The Downeaster Alexa

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"The Downeaster 'Alexa'"
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Storm Front
B-side "And So It Goes"
Released 1990
Format CD single
Recorded The Hit Factory, Times Square Studio, New York, NY
Genre Rock
Length 3:44
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Billy Joel, Mick Jones
Billy Joel singles chronology
"I Go to Extremes"
(1990)
"The Downeaster 'Alexa'"
(1990)
"That's Not Her Style"
(1991)

"The Downeaster 'Alexa'" is a song originally written, produced, and performed by Billy Joel for his eleventh studio album Storm Front. The album itself went to number one while the fourth single "The Downeaster 'Alexa'" placed at #57 in the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included on Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Vol. 3 album in 1997.

Content[edit]

"The Downeaster Alexa" is performed in the key of C Major, with Billy Joel's vocal ranging F4 to B♭5. It plays in common time at a tempo of 88 beats per minute.[1]

The song is sung in the persona of an impoverished fisherman off Long Island and the surrounding waters who, like many of his fellow men, is finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet and keep ownership of his boat.[2] The fisherman sings about the depletion of the fish stocks ("I know there's fish out there, but where God only knows") and the environmental regulations ("Since they told me I can't sell no stripers") which make it hard for men like him to survive, especially with the conversion of his home island into an expensive summer colony for the affluent ("There ain't no Island left for Islanders like me"). The lyrics reference Block Island Sound, Montauk, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Gardiners Bay, amongst other locations.

While the song is about a fictional person, it decries the plight of the Long Island Baymen (known locally as Bubbies). The Baymen represent a dying breed of people who, like farmers, work the environment to provide for their families. Honorable men and women being forced out of their livelihoods as much by the creep of urban society and government regulation as the decline of fish stocks. Billy was always sympathetic to the hard working men who worked the sea, even getting arrested during a protest supporting the Baymen. At one point Billy had underwritten a plan by his young boat captain to use his boat (Alexa Ray, a 46' custom downeaster) as a commercial operation. As the two developed the plan, it became increasingly clear that the challenges facing a small commercial operation were greater than he had imagined. The idea was scrapped. It was not long after that this song came together.

Alexa is the name of Billy Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray Joel. The Alexa was Newman 46 fiberglass hull custom finished by Lee S. Wilbur and Co of Manset Me. [3] The hull was based on the Maine lobster boats known as a "downeaster," which should not be confused with the pleasure craft built by the Downeaster company.[4]

Covers[edit]

  • This song was covered (as "Downeaster Alexa") on The Corsairs' 2007 album 9 Live.
  • The English roots duo Show of Hands recorded a version on their album Covers.
  • The American rock band O.A.R. has covered the song since 2007[5]
  • A parody of the song was featured on The Howard Stern Show, replacing the lyrics with "Baba Booey" and Howard's common variations of it.
  • The student a cappella group Amazin' Blue at the University of Michigan released a version on their album Earidescence.
  • This song is also featured in The Hangover Part II during a sequence in which the main characters are on a plane and are driving to a wedding party in Thailand.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1990) Peak
position
Canadian Singles Chart[6] 25
Japanese Singles Chart (Oricon)[7] 6
UK Singles Chart 76
US Billboard Hot 100 57
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 18
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 33

External links[edit]

References[edit]