The Third Leader: Play on, Piano Man

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The Independent Online

What a splendidly magical mystery it was, though: this man found, dripping wet, in an ill-fitting dinner suit, tall, sad, shyly staring, haunted and mute except when he could sit at a piano, when his lost soul would be poured into hours of playing like Paderewski. There were a couple of risky touches - the ripped-out labels on his clothes and the comedy setting for his discovery, a beach on the Isle of Sheppey - but they served only to confirm that this was by the riskiest scriptwriter of them all, Life, Jim.

Ah, well. So it was a troubled German farmer's boy who played like Eric Morecambe, and who was, it turned out, perfectly able to talk. Bang like a dropped piano lid goes our fond hope that, despite this being the Age of Communications, there could still be mysterious strangers abroad, successors to Jack Cade and Perkin Warbeck, the Pied Piper and the Iron Maskee, the Lone Ranger and Lord Archer.

It's interesting, too, that the new version reads like a current Hollywood script, while the original (minus Sheppey) resembled an old one, needing only the addition of a beautiful nurse and the traumatisingly tragic death of his wife, a glorious soprano crushed under a runaway tuba.

But I shall not despair yet. Only this Sunday, at a car boot sale, I bought five beans plus a rather dusty old lamp. And he did manage it for quite a bit, didn't he, the Piano Man?

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