In the title track of his 11th studio album, Billy Joel is a restless sailor who leaves the safety of the harbor for the rough waters of the sea. It's also a metaphor for weathering a stormy relationship, as Joel longs for the freedom of the open water (i.e. the dating field) despite already having the love of a good woman. Many assume the tune was inspired by Joel's marriage to Christie Brinkley, which was supposedly starting to unravel the time, although they didn't divorce until 1994.
Joel said the song's "powerful and ponderous" rhythm was inspired by Peter Gabriel's 1986 hit "Sledgehammer." He told Sirius XM in 2016, "It's just slow enough to have a good walk to it but it doesn't fall apart."
Joel titled the album Storm Front because of the storm that was looming in his own life around the making of the album. When an audit revealed his manager Frank Weber was allegedly cooking the books to cover up shady business dealings, Joel sued him for $90 million in damages. It was especially painful because Weber was the singer's former brother-in-law and goddaughter to his little girl, Alexa.
"It was a nightmare, but it made for good material," Joel explained for his 2011 Complete Albums Collection. "This was trauma, this was drama, that's why the album ended up being called Storm Front: There's a storm front comin'."
The album also marked some significant personnel changes. Joel fired his longtime band members Russell Javors and Doug Stegmeyer, and he replaced Phil Ramone, his steady producer of more than a decade, with Mick Jones of Foreigner.
Storm Front went to #1 in the US, where it sold four million copies, and featured the chart-topping single "We Didn't Start The Fire."
The album earned Joel a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1991. He lost to the late Roy Orbison for the live 1987 version of "(Oh) Pretty Woman."
This features backing vocals from Richard Marx, who had just released his sophomore album, Repeat Offender.