“I'm gonna be turning 65 this year,” Billy Joel told an audience in March, reminding the crowd that he had a significant birthday coming on May 9. “Most people retire at 65, but noooo! So,” he explained, “I need a neck brace to hold my head up.”
His loyal concertgoing fans knew better. They knew the “neck brace” he was putting on was actually a harmonica-holder, which meant that he was about to play the song that is the finale of his main set every night nowadays: “Piano Man.” Even though it was his very first commercially released single, the tune remains his signature song, any one of dozens of other hits could suffice as his show-closer if not for that obvious shoo-in.
… “All the characters in that song were real people,” Joel told a Harvard audience in 1994. “John at the bar was this guy named John — and he was at the bar,” he added, pausing for the crowd to chuckle at the exactness of his verisimilitude. “Davy was in the Navy… and probably still is,” Joel pointed out, shooting down theories that he renamed the character just to rhyme with a branch of the armed forces.
PopSpotsNYC found the location of the piano bar — the Executive Room in Los Angeles — which served as Billy's inspiration for the song. The picture, above, was taken in 1978, several years before the building was demolished.