Billy Joel's MY LIFE Video Location
The video starts with a shot of the New York skyline.
It pans down, as title credits come on, and we see a person in a white tee shirt walking down the street from the street corner.
(All stills are from the Music Video of Billy Joel performing My Life (c) 1985 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
If you are unfamilair with the video you can find it on YouTube or Vevo by searching for "Billy Joel My Life Video."
I will also post it here, though I can't guarantee it will be there when you click on it.
The man walks by the stairs to a building...
Then, as he continues past a small park...
...the camera zooms into the back of the park where some "street guys" are leaning out against the fence.
Then, after seeing the Liberty and Doug in close up, we see Billy.
He picks up two other band members (Liberty and Doug) and walks down the street. They are all in "street" clothes.
They pass the stairway we saw earlier.
And the saxman (Richie Cannata) comes off the steps and joins them.
They enter the subway at the street corner...
...and go down.
The video continues uptown at the studio, but I want to discuss this section while we are here.
This is what's left of the subway stairs they were descending, which were at the south-west corner of Eighth Avenue and 17th Street in Manhattan.
And here's another view from the other direction.
If you go there and look through the grating - you can still see the stairs, covered with dead leaves.
Here's a shot of the entire corner. You can see the trees outside of the playground in the back. (You will get this view if you search for the building on Google Street View at "300 West 17th Street, Manhattan, New York." If you search for "308 West 17th Street, Manhattan, NY" you will get taken right to the steps that Richie was sitting on.)
The building is in an area now called Chelsea, which is about 1/4 mile north of Greenwich Village and about a mile and a half south of Times Square, which is where the A&R recording studio will be located (on 52nd Street) later in the video. You can see the New York Times building near Times Square in the background. (i.e. The building who's product provides Billy with half of the "give and take" of "The New York Times...The Daily News...")
In the video, the single man along walks the red path, then the camera zooms along the blue path to the corner of the playground. Then Billy and the other guys walk back along the yellow path.
This is the huge, block-long building where Google has it's New York headquarters. It's called the "Googleplex" and it's located a block south of where the band went down the subway.
In the 1940's the building was a huge bus/transportation hub and it needed a lot of entrances to get people in and out at rush hour. You can still see the words THE PORT OF NEW YORK AUTHORITY on the building. In the years after the Port Authority bus station moved uptown, they closed some of the surrounding the subway entrances, including the one the band descends.
HOW I FOUND THE LOCATION.
From the long westward-facing shadows of the sunlight in the video, I guessed that the video was shot facing south before noontime. And because of the direction the traffic was moving, which would have been north, I figured it must be either 6th or 8th Avenue, which both run north and have subway lines.
I knew the set-up up would be: an avenue, a building, then a park, so I "flew" up 6th and 8th Avenue using Bing Bird's Eye View looking for that combination.
I first checked the subway stairs at 50th and Eighth since it was close to 52nd Street. After that I started at 8th Avenue and 14th Street and scanned slowly up the avenue.
Soon I came to this building, at 17th Street, and upon closer inspection, I saw that the large concrete dragons over the stairway matched up with the ones in the video (see next photo).
I also saw that there was a park right next to the building, so I knew I had found the spot. (I wondered where the subway entrance had gone to, but I later spoke to a man who owned a clothing shop on the corner right next to it, and he told me they had shut it closed years ago. He's the man who told me about the former Port Authority bus station down the street (so thanks!).
These are the dragon's over the doorway.
And here's the park next door.
And the park with Billy in it, from the songbook to 52nd Street.
Walking back to the street corner, here are the steps (Google Street View at "308 West 17th Street, New York, NY)....
...where Richie Cannata, the sax player, gets up and joins them.
And in a wider hot, here's Liberty DeVitto, Doug Stegmeyer, Billy, and Richie Cannata - just a couple of guys from the block - heading for the subway.
Now we're back to the video.The band emerge from the elevator at the recording studio. They are wearing more upscale clothing, And now, another member of the band, Steve Kahn, is accompanying them.
Here's Billy emerging.
He seems to be wearing the exact same clothes he wore for the "52nd Street" album photo session. Perhaps it was taken the same day. It's the same elevator. (see PopSpots entry "52nd Street" for more details.)
The guys go into the studio and greet the sound board engineer - Phil Ramone, Billy's producer.
Billy sits down and looks through the glass into the recording room...
....and sees the band and himself playing inside.
Here's a map showing where the video starts (at the bottom) and ends up (at the top) just above Times Square. (They would have taken the 8th Avenue Subway to 50th Street and 8th Avenue.)
This is a photo of the A&R Studio at 799 Seventh Avenue (the rooftop studio (Studio A) is circled). The building has been replaced by another skyscraper. To see more pictures about it, see the PopSpots entry on "52nd Street."
And finally, here's Billy and the band street-corner-talkin' on the steps* before heading uptown to the studio.
(To see the steps on Google Street View, search for "308 West 17th Street, New York, NY" -- the building is actually 300-302 West 17th Street (aka 139 8th Avenue) but if you search for "300 West 17th Street, New York, NY" you are taken to the street corner.)
(B+W photo by Liberty DeVitto from Billy Joel: The Biography (2007/Thunder Mountain) by Mark Bego, a very detailed biography.)