Tag Archives: joni mitchell

Both Sides Now

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 !

Me and Mr Paul

Paul Fitzpatrick: July 2022, London

I did a piece recently on Santana’s version of The Zombies ‘She’s not There’, and someone followed up by asking what my favourite 70s cover version is.

I tend to go with my gut reaction on these type of things otherwise you end up trawling through your music library, second guessing yourself and choosing songs on the basis that they have a bit of street-cred.

My initial pick was a song I first heard at my local youth club, although I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware it was a cover version at the time – Matthews Southern Comfort’s version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’.

On reflection, I decided that I couldn’t choose the Joni cover, because at its core, the definition of a great cover has got to be when an artist takes a song you’re already familiar with, puts their stamp on it, and makes it even more listenable than the original.

That helped me to narrow it down to my next gut choice – Billy Paul’s version of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ .

I can remember the first time I heard this track like it was yesterday, I’d come back from a party as you did in those days, to the realisation the morning after, that half your records were missing, replaced with other peoples discs…. the time honoured tradition of writing your name on the record label or cover seemed to make no difference and searching in vain for your Roxy Music – ‘Pyjamarama’ single only to pull out ‘Paper Roses’ by Marie Osmond was to put it mildly – a real pisser!

As it happened, following this particular party I ended up with someone else’s copy of Billy Paul’s ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ and noticed that the B side contained a version of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’.
Out of curiosity and with extremely low expectations, I put the needle on the groove, and then sat transfixed for six and a half minutes as a euphonious masterpiece emitted from the speakers.

It was hard to describe what I was listening to.
It was definitely ‘Your Song’, but not as I knew it.

Part Jazz, part Gospel, part Philly sound, It was a musical feast which had to be played again…. and again…. and a few more times after that.

I was dumbfounded, Billy Paul was a crooner, the married dude who was meeting Mrs Jones ‘every day in the same cafe‘ what was he doing ambushing me like this… with a fricking Elton John ballad?

I remember marching down to my mate Jay’s house armed with the single getting him to close his eyes as I lined it up on his record player to make him listen to it.

Jay and I had similar tastes in music but were constantly trying to outdo each other when it came to presenting new tracks. I needed to introduce him to this musical extravaganza as a matter of priority AND be there to gauge his response.

First Time Hearing – Staying Alive

Apparently gauging first responses to 70s songs is a YouTube phenomenon at the moment but we were all doing it 50 years ago.

I never get tired of listening to Billy Paul’s version of ‘Your Song’, even now.
It runs for 6 minutes 36 seconds but every time it comes to the faded ending I just want it to keep playing.

It’s a classic example of an early Gamble & Huff production driven by Billy Paul’s Jazz-infused vocals and the full might of the MFSB Philly session players, who’ve played on everything from ‘Love Train’ to ‘Disco Inferno’.


So there you have it, my favourite 70s cover.
It may not be the coolest, but it’s my choice and like Billy Paul says, he definitely ‘got a song!’

Of course there are lots of honourable mentions when it comes to great 70s covers so I threw together a quick playlist where in all cases (*bar one) the cover versions are better (in my humble opinion) than the originals.

*It’s a universal fact that it’s impossible to improve on any Steely Dan track….

1972 – All The Young Dudes

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London

My good mate Jim Martin (of this parish), sent me the above graphic, listing a selection of albums released 50 years ago in 1972.

Looking at the list we joked that our musical tastes haven’t progressed much as we continue to binge on a daily diet of much the same content.

I expect it will be a similar story next year when we reflect on the top albums from 1973 and no doubt for a few more years to come, probably until 1978, or should I say, 2028.

As far as music critics are concerned it’s well chronicled that 1971 is seen as being the most prolific/creative year for popular music.

Seminal albums like Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ are all lauded as being among the best and most inspirational albums of their type.

1971 RELEASES

Whilst there’s an argument to be made that 1971 was music’s high point, surely it’s also a moot point, for when it comes to music, or for that matter any art-form, there’s no right or wrong…

One man’s Elvis can be another man’s Shakin’ Stevens, because beauty, as we know, is in the eye, or in this case, the ear, of the beholder.

Despite what highbrow critics will lead you to believe, music isn’t measurable… just because a critic in The Guardian awards 5 stars to the latest ‘Let’s Eat Grandma’ album, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to love it too, or there’s something wrong with your tastes if you don’t.

Music is about opinions, personal taste and the emotions certain songs invoke, particularly tunes from your formative years.

Take 1971 – there’s no doubt it was a classic year, but in truth as an early teen who was just getting into music, it passed me by.

I caught up of course, and looking at my vinyl collection today, Joni, Marvin & Zep are all well represented but in 71 I’d no idea who Joni Mitchell was and the first Zep album I listened to in full was Zeppelin III in 1973.

Cut forward 12 months and things were different, I feel I was present for a lot of the marquee releases in 72 and remember them well, particularly those by Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and of course the baptism of fire that was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, which still sounds great today.

Maybe I wasn’t as switched on as I thought I was though, two of my all-time favourite bands, Steely Dan and Little Feat, also released albums in 1972 that I’d no idea about at the time.

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill
Little Feat – Sailin Shoes

So why should 12 months make such a difference?
I think I figured it out…

In the summer of 1971, I was adjusting to the evolution of becoming a teen as well as navigating & negotiating the ensuing boundaries.
I was into music but my inputs were basically restricted to two sources – Radio One and Top Of The Pops.

Fast forward to the summer 72, I was heading into my 3rd Year at school, edging ever closer to the coveted back row of seats on the school bus (and the cinema!), I’d experienced my first kiss, had my first beer and there was a new found confidence that on reflection came from nowhere.

Looking back, I relate this embolden sense of self to the scene in Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder introduces the Creature on stage –

“From what was once a mass of inarticulate lifeless tissues, may I now present a cultured, sophisticated man about town”

Of course the Creature fell on his arse as we all do when we get a bit cocky.

In terms of musical awareness though, the difference between 71 to 72 was enormous and it was primarily down to access.

The incremental freedom I enjoyed in 72 vs 71, enabled me to access a lot more music via….

The Youth Club – where the older girls had great tastes and dominated the record player.
Record shops – I was now allowed to go into town unchaperoned.
Late night listening – Old Grey Whistle Test & Radio Luxembourg.
Gigs – my first gig was at the Greens Playhouse in 72 to see Humble Pie, supported by Peter Frampton.

So, thank’s Jim for triggering some great memories although we both know there’s a glaring omission from the list of albums.
That album being The Temptations ‘All Directions’ which features a 12 minute version of ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’.

A track that Jim & I used to listen to open mouthed, in 23rd Precinct’s listening booth on a Saturday afternoon, when there was no football.

I look forward to receiving the 1973 list of albums next year.


*Inspired by this trip down memory lane I’ve cobbled together a playlist of tracks released in 1972. A mishmash of singles and less obvious album tracks for your listening pleasure….

Keep Me From The Gallus Poll.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, May 2022

In the analogue era, weekly music publications were a big deal.

My music-mag allegiances tended to reflect my musical tastes so along the way I was an avid, NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Blues & Soul reader.

I’d get these publications the day they came out from my local newsagent, and devour every inch of copy from cover to cover.
Every column, every review, every chart, every letter and even the adverts… usually in a single sitting

Apart from attending gigs, being a devotee of a particular music-mag was as close as it got to being part of a musical community back then.

Whatever your publication of choice was, you’d have your favourite journalists, you’d trust their reviews and you’d have faith that the publication would feature and promote the right bands.

An edition I always looked forward to was the annual Poll Winners issue.

First of all who didn’t love a poll, plus it was a way to sense-check whether this was a community you wanted to be part of.

Looking back, I think the 72/73 NME poll (excerpt above) where Gilbert O’Sullivan’s vocal talents were rated ahead of Plant, Rodgers, Gillan and Daltrey in the ‘Best Male Vocalist’ category, may well have been the tipping point for me to move on to another publication at the time.

Back in the day, these music-mag polls were a huge deal, often supported by live events to anoint the winners.
Assembling ELP, Wishbone Ash, Focus, Genesis, Argent and ahem FUDD to share a stage for the Melody Maker poll concert in 1972 would have been quite an event.

Anyone remember FUDD??

If those were the halcyon days for polls then it’s all a bit different today. Nowadays we have polls for the Greatest Album Of All Time rather than ‘Disc Jockey of the year’.
The current bible is Rolling Stone magazine who update their Top 500 albums annually, supported by a glossy edition that tends to feature the usual suspects in the Top 10 – Marvin, Joni, Stevie, Bob, etc.

Given its wide scope the Rolling Stone poll is a decent reflection of critical and popular tastes, and despite differing opinions and musical leanings, most of us can still appreciate quality when we hear it, after all you don’t have to be a Beatles or Beach Boys fan to acknowledge that they produced classic albums that stand the test of time.

But of course polls can polarise…. they can offer affirmation or they can infuriate, based on individual opinions.

To focus on the latter, I spoke to a good pal recently who was incandescent with rage about a recent Scottish newspaper poll that invited its readers to vote for the best Scottish musical acts of all time.

Like me this guy is a big fan of the Average White Band (AWB) and after all they’ve achieved, he expected to see them in the top 10 alongside the usual suspects – Simple Minds, Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) and The Blue Nile.

Sure enough Simple Minds were placed at number 2 but as he started looking down the list for AWB he got to number 50 and thought he must have missed them, unfortunately he hadn’t, AWB were voted the 85th best Scottish band of all time.

AWB

AWB, a band with platinum albums, number one singles and global recognition were positioned behind acts like Arab Strap and Horse (no, me neither!), and to add salt to the wound, Rod Stewart (who’s not even Scottish) was ensconced at number 8.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band didn’t fare much better at number 60, well behind Caledonian stalwarts, Gerry Cinnamon and Jim Diamond, and the sublime Blue Nile were stranded at 17.

SAHB

Apart from differing musical tastes a big driver of these ‘Best Of All Time’ polls is generational.
Whilst Gen Z’s want to listen to 21 year olds singing about heartbreak and Millennials understandably have different musical tastes to someone born in the 50’s, it doesn’t explain why the Bay City Rollers and Pilot were rated higher than SAHB & AWB, as they’re all from the same era.

A couple of my other favourite Scottish bands, Hipsway and Love & Money, were well down the pecking order at number 81 & 82 which I can accept on the basis that they had relatively short careers, and another, Cado Belle wasn’t even listed, for that matter neither were Nazareth, but AWB at number 85… come on!

The list of Scottish artists that have had number one singles in America is a relatively short one.
AWB with ‘Pick Up The Pieces’, a funky instrumental that confused the hell out of America in 1975 when the general public came to realise that they were grooving to six pasty white boys from Scotland rather than James Brown’s backing band, are one of the few Scottish bands who made it to the top of the US charts.

The success of the song catapulted the band to instant stardom and as Hamish Stuart put it, ‘we literally went from rehearsing in a house with blankets over the windows to sharing a studio with Aretha Franklyn and attending parties with Cher, and Jack Nicholson‘.

So Tabby, my good friend, I’m with you 100%…. polls aint what they used to be!

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/scotland-now/poll-site-names-scotlands-top-26527498

‘You’re So Vain’ A Single By Carly Simon: Hall Of Fame Induction


Paul Fitzpatrick: London, October 2021

If I was to transport myself back to December 1972, and look around my bedroom wall I would be surrounded by posters of Led Zeppelin, The Faces, The Who, The Stones, Bowie, etc…. a sea of white men with long hair brandishing shiny Stratocaster’s or menacing Les Paul’s.

Ashamedly, women at this point just didn’t figure in my record collection and whilst I grew to love Tapestry by Carole King, No Secrets by Carly Simon and the glorious Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell, the first step to those feminine treasures was a 45 rpm Single – Carly Simon’s self penned classic, ‘You’re So Vain’.

I first heard this tour de force in December 1972 at a point when the airwaves were awash with Glam Rock, Xmas singles and Novelty songs, one of which, ‘My Ding-A-ling’ by Chuck Berry was the nations current number one single.

I fell in love with ‘You’re So Vain’ the first time I heard it… Carly’s voice, the lyrics, the playing, the production and of course the ringing endorsement that was Mick Jagger on backing vocals.
Mick didn’t do guest vocals for anyone, he was Mick bleedin’ Jagger, the guvnor, but here he was singing his little heart out as an uncredited backing vocalist for this unknown hippy chick with the luscious lips.

It was 4 mins 19 secs of perfection as far as I was concerned.


I remember going Xmas shopping that year and having just enough money left to buy myself a single… the contenders were Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’, Free’s ‘Wishing Well’ or ‘You’re so Vain’… all great songs and all newly released.

I plumped for Carly that day, probably as I was on my own, if I’d been with my pals I’d almost certainly have bought one of the others for fear of being mocked.
Sad I know, but such was the way of the world back then – how do you think Status Quo sold more records than Aretha Franklin in the UK??

In a similar vein, I can remember subsequent shopping trips where ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ by Maria Muldaur and Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me Softly’ were covertly purchased.

Aged 14 I was used to deciphering songs about Norse Gods and ‘Deaf, Dumb & Blind kids’ but I instantly ‘got’ Carly’s lyrics and how they were aimed at a self-absorbed partner who loved himself so much that he assumed that the song could only be about him.

What I didn’t quite appreciate at the time was just how autobiographical the song was, until years later when all the speculation surfaced about who the song was actually about.

You can take your pick from – Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, David Bowie, David Cassidy or Mick Jagger, to name but a few.
You see, our Carly was a bit of a free spirit before settling down with Sweet Baby James.

Jack or Warren, who was so vain?

Reflecting on her list of suitors I remember thinking… it would be bizarre for Jagger to perform on a song that’s basically highlighting a major character flaw… until I realised that it was such an on-brand thing for Mick to do – he probably is that vain and as such was just doubling-down on the sentiment!

The songs protagonist was always a big secret (bit weird, as the album was called No Secrets!). However, in 2015 Simon confessed that the song is actually about three men (told you she was a bit of a gadabout!) and admitted publicly for the first time, that the second verse is about the Hollywood lothario Warren Beatty… who’s no doubt a bit pissed off that he’s having to share the honour.

I worry sometimes, probably unnecessarily, that all the speculation and noise about the songs muse (or muses) detracts from what a brilliant piece of music it is, but perhaps it helps to keep it relevant and that’s why current artists like Taylor Swift have adopted it as an anthem.


Consistently featured in most ‘Greatest Songs of all Time’ lists ‘You’re so Vain’ catapulted Simon into the public eye in 1972 and she went on to have a fantastic career on the back of her first big hit.

Looking back, in 1972 as a 14 year old with raging hormones another great attraction about Carly Simon was exactly that… the attraction of Carly Simon.

She was an absolute stunner, so whilst 14 year old girls had Donny or David or Marc up on their walls, a few of us had the album sleeve of No Secrets above our bed… of course, that was until our mates came round – then we had to get the Zep & Stones posters back up sharpish!

Isolated vocals of Simon & Jagger