The idea for the song came about when Joel was talking with someone half his age. The guy was talking about how the world was in such a big mess and it would never be resolved. Joel replied to him “I thought the same things when I was your age”. The person replied: “Yeah, but you grew up in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties”. Not impressed by this Joel retorted: “Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of Korea, the Hungarian freedom fighters or the Suez Crisis?” He said it was those headlines which formed the basic framework for the song.
Joel has said, “I’m a history nut. I devour books. At one time I wanted to be a history teacher”. According to his mother, he was a bookworm by the age of seven