Where's Anthony Movin' To?
November 23, 2020 4:22 AM   Subscribe

The protagonist of the Billy Joel song Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) declares his dissatisfaction with the New York city rat race. Mama Leone (seemingly his mother) tells him to move out to the country and he says he's moving out. Near the end of the song you can his car revving. But where is he moving to? Or where do you think someone in his position would have moved to?
posted by rouleur to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It’s Billy Joel, so I’d guess Long Island.
posted by panama joe at 5:26 AM on November 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

The weird thing is, he’s saving his money to move out of New York already, but his mom tells him to move out to the country... I mean, no one is going to call Hackensack the country, but in a way he’s already working to do what his mom is suggesting (get out of the city). But I guess she’s suggesting somewhere more rural or at least less urban (I.e., cheaper) than Hackensack. I don’t think the song really tells us if he’s still trying to move to Hackensack, or if he’s going to take his mom’s advice and go farther afield.
posted by amro at 5:31 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

He moves to Ithaca, gets a job at a restaurant, and, forty years later, there are a lot more Italian dishes in the Moosewood cookbooks.
posted by box at 5:42 AM on November 23, 2020 [20 favorites]

I take the statement "If that's movin' up then I'm movin' out" to mean that he doesn't get a house in Hackensack, or trade in the Chevy for a Cadillac (or whatever else would constitute "moving up" to his family) but instead moves out of the whole family structure that's telling him to do that stuff. I like to think he turns into the old friend at the beginning of "My Life" and now he's giving 'em a stand-up routine in L.A.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:46 AM on November 23, 2020 [30 favorites]

I have always held the same interpretation as Daily Alice, though I’m less inclined than some here to believe in a Billy Joel Cinematic Universe.
posted by ejs at 5:52 AM on November 23, 2020 [12 favorites]

Mamma Leone was a groundbreaking Italian-American restaurant that opened in Manhattan in the early 20th century and closed around 100 years later. The reference is purely figurative, as Mamma Leone simply represents a stereotypical “ethnic sounding” Italian name familiar to most Americans. Anthony’s “move” is similarly figurative, as I don’t think he or anyone else in the song is meant to be understood as changing anything. Rather, everyone is meant to be understood an archetype, not a real person. The whole song is just a complaint about the hardships and ultimate dissatisfactions with rejecting working class roots in favor of the so-called “rat race” of “striving for a better life in the big city.”
posted by slkinsey at 6:05 AM on November 23, 2020 [12 favorites]

It doesn't matter, it just matters that he's getting out.

But, based on some of the other songs he got to LA and then ended up in a New York State of Mind and had to Say Goodbye to Hollywood and return for The Great Suburban Showdown. There was also the Miami 2017 stop, and that rainy day in Paris, sitting by the Siene, and of course Vienna's always there for you. Probably a lot of visits to Cold Spring Harbor too. It's all a cruise on the cruise on the River of Dreams.
posted by Awfki at 6:09 AM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

According to the musical, Anthony (and Eddie, and James) get drafted and ship off to Vietnam.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:09 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think to Mamma Leone and Anthony, Hackensack is "the country." That's where she wants him to move to. It's funny, despite the fact that Movin' Out is parenthetically called "Anthony's Song," I think I've always pictured the person speaking as someone who was neither Anthony nor Sergeant O'Leary, someone who was using them as examples of what he didn't want for himself. That's what the lyrics sound like.

I guess the speaker must be Anthony after all, or maybe he's calling it "Anthony's Song" because it's a message for his buddy Anthony. He doesn't think a fancy house in the country or a nice car are worth breaking his back for. He's not trying for those things; he's going to enjoy his life now instead of working for the future. He's probably just moving out of his parents' place to a cheap apartment not far away that he's going to share with a couple of friends. (If he's not Anthony, he's trying to get Anthony to move in with him.) But he could be headed for L.A. or Chicago or any other random place he thinks sounds like fun.
posted by Redstart at 7:52 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I always thought that "movin' out" was a purely conceptual expression meant to be a counterpoint to the "moving up" as defined by the Cadillac and the house out in Hackensack.

He was rejecting their definition of "moving up" and was expressing his alternative as "movin' out" for what amounts to the art of language/literary purposes. He wasn't really moving anywhere.
posted by mccxxiii at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

"The country" is more like "the suburbs". He's being encouraged to save up and marry a nice girl, settle down, move to the suburbs and live in a nice respectable house and have a few kids instead of living in the cramped dingy apartment his parents and grandma had to live in when they first came to America.

The whole rest of the song talks about lower-middle-class people trying to scrimp and save for what was then considered to be a respectable, more middle-class lifestyle, where people live in a nice house in a suburb and Dad commutes to a job in Manhattan. In the chorus, Anthony says that "it seems such a waste of time if that's what it's all about" - he's saying he doesn't want that kind of life, and the "movin' out" he's doing is a breaking away from that whole path. Maybe he's leaving New York City entirely and heading for another city.

That kind of "live in the suburbs for cheaper and commute" is still a frequent sales pitch to New Yorkers - there are entire housing developments in the Poconos that use their proximity to New York as a sales pitch. ("Only 90 minutes to Manhattan!")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on November 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by kingdead at 9:38 AM on November 23, 2020

I would assume the suburbs, probably Suffolk County, which really does have some "country". Or maybe "upstate" defined as anything north of what, the Tappan Zee?

Maybe it's the age of the people involved, but Metafilter always seems to have odd Billy Joel conversations. BJCU (Billy Joel Cinematic Universe) is a new one to me. Makes sense though. There's really a sense of place and time to many of his songs.

On a Billy Joel aside, I had a history teacher in HS who went to HS with Billy Joel. My teacher was in a band and played against Joel in a Battle of the Bands competition. Amazing no one, Joel's band beat my teacher's. This was at "Hicksville High School", apparently.
posted by jclarkin at 10:40 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

The West Coast
posted by Rash at 11:10 AM on November 23, 2020

posted by mareli at 1:55 PM on November 23, 2020

Virginia, of course.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 6:12 PM on November 23, 2020

Thanks for these responses. Yes, I see now that Mama Leone is telling him to stay in the rat race and move to the suburbs, which is exactly what he doesn't want to do. (NB: Hackensack looks a lot nicer than I imagined when I was a child growing up in Ireland with Billy Joel-fan parents.) Whether he's really physically moving out of NYC or simply moving out of that mindset remains hard to tell.
posted by rouleur at 4:19 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

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