Billy Joel - Turnstiles (1976) - Album Cover Location - Astor Place, New York.
The album cover. (courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment; cover photo: Jerry Abramowitz)
The site of the album cover photo location. Inside the uptown side of the The Astor Place subway station at Astor Place (8th Street and Fourth Avenue) New York.
Superimposing the album over over the present day subway turnstiles...
Here's a map of the location of the Astor Place subway station, which is on the Lexington Line #6 train. It is located right between Greenwich Village and The East Village near the area around Washington Square Park and Bleecker street where Billy played in local clubs like the Bottom Line.
Photographing the location of the covershoot for Billy Joel's Turnstiles:
This is a pretty well-known site for Billy Joel fans, so it was easy to find in a Google Search for "Billy Joel Turnstiles cover photo location."
The location was the Astor Place subway line at 8th Street and Fourth Avenue. The area is also known as Cooper Square since Cooper Union University is located just to the south.
The area is familiar to locals by the black-cube sculpture known as "The Alamo," which will rotate on its axis if you push it.
The uptown entrance to the Astor Place station is located across the street from the Alamo sculpture. In the background is the K-Mart where U-2 held a press conference to begin their PopMart Tour of 1997-1998.
Here's the subway entrance from the other direction. To the right, beyond the streetlamp is St. Mark's Place, the street where Billy filmed the video for "A Matter of Trust" in 1986.
So let's go down into the subwbay.
As I went down, there was another photoshoot in progress. Perhaps a future Piano Woman?
...Still, further down.
At the bottom of the stairs - voila! - you walk right into the turnstiles themselves. - a little modernized from the Billy Joel days.
You will note that the cylindrical subway support poles have been stripped of the white-tiled, square frames that surrounded them back when the album cover was taken.
By clicking on the picture you can enlarge it for a panoramic effect.
(You can click on the panoramic picture above to enlarge it for a "You are there" feel. Then hit delete to return to this page.)
Now we'll go a little closer to the turnstiles.
Holdling up the album, I can see that Billy would have been in the 4th turnstile from the left.
That would put him like this.
I then went closer and tried to take the photo from the same high angle....like this.
Without a ladder and a wide angle lens it's tough to match up the cover shot exactly. But from this perspective I could match up the poles (see below) and, for the first time, noticed, that in Billy Joel's day the turnstiles were located between the poles. The turnstiles have since been moved about three feet away from the tracks and closer to the entrance.
The picture below shows the back and front of the album. Notice the sign for "Uptown Trains" in the background. That's why we are on this side. not the "downtown" entrance to the subway station which is across the street in front of a Starbucks.
Here below is a closer look at the back cover. Notice the coin slots, now long gone. They use plastic cards now.
I found this outtake from the session of the same shot - with the Piano Man himself - on the web. Notice anything peculiar? There's a white column in back of Billy that is not on the back cover, as I'll show you in the comparison shots below.
Compare the shots below. The white pole in the background has been airbrushed out, but you can see the pole's white reflection in the top of the silver turnstile.
The pole was probably airbrushed out to make a black background so that the text for the listing of the songs would stand out better.
Here's a present day shot of the two poles in back of the album cover which I'm a holding. (It's somewhat blurry from the limitations of natural light.) I've put an arrow where the missing pole would have been.
I later found two other outtakes from the photo session on a YouTube video made by Billy to accompanying the release of Billy Joel: The Complete Albums Collection released in November of 2011.
Here's the first...
...and the second.
In the video clip, Billy explains why he considers Turnstiles his "New York" album. He had been living in L.A. during his "Piano Man" period, and, insensed by a NY newspaper headline that said "Ford to City: Drop Dead "(i.e. President Ford would not bail New York out of a funancial crisis) Billy said to himself, "If the city's going down, I'm going down with it." So he came back and put together a group of songs, most with a New york themes.
He also says in the video that each of the different characters surrounding him on the cover, illustrates a song on the album:
- Say Goodbye to Hollywood: the man in shades and leather jacket.
By the way, a photo of Paul Simon sitting on a subway bench on the inside cover of his 1983 album Hearts and Bones was taken 10 feet to the right of this. (That will be discussed in another PopSpot, but here's the shot, by the photographer Arthur Elgort.).
So, here's one last view before the subway comes.
See you 'round, because...
...I hear my train a-comin'...