Thursday, April 02, 2015

Joni Mitchell, Memory and Song Association

I saw Joni Mitchell was hospitalized. Is that what fame gets people now? You get your private little health issues blared through the megaphone for one day as they wait to see if you die, and if you live, you enjoy the bump to your music or movie sales on Amazon. Great voice and great songwriter. When the Lilith Fair, ‘90s women in music garbage was rolling out, my friends and I labeled it “Snatch Jams”. My mom listened to those women for five minutes and said, “This same message was better when it was Joni-Carly-Karen in the ‘70s.” Twenty year cycles of nostalgia and recycling themes work in funny ways. My favorite story, and it might be apocryphal, about Mitchell was that her agent told her to not go to Woodstock and to go to the Dick Cavett Woodstock wrap up show, which would give her more exposure. Tremendous. My wife’s favorite song of Mitchell’s is “Both Sides Now”. It’s dark, evokes great mental imagery, and has good melody.

I’m much more cliché on this one. I associate songs with people, sometimes an entire artist. As a measure of staying power or nerdy girl signaling, the women at my university still listened to Mitchell 25 years after her peak. It was on their MP3 Winamp playlist for “late night” songs. No one had a Mitchell poster on their wall, but it was a bit funny how high of a percentage these girls born years after her peak had her songs on their seduction playlists. Maybe you were going to smoke up, maybe you were going to chat for hours about the future, but you were definitely going to get laid. If Joni Mitchell played, clothes were coming off. I can’t help hearing Mitchell’s music and picturing naked girls in small dorm rooms and crappy off campus apartments. They were usually trying to signal they were insightful, smart girls, not just dumb, cheap girls giving it up to a charming guy. The Tori Amos music was a given on their playlists, too, but Mitchell was better to deal with. My favorite Mitchell song is “Help Me”.

I said cliché. It is her biggest hit. I love it. I associate it with one ex from college. Everything about us. Partly it is her labeling the line “a rambler and a gambler and a sweet talkin’ ladies man” as “Year 2000 you in a nutshell!!!”. I have loved very few women in my life, and she was one of them. As a little kid, I thought I’d go to college and meet my future wife, and for a short while I thought she’d be that woman. We’d smoke up, that song would play, I’d make her laugh and we’d get down. She had a sexy laugh, and I loved making her laugh. In that brief, great period, we went to a formal. After making the proper social rounds and requisite dancing, I ended up drunk with her sitting on my lap, laughing as I ripped the fugly girls, the Scarsdale-Larchmont pukes and striving Long Island Jews around us. Since I was going abroad, we broke up like many couples I knew when one went abroad, and that was the smart play. I expected we’d resume our relationship when we returned to campus the next fall. It did not work out that way. We had the same circle of friends. My guy friends kept waiting for it to happen. It didn’t. I spent senior year enjoying being a senior with younger women (my access to alcohol), and she had her circle of horrific friends. She teased me about 19 year olds I’d bring to parties. I mocked her cliché Catholic school girl outfit on Halloween. I teased her about being single and which of her friends had bulimia or anorexia at that moment. We spent months “flirtin’ around, flirtin’ and flirtin’, hurtin’ too” (Thanks Joni), reaching a crescendo at Senior Week.

I was single for Senior Week but had hook ups lined up. “Mission accomplished”, but she and I stayed circling one another. Heartiste is right, when they know you’re getting action from someone as cute or cuter than them, it lights the fire.  Friday before graduation, I stole a glass from Ruloff’s, which was uniquely shaped and brought it to keggers. We spent that night just talking, vibing and slipping into a comfortable togetherness like our days as a couple. She wanted the glass bad. My female friends actually thought I could spin this one night into a reunion despite us being 600 miles apart come Monday. Her three friends cockblocked us both with a weird combined effort of switching who would be hugging her at the moment as the clock got closer to 2am. Graduation night brought us together, and we spent the evening after the bars closed living out a Mitchell song. “Didn’t it feel good, we were sitting there talking, or lying there not talking, didn’t it feel good.” She got the glass. I left her place at 6am, packed my final belongings, slept for an hour, and then drove back 7 hours to Maine, trying to sleep in the back of a van as my aunt and sister made fun of my hungover, groggy state. I haven’t spoken to her in 13 years. I’ve seen one picture of her at another’s wedding, but I thought of her Tuesday night because of one song.

We love our lovin’, but not like we love our freedom.”


nikcrit said...

Is that what fame gets people now? You get your private little health issues blared through the megaphone for one day as they wait to see if you die

Yeah, that comes with fame. In fairness, media has deadlines, hard ones, especially for daily print rags; it was common to have obits 'in the bank' for aging and/or notoriously unhealthy rockers; I recalling having obits in the bank for Brian Wilson to, yes, Keith Richards, the one who's defying all the odds.....speaking of, it's surprising the Stones are doing a possible swan song tour of the states and bypassing NY and Los Angeles..... (I know, I know I guess: Swan song my ass!)

PA said...

"Snatch Jam" LOL. I checked out your Joni song Never heard it before. Nice mellow 70s sound. A tad too jazzy for me.

Coincidentally with this post, earlier today I was thinking of songs I thought were fucking AWESOME when first hearing them. More than just liking it -- more like believing that this is the best song you ever heard. For reference, I was a teenager in the 80s. Here is the list.

- "A Montahna" by Roberto Carlos (early childhood, early 70s). Still dig the song. Checking it now, in fact.

- "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles in late childhood, obviously long after its original release. I remember telling my dad that this is the perfect song.

- "What a Feeling" by Irene Cara, around puberty. I liked the intense build-up in the verses.

- "Jump" by Van Halen. You weren't a scrawny, too tall, pimply all-American (or soviet block transplant) early-teen in 1984 if you didn't think that the opening keyboard chords weren't hawesome. In fact, I believe you'd get your ass kicked in my neighborhood if you didn't think they were.

- "New Year's Day" by U2, early teens. I had no idea what to make out of the song, but it was just different than the fun pop I normally heard.

- "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen, mid-teens. I think a pattern emerges where I like loosely-controlled emotional intensity in a song. I couldn't wait to hear what song is next released from that album, and was disappointed when finally hearing "Cover Me."

- "Losing my Religion" by REM. Loved the pace and buoyancy. Got over it quckly but really liked it when I first heard it on the radio in 1991. This was my very early 20s.

- "Black" by Pearl Jam, also in 1991. That one is still in my top 5 all time favorites.

- "Who's Gonna Ride your Wild Horses" in 1992. Great song, great album. That album (Achtung Baby) is most linked in my psyche with wild triumphs and searing heartbreaks involving chicks at that time in my youth.

PA said...

From U2's 1991 album Achtung Baby and my early 20s:


You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You were acting like it was the end of the world

- "Until the End of the World"

... and heartbreaks:

The men who love you, you hate the most
They pass right through you like a ghost
They look for you but your spirit is in the air
Baby, you're nowhere


You don't know if it's fear or desire
Danger the drug that takes you higher
Head in heaven, fingers in the mire

Her heart is racing, you can't keep up
The night is bleeding like a cut

- "So Cruel"

nikcrit said...

Joni Mitchell is a transcending talent on a level that comes around maybe once or twice per century...and someone here is actually going to say she's 'too jazzy' while a few sentences later lauding Irene fukin'Cara?
God help us! :)

PA said...

I was 12. Sue me.

Son of Brock Landers said...

PA - nikcrit has had such shitty comments that Google has sent them to spam. Nikcrit please stay on topic with your comments are when calling a post of mine a diatribe think before hitting publish. I do strongly suggest you start a blog to post the stuff you put into these comments and emails you send me. Might be a good release for you.

Portlander said...

Cool story. I married my college sweetheart. It's been awesome, like a Springsteen song. I can't imagine not having those cherished memories with the same person I'm spending the rest of my life with.

I lucked out and dodged the bullet wrt Cathedral programming on that one. Who knows, if I were 4 or 5 years younger I probably would have dumped her and moved to Cal. right after college, like everyone does now. I never mention it, but it's 3rd on my list of why I hate (what's become of) America. It makes me really sorry for my own children that are very likely going to miss out on that joy.

For the record, 1 and 2 on my hate list are the financial raping of the middle class and unchecked immigration, respectively.

nikcrit said...

I was just joking! I don't care what kind of pop music people listen to. i stopped being a pop snob when i was 15; i get a kick out of PA's love for Jackyl or whatever cheesy pop or hard's almost like your joy is too pure to succumb to silly pop snobbery.... i love, or loved, tons of kitschy pop myself..... Geez.....

SOBL, Where did i call one of your posts a diatribe?

Awwwright, fellas..... I'm getting the hint.....

Son of Brock Landers said...

Dont play martyr, just improve your comments.

peterike said...

Mitchell's talent went south pretty quickly, lost in absurd experiments ("Mingus") and pretentious nonsense, and an almost mythical self-regard.

Still, for a while there she was indeed a great singer-songwriter, but that "while" lasted about five years, and five years a very long time ago. She's lived off her image ever since.

Put me down for "Big Yellow Taxi" as favorite Joni Mitchell song. Can anybody off hand even name a Join Mitchell song from later than, say, 1976?

Suburban_elk said...

She is such a face of the 60s.

They had to take a bunch of drugs to figure out they did not want to go to Viet Nam. Actually they already knew they did not want to go, but the drugs helped them to see not going, as the right way. But that groovy stuff got nixed in the real world.

You feel there's something calling you
wanting to return
to where the Misty Mountains rise
and friendly fires burn

A place you can escape the world
where the Dark Lord cannot go
Peace and love and sanctuary
by Loud Waters flow

Yeah Rush was the poor man's Zeppelin and late to the party.

Suburban_elk said...

Previous comment was meant to be funny, but upon a re-read it is sad and lonely.

The point i wanted to make, that seemed somewhat topical and related to the prior thread on the framing of decades, is an idea from Majority Rights - which website used to be stellar and now is marginal - that the 60s Peace and Love and the anti-war movement was a cultural expression of white America that was sincere and genuine, and that "cultural expression" has not been integrated, at all.

Now the 60s Peace and Love is mocked and ridiculed as naive and hippy-dippy, idealistic, unrealistic.

And yet here is the thing. Such notions have to be part of any, uh, vision for the future. And the race-realist right has not been able to incorporate this holistic common-sense. If you want to talk in public about the future of white children, it has to be done with the best genuine intentions, for everyone.

Separation of people by race makes the most sense in the interests of peace. It is also the simplest solution. Then again, whatever, who cares. History is in the driver's seat now, as Kunstler likes to say. I still think it is practical to iron out a platform that sells, in the here and now. That platform is simply that people want to self-segregate in their own interests, and in the broader interests of peace and harmony. Of course white people would have to stop watching the television and engage in meaningful activities.

So there is my sermon.

nikcrit said...

And yet here is the thing. Such notions have to be part of any, uh, vision for the future. And the race-realist right has not been able to incorporate this holistic common-sense. If you want to talk in public about the future of white children, it has to be done with the best genuine intentions, for everyone.

I agree with that, even if that nonetheless is unsuprising and not terribly enticing coming from me. In the past I've noted undisparagingly that these sites often serve as a place for whites to cut loose and get a break from smothering p.c. sanctimonies and witchhunts that come with modern America; I extended that as a bit of empathy while bowing out of the discussion in those moments ----- not as some sort of slap claiming such blogs or such a purpose is frivolous or unseemly in any way whatsoever, etc.
In any case, I appreciate the sentiment and principle of your position; i thnk it's both principled and practical, mainly because it's true.

As for your solution in the next graph, i can even understand and accept that---- but would just add my obligatorry and now probably tiredly familiar refrain that such 'separation' would leave a lot of people in nowhere-land, people who've already experienced meta dual-ethnicity. We're not necessarily screaming for any particular wants or demands. But we are out here en masse, and the footprint of our emergin being and dare say 'culture' is going to make an imprint whether larger society declares us to exist or not.

ARoss said...

I really used to be heavily into the 60's and 70's music through my parents though I never really liked Joni as Canadian content laws made her stuff heavily over played.These days my 60's-70's tastes are Zeppelin, Zappa, the Band, CCR and Max Webster.

Liz Phair fan and Millennial said...

Peanut gallery here, I just want to say thanks SOBL, for writing posts like these. You're like the older brother I never had. This reads like an alternate script for Rules of Attraction, haha.

Laban Tall said...

"Can anybody off hand even name a Join Mitchell song from later than, say, 1976?"

Only one that I love, the lament for her mid-teens youth "Chinese Cafe" from 1982s Wild Things Run Fast. Prior to that her last great song was Amelia (1976).