For The Turnstiles

Album: On The Beach (1974)

Songfacts®:

  • The final verse of "For The Turnstiles" mentions "bush league batters" "left to die on the diamond" as the "home crowd scatters for the turnstiles," so it's natural to assume that baseball is at the core of this song. But the seed from which this song grew can be found in the opening verse with the lines:

    Singin' songs for pimps with tailors
    Who charge ten dollars at the door


    In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough explains that the song came about when Young's friend Sandy Mazzeo told him about how infamous prostitution-rights advocate Margot St. James was charging $10 ("a then-exorbitant sum") for tickets to her Hooker's Ball. Young used scraps of that conversation for "For the Turnstiles."
  • Carrie Snodgress, subject of "Harvest" and "A Man Needs A Maid," unintentionally provided the song's melody as she walked around the house whistling a tune. Young heard her and worked it into "For the Turnstiles."
  • Baseball players do figure into the song, even if the core motivation was the Hooker's Ball. As Ian MacDonald wrote in Uncut, September 1998, "'For The Turnstiles' is about how everybody gets nailed by The Business Of Fame sooner or later, underlined in an extraordinary closing verse in which Young sees all the baseball stars 'left to die on their diamonds' (batting bases) while "in the stands the home crowd scatters for the turnstiles."

    MacDonald also describes the song musically as "a primitive back-country moan for banjo, dobro, and steady foot-stomp - skeletal in sound and concept, and unearthly in the harmonies of the title-phrase. A cousin of the kind of thing Ry Cooder was getting into on Boomer's Story."

    Johnny Rogan, in The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young, supports this interpretation, writing, "Here, Young presents an analogy between baseball players and rock stars as a comment on his own career. This song gets to the heart of the artist's neuroses - how to effect change in the mummifying arena of rock stardom.
  • This song and "Walk On" are the only tracks on On The Beach co-produced by David Briggs. There would have been more, but Briggs got seriously ill the day after recording "For the Turnstiles."

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