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Album: 52nd StreetReleased: 1978Charted:
This song about asserting your independence was the theme to the 1980 television sitcom Bosom Buddies - the one that introduced many of us to Tom Hanks (in a dress!). However, because of licensing issues, the title theme was not Joel's version and was sung by a soundalike singer.
Even by '80s standards, the show had a very long opening sequence, with the song playing for about a minute at the beginning of the broadcast. When the series was released on DVD, the song had to be purged for legal reasons (this is very common - before they got the music cleared, the WKRP in Cincinnati DVD episodes sounded ridiculous with most of the music expunged). It was replaced with a song called "Shake Me Loose" by Stephanie Mills.
Note the pleasing high harmonies on this one - Chicago members Peter Cetera and Donnie Dacus joined Joel for the backing vocals.
Allegedly, the verse "closed the shop, sold the house, bought a ticket to the west coast; now he gives them a stand up routine in LA" refers to comedian Richard Lewis. Lewis is indeed native to Joel's stomping ground, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey.
A chunk of these lyrics - specifically the part about Richard Lewis - appear in British alternative rock band A's "Number One," which gets Joel a partial songwriting credit on that album.
This was Joel's seventh Billboard Top 40 hit. And a bit of trivia, since Elton John is the other
famous piano-playing rocker, let it be known that of the two, Elton was the first with a Top-40 single. Elton's "Your Song
" in 1970 beat out Joel's "Piano Man
" in 1974.
More about Bosom Buddies: Originally conceived by producers as the male counterpart to Laverne & Shirley, it had Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari as a pair of roommates whose apartment burns down, so they decide to go stay at a women-only hotel because the rent is cheap. They dodge the women-only requirement by dressing in drag.
As if that doesn't sound contrived enough, the hotel in Bosom Buddies is named the "Susan B. Anthony Hotel," named after the famous women's-rights activist. Susan B. Anthony was also the subject of the famous Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, which was actively being minted in the years 1979-1981 right when Bosom Buddies was airing, with a revival mintage in 1999. Aspiring coin collectors take note: The coin was unpopular due to its size, making it often mistaken for a quarter by vending machines. In fact, it was so unpopular that it never saw much circulation. To this day it isn't very profitable to collect even mint specimens of Susan Bs, as every collector has rolls of them which are still worth about a dollar.
Tom Hanks poked fun at himself in a 2011 episode of the show 30 Rock when he explains that anyone working in TV must come off the A-list, then proceeds to sing some of this song.