Joni Mitchell, Mariposa Folk Festival, Toronto 1970, by Jeff Goode
Joni Mitchell, Mariposa Folk Festival, Toronto 1970, by Jeff Goode
Joni Mitchell, Green Beret
@sosozoso tagged me, and was probably looking for much shorter answers….but this is what happen when people ask me stuff. 🤣
It takes forever for me to answer, and takes forever to read.
Favourite colours: Bluuuuuue. I used to say that I didn’t have a favorite color, but one of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m happiest with a view of the water and/or the sky. Here’s the view from where I’m sitting.
(I live in Hawaii. For more scenery and flowers and pets and such, connect to me on Instagram. Let me know that it’s you, and I’ll gladly follow back!)
Last song I listened to: I obviously love classic rock, but that’s not what I mostly listen to. Almost all I listen to is music released this year (every year), and for the past couple of years, it’s been almost entirely women artists and women-led bands. Starcrawler released my second-favorite album of the year, Devour You, and I LOVE this song, featuring one of the most striking frontwomen in rock, Arrow de Wilde. Great video too.
(I’m going to be writing some about Starcrawler and other faves from this year. For a sneak peek, here’s my Best of 2019 playlist on Spotify, Twitch, Spit, Cream, Trouble. I’m also almost done building it on YouTube, here.
Favourite Song: Because I’m very old (you know that I’m older than your dad, right?)
and very obsessive, I have a LOT of favorite songs, so I thought about how to slice this question.
I haven’t often spoken on tumblr about being bipolar and schizophrenic but I’ve been thinking I should bring it up more when it makes sense, and right now, it kind of does. Here’s a handful of songs that have genuinely saved me at various times over the years. I mean, I might prefer other songs for dancing or kissing or for other specific reasons….but these have really helped me. Maybe they’ll help you too.
In chronological order:
The Beatles, “Penny Lane”. It’s funny, if I was making a list of favorite Beatles songs, this is up there for sure, but not on top. (That would be “Here Comes The Sun.”) But a list of songs that have been saving my life the longest, this is alllll the way at the top.
Too long a story to tell now, but the short version is that I knew I was in trouble from a very young age. I was 7 or 8 when I first fell under “Penny Lane”’s thrall, already pointedly aware that despite an ostensibly idyllic childhood in lovely suburbs with a loving family, I had precisely zero happy memories apart from perhaps The Beatles themselves. As far as I was concerned, my life was nonstop fear, nightmares, and voices in my head who meant me harm.
Paul’s vision of a happy childhood was also rooted in considerable pain, including the loss of his mother, but the joy in the song is so palpable that it made me wonder if there might not be a way that I could get out of my own childhood agony alive. I’d listen to the single obsessively for hours at a time, jumping up to set the needle back at the beginning as the final note faded, occasionally flipping it over to hear “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but mostly “Penny Lane” on repeat for days.
The song became my safe place, where I’d hide when I tried to sleep, eyes clenched shut and body held so tight I trembled, playing the song in my head over and over until I could calm myself enough to sleep, hoping to avoid the nightmares for at least a few hours. Nothing brought the nightmares properly under control until I found the proper medication years later (take your meds, kids!), but “Penny Lane” has everything to do with how I did in fact make it out of my childhood alive.
Joni Mitchell, “Amelia”. I can’t overstate how much Joni Mitchell meant to me in the late 70s and beyond. I mean, I came across her in the late 60s and early 70s like most other music fans my age, and I love her now as much as then, but she and I fell deeply into jazz at about the same time, albeit in very different ways. LOL
This was also the time when she started producing her own albums, and on Hejira in particular, speaking directly about her own inner landscape, apart from the relationship-oriented songs that she’d gotten so much grief for. Her inability to stop and stay anywhere spoke to my mania, and the travel fever that gripped me for most of my life.
Amelia Earhart, a woman who never returned from her travels, was a more-than-metaphorical stand-in for Joni herself, but the song cut far closer to the bone than that single parallel: “Maybe I’ve never really loved / I guess that is the truth / I’ve spent my whole life in air at icy altitudes”, she says, “sleeping on the strange pillows of my wanderlust”, and acknowledging that the search doesn’t have a point beyond the journey itself, that “some have found their paradise, others just come to harm” – leaving open the question of whether her affinity for Amelia’s impulses will lead her to Amelia’s fate.
(I felt more like Joni’s description of “Icarus ascending, on beautiful foolish arms”, noting how closely and in how many ways this song embraced the likelihood of an early and final end to traveling.)
It happens that the musician who most obsessed me as the 70s ended and the 80s began was Pat Metheny, a jazz guitarist who joined Joni for Shadows and Light, the 1980 live album that featured songs from across Hejira, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, and Mingus. (Also on that album, a murderer’s row of jazz giants including Don Alias, Jaco Pastorius, Lyle Mays, and Michael Brecker.)
This version of “Amelia” from Santa Barbara in 1979 begins as a solo piece with Joni on electric guitar (my favorite incarnation of Joni), and becomes a duet with Pat. This clip ends before a song cleverly dubbed “Pat’s Solo”, a 3-minute interlude that transitions straight into the title track from Hejira (a poetic reference to the Prophet’s precipitous departure from Mecca). I’ve surely listened to this song 10,000 times or more over the years, and this version has been a meaningful number of those.
Radiohead, “Black Star”. I’m glad that I live in a world where OK Computer is one of the biggest albums of all time, but I like The Bends even better. This is the kind of song where the most beautiful line is a howling, “This is killing me.” And you believe it.
I saw them open for REM in 1995, and none of the people I was with had ever heard of them, so they asked me what to expect. I said, “Exactly splitting the difference between Bread and The Sex Pistols”, a description I think still holds up for The Bends-era Radiohead, although will only really make sense to people who were teenagers in the 70s. LOL
The studio version on The Bends is probably the one you need, but I do love this performance, and I really can’t begin to tell you the trouble that this song has helped me get out of.
Bob Dylan, Mississippi”. This one’s not on YouTube, so I’m gonna have to share the Spotify link and leave it at that for now. I’m working on a reply to an Ask about favorite Bob Dylan songs, so I’ll talk about it there, but this is in fact the undisputed champ sitting at #1 on my list.
Underworld, Ova Nova. You’ll see on my list of favorite artists below that Underworld comes in at #3 behind The Beatles and Bob, but that hardly does them justice. There have been years where it feels like I spent 90% of the year listening to them. 2016 was one of those years, and this song (from that year’s Barbara Barbara We Face A Bright And Shining Future elpee) is one reason why.
A ballad from a band most famous for bangers (they lit the fuse on the techno revolution with “Born Slippy”, which formed the climax of the movie Trainspotting), the song’s name is Latin for “New Eggs”. The singer-lyricist Karl Hyde has been very open about his addictions. He’s about my age, and I relate to the notion of fucking up an almost infinite number of things in an almost incalculable number of ways, leavened with the endless, humbling joy of still being alive to tell the tale.
This song came out of the work that he and the band’s composer, Rick Smith, did to rebuild their relationship after Karl had managed to torch it again, and the women’s voices in the chorus are their adult daughters. Vastly oversimplified, and Karl’s lyrics are more poetic than literal, but the love in this runs so, so deep. I can’t listen to it without crying, but I listen to it a lot anyway. LOL
There’s really no good reason I can think of that I’m still here, but I know that one thing keeping me around is the joy of finding songs like this, that make me want to hear more songs.
Favourite Musicians/Artist: Again, being old and obsessive, it’s hard for me to even make sense of this question after the first couple obvious names on the list….but I came across a site that parses your Spotify listening over various timeframes, and it turns out that my longest-term list of artists comes super-close to providing a perfect summary. (If you’re on Spotify, check out your own history here. It’s a gas!)
I made a slight edit (Dylan is my #1 on Spotify, only because I have all six CDs in my car CD changer filled with Beatles disks, meaning I listen to them on Spotify less than I otherwise would), so I made the edit to move The Beatles to the top, and this is what I’ve got:
Again, not at all reflective of my DAILY listening habits (apart from The Beatles, who I’ve listened to EVERY DAY since early 1964), but as good a snapshot of my 55+ years of obsession as I can come up with without physically injuring myself.
Last Film I Watched: Little Women! By far the best movie I saw in 2019, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Truly spectacular-looking, too! Please see it on a big screen if you can, and do NOT wait for Netflix. Trust me on this.
Favourite TV show watched: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that I’ve been in and out of the TV business since the late 70s (blame it on seeing A Hard Day’s Night as a kid and falling in love with live TV), and am still on the periphery of it now. I’m almost as obsessive about TV as I am music, but it happens that my wife and I were talking about our all-time faves the other day, and I came up with a decent-enough list, again in chronological order:
There’s a lot more, but those really do tower above the rest.
Sweet, Spicy, or Savoury: All of them! That’s why Indian food is my favorite: sweet, spicy, and savory all at once! I’m pretty good at cooking Indian-style, too. I cook a LOT.
Pets. I’ve had so, so many pets over the years – dogs, cats, bearded dragons, birds, tortoises, snakes, fish, etc etc – but after our very old big dog and very old small cat passed away in the past year, we’re currently down to one: Snickers. That was his name when we adopted him. I don’t believe in naming pets after food, (others in the shelter had names like “Puddin” and “Muffin” – no thanks), so I treat his name like a verb, as in “He snickers.” Adorable little fella, though, and packed with love.
Anyhoo, I’m supposed to tag some folks, but I’ve been on tumblr nearly 7 years and have never had anyone respond to one of these. LOL I’d love if some of you considered this an open invitation, though, and do please feel free to reply like a normal person with normal-sized answers. LOL
And hey, feel free to blacklist the tag “essay” to avoid more nonsense like this.
PS. I just noticed that if you’re seeing this in the tumblr app, some of the video embeds are missing. They’re there in both the mobile browser and desktop/laptop, so please check there to see the missing clips!
Joni Mitchell at The Band’s Last Waltz, Thanksgiving 1976, Winterland San Francisco
Joni Mitchell photographed by Joel Bernstein, ca. 1970.
Neil Young by Joni Mitchell, from a new reproduction of her 1971 book, Morning Glory On The Vine, via ew
Joni Mitchell by Jeffrey Mayer
Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Thunder Revue—Harvard Square Theater, Cambridge, MA, November 20, 1975, by Ken Regan.
Joni Mitchell, kinda glam, 1974, by Henry Diltz