In late 1973 Columbia Records released Piano Man, its first album by Billy Joel. A New York-bred singer-songwriter-keyboardist, the artist would have a profound impact on popular music for years to come. The album’s title track single, “Piano Man,” took its time before debuting on the Hot 100 in February 1974, where it eventually rose to #25. The album went on to sell more than four-times platinum and is one of the cornerstones of Billy Joel’s Columbia catalog of nearly 20 studio and live albums.
Almost four decades later, Piano Man (Legacy Edition) puts the groundbreaking ten-song album back in the spotlight. The new package includes a bonus CD of an entire previously unreleased 1972 live radio concert (predating Joel’s Columbia signing by a year), a crucial stepping-stone in his career. Early support for Joel came from Philadelphia, specifically the top-rated FM station WMMR, which programmed a live concert series taped in the intimate Sigma Sound Studios.
Billy recorded a concert for the series on April 15, 1972. Three of the 12 songs that he performed were destined for inclusion on his next album (more than a year and a half away) -- Piano Man: “Travelin’ Prayer,” the Aaron Copland-esque “The Ballad Of Billy The Kid,” and the notorious “Captain Jack.” Tapes of the ’MMR concert made the rounds, with “Captain Jack” turning into an “underground” FM favorite.
Some of those listeners happened to work for Columbia Records, and soon the groundwork was being laid for Billy Joel to come to New York and audition for the label. The rest, of course, is history -- but without the Philadelphia radio concert, that history might have taken a different direction indeed. From the Label