What better way to begin a music review site than to chat about one of my favourite singers, Joni Mitchell. And what better way to encapsulate all my thoughts and feelings by randomly highlighting words in BOLD in DIFFERENT COLOURS!
So, Joni, Joni, Joni. Here she is.
Well, that’s A Joni, just not THE Joni. The Joni pictured is my cat, who happens to be named after one of my favourite singers in the whole goddamn world, Kate Bush.
No. Sorry. I mean Joni Mitchell.
Picture the scene. It is a snowy day in my home town of Cwmbran, South Wales.
I popped into Martins. No, that’s not a euphemism for gay sex. In the late 80s, Martins was a chain of newsagents that existed throughout the UK. It called itself a newsagents, but also sold vinyl records, bath towels and condoms. It also sold little Smurf figures and the Cwmbran shop had a fantastic miniature railway in the window too.
But I digress.
I popped into Martins sometime in 1988. I was the sort of seventeen year old that was not enamoured at all by current chart music such as Rick Astley, T.Pau, Bros or Madonna, though I like them all and their music has their place. Rather, I had bought the three-hour Woodstock video a few months before and was in love with artists like Richie Havens, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Who, Laura Nyro, The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention. I was looking for albums from that era and this cover took my eye.
The cover was blue. The title was blue. I was even feeling blue. So, with my £27 weekly YTS money (that’s Youth Training Scheme – an 80s initiative to train school-leavers to be on the dole. I’ll blog about it another day), I spent £4 on the cassette version of the album. I arrived back home. My grandmother, whom I lived with, was sat in her chair, watching television. I will always remember her kind face and her love of WWF wrestling, particularly Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. She was also the last person that loved me unconditionally until she passed away in 1998 and I still miss her. I went into the dining room, closed the door, and put the cassette into my Amstrad midi system.
I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling, travelling, looking for something what can it be?
The sparse, stark production and the plaintive, bare honesty of the lyrics immediately made an impression. I played the whole album a few times that day, and daily for the next week (until my next YTS payment allowed me to buy another album). All the songs were immediately familiar, in the sense that I felt I understood where she was coming from and the message they were imparting to me. In particular, the song The Last Time I Saw Richard still has an acute resonance with me today…
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hiding behind bottles in dark cafes, dark cafes
I’ll be a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away
Only a phase these dark café days…
Blue became my go to album whenever I felt a little melancholic and lonely. It also became my go to album when I was happy. It became my go to album when I was pissed off, drunk, excited, high on crystal meths or having sex with older women who owned horses. Blue was an album that made sense to me.
Over the next year, as my YTS payments allowed it, I slowly bought Joni’s back catalogue. Court & Spark, Hejira, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns and Ladies Of The Canyon all become staples on my playlist during the evenings. My Nan began enjoying her too, and those memories of us, her in the living room watching WWF wrestling, and me in the dining room listening to Blue, will always be with me.