All the sailors with their seasick mamas
Hear the sirens on the shore,
Singin? songs for pimps with tailors
Who charge ten dollars at the door.

You can really learn a lot that way
It will change you in the middle of the day.
Though your confidence may be shattered,
It doesn?t matter.

All the great explorers
Are now in granite laid, (in granite lake? )
Under white sheets for the great unveiling
At the big parade.

You can really learn a lot that way
It will change you in the middle of the day.
Though your confidence may be shattered,
It doesn?t matter.

All the bushleague batters
Are left to die on the diamond.
In the stands the home crowd scatters
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles.



Lyrics submitted by libragrl4music

For The Turnstiles song meanings
Add your thoughts

9 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +1
    General CommentVery Neil. A very typical Neil song about the ephemeral nature of life. Each verse deals with one man's perception v. reality. In each case a seemingly great feeling is proved to be nothing more than a happy drop in an otherwise unfeeling ocean of life. Everyone leaves for the turnstiles at some point. Death and taxes man.
    binghiskhanon April 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentits definitely "in granite laid"..ie they are statues...hence the unveiling etc
    youknowimrighton August 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think "granite laid" refers to the granite headstone we all will likely be laid beneath. And the white sheet is just another reference to death- as in the white sheet they pull over you on your deathbed.
    The last stanza seems to elude to a "we all die alone" concept. Not sure if that was what he was going for. Just something I hear.
    -jeramie-on March 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjust a weird look at a point in his life.
    there's kind of a bleakness there but i can't really tell what it's about.
    i had heard somewhere that it was a response to touring with csn.
    that sounds right to me.
    ShakeyFan2on November 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnobody has attempted to figure out the first bit so ill take a stab at it and i also tried to figure out the rest of the song

    sailors with seasick mama's the line sailors with seasick mama's makes me think he's talking about rebellion or revolution i.e. mother's who can't sail with children whose profession it is to sail (revolution blues is another track on this record). Sirens in greek mythology would sing to lure and seduce sailors to them but would actually make them crash on rocks. so maybe he's saying that those who rebel are driven by some sort of glory or payment of some kind, only to be disappointed in the end. also the sirens are singing to pimps with tailors who charge 10 dollars at the door. i take this line to have some political connotations. only the people with power will stay in power and you can't really get anywhere by being a rebel because you still gotta pay your dues to "the man".

    i think the chorus is about the futility of even trying, maybe neil is coming to the realization that he can't really change anything by making music or commenting on politics or society. after years and years of trying to rebel and raise political and social consciousness he's only learned that none of his attempts matter.

    i agree with both interpretations of "granite laid"... it doesn't matter if they are statues or if they are under headstones...it doesn't even matter if the parades that are being thrown are for the great explorers because they still aren't around to celebrate. most great revolutionaries or innovators don't live long enough to really understand their full impact or be fully appreciated for what they have done for society.

    again, after this verse the chorus asks why even try? you aren't going to be around to see the influence of your own work so it doesn't really matter.

    i don't know about the bushleague batters dying on the diamond that line confounds me. the best i can think of is lying cheating people in any situation, whether they are politicians or plagiarists or whatever, if they have a following of people who buy into what they are doing then when they ultimately and inevitably get exposed for phonies they will be abandoned by those who supported them the most. or alternatively he could be saying that genuinely good talented people who have some type of notoriety can be portrayed very negatively in a public forum and when this happens all their support will flee. the baseball reference in my mind conjures up ideas of a sport that is loved universally in this country but a sport in which a lot of people cheat at (i know absolutely nothing about the dignity of the sport when this song was written). and in that respect he could be saying that the game is rigged from the start.

    either way this is a very thought provoking song on a very thought provoking album...high five neil
    docroxoon July 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'd just like to comment on the chorus, where I think he's clearly describing ego death/enlightenment of some sort. The first two lines apply to this, but could be argued to apply to something else; but these lines:

    Though your confidence may be shattered,
    It doesn't matter.

    Are as a pure and concise description of ego death as I've ever read.
    Kaputaon December 18, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe that "the turnstylles" was an early band of Neil Young's.

    I think this song is about the troubles of being a lesser known touring band - perhaps one which has not honed their chops enough yet.

    "All the sailors with their seasick mamas"

    To me, "mamas" here means girlfriends. - they can't (or won't) go on tour (i.e. sailing) with the band (i.e. sailors)

    "Hear the sirens on the shore"

    The band is lured from the road into the clubs to play (as sirens lure sailors) where they end up "crashing".

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

    The well dressed club owners who end up taking most of the money.

    "You can really learn a lot that way
    It will change you in the middle of the day.
    Though your confidence may be shattered,
    It doesn?t matter."

    This is just about rejection as a musician over and over - confidence is shattered, but it teaches you what you need to know and in the long run it helps you which is why it "doesn't matter".

    "All the great explorers
    Are now in granite laid
    Under white sheets for the great unveiling
    At the big parade."

    I agree it is "laid" and this whole verse could be about previous club touring bands who are now famous - put on pedestals and playing arenas (big parades)- and perhaps becoming stagnant (set in stone so to speak) instead of breaking new ground - both in music and on the road.

    "All the bushleague batters
    Are left to die on the diamond.
    In the stands the home crowd scatters
    For the turnstiles"

    The green touring band, still exploring the country and exploring their talent and abilities, are left dying on the stage when the crowd who was drawn in by the local opener leaves before or during the touring band's set - the last line is literally the crowd scattering for a band named the turnstiles (turnstylles)...
    C0ALMINECANARYon May 01, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis is a pretty enigmatic song, but its also my favourite from On The Beach. I always thought it was about nuclear war. Now that I re-read the lyrics, as well as everyone else's interpretations, I'm not so sure, but the final verse seems to describe a fatal mass disaster. This then lays out the explanation for the previous verse which seems to be saying that mortality is the great leveler, and that even the greatest men will just end up under granite (dead) like the rest of us. With verse one he paints another vivid picture of nuclear war with the sailors hearing the sirens on the shore. Someone else here pointed out that by "sirens" Neil means the Sirens of Greek mythology who lured sailors to their doom - and of course, he does, but Neil is no stranger to double meaning. He seems to enjoy leaving his lyrics open to wide interpretation, and I'll freely admit this one is somewhere out on the periphery. I'm fine with that. Who are the Greek Sirens sing for? "Pimps with tailors" The captains of industry who are ultimately responsible for our demise in the pursuit of power and money. If you go with the nuclear disaster interpretation, the chorus also fits - this thing, this disaster, will just come along when you least expect it and shatter your belief in everything, humanity, the future ... but, "it doesn't matter".
    jcircledon March 25, 2013   Link
  • -3
    General CommentUsually I don't mind his voice too much, but in this song, it sounds like he was using quicksand as mouthwash.
    pumkinhedon April 17, 2008   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain