Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)

Album: The Stranger (1977)
Charted: 35 17
Play Video


  • 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 two jobs in hopes of one day owning a Cadillac.

    In 2014, Joel told Howard Stern: "I've seen friends of mine who were pressured into taking a job to take care of the family, and then they never fulfill themselves - they're doing it because that's where you're supposed to go. Everybody's got something they love to do or they should be doing - a talent. I see people wasting their lives, not putting their talent to that purpose so they could have stuff: you get a Cadillac and then you're fine."
  • 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 Sedaka's "Laughter In The Rain." Embarrassed, Joel changed it to a more rocking tune. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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."
  • For The Stranger, Joel had the chance to work with renowned Beatles producer George Martin, but he made the unthinkable decision to turn him down because Martin didn't want him to use his own band. Instead, Joel went with Phil Ramone, who became his mentor and frequent producer throughout the rest of the '70s and '80s.

    "He came to see me at Carnegie Hall play with my band, my road band, and he got it. He got the raw energy out of that. And that's what he wanted to translate onto a recording," Joel recalled in a 2016 SiriusXM interview. "And it turned out it was a good choice. Even George Martin came to me and said, 'You were right.'"
  • This was used in the 2013 Martin Scorsese film The Wolf Of Wall Street. It was also used in the TV series GLOW ("The Dusty Spur" - 2017), Kevin Can Wait ("Kevin's Bringing Supper Back" - 2016), and Glee ("Movin' Out" - 2013).

Comments: 21

  • SonjaTo the commenter below asking about Sergeant O'Leary, he's obviously a cop ("working the beat"), and either working a second job as a bartender or possibly working undercover as a bartender.
  • Matteo from Exton, PaThere’s a rumor that my family is tied to this song. My last name is Leone and I had an Uncle named Anthony. When he was young, my grandma, (who also had the last name Leone), kicked him out of the house because he was misbehaving. He stayed in a town called Hackensack which is the town next to where my uncles and dad grew up in, in Lodi, NJ. My grandma had a friend who knew Billy Joel and he would often go to her beach house in Long Island. Very coincidental indeed :)
  • Gary from CaliforniaWhy doesn't Billy use the word maniac? Instead he sings crazy man. Maniac fits perfect.
  • Debby from UsaI love this song. Reminds me of the spring of '79.
  • Tacey from New Milford, NjTo the person who asked if Hackensack is the Medical Center? Hackensack is a city in New Jersey, the county seat of Bergen County.
  • Kathleen from River Vale, NjIs he talking about Hackensack Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey? I've always thought that was it because it makes so much sense.
  • Jim from Pleasant Hill, CaWhenever I hear this song, I expect him to sing "...Hackensack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack..."
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny"Movin' Out" has something very much in common with three other Bill Joel songs; "She's Always
    A Woman", "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", and "Allentown";. All four songs peaked at No. 17...
  • Steve from Bay Shore, NyWhen he mentions "Sergeant O'Leary" in the 3rd verse:

    "Sergeant O'Leary is walkin' the beat
    At night he becomes a bartender...."

    Who exactly is Sergeant O'Leary and why did Joel mention him in the song?
  • Steve from Bay Shore, NyWhen he mentions "Sergeant O'Leary" in the 3rd verse:

    "Sergeant O'Leary is walkin' the beat
    At night he becomes a bartender...."

    Who exactly is Sergeant O'Leary and why did Joel mention him in the song?
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted 2/25/2008. Aside from his initial 1974 breakthrough hit "Piano Man", the moment "The Stranger" album came out in 1977-78, it seemed like Billy Joel simply became an instant institution on pop-music radio just as if he always belonged there. What a great album! Just a classic if there ever was one. On "The Stranger" he captured the essence of Italian-America & translated it into pop music so wonderfully ("Only The Good Die Young", "Scenes..Restaraunt", etc). Though not from N.Y. City, I was a kid who lived in the northeast at the time & my Mom's parents were Italian immigrants. This album reminds me a lot of them & all my relatives on that whole side of the family. "Movin' Out" captured that Italian feel just as well as any of the others on the album & may be my favorite song from there. It still remains one of my all-time favorite Billy Joel songs - and there are a whole lot of favorites from him (many from this album alone - "Just The Way You Are", etc) to choose from! Just a great upbeat fun song. Billy Joel then went on to deliver more instant classics effortlessly it seemed. Barely missing a beat after "The Stranger" he soon came out with "52nd Street" containing instant classics like "Honesty" & "My Life", etc. ("Until The Night" & "Stiletto" are also good tracks from there). In 1980 he came out with "Glass Houses" (with "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me", "Don't Ask Me Why", "You May Be Right", etc.) and this was a really good album that I liked very much! One of those rare albums that you can enjoy from start to finish with not one bad song on there. Then came "Songs In The Attic" in 1981 featuring live recordings of classic tracks from his pre-"The Stranger" albums. Not half bad at all actually. In 1982 he made "The Nylon Curtain". He's more of a serious social commentator here, so the tone is more of a downer & it's not quite as good as the previous albums but still it's not bad ("Allentown", "Goodnight Saigon", "Pressure", "Laura", "Surprises" are good songs there). In 1983 he lightened up again and made the 1950's-themed "An Innocent Man" (with "Tell Her About It", "The Longest Time", "Uptown Girl", etc). A depature, but it's fun, lighthearted, carefree, & most of the album is pretty good. Infact, this album actually charted a whopping 6 Top-40 hit singles! His albums after that were never quite as good anymore, but all still had some good songs like "A Matter Of Trust" & "This Is The Time" from "The Bridge" in 1986, "We Didn't Start The Fire" & "Leningrad", etc, from "Storm Front" in 1989, and the excellent title track from "The River Of Dreams" in 1993 (his last really big hit). I'm glad to have seen him 5 times in concert so far (1987,1990,1995,2002,2006) - 2 of those times together with the other great "Piano Man", Elton John (the 1995 & 2002 ones). If I'm not mistaken I seem to recall Billy saying at one of his shows that at one time he was once homeless! He's seemed to have bounced back pretty well since then. Billy Joel had a fantastic career & he will always be one of my all-time favorite artists & one of the greatest musical artists of my generation.
  • John from Stamford, CtI have begun to listen to more and more of Billy Joel's songs since hearing them on my fave radio station. I even shelled out some hard earned money for a 2-CD set with about 40 of his greatest hits just to get this one. One thing I have noticed in this hit and a few others he does put (At least in the CDs I have and on the radio) an "S" after some words that don't need it? "He works at Mister..... on Sullivan Streets" " It gives the song some charm and I always wonder if that was intentional or something I missed in his singing career.
  • Darrell from EugeneThe sound of the car driving out of the parking lot toward the end of this song sounds kind of like an MGB. To al British-car fans out there, listen for yourself, I may be right, or I may be wrong.
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlAnother Billy Joel classic. Cool song.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyWhen asked who was "Anthony", Joel said that in EVERY ethnic New York City neighborhood there is an "Anthony".
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlUp until I looked up the lyrics i made a HUGE error in lyrics.
    Original Lyric - "And if he can't drive with a broken back..."
    What I heard - "Nig*a can't drive with a broken back..." (no offense meant, it is simply what i heard). I obviously knew it wasn't right, but if you listen it sounds exactly like what he says. I laugh every time i hear it.
  • Jeff from Staten Island, Nymatt, huntington, NY:
    He may be talking about Sullivan St, in Little Italy (in NYC). Seeing how he mentions all Italian names (Anthony, Mister Cacciatore's, Mama Leone),

    He also sings about Little Italy in the song "Big Man on Mulberry St". and he mentions NYC often
  • Frank from Westminster, ScI always thought the line should have been, 'You should never argue with a maniac, ac, ac, ac' instead of, 'You should never argue with a crazy mind,ind,ind,ind.' It would have fit with the two previous ack, ac rhymes. If only he would have asked me before he wrote this and made all that money, I could have set him straight.
  • Matt from Huntington, Nydoes anyone know where he is talking about when he says, "He works at Mister Cacciatore's down
    On Sullivan Street.Across from the medical center" I figure that like many lines in many other songs it is a referance to a spot on Long Island, but I am from the Island and i could never figure it out.
  • Lisa from Philly, PaThis is an awesome song!!
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaThis is the title track in the Broadway hit based on Joel's music "Movin Out", which is about being young and wondering about life.
see more comments

Editor's Picks


AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.

Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke ParksSongwriter Interviews

U2, Carly Simon, Joanna Newsom, Brian Wilson and Fiona Apple have all gone to Van Dyke Parks to make their songs exceptional.

Have Mercy! It's Wolfman Jack

Have Mercy! It's Wolfman JackSong Writing

The story of the legendary lupine DJ through the songs he inspired.

Bible Lyrics

Bible LyricsMusic Quiz

Rockers, rappers and pop stars have been known to quote the Bible in their songs. See if you match the artist to the biblical lyric.

Song Cities

Song CitiesMusic Quiz

Nirvana, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are among those who wrote songs with cities that show up in this quiz.

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo Lyric

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo LyricMusic Quiz

In this quiz, spot the artist who put Romeo into a song lyric.