Turnstiles was the album that saved Billy Joel. After leaving his native NY for the west coast, Joel struggled to adapt.
His album recorded over there, Streetlife Serenade, chronicled his experiences with characteristic wit. But there is an underlying bitterness on the album, and it’s clear Joel was not happy in his new surroundings and did not click with the locals. It wasn’t a big seller either and failed to match the huge success of Piano Man.
Joel longed to return to New York. When he did, he wrote the quintessential homecoming album. Turnstiles was Joel’s ode to the city that he loved so much.
The song ‘New York State of Mind’, which Joel jammed out on the piano mere moments after returning home, will strike a chord with anyone missing their ancestral home. It’s a beautiful ode to the Big Apple.
However, Joel closed that album with a startling proclamation: one day it would all come tumbling down.
‘Miami 2017’ is a surrealistic apocalyptic fantasy that foretells the fall of New York. It’s a dramatic, fantastical end to an otherwise workmanlike and practical set of piano songs.
“I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway / I saw the Empire State lay low”
Thankfully, the place still seems to be standing.
But Joel’s prediction that the cost of living would drive many natives out (“Before we all lived here in Florida“) is more prescient. NY may not have fallen but now the Empire State really does “lay low” under the watchful gaze of Trump Tower, just further up on 5th Avenue.
The ides of Miami 2017 may have failed to materialise, but when Joel wrote the song in 1976, predicting damnation and hellfire, even he stopped short of Trump in the white house.