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Thread: Tradition of Burning Pianos

  1. #1
    RKL Guest

    Default Tradition of Burning Pianos

    To all:

    I have been given two rationale for the supposed tradition of burning pianos.

    1. The tradition supposedly comes from WW2 days when pilots were deemed to be "home" after crossing the Piano Keys at the end of the runway...If a crew didnt make it home and were confirmed dead a glass of beer was placed on top of piano in the mess for each member lost...along with a personal article from that persons locker at the end of the "wake" the items would be burnt....I believe the tradition got out of hand one time and the piano was burnt I think because the lost airman used to play the piano....and so the tradition has continued. I dont know of the full facts as this was told to me a while back but seems quite feasible to me..maybe someone else has heard different it would be good to actually find out when and how it really did start.

    2. the tradition arises from the attempt to educate pilots in officer like qualities by making them take piano lessons. IN an act of rebellion a piano and mess was burnt down and the process of enforcing of piano lessons ceased. This led to piano burning being considered an act of celebration in some circles.

    I know that the piano burning has occurred upon the demise of aircrew, as well as under more hellacious circumstances in the mess.

    The truth is out there - can anyone help?



    RKL

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    Good story, except that wartime UK airfields didn't have piano keys painted on the thresholds! It would have made them show up too well.

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    As Dave has already mentioned, 'piano keys' are a modern invention and were not used in WW2. I would suggest the burning of pianos is less romantic and simply down to hi-jinks in the mess.

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    Hi Gents,

    Not sure about the RAF tradition but on 18th Nov 1978 when HMS Ark Royal was steaming home from final cruise the piano from the officers mess was put onto a 4 wheeled skate and, with due care, launched over the bows by the steam catapult.

    I beleive this gave rise to the scene where Dudley Moore is launched at his piano.

    Regards
    Ross
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    I was also told that the signal to launch the piano was give by the Captain (in full ceremonial dress) with a downward sweep of his sword!
    Rgds
    Peter Davies

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    And presumably the launch took place off the Ivory Coast...

    Errol

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    Default Piano destruction, India

    Circa 1991 I wrote to Hurricane legend Frank Carey in regard to a veteran who socialized with him in the Officers' Mess at RAF Amarda Road, India. Carey's reply included a bit about wartime antics and piano destruction. AFTU was the Air Fighting Training Unit, Carey's brainchild, which is an important part of his legacy. He wrote:

    ++++++++++

    I have always loved playing the drums, but I did have the 'musical achievements' on the piano of both the Symphony 'Alcoholique' and the 'Prang' Concerto. The former, for obvious reasons, is best undertaken when one has partaken of a considerable amount of liquid support to free oneself of the normal constraints of anything vaguely approaching harmony, while the latter's third movement demands the complete destruction of the instrument itself -- legs, frame, wires -- the lot (no mean feat!). It has to be left so that not a single note can be heard from it afterwards.

    As you might imagine, I've only completed the third movement once -- as I was posted from AFTU Amarda Road to the Middle East.

    ++++++++++

    This would have been in November 1944, when, as a Group Captain, he left India to command 73 OTU at Abu Sueir, Egypt.

    Matt

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    I'm told that piano maltreatment is an expression of rebellion against establishment, nothing more, nothing less. Variants are, on land, burning, or dropping from windows, the higher the better. At sea, launching. The origin of this expression is unclear. It is used under special circumstances, such as when the CO is posted away. It occurs in the Royal Dutch Air Force too.

    Rob

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    Rob,
    The Piano Maltreatment Society will be after you if you are not careful. This is better than having the Maltreated Pianists Outreach Management mob descending on you! They are, so I am reliably informed, quite fearsome!!!!!!!!!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies

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    That's no problem, Peter. Never fitted in well with establishment anyway..

    Rob

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