In late 1975, New York was in the throes of a horrendous financial crisis and was denied any assistance from the federal government. The city's fate was in serious doubt. At the time, Billy Joel was still living in Los Angeles. The sentiment among Angelenos was virtual schadenfreude, as if to say good riddance to New York.
On the contrary, Joel said "If New York is going down the tubes, I'm going back to New York." And back to New York he went. He moved to Highland Falls and recorded Turnstiles, released in 1976. The album includes the homage to the Ronettes, "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," as well as several songs devoted to his hometown including "Summer, Highland Falls," "New York State of Mind," and the sci-fi, post-apocalyptic track, "Miami 2017."
The original cover portrays personifications of the songs on the album all crowded in the Astor Place subway station entrance. A dancing couple represents "I've Loved These Days." A studious man carrying books represents "James." A girl wearing headphones represents "All You Wanna Do Is Dance."
Now I'm too young to have had firsthand experience, but my father has always told me New York was a pretty scary, run down place in the 1970's and 1980's. In redesigning this cover, I wanted to do a better job portraying that grunge than the original cover did. I found some great, uncredited photos of people on the subway in the late 70's and used one as the backdrop. The black bar, white stripe and typography are meant to mimic MTA signage. Finally, the four colored dots represent the colors of the wayfinding for the 1, 9 (now defunct), 7 and 6 trains in New York to connote 1976.