Ahead of the release of Billy Joel’s The Vinyl Collection, Vol. 1, Rolling Stone exclusively presents the rendition of the Piano Man’s “New York State of Mind” that features on the box set’s unreleased live LP, Live at the Great American Music Hall – 1975.
This rendition — recorded at the famed San Francisco venue in June 1975 — predates the version that would be recorded the following year for 1976’s Turnstiles; the pace here is slightly quicker than the studio version, with Joel still playing with the lyrics (“Must be masochistic New York… state of… mind”) toward the end of the performance.
Engineer Brian Ruggles, Joel’s live sound producer during the Turnstiles era, told Rolling Stone of the track: “We were all living in California in 1974-75. Billy was in Malibu and I was living in Hollywood. He’d been in California for a few years and was really homesick for New York. He wanted to get back there. His roots are in New York and he missed it a lot. He came up with the idea for the song as he rode — on the Hudson River Line, actually — to his house in Highland Falls, New York; he wrote the song down when he got home. This was months before we recorded Turnstiles.”
Joel’s band at the time of this recording boasted drummer Rhys Clark, bassist Doug Stegmeyer, and saxophonist/keyboard Johnny Almond.
“We rehearsed the song and played it at the show one of the first times it was ever performed live, before it was recorded for the album. Billy liked the arrangement, so they recorded it that way on the album,” Ruggles continued. “I remember that the recording truck was owned by the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and it was parked outside the Great American Music Hall. It was old school recording, but we were able to put together a pretty good recording for this special release. It stands up really well after almost 46 years or so.”
The Vinyl Collection, Vol. 1, due out November 5th, features the first six albums of Joel’s career — from 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor to 1978’s 52nd Street — along with the previously unreleased Great American Music Hall – 1975, which will be available exclusively through the box set. The nine-LP collection also comes with a 50-page book with an essay by longtime Rolling Stone contributor Anthony DeCurtis.