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The lyrics refer to the New York working-class immigrant masculine ethos, in which wage-earners take pride at working long hours to afford the outwards signs of having "made it" in America. The character "Anthony" questions if owning a house in Hackensack (a suburb of New York city) is worth the effort, while "Sergeant O'Leary" works 2 jobs in hopes of one day owning a Cadillac. (thanks, Dan - Columbia, MD)
Joel first wrote this song to a soft ballad mystery tune he had in his head. When he performed it for his band in the studio, they informed him WHERE he got the tune - it was identical to Neil Sadaka's "Laughter In The Rain." Embarrassed, Joel changed it to a more rocking tune. (thanks, Ken - Louisville, KY)
In 2002, The stage production Movin' Out opened on Broadway. The show was based on Joel's songs, and he won a Tony Award for the orchestration. The Broadway production closed in 2005, but lived on as a touring production from 2004-2007.
Billy Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: "In the song, there's the sound of a car peeling out. That was (bassist) Doug Stegmeyer's car, who at the time had a '60s-era Corvette. He took his little tape machine in the car and hung the microphone out the rear end, and started burning rubber, screeching away from his house.
At the end, we went on and on and on and they faded it out. We were just having too much fun playing, we couldn't stop! We'd look at Phil (Ramone, the album's producer) and he'd just go, 'Ah, just keep going, who knows how much of this we're going to use, just go with it.' The education of self-editing is a good process to learn."
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