Billy Joel - Where's The Orchestra? Lyrics

Where's the orchestra?
Wasn't this supposed to be a musical?
Here I am in the balcony
How the hell could I have missed the overture?
I like the scenery
Even though I have absolutely no
Idea at all
What is being said
Despite the dialogue
There's the leading man
The movie star who never faced an audience

Where's the orchestra?
After all
This is my big night on the town
My introduction to the theatre crowd
I assumed that the show would have a song
So I was wrong
At least I understand
All the innuendo and the irony
And I appreciate
The roles the actors played
The point the author made
And after the closing lines
And after the curtain calls
The curtain falls
On empty chairs
Where's the orchestra?

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Billy Joel Where's The Orchestra? Comments
  1. L Hirsch

    He played this at MSG tonight with Itzhak Perlman. It was a special night. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

  2. Sam Robinson

    Billy Lennon

  3. Jim McCormick

    Master storyteller and an unbelievable musical genius

  4. Eugene Harris

    It is one of Billy Joel’s more introspective, searching and honest songs, I feel. He shine’s when singing ballads. His voice more sensitive with a nice tone and pronunciation. This is one of his more moving songs, I feel.

  5. Micah J

    Such brilliant songwriting!

  6. bakedzale

    Damn, I love this song/album.
    If I could think of a song that I thought might be written about me, this is it. At least I understand all the innuendo and the irony.

  7. sandile13809

    I take this song literally. I played sax for my high school pit orchestra for 2 years and it was the best experience of my life! I love the pit orchestra!

  8. brian drier

    lovely tune, as so many have pointed out below. i actually sang this while at university. alas, it met with even less thunderous applause than the original did... lol

  9. Greg Morrison


  10. Mr. Jamerton

    The instrumental of Allentown at the end was pretty good.

  11. Jason Rich

    This song, both in the tone and meaning, as well as instrumentation and style, makes me want to play it directly before Eleanor Rigby

  12. Daniel Martinez

    Perfection right there

  13. Daniel Crowe

    By far one of his best albums, that's for sure.

  14. Will Ritter

    a lot of fans consider the Nylon Curtain to be Billy's best album despite its relatively modest sales... I'd greatly appreciate it if some old-school Joel fans would check out my solo piano & vocal cover interpretation of ALLENTOWN on my channel in tribute to the master. Real live acoustic with no pitch editing. Thanks and please pardon the promo.

  15. Joe Bloggs

    I totally overlooked this amazing album as a kid (ok, but I was 11, so cut me some slack). What a phenomenal record, definitely top 5 of the 80's. So happy to have discovered it finally.

  16. Meng Yinuo

    A truly sad song

  17. JayDee

    The rest of the lyrics (Why can't these be complete in the description?):

    Where's the orchestra?
    After all, this is my big night on the town
    My introduction to the theatre crowd

    I assumed that the show would have a song
    So I was wrong
    At least I understand
    All the innuendo and the irony

    And I appreciate,
    The roles the actors played
    The point the author made
    And after the closing lines,

    And after the curtain calls,
    The curtain falls
    On empty chairs,
    Where's the orchestra?

    Melanie Kroger

    Thank youuuuu!!

  18. NinjaMagic

    Did anyone notice they segment of a different song at the end? I think it was Allentown


    definitely Allentown

  19. Riccardo Angeli

    Quante perle l'inimitabile Piano MAN

  20. Stereophonic

    So underrated.

  21. Mark Sookhiram

    This song and Vienna. My favirotes

  22. Christopher Manley

    Just here doing homework for "We didn't start the podcast."

  23. Margaret Pariera

    I love this song,

    Margaret Pariera

    He's basically talking about everybody ditching everybody

    Barry Scheidler

    I always thought it was a reflection upon life and never feeling like you quite fit in.

  24. Patrick Tuller

    I was 14 when this album came out and I bought it on vinyl and wore it out. Then I bought a cassette of it and wore that out. Then another vinyl album and wore that out. That's how incredible it is.

    Monica Witt

    I wore out two cassettes of it myself plus an on-the-fly copy I made with one of those dual cassette boom boxes just for insurance!

  25. Claire O'Connell

    I just realized the Allentown melody is at the end!!!!! That's so cool

    Leslie Gaston

    +1 for this epiphany, thanks to you and other commenters, I've been listening to this album since it first came out and JUST got this. *hangs head in shame*.


    I can’t believe I missed that for so many years. How the hell could I have missed the overture? Lol. This album may not have had the big hits but it is probably his best album. It really has stood the test of time. It’s really brilliantly written and powerful

    Karl Speth

    @ym61 A real tearjerker vesion of Allentown too, and I didn't even know til I saw these comments...

    Daniel Landry

    Allentown, PA? If so you're right....


    Wow yeah man! I just noticed too! Cool Easter Egg by Billy to close out one of his greatest records! This and Turnstiles are absolutely KILLER! Glass Houses as well

  26. Dak Lamerbusch

    What a weird, wonderful song!

  27. José Ocanto

    What a beautiful song! It's the perfect metaphor for not finding happiness in life.

  28. bassmanjoe

    Billy is brilliant

  29. Meaghan Walker-Williams

    This song is VERY hard to listen to. The sound in the left ear is - horns and some instrumental are EXACTLY in a range where it sounds like bees buzzing in my ear There is a range of sounds in the middle of my hearing that my brain just does not process because of severe congenital hearing loss... and that makes it so distracting I can't focus on the melody OR the Lyrics... I just can't listen to this. That's a first. the ONLY Billy Joel Song I did not listen to. Well, there's actually a lot now that I found youtube. Up til 2000 I am pretty sure I had heard everything.

    Ray King

    Listen to it without headphones

  30. Tyler Jones

    No, you're not the only one who noticed the 3 measures from Allentown at the end.

    Overdue Review

    Starts at 2:40 for anyone wondering.

    Karl Speth

    @Overdue Review Try not to cry lol

  31. Daniel Landry

    chuck klosterman once said that if you'd like to understand him better you'd have to listen to this song....but damn...rjis is fucking me

    Tyler Gallagher

    I had a feeling the top comment would be about that essay.

    Jacob Mekeel

    Daniel Landry that's exactly why I'm here

  32. Liliana Costoyas

    One of the best and saddest songs of this record.

  33. Santos D

    Nice song... but what the hell is it about?
    Did he just go watch a play for the first time and was disappointed there wan't a song? Is it symbolic about life in America? His life? Or what?


    +Santos D It's kind of a melancholy reflection on life. "Where's the Orchestra? Wasn't this supposed to be a musical?" can be translated to "Is this all there is? Where is the life I wanted? Where is the life I expected?."

    The Nylon Curtain's theme is one of the realities of life hitting you. That's why it includes songs about unemployment, war, break-ups, complicated relationships, troubles with parents, etc. It's a pessimistic album, but I don't find it depressing.

    The inclusion of the Allentown melody at the end brings the album full circle. It's a great album that makes you think. I'd love to see Billy do it live start to finish someday.

    Santos D

    Actually that sounds pretty good and insightful... I'll keep that in mind when I listen to it again, Thanks!

    Ezra Block

    The Orchestra is a part of the play which is sometimes not paid for. It is expendable in other words.
    To me, the inclusion of the Allentown plays into the idea that people are expendable. That they aren't treated like necessities or actual human beings, but as just cogs in a machine, easy to replace and easier to live without.
    That's just my interpretation though. Nonnenja is probably correct as well.

    Robert Bradway

    Maybe it's a song about going to the theater for the first time and not hearing any songs because it was a play, not a musical.

    Monica Witt

    It's a reflection on life versus the way it's told in theater and movies. When something momentous or significant happens, in the theater or on the screen, an orchestra will play some grand theme or song, making the moment all the more important for giving it a music all its own. But, that's not the way it works in real life. We don't get an orchestra to give fuller meaning to our lives when something happens. We are only left with ourselves, our own perceptions, and if we think of our own stories and lives as plays or movies, where we're the heroes, when the time comes and the orchestra doesn't play, and we're just left with ourselves, we realize the smallness of it all, that we aren't special, we aren't in a movie or a play, with a narrative that ends making some kind of point. We just keep living, with no soundtrack, no heroic theme.

  34. Ezra Block

    The saddest song I know of.

    Ken Henderson

    You want a sad Billy Joel song? Check out "Tomorrow Is Today" from his very first album. The lyrics came from his suicide note. True story.

    Ezra Block

    @Ken Henderson Yeah, that is one of my favorites. It accurately describes depression.

    Andrew Whitcomb

    Or try a song off Street life Serenade called Souvenir

    michael pereira

    "and so it goes"...from "stormfront" beautiful....

  35. Scott Hamilton

    A gem. What an ear, that Billy, for the melancholy turn of a piano chord! Perfect.

  36. Michael Burwick

    The measures from "Allentown" at 2:40 are very intentional. The two songs are the bookends to the album and both have essentially the same sad, questioning theme -- "Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?"
    The same real challenges to achieving the American Dream are so apparent today. We live in a messed up world where upward social mobility is harder than ever and we face external dangers that Billy could not have even imagined when he wrote the songs in "Nylon Curtain."
    Great song. Really timely. Bravo!

    Ken Henderson

    Billy was doing the same thing that Paul McCartney did on the Band On Run album - end the album with a few chords from the opening track.

    Michael Burwick


    Tom Mercina

    Yes where's the curvature if we it's been living a globe shaped ball no we living here in our Lantern it's getting hard to say Atlantis town but I can go on American way
    so we living in Atlantis found!

    Karl Speth

    @Ken Henderson He did that with The Stranger too...At the end of "Everybody Has a Dream".

  37. Buckblacket

    Perfect song to be burnt to down the crematorium.

  38. Dennis .Brown

    Absolute magic!!!!

  39. Cole Johnson

    Such a powerful, moving, and mournful piece of music.  Going through something where the dream is better than the reality can be very disappointing.  Great job by Billy to put that disappointment in such a rich and gorgeous composition.

  40. Alessandro Paolini

    sono cresciuto con questo lp.... quante volte l'ho ascoltato... cuffie in  testa... e isolato dal mondo...e via a sognare. !

  41. sdgojdfpghj

    Always thought of this as his version of  "Is That All There Is?"  It was written after a close scrape with death, a bad motorcycle accident which left him indisposed for awhile.... Love how it reprises "Allentown" at the end!

  42. Dak Lamerbusch

    This song shouldn't be hilarious, but I think it is! . . . Of course it's beautiful too though!;)

    Streetlife Serenader

    What's hilarious about it?

    Dak Lamerbusch

    I dunno'. It's super short, and about a play without a freakin' orchestra!!! Huh?:) Man I love Billy Joel!

    Streetlife Serenader

    I believe the song is actually about disappointment, about getting what you have been waiting for all your life and realizing that it wasn't what you thought it would be.

    Joel McNulty

    Dude, lay off the catnip.


    Streetlife Serenader , you hit it right on the head! That’s how Billy explained it in an interview.

  43. Jeff Nevison

    Yes, this song ends with a couple of measures from the song "Allentown," both of which were on the same album "Nylon Curtain." Allentown was the first song on the album, and this was the last song. So, I suppose, he thought it apropos to end the album this way.


    the stranger sorta does the same thing. "everybody has a dream", the last track, ends with an altered version of the opening melody to "the stranger", not the first track, but the titular one

  44. James Edgar

    Anyone who questions this man's utter brilliance is truly clueless.


    did you ever read Ron Rosenbaum's article on Billy Joel? 
    It was disgusting piece of trash.         HE rips Billy to shreds  and IMO.... for idiotic reasons.

    Helen Turner

    PAUL FT All bullies have a huge problem with themselves.


    James Edgar true. he is a f-ing genius.

  45. hillel

    I also agree that this song is beautiful.  I heard it for the first time last night at his  concert in FL.  It was the best song at the concert.  It also shows how versatile he was/is.  He is truly gifted musically.

  46. hillel

    Yes, Victoria.  I heard the same thing (and were living here in Allentown") at the end.  

  47. Victoria Susan Baldwin

    At the end..."and it doesn't seem to matter at all"...,,,...(and were living here in Allentown".. THATS what I "HEARD" at THE END..RIGHT? THE SAME?

  48. Victoria Susan Baldwin

    ..for what was/is 'lost/missed".....

  49. Victoria Susan Baldwin

    T his song is Beautiful, it makes me cry"