John Allan: Bridgetown WA, July 2022
If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there, is one of those often repeated phrases banded about by particularly annoying people.
Like the ‘you don’t have to be crazy to work here but it helps’ stickers some people have at their workplace.
One has an overwhelming desire to punch them in the face but you don’t – unless it’s your last day of work which it probably would be if you pummelled the coupon of a fellow employee !
My version is…. ‘if you don’t have a Joni Mitchell album from the 70s, you weren’t really there’.
I won’t bore you with Ms Mitchell’s bio because you all know your way around Dr. Google but will say – and beware another cliché alert – she was and still is the soundtrack of many of our lives.
Emerging on the folk scene in the late 60s, she already had two albums, Songs to a Seagull and Clouds behind her.
The 70s were what really defined Joni, with eight releases over the decade.
The still folksy Ladies of the Canyon was followed by the achingly soul searching sparsity of Blue.
For The Roses had a soft-rock feel before heading to a west coast jazz-rock vibe with Court and Spark.
With The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Mingus came a full embrace of mainstream jazz and the top players of the time.
The next three decades spawned nine further releases culminating in the luscious 2000 recording Both Sides Now arranged and conducted by the very talented Vince Mendoza.
Who can forget that scene in the film Love, Actually when Emma Thompson’s character opens her Christmas present expecting a necklace only to find a Joni CD. Even I screamed BASTARD at the TV screen when the music started before grabbing the tissues.
A case of spontaneous tourettes and a bit of dust in my eye I think !
For the music theorists out there, Joni sings ‘Both Sides Now‘ in F# on the Clouds album and the same song in D on the aforementioned 2000 version. She’s dropped a major 3rd in 3 decades. I guess chain smoking will do that to you !
Oft singing about love and lovers, Joni does not shy away from the taboo subjects of sexual abuse both familial – ‘Cherokee Louise‘ and institutional – ‘Magdalene Laundries‘.
Words and music were not her only artistic outlet, by her own admission
Oh, I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
Many self portraits adorn Joni’s record covers.
I was going to put together a playlist of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs but couldn’t decide what to choose. Instead I’ve collated my favourite Joni cover versions.
There are so many out there.
I hope you like them and if you don’t and we should meet up, please don’t punch me in the face !