Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beautiful Blast from the Piano-Pop Past

I woke up singing this song, for some reason. Maybe it was the soundtrack to a dream I don't remember. What I do remember is how gobsmacked I was the first time I heard it. Senior year of high school, standing in a record store, and the little gallop and kiddie gunshot noises came over the sound system--and then those first notes, with their syncopated accents that made it hard to tell exactly where the beat was. What in the world...?

I fancied myself a teen piano idol in the Elton John mode, with a little Rick Wakeman thrown in, a little Keith Emerson, Tony Banks, a little delusion of grandeur. I went up to the counter, and looked at the LP jacket on the "Now Playing" stand. I'd never heard of Andy Pratt and here he was just playing the ass off the thing.

The story goes, he spent 500 hours in the studio on this song, playing everything except drums. He's every bit as good on bass as he is on keyboards. How does a guy who's capable of this not become a huge star? I remember digging the whole album. But this song is definitely the piece d'irresistible.

There are a couple of other YouTube versions, including one that intercuts a performance video of Andy in his 50s, looking like Art Garfunkel, but it's all obscured by special effects. This little montage of stills will do. And you can see Andy then and Andy now.

Or just close your eyes. It's the fall of 1973. Maybe you weren't there for it. But this song has just galloped into the world, beating "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the punch by two years, a one-of-a-kind musical vision announcing itself, blowing away one delighted listener after another. I was one of them. Still am.