Album: The Nylon Curtain (1982)
Charted: 20


  • In this song, Joel talks about a guy who is struggling to cope with the pressures of his life. The song is unusual because it is sung in the second person (Joel referring to the character as "you") and is a rock song with very little guitar. The driving synthesizer implies the near-paranoia the man is feeling. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The video for this song was Joel's first concept video. It was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who also made the video for "Allentown." Joel wasn't a fan of music videos and had little interest in making them, so he let Mulcahy have his way with the clip. When Russell had him sink into foam and scream at the sky, Joel went along with it even though he had no idea what was going on.
  • When Joel sings, "All your life is Channel 13, Sesame Street," he's referring to the New York TV station WNET (channel 13), which is the PBS affiliate that carried the show. Joel later appeared on Sesame Street, singing "Just The Way You Are" with Marlee Matlin in a 1988 episode.
  • In The Office episode "Threat Level Midnight" (2011), this plays in Michael's action movie during a shoot-out sequence between his character and the villain Goldenface.

Comments: 10

  • Kevin from BostonEveryone in the early to mid 80s were trying to sound like David Bowie. I had to search to make sure bowie or even Brian Eno had nothing to do with this song. I love Bowie, but damn I'm glad the 80s are over.
  • Bob from Farmington Hills, MiI remember reading Timothy White's interview with Billy Joel in Musician Magazine when this first came out. Billy related how that for one of the later instrumental bridges in this song they had the idea that some balalaika's (Russian stringed instruments) would be ideal; they figured you could find just about anything in New York City, when they stuck their heads outside the studio onto the street lo and behold a group of old, bearded Russians carrying balalaikas was walking by. They were able to coax them into the studio and these men laid down tracks for a little bit of money and then went on their way.
  • Tacey from New Milford, NjG.: When you are a recording artist, under a label, it would not be all that uncommon to be in an office with a secretary. Also, many offices have secretaries, and you can write lyrics to a song anywhere. I think your assumption was WAY off. Also, Billy is human...for all we know, he was at the IRS.
  • Randall from Delaware, OhHey, G, people that write songs write them anywhere that the inspiration hits them, including places where secretaries are.
    On a separate note, I don't think it's all that unusual for him to write songs to the second person. He did that a lot. Capiain Jack, Don't Ask Me Why, Big Shot. Those are ones right off the top of my head. I'm sure there's more.
  • Richard from Somerdale , NjI like the thingy that makes that sound for each break. I know it's backed by a violin after the "here you are, two men out and three men on, nowhere to look but inside where we all respond to Pressure" verse, but it sounds really cool alone. I like this song.
  • Randy from Reading, PaG - I saw the same interveiw as did Ken. That is what Billy said about it.
  • April from Baltimore, MdI only recently saw the video for this song, (someone told me it was supposed to be "conceptual surrealism") I just thought it left my head spinning..anyone else seen it?
  • G from Potomac, MdUh... so while he was a recording artist Billy Joel wrote songs in an office with secrataries? I don't think so, nice story though...
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyThe lyric "All your life is Channel 13/ Sesame Street, what does it mean?" refers to the New York City PBS station.
    The song is unusual not only because it is sung in the second person but also because it ends so abruptly. There is no fade out, just a jarring stop, almost like someone pulled the plug on the recording equipment.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyBilly says he got the idea from a secretary seeing him struggling to write a song. She said "You seem like you're under a lot of pressure." He replied "Thank You!"
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