Chamblee54

Growing Up With Joni Mitchell

Posted in Library of Congress, Music by chamblee54 on January 13, 2018

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A facebook friend went on a Joni Mitchell kick. First it was a link to an interview. Then it was a quote from The Last Time I Saw Richard. A lady said Blue was her favorite album all all time, and a man enthusiastically agreed. This is a repost.

Given the apples and oranges quality of her catalog, it would be tough to pick one album as a favorite. PG then realized that fbf was going to be thirty soon. PG is sixty. These are two different perspectives on the craft of Joni Mitchell. One has driven through the storm, not knowing what was next. The other is presented with an almost complete body of recorded work.

PG has known about Joni since high school, and been a devoted fan since 1976. Joni’s most popular album, Court And Spark, came out in 1974, eleven years before fbf was born. Who would be the equivalent female musical force from 1943, when PG was minus eleven? The answer is nobody. (Coincidentally Roberta Joan Anderson was born on November 7, 1943.)

ms mitchell After the comment about Blue, PG listened to For The Roses. Joni’s craft is like a cluster bomb… there are lines that you never fully felt, bomblets waiting to explode in your gut. Let The Wind Carry Me has one of those hidden threats. Mama thinks she spoilt me, Papa knows somehow he set me free, Mama thinks she spoilt me rotten, She blames herself, But papa he blesses me.

The first thing PG heard by Joni was Big Yellow Taxi. It was on The Big Ball, a 1970 mail order sampler from Warner Brothers. This was when Joni shacked up with Graham Nash. The next year saw Blue, followed by For The Roses, and Court And Spark. PG always thought Joni was someone he should like, but somehow didn’t. It wasn’t until 1976 that PG broke through the barrier, and became a Joni Mitchell fan. Seeing her in concert did not hurt.

On February 3, 1976, PG took a study break. (He scored 100 on the test the next day) Joni Mitchell was playing at the UGA coliseum a few blocks away, and the door was not watched after the show started. PG found a place to stand, on the first level of the stands. The LA express was her band that night, and created a tight, jazzy sound, even in the UGA coliseum. Tom Scott pointed at Joni, said she was crazy, and drew circles around his left ear. The one line PG remembers is “chicken scratching my way to immortality” from Hejira.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns might not be her best album, but it is certainly her bravest. Court And Spark was a commercial success. Instead of producing a bestselling followup, Joni took a ninety degree turn. Summer Lawns, for all its eccentric sparkle, confused the record buying public. The gravy train took off in another direction.

In those days, 96rock played a new album at midnight, which people were known to tape. On the night of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, the album was Hejira. This was followed by Mingus, another curve ball. Finally, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter appeared, and did not make a good impression.

The eighties, nineties, and aughts appeared. PG, and Joni, lived their lives. 1996 saw a frightening interview in Details magazine. It was startling to see that for all her granola glory, Joni Mitchell might not be a very nice person. In a pot and kettle moment, David Crosby said “Joni’s about as humble as Mussolini.” Music is a tough way to make easy money.

More recently, there was a long interview on Canadian television. She is not mellowing with age. The cigarettes have not killed her, even if her voice is not what it once was. The recent albums that PG heard are strong. There seem to be more on the way. Maybe the facebook friend will have have the “what is she going to do next” experience after all. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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