Open main menu

"Pressure" is a synthesizer-driven song from 1982 by Billy Joel about the pressure of creating and the pressure of being a provider. The song was a single from the album The Nylon Curtain.

Single by Billy Joel
from the album The Nylon Curtain
RecordedSpring 1982, A & R Recording and Media Sound Studios, New York, NY
Length4:40 (Album version)
3:16 (Single version)
Songwriter(s)Billy Joel
Producer(s)Phil Ramone
Billy Joel singles chronology
"She's Got a Way"
Music video
"Pressure" on YouTube


Themes and lyricsEdit

In Night School, a show airing on MTV in 1982 that ran roughly a half-hour long, in which he answers questions posed by audience members, Billy Joel reveals that the pressure he was talking about in the song was something along the lines of writing pressure and pressure to provide.[1]

When I was starting out and trying to get things going, the pressure was if you don't get things going, they're going to throw you out of this apartment. There was that kind of pressure. "I'm hungry," my stomach was going, "pressure, food." I think that's pretty intense pressure. The pressure I was writing about in this song wasn't necessarily music business pressure, it was writing pressure. ... At the time, I was saying, "Well, I gotta write some more stuff for the album"; I was about halfway through, and I said, "Well, what am I gonna do? I don't have any ideas, it's gone, it's dead, I have nothing, nothing, nothing. There's nothing." And then the woman who is my secretary came into the house at that point and said, "Wow, you look like you're under a lot of pressure. I bet you that'd be a good idea for a song." And I went, "Thank you!"

The PBS children's TV series Sesame Street and New York PBS affiliate WNET ("channel 13") are also mentioned in the first bridge, and the magazine Time is mentioned in the second.

Single and album editsEdit

The single version removes the third verse (starting with "Don't ask for help, you're all alone") and the second bridge. This version of the song was included in the original release of the Greatest Hits I & II compilation album, but the full album version was restored for the remastered edition, as well as the Complete Hits Collection in 1997. Radio stations vary in whether they play the shortened or the full version of the song. The song is written in a minor key. In playing the song on a TV special, Joel played the song in a major key, and commented that it sounds like a polka when played that way.[citation needed]

Music videoEdit

The music video of the song features the full version, instead of the shortened one. A common motif in the video is the use of water, whether splashed on Joel's shoes, rushing out from school desks, or flooding his apartment. The video was directed by Russell Mulcahy and made its premiere on MTV on September 9, 1982. Several scenes in the video make references to movies such as A Clockwork Orange and Poltergeist. During a game show parody two-thirds of the way through the video, a bio for Joel briefly flashes on the screen. It reads: "William Joel, Age: 29, Occupation: Computer Software, Intersts [sic]: fast bikes, cooking, water sports, satellite."

  • This version slightly differs from the album version. At the start of the bridge (3:20) there are instruments present which are not in the album version such as a xylophone and an extra keyboard part. . At the end of the bridge, the album version breaks before Joel sings "Pressure! I'm sure you have some cosmic rationale". There is no break in the video version.

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (1982) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[2] 16
Canadian Singles Chart[3] 9
French Singles Chart[4] 72
Japan Oricon Singles Chart 78
New Zealand Singles Chart[5] 24
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 20
U.S. Billboard Top Rock Tracks 8
Zimbabwe Singles Chart[6] 19


  1. ^ "MTV Night School (1982) | Billy Joel - YouTube".
  2. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 156. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  3. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  4. ^ InfoDisc, Daniel Lesueur, Dominic Durand, Lesueur. "InfoDisc".CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ NZ Top 40 Singles Chart, 14 November 1982
  6. ^ * Zimbabwe. Kimberley, C. Zimbabwe: singles chart book. Harare: C. Kimberley, 2000

External linksEdit