The episode: “Space Travelers,” ep. 401
The riff: Sung in a high falsetto by Joel as a rocket bearing all of the principal actors approaches some sort of capsule or space dock.
The explanation: The lyrics are from “Roundabout,” one of the best known songs by progressive rock band Yes. At first I was confused by the meaning, as the lyrics don’t really match the action on screen. I think, however, that the reason for the riff is the low droning hum that begins just before Joel starts to sing. It sounds suspiciously similar to the low drumming noise that slowly builds up in the beginning of “Roundabout.” Interestingly, Joel seems to misquote the lyrics slightly, as it’s supposed to be “In and around the lake,” not “Sitting around the lake.”
Novelty factor: One of the rare lyrical riffs that I actually knew right off the bat, because really, who is going to deny that “Roundabout” is an awesome song?