Don't Ask Me Why

Album: Glass Houses (1980)
Charted: 19
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Songfacts®:

  • The fourth single from Glass Houses, this Latin-infused track seems to be addressing a pretentious woman who's forgotten her humble roots. Joel described it as a figurative song based on his experiences in Europe and New York. "It's kind of a stream-of-consciousness commentary," he told Sirius XM in 2016.
  • Joel said his time in Madrid probably inspired him to compose the tune, but the piano rhythm was a spoof of music from Spanish movies of the 1940s. He also told Keyboard magazine the song's midsection contains 15 pianos overdubbed on top of each other.
  • In the chorus, Joel pronounces "ask" as "axe," possibly exaggerating his Long Island accent as a jab at the woman's affected speech. He knows she's "no stranger to the street" even though she puts on airs and speaks in French (Joel doesn't speak the language but pretends to in the album cut "C'était Toi (You Were The One)").
  • This drew comparisons to the work of two famous Pauls: McCartney and Simon.
  • Joel borrowed the melody from an unfinished demo called "The Prime Of Your Life," whose chorus also was turned into "The Longest Time."
  • Along with handclaps, maracas, and castanets, this features the tapping of high-heeled shoes in the mix. Joel and his producer Phil Ramone were brainstorming percussion ideas to give the bridge a Spanish flavor when Joel noticed that Laura Doty, the studio's receptionist, was wearing shoes with high heels. He asked to borrow them and used them to tap out the flamenco-style rhythm (with his hands, not his feet!) on a table in the lobby of A&R Records.
  • Joel performed this with Harry Connick Jr. on the latter's talk show, Harry, in 2017.
  • This was used on the TV shows The Orville ("Nothing Left On Earth Excepting Fishes" - 2019) and Freaks And Geeks ("Carded And Discarded" - 2000). It was also featured in the 2014 movie Black Or White, starring Kevin Costner.
  • This was Joel's second single to reach #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The first was "Just The Way You Are" from The Stranger.
  • Glass Houses, featuring the up-tempo hits "You May Be Right" and "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me," was designed as a rock-and-roll record that could let Joel cut loose on his big arena tours.

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