“Skylines and Turnstiles” by My Chemical Romance

In the last 20 years we have witnessed at least four major wars, a global pandemic that has killed millions and permanently altered our way of life, as well as whatever personal matters we may be going through individually. But still, in terms of the defining moment of the early 21st century, nothing trumps 9/11. 

You may have a musician here or there dropping a song that was partially inspired by COVID-19 or whatever. But the destruction of the Twin Towers for instance actually led to the formation of My Chemical Romance, who then proved to be one of the most-successful rock bands of the aughts.

Gerard Way and co. are actually from Newark, New Jersey, which is close to New York City, so much so that you could view the World Trade Center from there. Indeed, Newark is part of what is referred to as the Tri-State area or New York metropolitan area. So people from that locality were very much affected by the tragedy.

But even beyond that, when it actually happened, Gerard was on the nearby Hudson River, in New York City, when is right near the WTC. And needless to say, actually watching the buildings collapse live and in-person was even more traumatizing than viewing it on television.

“Skylines and Turnstiles”

Just based on the title of the song, you can tell that the vocalist is in fact familiar with NYC, which is very much filled with “skylines and turnstiles”. Skylines, of course, is a reference to skyscrapers. But what some readers may not know is that a turnstile is a device, which collects fare, that one must pass through before boarding the NYC subway.

Whereas there are allusions to both the skylines and riding the subway in the lyrics, none are what this song (which is the first My Chemical Romance had written) is about. Rather, it is very much based on 9/11, albeit via the utilization of some very poetic/metaphorical language.

In the bridge, what the vocalist is buttressing, as alluded to earlier in this post, is that residents of the city were very much shaken in the aftermath. They were thoroughly shaken in a way in which it can be said that the strength of their resolve was tested.

Along those same lines, the thesis sentiment revolves around a lingering sense of confusion, with the people looking to heaven, if you will, for an answer as to what to do next. In other words, the foundation of their beliefs, so to speak, have been altered – which is basically another way of saying that the Twin Towers going down like that really, really caught everybody off-guard.

Takeaway

The more notable songs that were inspired by 9/11 were those charity single, we-will-survive type of pieces. But it can be said that “Skylines and Turnstiles” is realer, being relayed from someone who was practically on the scene. And that’s because the truth of the matter is that the attacks did cause a lot of fear and doubt. 

It knocked a lot of people out of their comfort zones and made many who had a sense of “innocence” beforehand finally realize, if nothing else, that they are vulnerable and could be harmed. Or as Gerard Way explained it, being there at Ground Zero prompted him to conceptualize what the end of the world would look like.

Lyrics for "Skylines and Turnstiles"
My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way explains "Skylines and Turnstiles"

When was “Skylines and Turnstiles” released?

This was released on 23 July 2002. The band released it as part of their debut LP titled “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”, which is a product of Eyeball Records. 

That particular outing didn’t do very well. But the two studio albums that followed, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” (2004) and “The Black Parade” (2006), were both multi-platinum successes.

Credits

Gerard Way is recognized as the primary writer of this piece. However, his bandmates were also part of the writing process. We therefore have the full list of credited writers appearing as follows:

  • G. Way
  • Frank Iero
  • Ray Toro
  • Mikey Way

The credited producers of “Skylines and Turnstiles” are Eyeball Records itself, in conjunction with Geoff Rickly.

"Skylines and Turnstiles" by My Chemical Romance

The 9/11 Attacks

9/11 represented Tuesday, September 11, 2001, one of the most horrific days in the history of the United States of America.

Nineteen assailants from the Islamic terrorist association Al-Qaeda plotted and executed a stream of systematized attacks on four passenger airplanes headed towards California in the US.

One of the motives behind this attack as stated by the leader of the terrorist group, Osama bin Laden, was America’s support of Israel.

On the morning of the incident, the first airplane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Less than 20 minutes after the first crash, the second plane flew into the South Tower.

The impact of the crashes caused a massive explosion. The 110-story tower collapsed, affecting the buildings surrounding it. The third plane next crashed into the U.S Department of Defense’s headquarters, The Pentagon, causing one part of the building to collapse while the fourth plane, originally programmed to fly towards Washington D.C crashed in a park in Pennsylvania.

Over 25,000 persons were injured with about 3,000 lives being lost. The monetary equivalent of the damage on properties was in the region of $10 billion dollars.

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