The full title of this song is "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An evening with Pete King)."
Pete King's full name was Peter Stephen George King. He was director of Ronnie Scott's Club in Soho, London, England, where Waits played from May 31 to June 12, 1976. Waits recorded this song, along with the rest of Small Change, a month after this stint was complete.
This deliberately absurd song has Waits playing the role of a lounge singer who is drunk out of his mind. It's loaded with humorous one-liners:
The piano has been drinking, my necktie is asleep
And the combo went back to New York, the jukebox has to take a leak
And the carpet needs a haircut, and the spotlight looks like a prison break
Cause the telephone's out of cigarettes, and the balcony is on the make
One line goes:
As the bouncer is a sumo wrestler, cream-puff Casper Milktoast
A bouncer is someone paid to handle troublesome customers, while a cream-puff is a wimp, and a milquetoast is a timid person. So, this is essentially drunken-lounge-singer Waits filled with whiskey courage and talking trash to the bouncer.
In the '70s, Waits sometimes performed this song live as a medley with "Makin' Whoopee
," an Eddie Cantor tune from 1928.
A live version of the song was released on Bounced Checks, a 1981 Waits compilation album.