing music - i used to tease a friend for liking Billy Joel (but yeah ok - i have a best of...), but would add that the only criteria we need to apply to any song is - how it makes you feel and how much you enjoy that feeling.

    Ah sing me a song mr piano man.....(sings...)

  6. Davy [Jones] went to heaven!

    Boy howdy your zeitgeist needs to be "refreshed."


    Fun post.

  7. Aaaaaah! Those were the days of good music when lyrics could be heard and understood.

  8. I listen to a classic radio station all the time and I will definitely be listening for Davy the next time they give this song a spin. I'll let you know....

  9. Are Paul (never had time for a wife) and Davy (In the Navy) lovers and this passage deleted as a homophobic reaction?

    Cranky Old Man

  10. Maybe Davy is a Navy Seal and they had to stop using his name for security reasons.

  11. Okay, let me explain...Davy's real name (like my hubby's) is DAVID. He HATED being called Davy. I mean really hated it. So he put in a call to the piano man and had him remove the line under threat of major lawsuit. The piano man caved. David's HATE being called Davy. I speak from experience. If I want to pick a fight, I know just how to do it! LOL!!! Have a good weekend Stevey.

  12. I love Billy Joel, and Piano Man is one of my favorites. That is curious.

  13. I rarely listen to music anymore, but I'll take your word for it. Don't know why either. Probably someone with an agenda. Everyone seems to have an agenda these days.

    Have a terrific day and weekend. :)

  14. Now you have me curious, I will have to listen next time. But I listen to a version on MP3, so it will stay there, anyway...


  15. So what has happened to Paul and his pouty wife? Are they still together...if so, and that's the first part of the verse, how can the song jump two or three measures? Are there new lyrics in Davy's place? Enquiring minds are very confused. Smiles - Astrid

  16. Hmmmmm? That's interesting? Where is Davy? And why did he go? I just shared this on my FB page. I'm curious what others thoughts are on this matter.

  17. I love this song. Billy Joel is definitely one of the legends of rock. His words speak volumes.

  18. Hmm, this is curious. Wikipedia, which may or may not be correct, says the original version was over 5 minutes, so Columbia Records cut it for the album, and it has been cut again for single release. No clues about what parts were cut, but it may just be a time thing. Sad, indeed, that they won't play the whole version, but i guess the stations want to squeeze in more commercials.

    This could be a plug for Pandora and paid radio -- we don't have to cut your favorite songs to fit between the commercials.

  19. Oh, dear. Please apologize to your wife on my behalf. I just fell in love with you when you used "zeitgeist" correctly and said you're stuck in the sixties and seventies. You must be the soul mate for whom I search everyday. I'll try not to turn into a stalker. My blog is open to the public now, but it's not showing up in Google Reader yet. Lola returns next week. She can be quite a hoot, and she has major hooters.


  20. Davy is still kickin' on SiriusXM, the 70s. I hear Piano Man a couple times a week during my a.m. and p.m. commute. AND we get "American Pie" and "Freebird" uncut as well. Even on the St. Louis FM stations like 106.5 "The Arch," and "K-Hits 96," aka KIHT 96.3.

    A few of my favorite commercials, due to the music:

    GE, Donovan's "Try and Catch the Wind," with the little boy and a jar of air used to blow out birthday candles

    Nissan Altima, The Monkees' "I'm a Believer," with the farmer driving that car

    Amazon Kindle, Annie Little's "Fly Me Away," in the stop-motion ad for the Kindle

  21. I, too, got stuck a few decades ago as far as my taste in music is concerned. What really disturbed me was that I found myself liking the music in some commercials. Especially car commercials seem to have the best music. I ended up googling to find out the names of the songs and downloaded a few of them.

  22. Like most of your commenters I also like Billy Joel and his song. I had not heard that some lines were missing. I will listen. Your excellent post has got everybody curious.

  23. oh my gosh! well you know what happened to Huck Finn (how they changed all the dialect to make it proper) I guess it could happen to Davey.

  24. Did Davey leave on the plane headed for Spain with Daniel?

  25. Maybe Davey got out of the Navy so it didn't make sense to keep the lines.
    Anyway, Billy Joel is one of my favorites.
    Sorry I haven't been writing or reading for a week, so I've got some catching up to do.

  26. Huh that is weird! I would think Billy would have had to give the ok to shorten one of his classic songs? Its too bad they cant "extremely shorten" most of today's pop music!!!

  27. Well, they had to cut something you know, can't let the music interfere with the ads and the loud, overbearing voices that you hear now on the radio.
    You know what I hate? I hate when the DJ's start talking about something and then it morphs into something that they are trying to sell. Do they think we can't see that? Are you going to stop your car and say, "Damn, they really like that shoe shop, I'm turning this car around right now!"
    Oh wait, we were talking about music...sorry.

  28. Fascinating! I never listen to the radio (I get road rage if I'm not listening to an audio book), but maybe I'll put on the oldies station to see if I can catch it.

  29. I'll have to listen to it. I remember sitting in a holiday in listening to this for the first time sipping on a rusty nail. I was under age.

  30. Now I will always wonder what happened to Davy. If you find out, let me know.

  31. I heard it the other day and wondered the exact same thing!