Reasons to love Joni Mitchell's Hejira album

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Naw I think there's so much amazing stuff on here (beyond "Come In From The Cold" which I agree is stunning). The chilling "old as the hills" vibe of "When All The Slaves Free" (her reedily murmured "ecstasy"... "tragedy"...), the heart-cutting double-tracked vocals on "Cherokee Louise", the perfect Tango in the Night pop of "Nothing Can Be Done", the absolute desolation of "Two Grey Rooms"...

I love the sound of her voice here too, damaged by smoking but still just supple enough to hit the targets it aims for, making the damage into just a metaphor for emotional damage, the sense of having seen too much that runs through the album. After this it got to the point where she just sounded limited a lot of the time (though she did use her vocals to great effect on particular songs here and there).

Tim F, Saturday, 18 February 2012 21:11 (2 years ago) Permalink

It was only recently that I realized furry sings the blues was about a real singer, furry lewis

dave coolier (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 18 February 2012 21:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah he's good. wasn't happy about the song tho
"The way I feel" says Furry "is that your name is proper only to you, and when you use it you should get results from it. She shouldn't have used my name in no way, shape, form or faction without consultin' me 'bout it first. The woman came over here and I treated her right, just like I does everybody that comes over. She wanted to hear 'bout the old days, said it was for her own personal self, and I told it to her like it was, gave her straight oil from the can." He stares at the surrealistic photo on the Hejira cover. "But then she goes and puts it all down on a record, using my name and not giving me nothing! I can't stop nobody from talkie' 'bout Beale Street, 'cause the street belongs to everybody. But when she says 'Furry,' well that belongs to me!" (Though Joni Mitchell had no response to Furry's comments, her manager, Elliot Roberts, responded: "All she said about him was, 'Furry sings the blues' the rest is about the neighborhood. She doesn't even mention his last name. She really enjoyed meeting him, and wrote about her impressions of the meeting, He did tell her that he didn't like her, but we can't pay him royalties for that. I don't pay royalties to everybody who says they don't like me. I'd go broke.")

tylerw, Saturday, 18 February 2012 21:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

10 months pass...

look, i realize this is coming a bit late, but since it seems to have been revived about a year ago... i feel the need to point something out. when joni mention's she is 'not familiar with what you play' she is referring to WC Handy, who's 'cast in bronze, and he's standin in a little park, with his trumpet in his hand, like he's listenin back...
-so throughout the song she is comparing her limited knowledge of one legend, with her experience of meeting a dying one, in a city which reflects them, and which they embody -she is clearly an outsider, but an admirer.
i am so surprised that so many people who seem to otherwise know her well, or at least this album, did not catch this?!

as for reasons to love hejira (the album)...
the beginning and energy throughout black crow
and
'palm trees in the porchlight like slick black cellophane'

ramblin rose, Wednesday, 16 January 2013 19:11 (1 year ago) Permalink

welcome to ILX, ramblin rose! if you want, here is an introduction thread:

Introduce Yourselves!

sleeve, Wednesday, 16 January 2013 20:45 (1 year ago) Permalink

wow - never read that story about Furry liking her even less after Hejira!

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Thursday, 17 January 2013 10:13 (1 year ago) Permalink

Here's the RS article:

Furry Lewis is Furious at Joni
by Mark Seal - February 24, 1977

MEMPHIS - There's an electrical wire hanging down in front of bluesman Furry Lewis' small, olive green duplex. It drapes across his front porch, and Furry is so worried about it he can hardly get drunk and have fun with the people who have come to visit, "Somebody call up the 'lectric department to fix that thing!" he yells, sitting in the bed that has become his stage and pouring a dose of Ten High bourbon into a well-worn shot glass. "l know I've always been a rascal, but I ain't never done nothin' bad enough to be in the 'lectric chair."

Age and cataracts have dulled Furry's eyesight - though not his feisty spirit - and his public appearances have been whittled down to a cherished few, but Furry's still got the world at his bedside. Guests, from young neighborhood kids seeking guitar lessons to celebrities, stream into his three-room flat.

Lewis played his slide-driven, talking guitar blues with the father of the blues, W.C Handy, on Beale Street in the early 1900s. Today, the street is crumbling, and a small statue of Handy toting a horn overlooks the ruins. To Furry Lewis, Beale Street was "where somebody was killed every Saturday night and born every Sunday."

At arm's reach from his bed, Furry's got all his daily necessities: battered Martin electric guitar and small amp, two half gallons of Ten High, a .38 revolver stashed inside a drawer, his walking stick, a teddy bear and a cigar box labeled "Business". "I'm 83 years old half blind and gots a wooden leg," he says. "But I sure gots a lot of friends. "

But Furry's got his problems, too. Just a few weeks ago, he explains, he played at a local club and still hasn't been paid. And then there's "that woman" who recorded a song about him.

The song, "Furry Sings the Blues," is on Joni Mitchell's latest album, Hejira. In it, Mitchell paints Furry "down and out in Memphis, Tennessee," and his music "mostly muttering now and sideshow spiel." She had visited the aging bluesman and the pitiful situation on Beale Street had led her to write:

Furry sings the blues
Fallin' to hard luck
And time and other thieves
While our limo is shining on his shanty street.
Old Furry sings the blues.

"The way I feel " says Furry "is that your name is proper only to you, and when you use it you should get results from it. She shouldn't have used my name in no way, shape, form or faction without consultin' me 'bout it first. The woman came over here and I treated her right, just like I does everybody that comes over. She wanted to hear 'bout the old days, said it was for her own personal self, and I told it to her like it was, gave her straight oil from the can." He stares at the surrealistic photo on the Hejira cover. "But then she goes and puts it all down on a record, using my name and not giving me nothing! I can't stop nobody from talkie' 'bout Beale Street, 'cause the street belongs to everybody. But when she says 'Furry,' well that belongs to me!" (Though Joni Mitchell had no response to Furry's comments, her manager, Elliot Roberts, responded: "All she said about him was, 'Furry sings the blues' the rest is about the neighborhood. She doesn't even mention his last name. She really enjoyed meeting him, and wrote about her impressions of the meeting, He did tell her that he didn't like her, but we can't pay him royalties for that. I don't pay royalties to everybody who says they don't like me. I'd go broke.")

Still, Furry can't deny the truths of "Furry Sings the Blues," with its references to Beale Street's doom, that "history falls/ To parking lots and shopping malls."

"They only make a statue of you when you dead and gone," Furry says. "I've known a whole lots of musicianers in my life and lots of 'em are dead now. But I guess that Handy's the only one that's ant a statue of him. But then I ain't gone yet.

"Now I know I ain't a star," he says, reaching for his glass and winking with a wise old grin "But I sure might be a moon."

friday goodness thank it's (flamboyant goon tie included), Thursday, 17 January 2013 13:23 (1 year ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

Don't judge Joni on "Free Man In Paris", it's one of her most awkward songs lyrically.
However am I the only one who thinks the cold war metaphor in "Blue Motel Room" is brilliant?

― Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Thursday, April 13, 2006

I think there were country songs almost ten years prior that also had puns on Cold War with relationship subjects

Iago Galdston, Thursday, 29 May 2014 18:51 (2 months ago) Permalink

Iago Galdston, Thursday, 29 May 2014 23:05 (2 months ago) Permalink

shit....Floyd Tillman's 1949 country classic "This Cold War With You". Don't know if there are others

Iago Galdston, Thursday, 29 May 2014 23:05 (2 months ago) Permalink

It's not so much the fact of the Cold War pun as the way she runs with the metaphor:

"We're gonna have to hold ourselves a peace talk
In some neutral cafe
You lay down your... sneeeeeaking round the town, honey
and I'll lay down the highways"

Tim F, Thursday, 29 May 2014 23:23 (2 months ago) Permalink

oh yeah, no doubt, those are great lyrics. not that anyone here would care, but i was interested to learn that the male love interest on this record is the playwright Sam Shepard ("Coyote")

Iago Galdston, Thursday, 29 May 2014 23:26 (2 months ago) Permalink

xpost to me this has always been one (possible) hallmark of a good "literary" lyricist, not just simply drawing analogies between things but getting across the detailed structure of the analogy with a few carefully curated side-shots of the same idea.

Another joni example that always comes to mind is in "The Boho Dance": "like a priest with a pornographic watch, looking in longing on the sly", which evokes a much broader metaphor of musical-authenticity/class-authenticity as hypocritical religious conviction and self-denial.

Tim F, Thursday, 29 May 2014 23:29 (2 months ago) Permalink


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