The Downeaster Alexa

Album: Storm Front (1989)
Charted: 76 57
Play Video
  • Well I'm on the Downeaster "Alexa"
    And I'm cruising through Block Island Sound,
    I have charted a course to the Vineyard
    But tonight I am Nantucket bound.

    We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
    Left this morning from the bell in Gardiners Bay,
    Like all the locals here I had to sell my home
    Too proud to leave I worked my fingers to the bone.

    So I could own my Downeaster "Alexa"
    And I go where the ocean is deep
    There are giants out there in the canyon
    And a good captain can't fall asleep.

    I got bills to pay and children who need clothes
    I know there's fish out there but God only knows,
    They say these waters aren't what they used to be
    But I got people back on land who count on me.

    So if you see my Downeaster "Alexa"
    And if you work with the rod and the reel,
    Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
    And I still have my hands on the wheel.

    Now I drive my Downeaster "Alexa"
    More and more miles from shore every year
    Since they told me I can't sell no stripers
    And there's no luck in swordfishing here

    I was a bayman like my father was before
    Can't make a living as a bayman anymore,
    There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
    But there ain't no island left for islanders like me.
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 45

  • Viglin from Long Island, NySo many wrong facts. First, Joel was writing about the fishing fleets of Eastern Long Island. These fleets are based in Montauk and Sag Harbor on the Island's South Fork and Greenport, Southhold and Mattituck on the North Fork. They sail from here due to proximity to the great sea canyons of the Northeast. The Canyons are part of a national marine monument.

    Joel lives in Oyster Bay, but has this second home in Sag Harbor. He is an avid fisherman. And took an interest in the plight of Long Island Fishermen in the 90s when there was a huge decline in fish stocks due to many things, including overfishing and pollution along the coastal habitats where fish and their food originate. I believe the proceeds from this song were used to help these fisherman.

    The term Baymen refers to the fisherman specifically of Long Island's bays. Many fished, clammed and harvested oysters in these bays. But pollution (runoff from farms - yes there are many farms on Eastern Long Island - and homes) polluted the bays causing red tides in the early 90s. That pushed many of the baymen into the trawlers of the East End, who then went out into the deep water of the Ocean.
  • Hroark314 from Arlington, VaHi - I love the song and have no personal stake in its meaning, but I do have a question about the meaning. Did the fisherman in the song kill himself to collect insurance money? The song states the protagonist has charted a course for the Vineyard, but he's actually Nantucket bound. It proceeds to focus on the futility of trying to make money as a fisherman in the region, while explicitly noting that the protagonist owns his boat (and, therefore, his beneficiaries could collect insurance on it) and needs to support a family. It ends with him "trolling Atlantis" while he still "has his hands on the wheel". Whether Atlantis is the sunken continent or the canyon far to the south of Long Island that sounds ominous. My entirely non-expert interpretation of the lyrics is that it's about a fisherman who has concluded that he has no hope of providing for his family so he's decided to go off his charted course to sink the ship where the wreckage will never be found so that his family can collect the insurance money. Is that a reasonable interpretation?
  • Matt from Bayport, Long IslandYou guys have to all chill out and just enjoy the song.... stop arguing about who this is about or what this is about. Clearly with all the different voices and opinions, none of us truly know. And that’s the point. Judging from the COMMENTS we ALL can relate to this song... and that is the point.

    Stop being greedy and selfish saying “this song is about me, or where I live or where you live”
  • Mfdny from North Fork LiJoel was born in Nassau County Long Island, kept a house on the North Shore, but lived/lives in East Hampton LI, fished off Montauk LI, had a ship-building business on Shelter Island LI, has a building in Sag Harbor, LI that overlooks the marina where he keeps a boat, was frequent flier in the LI press defending fishing rights of Eastern LI baymen ("Can't make a living as a bayman anymore")....I could go on.
  • Thomas from Long IslandWhen HE says islanders like me he is talking about the fishermen on long island. Not marthas vineyard.
  • Dawn from MaineI just saw the post from Eliza in Bar Harbor and she's right - they (in Bar Harbor) are the "Islanders" to us and we here in Hancock and Washington counties are all "Downeasters".
  • Dawn from MaineMy husband and I, who were just married when this song was popular, always thought this was perfect for Bar Harbor, Maine, which is next door to our home-town. We even played with the name "Alexa" for our child's middle name. We've seen native people who can't live on Bar Harbor anymore because it's too expensive now with the "out of staters" moved in. We've seen people still trying to make it as lobstermen or other types of fishermen like they have for generations and it is so hard now, all through the county.
  • Robert from DetroitIs it true that Itzhak Perlman did the uncredited violin solo on this song?
  • Tom from Montauk, NyFacts which need correcting or confirming:

    Atlantis - indeed refers to the Atlantis Canyon, approximately 100 miles SE of Montauk Pt. Although Billy liked the double meaning since it could be taken to mean "the open ocean"

    Gardiners Bay is indeed a stretch of water between the north and south "forks" of Long Island. He used this starting point for the journey so that once again, it would not be specific to any one port. This broadened the scope of possible ports and allowed a greater audience to relate to the fictitious individual.

    Charting a course to "the Vineyard" but tonight I am Nantucket Bound - leaving from Gardiners Bay a vessel has to pass Martha's Vineyard to get to Nantucket. So it is logical to chart the Vineyard first. As you pass the Vineyard you would turn into the channel between the 2 islands and head to Nantucket Harbor which is on the North Side of Nantucket. A fisherman using a slow boat, especially in strong North winds might use this route if he intended to head offshore to the eastern canyons like Atlantis, Veatch, or Hydrographers. Nantucket would be like the "last gas" or supplies stop for such a trip.

    Why would he fuel up in Montauk, then leave from Gardiners Bay? Well, technically Montauk is on the border of Gardiners Bay, so he could theoretically have left from Montauk. However, even if he left from Three Mile Harbor or Greenport, he might fuel up in Montauk because the price could have been cheaper or if he moored his boat there may not have been a closer fueling port. A ten mile back track for fuel is not unusual for boats which may be planning a 500 mile round trip.

    To Michael of East Hampton - I don't remember if the boat in the video was indeed your father's but I do know this song is not about any individual. I spent a lot of time with Billy discussing this song as he was writing it and he always went to great pains to make sure it wasn't about any one person.

    To Suzanne from Wales - I assure you this song was not written by someone other than Billy. It was one of the bigger thrills of my life to be included in Billy's songwriting process for this song. I am not a songwriter, but as a close friend and working boat captain Billy bounced many ideas off me and even asked for help on some of the lines to make sure they not only fit but described what he was aiming for. I will always take credit for being "good captain."

    I do not take credit for doing more than consulting for Billy when he wrote the song except I do take credit for being the "good captain " who "can't fall asleep". Which refers to our overnight fishing trips to the offshore canyons where I would stay up all night despite Billy's offers to give me a rest, because I was always afraid I might miss something exciting.
  • Tom from Montauk, NyLet's let all the speculation and guessing end right now. Oh and please David, stop talking about what you "know" about Billy. I worked as Billy's boat captain from 1985-1992 and I can tell you that, while you have some facts correct, you don't speak from knowledge.

    The "downeaster" comes merely from a descriptive style of boat built in Downeast Maine and used throughout the NE US by commercial fishermen of all types. Naming it Alexa was indeed a tribute to his baby daughter, but in no way inferred he was pretending to sing about himself. The subject of the song was an imaginary person created to fit the description of many of the hard-working fishermen of the area. Billy avoided specifics purposely to avoid having the character be associated with any one individual which could lead to problems down the road.

    Much of the material in the song came from reality. In 1986 Billy began building a new boat (which I helped design). Despite David from Miami's ill comments toward Billy, I will tell you he was a pleasure to work for and, while not the most knowledgeable about boats back then, he was a fast learner and good boss. Realizing he wouldn't have a lot of time to use his boat he offered me the opportunity to create a business with him where I would commercially fish the boat providing income for me and helping him recoup some of the cost of ownership. As I proposed a business plan to his accountants it became clear to both of us that the commercial fishing way of life was threatened and my business plan faced huge hurdles.

    Billy always had an idealistic view of the fishermen's life and while he didn't pretend to be that person, he could relate to that person.I can't take credit for opening his eyes to the plight of the independent fishermen, but I had a front row seat to watching it happen. He was sad to realize that these people who had made Long Island what it was, were being cast aside.

    Billy, for all his faults, is a good person. H devoted a lot of money, time, and effort to the cause of Long Island's Baymen and commercial fishermen.he helped my career as I went on to become a lifelong private fishing boat captain. We still talk occasionally, but only about boats and fishing. People like David from Miami who put him down and jump on every mistake, clearly never knew the real Billy Joel. I will always consider him a friend and I wish there were more celebrities like him.
  • Ryan from New York, NyI don't see the problems with the navigation stated below.
    Fueled up in montauk last night
    Left Gardiners Bay this morning
    Currently in block island sound
    headed north east towards the vineyard
    Shooting out east when he nears, towards nantucket
    Heads south trolling Atlantis Canyon
    Turn starboard towards LI when finished
    Offload and refuel at montauk
    Head home to Gardiners Bay.
    Rinse and repeat.

    Also, he's referring to long islanders. Like the hockey team.
    Also his inspiration to write a song may be just that. The context is something different.
  • David from Miami, FlIcan t take it anymore here are some facts:

    Billy and Christie had a home at the end of the causeway between Lloyd s Neck and Lloyd Harbor. Part of the reason they moved were boats pulling up behind their home screaming for them. They then moved to an equestrian area of the Hampton.

    Areas of Long Island were settled in the 1600, for example Cold Spring Harbor a whaling village where Bedlam Street homes are now stores. Also Joel named his first album Cold Spring Harbor because it was his inspiration. My idiot friend passed a resolution naming Cold Spring Harbor Park Billy Joel Park.

    Anyone who thinks this song is written about any place but LI needs to look at a map. Why would fisherman from Massachusetts motor all the way down to Montana Point to take on diesel.

    There are people who are considered Islanders because their families lived off the resources for generations. There are others who are considered Islanders because of where they were born. Finally there are people like me who are Islanders because of our lifestyles. At one point we caught format fluke and flounder of of piers. We clammed with our toes and all of us had knives to shuck clams. We had four wheel drive trucks and boats. We were the volunteer fireman who got dragged out of our beds at 3AM. We marched in parades and went to local fairs. Being an Islander is a lifestyle. Billy Joel is not an Islander like me. He is part of the city people who drove the price of land so high that me and my fellow Islanders can't afford to live there.

    I have intimate knowledge of Billys personality and he is an A -hole but a talented one. He was a lower middle class kid who turned jealousy into inspiration and that you can't take away from him. Anyone want to debate my facts on this or my first post I'm open for comments at

  • David from Miami, FlI usually just laugh at some of the stupidity I see but on this I have to comment. Being a former "Islander" of which there is no Island left for Islanders like me. Lets get some facts straight. Billy Joel wrote and dedicated this song to the fisherman, clammers and crabbers of The Great South an Peconic Bays. Actually despite the personality of a wild pig he has been rather generous to numerous causes. This song was dedicated, profits donated, and a benefit held for baymen. I grew up with kids of 2 and 3 generation baymen. The issue was with over fishing and over regulation. There are 2 types of people from long island those east of the circle and those west (up the islanders or city people). Yes BJ was from Levittown which is in the Township of Oyster Bay unless people like Teddy Roosevelt fished for a living it has nothing to do with Oyster Bay. Montauk is the east end of the soth fork but Orient Point is the north fork. Gardiners bay is a small bayocared of the small pristine Gardiners Island an Island deeded to the Gardiner family in the 1600's. Captain Kidds treasure was "buried" there but history says he might have been betrayed by thr first lord of the manor. I had the prveledge of being a guest their o. G with about 200 boy scouts in the 70's. Gardiners Island is aboo
    Put an 2 hour ride from Orient conserving fuel and maybe 5 from Montauk.

    The baymen have been forced to either find a new business or become long linersike the fisherman in the perfect storm. Yes poetic lisence was taken in calling her Alexa. The song has meaning to many people as the city people and their money made it impossible for Islanders like me to live there.

  • Sophia from El Centro, CaI only wanted to say that this is one of the best I have ever heard. I listened to this song on my local radio station around 1983. I didn't understand English back then but I was simply enthralled by the rhythm and the innate sadness to it, as if longing for a tradition long lost... where man was deeply attached to the sea and earth and always taking pride for hard work and its rewards. I actually cried when the song played, for some reason it hits me way deep in my soul even though I have nothing to do with the sea (I was born, raised and still live in the middle of the desert). I had no idea that Billy Joel sang it and the meaning behind it. Wonderful, wonderful song.
  • Michael from East Hampton, NyOk, I would like to clear up any confusion about this song as it was about my father and his close friends who are all commercial fisherman out of east hampton, NY.
    The boat pictured in the video belonged to my father, it was actually named the Mingo but the name was removed and changed for the video. The boat was tied up in three mile harbor in east hampton. The bell in gardiners bay is referring to the bell bouy that is located just east of the three mile harbor breakwater. The boat was a 40ft downeast style dragger that he often fished off montauk with. Most of his fishing was done in gardiners bay as the boat was not big enough to fish the ocean on a rough day. The parts of the video when they are launching the boat into the breaking waves of the ocean was them haul seining. Which the state outlawed as a style of fishing because they said that they were catching too many fish and thus depleting the population. Only the ways that they determine the quotas every year is a joke. They fish on their own boats and have no clue how to fish out here so they dont catch and they automatically think "there are no fish here". I can personally say that I still fish these waters to this day and there are more fishg than ever. Growing up my mother and father had an extremly hard time making ends meet because of the regulations on fishing. I was the kid waiting back at home needing food. This song was written when I was 4. For those of you that believe the song was about billy joel himself you are wrong. And everything in the song is correct. He fueled up in montauk after a days fishing and packing out fish and then steamed back to three mile harbor to his berth and to tie up and leave the next morning to go fishing. Any more questions about it I would be happy to answer. Thank you. Mike Kromer, East Hampton, NY my father was the captain in the video
  • Traxus from Jomtien, ThailandWhy oh why is this song not on top of
    The Great American Songbook list ? ??
    Why,why,...WHY ??????
  • Jeff from Baltimore, MdTrolling the Atlantis refers to the Atlantis Canyon, not the mythical Atlantis. The Atlantis Canyon is another fishing area off the east coast much like the Hudson Canyon. I believe it is east, southeast from Long Island.
  • Bridget from Long Island, NyNate, Joel was raised in the Long Island suburb of Hicksville. Why would he write about MA in a song that is CLEARLY about his boating experience here on LI? Those of us that live on LI are referred to as "Islanders". Sorry but the point you are trying to make just does not make sense. His boat is docked on Long Island and he lives on the eastern end of the island.
  • Eliza from Bar Harbor, MeIt amazes me that none of you have mentioned MAINE. Downeast Maine is the Mid Coast of Maine, where this song was actually written. Billy Joel rented a House on Suttons Island Maine of the Coast of Mount Desert Island which is part of Downeast Maine. Hence the title of the song.While he may reference NY, and Cape Code and whatever you all are talking about, I hate to disappoint you all, but "islanders" is also what people from Mount Desert Island are called, and what people from Suttons island (with no bridge ) are called.
  • Tim from Queens, NyI am soooo glad that people corrected the numerous misconceptions and incorrect facts on the posts here. I can't believe that someone thought "Islanders" were people from Marther's Vinyard. Long Island is definately the best part of New York. I live here in Queens on the south shore about 1 block away from the Ocean. My dad owned and opperated a Marina growing up and I was always involved in the marine industry. There is a proud history behind it. Montuak is a prestine location. Tons of fish and clear waters. I would love to go fishing in the "Canyons" (local name for deep underwater ridges that the monster tuna and mako sharks hunt. I bet you would find whales and giant squid there also. It's really far off shore and the trip can be dangerous if you are not prepared. For all of you visitors from the other states commenting on this song, please take the time to visit LI. It would be well worth it. If you had a good guide, they could show you many tourist attractions. I think it's even better than Manhattan in it's own way. It's definately less chaotic. I want to own a home out there on the beach. That's why I keep working hard. Long term dream, but would be fantastic.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrBill in Huntington Station, NY, your comment regarding Allentown has an error. Billy wrote the song not in the 1970's, but rather, in 1982.
  • Macgregor from Boulder, CoWhen I was twelve, I went through a phase where I would leave the radio on through the night. Only twice did I wake up in the middle of the night mesmerized by the song that was playing. I had to call the radio station and ask them for the name of the song that was playing at 2 AM. The Downeaster Alexa was one of those songs.

    I remember reading that Billy Joel said that this song came to him in a dream and once he awoke he tried to do justice to what he had heard but the song never could. (I'm not certain this is a true story but I hope it is.)

    The Downeaster Alexa is easily one of the favorite songs of my life and I've listened to it hundreds of times since 1989... The rhythm is absolutely entrancing; the heavy beat like waves crashing; the timelessness of the syncopating electric guitar; the accordian drone emanating from what feels like a forgotten depth. This is a truly awesome song.
  • Macgregor from Boulder, CoWhen I was twelve, I went through a phase where I would leave the radio on through the night. Only twice did I wake up in the middle of the night mesmerized by the song that was playing. I had to call the radio station and ask them for the name of the song that was playing at 2 AM. The Downeaster Alexa was one of those songs.

    I remember reading that Billy Joel said that this song came to him in a dream and once he awoke he tried to do justice to what he had heard but the song never could. (I'm not certain this is a true story but I hope it is.)

    The Downeaster Alexa is easily one of the favorite songs of my life and I've listened to it hundreds of times since 1989... The rhythm is absolutely entrancing; the heavy beat like waves crashing; the timelessness of the syncopating electric guitar; the accordian drone emanating from what feels like a forgotten depth. This is a truly awesome song.
  • Michelle from Washington, Dcto nate of cape cod: the song is about a man looking for fish that he can't find, not taking a trip to martha's vineyard and deciding to take a detour. since he's in search of fish, i think it makes sense that his path does not go directly to martha's vineyard.
  • Daniel from Tucson, AzI love how this song sounds like it's an ocean. I don't know who to fully describe it, but all the instruments come together and give it that sense that it's in turbulent waters. Billy Joel is just a genious. The drums in the back sound like the rocking of a ship.
    - John, Monvtille, NJ

    This is exactly it!!!!

    I listened to it while riding on a boat out into the Atlantic swells the other day and it brought me to tears. What an amazing song. I wish Billy Joel had more songs like this. Most of his music I find ok but nowhere near this one.
  • Alexa from Er, NyI absolutely love this song!!!!! Its definatley my favorite billy joel song(partially bc my name is Alexa....but mostly bc i love boats n the ocean). Billy Joel is awesome!!
  • Jay from Philadelphia, PaAt a concert in Philadelphia, Billy Joel stated the samething that Jon from Charlton, Ma. stated.
  • Nuri from Moron, ArgentinaThis is one of my favourite songs ever. Can't sing it without cryings.
  • Suzanne from Milford Haven, WalesAlthough I love BJ's version of this song I actually first heard it being performed by a guy named Phil Beer who is one half of Show of Hands - a west country duo here in the UK. Phil is from Cornwall; I'm from Wales but the song touches both parts of our country deeply. Our fishing fleets are gone and with them part of our heritage and history.Wholesale greed wiped out the fish shoals NOT the trawlermen trying to make an honest living!Long live those rare souls - the musicians and artistes who are not afraid to stand up and yell about the injustices of the world. I love this song (amongst many others in BJ's songbook)the guy is OK by me :D By the way if anyone would like to read stories written in a similar vein to this song I can highly recommend Island by Alistair Macleod. Brilliant.
  • Greg from Mohnton, PaI LOVE THIS SONG!!!!!!!! I love nearly all Billy Joel songs but this one really stands out. It is easily my favorite.
  • Bill from Huntington Station, NyI live on Long Island, and have been born & raised here. I remember when the govt. institued fishing regulations in the mid 80's that hit the area hard. Fishermen were suddenly unable to earn a living; and being a large portion of the population, the local economy was effected by it. Many fishermen lost there homes & there was also a slump in the national housing market. This caused a glut of housing in the region & prices came down dramatically. Bill Joel wrote this song about the entire region, but focused mainly on his home (Long Island.. and he STILL lives here). The "Islander"s he refers to are Long Islanders... hence the name of our hockey team. Below is my analysis of some of the lyrics in the song. Some have already been explained, but this post sums them all up & adds more. To see a map of the area, go to this map:

    While the song was 'dedicated' to Dave at one of his concerts, the song was not specifically about him.

    Bill, life-long Long "Islander"
  • Bill from Huntington Station, NyIn the 70's Billy Joel wrote 'Allentown' about the depression that hit Pennsylvania steel workers. In te 80's he wrote 'Downeaster Alexa' about the depression that hit the "outer lands" when the gov't instituted heavy-handed fishing regulations that put many fisherman (who had been doing so for generations) out of work, which in turn hit the local economies of these areas HARD.

    Outer Lands: the region off of the southern coast of New England in the United States. This region of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, comprises the peninsula of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island and Long Island, as well as the surrounding islets.

    "Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa
    And I'm cruising through Block Island Sound" - He's on his fishing boat named Alexa, after his daughter (he does own a fishing boat named Alexa, based on Long Island), and leaving from Long Island, NY.

    "I have charted a course to the Vineyard
    But tonight I am Nantucket bound" - He was planning to fish the area from Block Island Sound to Martha's Vineyard, but is now planning to go all the way to Nantucket because he isn't getting any fish in his usual spots.

    "We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
    And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner's Bay" - He took on fuel in Montauk (ie Montauk Point - the easternmost part of Long Island (LI) on the south fork of the island yesterday, but today he left from Gardiner's Bay. The bell is a navigational buoy in the bay.

    "Like all the locals here I've had to sell my home" - like the majority of the fishermen in the area, the new regulations were so strict that he was no longer able to earn a living and had to sell his house.

    "There are giants out there in the canyons" - reffering to there being fish in the underwater 'canyons' FAR offshore (international waters).

    "I know there's fish out there but where God only knows. They say these waters aren't what they used to be. But I've got people back on land who count on me" - the regulations were needed due to the area having been over-fished, but now the combination has made his way of living nearly impossible.

    "Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis" - He is so far out into the ocean, it doesn't have a name so he refers to it as the mythical Atlantis.

    "Now I drive my Downeaster Alexa
    More and more miles from shore every year
    Since they tell me I can't sell no stripers
    And there's no luck in swordfishing here" - obvious.. he has to travel further & further to find the fish. The Striped Bass (Stripers) he catches are not of regulation size, so he can't sell them. Swordfish are not native to the area.

    "I was a bayman like my father was before
    Can't make a living as a bayman anymore
    There ain't much future for a man who works the sea" - Fishermen for generations, it's all his family knows. Having expected to fish all his life, he is probably uneducated & therefore unqualified to do anything else.

  • Chris from Boise, IdOutstanding song. Colorful lyrics, wonderful music to match. Having grown up in N.J., and being a life long Sport Fisherman, I already knew the references to the locale and to his daughter. It's a rare song that brings me joy, and to tears at the same time. Billy Joel is a masterful performer, and I only pray that he's over his addiction problem, and that I can see him perform in concert. Keep the faith, Billy. -Chris,Boise,Id
  • Andy from Gaithersburg, MdThe line is "I have charted a course to the Vineyard, But tonight I am Nantucket bound". Perhaps, Billy Joel meant that in the past he had gone as far as the Vineyard but tonight he is making the longer trip up to Nantucket? Also to Brian and Annabelle, the bell is in Gardner's Bay and is one of the marker bouys there. Anyway, this is a such a great song and goes well with the song storm front.
  • Anthony from Long Island, NyThis is one of my favorite songs by Bily Joel. I am from Long Island and want to reasearch his songs so i can go a Billy Joel tour 1 weekend.

    Well I was reading some posts,and I want to add that this song has taken on new meanings now with the sky rocketing home cost.

    Joel mentions many of the bays and waterways on Long Island. Block Island Sound, "took on diesel back in Montaulk" "bell in Gardiner's Bay." **I do not know much of the Gardiner's but they are very big through out Long Island.

    "There's no island left for Islander's like me..."

    Having spoken with many fisherman (I am from Bay Shore), there is not much in fish in our bay (Great South Bay).

    This is an awesome song that recycles with every generation.
  • Bill from Queens, NyTo Nate of Cape Cod, Massachusetts: I can relate very well to your disappointment regarding some inaccuracy in the seafaring georgraphy of Billy Joel's song. Try not to take it too hard; it's just artistic license sometimes taken by song writers, film makers, and other creative types to make their work more effective. I once saw a crime drama called the "Seven-Ups," supposedly based on real cops fighting gangsters in New York City. In one scene, the detectives are pursuing killers in a car chase along University Avenue in the Bronx; then they turn a corner, and suddenly they're on Riverside Drive in Manhattan heading toward the George Washington Bridge! That almost ruined the movie for me. Later, I sarcastically told a friend of mine that they must have driven through a wormhole or something! Anyway, "Downeaster Alexa" and the "Seven-Ups" are still great entertainment because of their ties to reality. Let's enjoy them despite their flaws.
  • Chris from Brattleboro, VtThe lyric I believe is "bell in gardners bay". A bell is a type of buoy you find on the ocean. GArdners Bay, as someone else mentioned is just around the corner from Montauk, both the eastern end of Long Island.
  • John from Monvtille, NjI love how this song sounds like it's an ocean. I don't know who to fully describe it, but all the instruments come together and give it that sense that it's in turbulent waters. Billy Joel is just a genious. The drums in the back sound like the rocking of a ship.
  • Andy from Long Island, NyThe song is about Long "Islanders", primarily the plight of the "Bay men"(fisherman) from Long Island who lived and worked on and around the waters on the eastern end of the island. The Bay men due to fishing restrictions on striped bass "since they tell me I can't sell no stripers" are all but out of business and have to head out to deeper waters to catch tuna and swordfish which refers to the "canyons" which are the extremely deep waters offshore from the south shore of Long Island. Billy Joel was arrested in South Hampton Town, Long Island, NY a number of years ago while participating in a peaceful protest by the "Bay men". Now that we have got that straight. Have a great day.
    - Andy, Long Island, NY
  • Nate from Cape Cod, MaOk...some geographical facts about this song.
    Block Island Sound is the strip of water from R.I. to the top of long island.
    The Vineyard is the island south of Falmouth off of Cape Cod, at the part closest to the mainland.
    Nantucket is the other island, further off-shore.
    Montauk, yes, is at the very tip of Long Island, as far east as you can go.
    Gardiner's Bay is at the other tip of the fork of Long Island.
    Things that don't make sense:
    If he is charting a course to the Vineyard, but is Nantucket bound, why doesn't he stop at the Vineyard first. He has to sail past it to get to Nantucket.
    If he is planning to go to the Vineyard all along, why does he have to leave from Gardiner's Bay after being in Montauk? It is a back-track of several miles. I know for a fact that Montauk has plenty of berths, and if he is strapped for cash already, it doesn't add up.
    I guess that the way he set things up sounds better, but for "Islanders like me" (technically my home of Cape Cod is an island), who know a bit of seafaring geography, it is a bit disappointing.
  • Ames from Jerusalem, IsraelThe sounds in this song are meant to mimic some of the sounds one hears in SE New England: the deep guitar evokes the horns of fishing boats (eg. 1:09, 1:51), and the high-pitched notes represent the shrieking of seaguls (eg. 1:59, 2:23).
  • Stefan from Long Island, NyMontauk is on the East End of Long Island, NY.
    Joel grew up here. As for "Islanders" he means people from LONG ISLAND not Marthas Vineyard, MA.
    He means that although Long Island is a real Island,it doesn't often have that "Island" feel to it as per say Hawaii does.
  • Jon from Charlton, MaAt a cocnert I went to in Hartford, CT, Joel attributed this song to a fisherman named Dave who he knew living on the cape. He said that his house had a long dock on the water and this lobsterman asked to use his dock. Joel said yes, and form then on Dave would leave a pot of lobsters for him after each catch. Joel said that one day there was a big storm at sea and Dave never returned.
  • Brian from Islip, NyMontauk is the end of Long Island, the island on which Billy Joel grew up.

    Also, those from "the Island" as Long Island is called by we locals could also be considered "Islanders".

    I imagine that the Bell and Gardner's Bay are similarly located.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrWhere is Montauk? And where is the Bell And Gardner's Bay?
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