Steppin' Out

Album: Night And Day (1982)
Charted: 6 6
Play Video


  • This song is about the anticipation and excitement of a night out on the town. Joe Jackson wrote and recorded the Night And Day album in New York City, and the first side of the album describes various encounters with the city. "Steppin' Out" is the last song on side one, and takes us on a journey through Manhattan in a taxi. All the tracks on the album segue together, which is a casualty of digital, song by song downloads.
  • The video featured a housekeeper pretending she was a Cinderella figure, and was filmed over one night in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. This being 1982 and with MTV increasing in influence, Jackson made the video, but he wasn't happy about it. He told Time Out in 1984: "Rock 'n' roll is degenerating into a big circus, and videos and MTV are very much part of that. People who are seriously interested in making music as an end in itself are going to have to split away and forge a different path."
  • According to the VH1 show Pop Up Video, the phrase "steppin' out" was coined in New York City in the 1930s.
  • When Joe Jackson's marriage broke he moved to New York to record Night And Day. The title is from the Cole Porter song, and the album was designed to have the feel of 24 hours in New York City, with the first side representing "Day" and the second "Night."
  • This was Joe Jackson's biggest hit in the US, but in the UK 1980's "It's Different For Girls" went one better peaking at #5.
  • "Steppin' Out" received a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year in 1983 but lost to "Rosanna" by Toto.

Comments: 23

  • Af from New EnglandTo me this song has always had a touch of melancholy to it - the line "look and dry your eyes" makes it hard to view this as just a "going out on the town" song. The chorus refrain of "into the night, into the light" is referring to coming out of darkness - the "darkness in their lives" mentioned in the second verse. The chorus also does not say "we", it refers to "me" and "you" separately - implying that this couple is out together but there is a rift between them.

    Is this overthinking it? I don't think so. I like to interpret lyrics and we will all find our own things in songs we love. Steppin' Out is also a lovely song to have as a soundtrack to a late night drive.
  • Kevin from Camp HillI used to work in the Mechanicsburg, PA Staples from July, 2004-March, 2007. I used to hear this song EVERYDAY over the MUSAK. When I left, I really missed hearing it everyday. At one point along the way, I had heard it someplace while I was shopping. I tried hard to find it online, but failed! Then just a few days ago (10/4/2020), I was listening to random songs on YouTube. Then there was this one in the recommendations with a guy at a Piano, with the title, "Steppin' Out". When I heard the first few notes...I freaked out lol.
  • Diane From Essex from EnglandViewing this genius song reminds me off my own life as a cleaner and my true love coming back heading for the lights. He's a musician and a traveller. Heard it on the radio two weeks ago could not get it out my head, then it played again then I got the artist and the song. I have a most troublesome life here and I know his is the same, so stepping out to me is escaping
  • J from SdI love how passionate people are about interpreting the meaning of the song.
    That’s what art is for… To interpret
  • AlexisWhat tv show/movie was this music sampled on? I can't find it and I feel like it was something along the lines of Clifford that sampled this in their show music
  • Cyncyti from Schaumburg, IlThis is the epitome of the club date night songs...listening to it now brings back the sights, smells, even loved ones, of 82. What is sad is we didn't realize how fleeting those moments of security, confidence and unabashed fun would be. I spent a month in an induced coma a few years ago and told my son I'd have a playlist should there ever be another, this song (and a couple of Earth, Wind and Fire) will be on it, several times. Thanks for the memories Joe Jackson.
  • Daniel Goldberg from Washington, DcThis song, along with tunes like "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears, always struck me as the penultimate '80s yuppie nightlife song - a sort of dream of a lost time that may or may not have really existed. Think the novel "Bright Lights Big City" (or the excellent movie adaptation starring a coke-snorting Michael J. Fox.) I can't imagine a better song to have playing in the car as you head out to the nightlife in your town, which may or may not live up to the promise of the moment where you and your friend or lover are just driving and listening to the song.
  • Ross from UkFrom Joe Jackson himself in a June 2018 WSJ article:

    "As soon as I finished the music, I wrote the words. I thought of a couple who had just fought and were making up. They were telling each other, “Let’s forget it and take advantage of the city. Let’s just throw ourselves into the night.”

    The first verse set the scene: “Now / the mist across the window hides the lines / But nothing hides the color of the lights that shine / Electricity so fine / Look and dry your eyes.”

    The next verse urged the other person to forget the argument: “We / so tired of all the darkness in our lives / With no more angry words to say / can come alive / Get into a car and drive / to the other side.”

    The rest is about heading out and the anticipation of arriving at a club: “And in a yellow taxi you turn to me and smile / We’ll be there in just a while / If you follow me.”"
  • Hans from Boston, MaI always assumed this song was about stepping "out of the closet" and being open about being gay. Given that he was writing songs like "Real Men" and "It's Different for Girls," issues about gender were certainly on his mind.
  • Jennifur Sun from Ramonai don't know who played Bass on this song, but it really makes the tune for me. like the whole song.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 12th 1982, "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson peaked at #6 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on August 15th and spent over a half-year on the Top 100 (27 weeks)...
    It also reached #6 in the U.K., in Canada it peaked at #5, and on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart it made it to #4...
    Mr. Jackson, born David Ian Jackson, celebrated his 59th birthday four months ago on August 11th.
  • Sabrina from Corvallis, OrI agree with Daniel in SC. The other reviewer is reading waaaay too much into the song. It's simply a peppy, fun song about all the excitement about going out with your sweetie for a night on the town, but contrasting it with those who have to work long hard hours to ensure others have a good time but wind up missing out on good times themselves.
  • Daniel from Columbia, ScI do not believe that whoeverunomeaz's is reading too much into the song - there is a theme of entropy/death running through the song. I don't necessarily agree with the afterlife interpretation but the song is about more than anticipation of a night on the town (although if the words are taken literally this would appear to be trivially true and not incorrect or incoherent). I have always thought the song is a call to a return to play as opposed to an obsession with the quotidian, soul-sucking, grind of everyday life. Yes, the event could be a night on the town although I think this is a metaphor for notion of returning – at least momentarily – to a child-like state (“a night on the town” works well as a metaphor – think of adults who still have “date nights” in a largely failed attempt to re-capture something they intuitively sense is missing from their lives) which may not even require leaving the physical space one inhabits. The song is an imperative to re-discover a state of mind/existential “feeling” – even if only for only a nano-second – before one shuffles of this mortal coil.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxJJ always had a shaky voice, but he could definitely tickle those ivories.
  • Jerry from Louisville, KyThis was the first record I owned when I was about 11 or 12 back in '82 or 83. I played this song to death and it remains to this day one of my all time favorites. Simple but beautiful song.
  • Marcus from Baton Rouge, LaThis is one of my favorite songs of all time! I first this song in 1982 or 83 riding to the grocery store with my grandmother. To me it has a sound to it that's just captivating and give you a feel good mood, a mental escape from the hard part of life. I always think of good memories when hearing it. This is real 80's music at its finest.
  • Brad from Long Island, Ny@whoeverunomeaz
    Or its just a song about anticipation of a night out ont he town. Jeez talk about aver reading a the video for petes sake. Unless you are JJ or have heard him state this, your interpretation.

    BTW, listen to his live version of this song "Live 80/86." done in a much slower time, ive heard that Jackson said it was how he originally wanted to record it.
  • Scott Papel from Los Angeles, Cafirst time i heard this song in late 12/82 on the radio and i loved it, i was 20 years old it faded out of my life for the next 27 years, until now a radio station in los angeles started playing all over again it still sound great just like it when it first came out and i understand the songfacts because im a musician for 3o years for two days i been playing this song over and over scott papel south gate ca
  • Tanya from La Verne, CaI absolutely love this song! It always had a sense of anticipation for what's coming in the night. Great song!
  • Ashley from Carlisle, PaLike so much of the music I love, my dad turned me onto this song when I was young. My dad has been through my MP3 collection and is amazed that everything I have in MP3, he had on vinyl or cassette. I have "Steppin' Out" set as the ringtone on my cell for when he calls me. ;-) Love you, Dad!
  • Whoeverunomeaz from Denver, CoThis song 'Steppin Out' is a song about death and the afterlife. The first verse is about the materialistice world that humans have manifested.

    The mist on the window is the haze that falls over our 'last breath' as we are passing into the threshold of the afterlife. Dry your eyes is referring to the emotional response from our life flashing before our eyes, but if we 'look' and 'dry our eyes,' we'll see the spendor of Heaven.

    The second verse refers to the perfection and 'light' of Heaven-- that there will be no more fear or wants. 'Get into a car and drive to the other side' is the metaphor of our journey into the afterlife. The chorus refers to the fact that all of us will face our death; that we step into the 'unknown' and 'feared' night (our death), which is really the 'light' of our afterlife.

    Third verse again refers to our aging process and how quickly our life passes before and the fact of leaving all of our worldly possessions behind. The fourth verse refers to the restoration to our perfect and child-like selves in the afterlife. The taxi is a metaphor for our shared life experiences with other humans and our commonality that we all our on a 'ride' that ends with our deaths. 'We'll be there in just a while if you follow me' either refers to the fact that the speaker is aware and has already come to grips that life is really a 'short ride,' or it could be a metaphor for Jesus 'leading us to the Promised Land.'
  • John from London, United KingdomThis is taken from the 1982 album Night and Day, which was Joe's first great album. I loved it on first listen, particularly that irresistable keyboard riff that drives the song. But following a brief period of chart success here and even briefer one in America, he became disillusioned with the three minute pop song and all it stood for, and spent the next twenty odd years putting it down, to very good effect I might add. I'm one of his biggest fans and would say his best work was 1994's delightfully melancholic Night Music, which I'd put in my top three albums of all time. Rain, his latest album, ain't half bad either.
  • Rain from Clinton, MdI just "rediscovered" this song yesterday and ABSOLUTELY love it! I've developed a whole new appreciation for it, especially after watching the video on YouTune and really giving the lyrics a stronger listen. This song orginally came out when I was only 6 (yes, I'm a baby of the 80s) and I didn't understand the concept of the song then but I appreciate it now along with Joe's sweetly melodic vocals and the perfectly accompanying hooks! A perfect 10 and top fave in my book!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Steely Dan

Steely DanFact or Fiction

Did they really trade their guitarist to The Doobie Brothers? Are they named after something naughty? And what's up with the band name?

Director Nick Morris ("The Final Countdown")

Director Nick Morris ("The Final Countdown")Song Writing

Nick made some of the biggest videos on MTV, including "The Final Countdown," "Heaven" and "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)."

Leslie West of Mountain

Leslie West of MountainSongwriter Interviews

From the cowbell on "Mississippi Queen" to recording with The Who when they got the wrong Felix, stories from one of rock's master craftsmen.

Jon Anderson of Yes

Jon Anderson of YesSongwriter Interviews

From the lake in "Roundabout" to Sister Bluebird in "Starship Trooper," Jon Anderson talks about how nature and spirituality play into his lyrics for Yes.

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go'sSongwriter Interviews

Charlotte was established in the LA punk scene when a freaky girl named Belinda approached her wearing a garbage bag.

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"They're Playing My Song

When a waitress wouldn't take him home, Jack wrote what would become one of the Eagles most enduring hits.