Tomorrow, June 22, marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece “Blue.”
There’s been so much attention brought to this musical event that Joni’s own archive site crashed due to the sheer numbers of people wishing to pay tribute.
I was fortunate enough to have my friend Leslie Kasperson take me to see her at the tiny Gene Autry Museum Theater at Griffith Park around 1995, but I really only came to truly appreciate this record in the last few years after I heard Morgan James’ cover of “Case of You.” I fell so in love with MJ that I had to drag Linda to Oregon to see her at Mississippi Studios in Portland.
My dear friend Jodi does a beautifully stirring version as well.
… The Act You’ve Known For All These Years
1967. 1968. 1969. 1970.
Formative years for me. I was 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
Coming up in Detroit in the late 1960s we played baseball all summer, hockey in the winter and records all year long. Everybody I knew bought, sold, traded, borrowed and stole vinyl. When something significant came out (Beatles White Album, Zeppelin 1, Tommy, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs) we carried the album with us wherever we went, along with a frisbee and a bag of weed.
At my house, which because my mom worked nights was the gathering place for degenerates, dope fiends and guitar-god wanna-bes, we played records on a General Electric console stereo. On any given night 10 or 12 kids would show up with 2 or three albums. Grand Funk, The Stooges, Allman Bros, Johny Winter, Edgar Winter, Ten Years After, Savoy Brown ~ Jimi.
We would fill the house with bong smoke and play those records over and over until they were so scratched that you could barely listen to them. Then we would all pitch in to air the place out, empty the ashtrays and mop up the spilled bong water before mom got home.
Ester never knew any better and all that music got embedded in my DNA.
Now, 50+ years later many of those albums are being re-mastered, re-issued as box sets and celebrated as relics of a simpler time, when music was the only art form that mattered.
So significant was the era that Apple has created a docuseries called “1971: The Year that Music Changed Everything,” which is pretty good by the way.
I’ve actually been reliving the music of that time for the past few years. I think I started with the “White Album” which came out in 1968 and still holds me in a hypnotic embrace as what I think of as the best musical recording of all time in any genre. I played all four sides again and again, just like we did in 68-69. Then I did the same thing with Tommy, by The Who. Then The Soft Parade by the Doors. Let it Bleed. Electric Ladyland.
All these albums are tattooed on my brain. I still have them all mostly memorized yet, I’m discovering new aspects of them at the same time.
Lately, for a few weeks actually but I need to stop now, I’ve been playing Tumbleweed Connection. I always knew that the record album was a concept album with an American West and South theme. But I never knew about Bernie Taupin’s obsession with the Civil War. I didn’t pay very much attention to the poetry behind what I knew were beautiful melodies brought by Elton.
I realize now what a masterpiece that record is.
So many others from that era that I would characterize that way as well. Aqualung, Layla, Live at the Fillmore East, A Saucerful of Secrets, All Things Must Pass, A Question of Balance, John Barleycorn Must Die, After the Gold Rush,Tea for the Tillerman, Love it to Death, Who’s Next, the list … goes … on.
And possibly, above them all is Joni. and her prize, Blue.
I like what David Crosby said recently about the album in the LAT, “Blue” is the best singer-songwriter record ever made. I think it’s better than the Beatles. It’s better than anything Bob Dylan did, better than anything from either of the Pauls, McCartney and Simon. It’s better than anybody, anywhere. This record, this batch of songs, is the pinnacle of singer-songwriter ability. Hands down. No contest.
Brandi Carlile said of A Case of You, “The remarkable thing about this poem is that Joni has convinced us all to live inside of it while never sparing us a single detail. “I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet” is the most beautiful and unique declaration of love I can think of. It can mean many things to many people. I think of my wife and daughters when I hear or sing it. My love for them is insatiable and yet I can keep my feet underneath me because, for me, true love has been stabilizing. I’ve been known to find myself on the floor a few times too, though.
This song has met many of us in our darkest moments and walked us down the aisle, even sent us to the other side of existence. We’re so lucky to have it with us.“
Joni Mitchell is a national treasure of both Canada and the U.S.
We are lucky to have her.
Reading this took me back to my similar but parallel universe of the 70s on the west coast. Stealing beer at the Laurel Canyon Mart, waiting in line on Sunset for shows at the Roby and Whiskey A Go Go, and turning up the music thru speakers the size of Fort Knox. It’s a wonder my ears haven’t left me, like so many memories have before. Thanks for rekindling that time…