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The Nylon Curtain

The Nylon Curtain is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel, released on June 28, 1982, and produced by Phil Ramone.

The Nylon Curtain
Billy Joel - The Nylon Curtain.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 28, 1982
RecordedWinter 1981-Spring 1982
StudioA&R Recording, Inc. and Media Sound Studios, New York City
LabelFamily Productions/Columbia
ProducerPhil Ramone
Billy Joel chronology
Songs in the Attic
The Nylon Curtain
An Innocent Man
Singles from The Nylon Curtain
  1. "Pressure"
    Released: 1982
  2. "Allentown"
    Released: 1982
  3. "Goodnight Saigon"
    Released: 1983
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[1]
Christgau's Record Guide: The '80sB[2]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[3]

The Nylon Curtain peaked at No.  7 on the Billboard albums chart, with two million sales in the U.S. It was one of the first albums to be digitally recorded, mixed, and mastered.


The album is among Joel's most ambitious efforts, and Joel has openly acknowledged that it is one of his personal favorites, calling it "the recording I'm most proud of and the material I'm most proud of."[5] When he recorded the album, he said in an interview that he wanted to "create a sonic masterpiece." Joel spent more time in the studio, crafting the sound of the album, than he had on any previous album.[5] He said that the process of making the album was "exhausting."[5] Critics have interpreted the album to be, in part, an homage to the music of The Beatles and the recently deceased John Lennon.[6]

Saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Richie Cannata left the band prior to recording, so Joel, bassist Doug Stegmeyer, drummer Liberty DeVitto and guitarists David Brown and Russell Javors recorded the album mostly by themselves, thus making it Joel's first album since Streetlife Serenade not to feature a regular saxophonist, although Eddie Daniels plays saxophone on the closing track "Where's the Orchestra?" alongside Charles McCracken on cello and Dominic Cortese on accordion. Saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Rivera, formerly of the band Tycoon, joined the band to replace Cannata for the Nylon Curtain Tour and he remains with the band to this day.

Regarding the album's themes, Joel has stated "It was during the Reagan years, and the diminishing horizons in America at the time [meant that] all of a sudden you weren't going to be able to inherit [the kind of life] your old man had."[5] This pessimism about the American dream, in Joel's view, permeates most of the songs on the album. Joel also said that the theme of the album was "an American dilemma, specifically of people born after World War II."[7] He said that although he doesn't provide solutions to the dilemma, he "hope[d] the record speaks like someone in that age group, if only just to tie us all together as people, as an entity."[7]

The song "Allentown", which brought attention to the plight of America's declining steel industry, spent an unprecedented six weeks at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1983.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Pop-culture journalist Chuck Klosterman praised songs from the album, specifically "Laura" and "Where's the Orchestra?", in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.


Joel stated in an interview that most of the songs on the album were written in the same sequence they appear on the album in. The album's production schedule was slightly thrown off near the end of production due to Joel getting himself into a motorcycle accident. The album opens with "Allentown", a song set in the eponymous city of Allentown, Pennsylvania. The town, largely based in the production of steel for automobiles, was experiencing economic difficulties at the in the midst of the early 80s recession which impacted the steel industry. Joel wrote the melody for "Allentown" 8 years before finishing it, later completing the lyrics for The Nylon Curtain. According to Joel, the titular character from the song "Laura" was supposed to represent anyone who knows how to "push your buttons" and make you feel guilty. He also explained that the character, despite having the female-oriented name "Laura", could represent anybody, regardless of sex. "Pressure" is about reaching a certain age and realizing the real-life responsibilities one has to deal with.[14] The song was recorded with 8 different overdubbed synthesizer tracks, as well as a segment with 4 people playing the mandolin.[14] The closing song to Side A, "Goodnight Saigon", is about American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, and was written by Joel at the request of his veteran peers who fought during the war. Joel wanted to avoid creating a political song that took sides, instead opting to describe things entirely from the soldiers' point-of-view in the midst of the action. Although Joel never fought as a soldier in Vietnam (Joel explained in an interview that he was a draft dodger during the time of the war[15])", he had several peers at the time who did, some of whom never returned, and received input from many of his friends who had served in the army in order to accurately depict what it was like being stationed in Vietnam.[14][15] The song opens and closes with the sound of the rotors spinning on a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (or "Huey"), a military helicopter which was heavily used during the Vietnam War.

The B-side of The Nylon Curtain opens with "She's Right On Time", an uplifting love song, in order to contrast with the more serious tone of the preceding "Goodnight Saigon." The song details the anticipated reunion between 2 lovers, told from the point-of-view of a man in the relationship waiting for the woman to arrive. Since the song was written by Joel around Christmas time, the preparation of a Christmas tree was used as an analogy throughout the song. "A Room Of Our Own" thematically opposes "She's Right On Time", detailing a couple who needs time away from each other with numerous explained differences between the two. The song "Surprises", described by Joel as a "grand metaphysical statement", is about how one shouldn't be surprised by their inability to control things, and is open to many different interpretations according to Joel. "Scandinavian Skies", which prominently features string parts inspired by the songs "I Am The Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles, was inspired by a horrifying drug experience Joel went through during a flight trip. The closing song, "Where's The Orchestra?", is about a man who goes to see a live play expecting a musical, only to realize that it's a regular stage show; according to Joel, this is a metaphor for life, specifically the realization that it's not as grand and over-the-top as it's made out to be. Joel tried to make the song feel somewhat reminiscent of musical plays. In the studio recording, Joel's vocals play from the left speaker channel, whereas the orchestral backing is in the right speaker channel, in order to emulate a man sitting in a theater seat and watching a play. The song closes by reprising the melody of "Allentown", thus bringing the album full-circle.[16]


Grammy AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1983 The Nylon Curtain Album of the Year[17] Nominated

Track listingEdit

All tracks written and composed by Billy Joel.

Side one

  1. "Allentown" – 3:52
  2. "Laura" – 5:05
  3. "Pressure" – 4:40
  4. "Goodnight Saigon" – 7:04

Side two

  1. "She's Right on Time" – 4:14
  2. "A Room of Our Own" – 4:04
  3. "Surprises" – 3:26
  4. "Scandinavian Skies" – 6:00
  5. "Where's the Orchestra?" – 3:17



Additional musicians
  • Bill Zampino – field snare (4)
  • Rob Mounsey – synthesizer (8)
  • Dominic Cortese – accordion (9)
  • Eddie Daniels – saxophone and clarinet (9)
  • Charles McCracken – cello (9)
  • Dave Grusin – string and horn arrangements
  • David Nadien – concertmaster (1, 3-7, 9)
  • "String Fever" – strings (2, 8)


  • Phil Ramone – producer
  • Laura Loncteaux – assistant producer
  • Jim Boyer – engineer, remix
  • Bradshaw Leigh – associate engineer
  • Michael Christopher – assistant engineer
  • Larry Franke – assistant engineer
  • Andy Hoffman – assistant engineer
  • Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, NYC – mastering engineer
  • Kenneth Topolsky – production manager
  • Paula Scher – artwork
  • John Berg – inner sleeve design
  • Chris Austopchuk – front cover design
  • Benno Friedman – back cover photo


Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[38] Platinum 70,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[39] Platinum 100,000^
Japan (Oricon Charts) 356,000[24][40]
Netherlands (NVPI)[41] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[42] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). "Billy Joel". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (February 20, 2009) [1982-10-14], "Music Reviews : The Nylon Curtain by Billy Joel", Rolling Stone, archived from the original on February 20, 2009
  4. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: The Nylon Curtain". People. November 22, 1982. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Billy Joel Interview on Nylon Curtain
  6. ^ Nylon Curtain Album Review
  7. ^ a b Campbell, Mary (October 30, 1982). "Bill Joel Uses Seven Fingers at the Piano". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. p. 12D. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Hot 100: week of February 5, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Hot 100: week of February 12, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  10. ^ "The Hot 100: week of February 19, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Hot 100: week of February 26, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  12. ^ "The Hot 100: week of March 5, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "The Hot 100: week of March 12, 1983". Billboard / Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference Interview was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ "Rock On The Net: 25th Annual Grammy Awards – 1987". Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain –" (in German). Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  20. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Archived May 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2012-03-05
  21. ^ ( the book ). Retrieved August 19, 2011.
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  23. ^ "Tonlist Top 40". DV. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  24. ^ a b "a-ビリー・ジョエル - Yamachan Land (Japanese Chart Archives) – Albums Chart Daijiten – Simon and Garfunkel" (in Japanese). Original Confidence. December 30, 2007. Retrieved August 17, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ " – Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  26. ^ " Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain". Retrieved August 19, 2011.
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  29. ^ Allmusic – The Nylon Curtain > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  30. ^ "Album Search: Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  31. ^ "Top 100 Albums '82". RPM. December 25, 1982. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  32. ^ "1982年アルバム年間ヒットチャート (Japanese Year-End Albums Chart 1982)" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  33. ^ "The Top 20 Albums of Høst 1982". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  34. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1983". RPM. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  35. ^ "Dutch Charts – Jaaroverzichten Album 1983". Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  36. ^ "日本で売れた洋楽アルバムトップ10 (Top-ten international albums on the Japanese Oricon Year-End Charts 1987)". Archived from the original on September 17, 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2008.
  37. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1983". December 31, 1983. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  38. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1986 Albums". ARIA Charts. Australian Recording Industry Association.
  39. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain". Music Canada.
  40. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  41. ^ "de branchevereniging van de entertainmentindustrie". Archived from the original on October 8, 2011. Retrieved August 17, 2011.Note: User needs to enter "Billy Joel" in the "Artiest" field and click below "zoek" button.
  42. ^ "American album certifications – Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.