Vote here for your favourite lyric on Joni Mitchell's album "Blue"

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Songs are like tattoos
You know I've been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away

doesn't work on the page

i like the multivalence of 'blue' : on a first listen it's an adjective, but the next verse ('hey blue!') recasts it as vocative

going to sea as a metaphor for navigating an internal space; how this plays along with other ideas of travel on the record

(the idea that this internal space is a depression rather than a specifically romantic sadness something else that opens up)

(blue) songs are like tattoos: nice, concise, opens up space for the next but one line

'i've been to sea before' : badass, don't have a lot to say about it, how was this record written by someone in their 20s, god

'crown and anchor' also can be parsed a couple ways, 'songs are like tattoos / ... / crown and anchor' as a gloss on the simile, the different uses one might put to artistic expression and the trophies of same ... then with the 'me / or' we retrospectively take it as a verb


anyway it does a hell of a lot in less than 25 words. i like that it does it with free-r meter than anywhere else on the record, this is the point in her career where she opens herself up to the long breath-lines in the later stuff i liked before i came to like the earlier stuff, but this is further out from song-form than she gets in most places even in the late 70s. i've always thought it quite lovely and been quite disappointed the rest of the song doesn't quite live up to it

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 29 September 2019 03:05 (nine months ago) link

Up go the flaps, down go the wheels
I hope you got your heat turned on, baby
I hope they finally fixed your automobile
I hope it's better when we meet again, baby

Also doesn't work on the page, because she's conversationally shoving extra unstressed syllables in ... anyway, a straight ABAB couplet that's totally masterful, totally the opposite of what the first chunk of 'Blue' is doing. Made me cry once. I think it might have hit me harder because I was in a similar position to where the narrator is in a lot of these songs, wandering around Europe, looking forward to a romantic reunion that I was fairly certain was going to fall apart, when I was listening to this album heavily for the first time. But the way it goes from the over-particular to the universal I think is striking regardless of what the listener brings to it, her delivery of the last line is nonpareil -- actually one of the things remarkable about this album is how much it gets out of her own diction and idiolect as a begrudging child of the 60s, i have sung along with this record a lot but i can't imagine performing any of it. even if i had the voice stuff like the deployment of 'baby' first as a thrown-out endearment and secondly as something meaningful -- difficult, i think, to inhabit convincingly for anyone else

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 29 September 2019 03:13 (nine months ago) link

Similarly, I also don't particularly care for "they won't give peace a chance / guess that just a dream some of us had". She tends toward sanctimony in places-- I've never liked "For Free" for this reason--

B-b-but, the way she sings that line in “California”, together with the next line (“Still, a lot of lands to see...”) makes it clear that she’s not being sanctimonious at all here, she’s simultaneously mocking or shrugging at both her former utopian earnestness (more “Woodstock” than “For Free”) and her current self-centred (and necessarily moneyed-class) hedonism.

It’s a similar double-movement to the dual character assassination of “The Last Time I Saw Richard” or, later, the mutual envy of “Song For Sharon”.

Also part of a broader quality or dynamic that recurs in different ways throughout her imperial period, being the revisiting of certain topics from earlier in her career but with a certain double-edged irony that shows how much more self-aware she has become.

So in the case of “For Free”, she deepens the examination of creative success versus authenticity with “For The Roses” and “The Boho Dance”; the theme of “The Arrangement” (a creative life of striving versus stifling security and stability) is returned to near-obsessively across “Carey”, “The Last Time I Saw Richard”, “Barangrill”, “Let The Wind Carry Me”, “Harry’s House”, “Song For Sharon” etc.

Tim F, Sunday, 29 September 2019 03:39 (nine months ago) link

Well, that’s a handful of amazing fucking posts thank you!

i could chug a keg of you (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 29 September 2019 04:17 (nine months ago) link

Seconded - and I agree with thomp that much of the power of this record is in her nonpareil delivery of those lines, the fluttering diction, the rush and the linger, from amusing to musing. I love the vocal line in California the same way I love Charlie Parker skittering over the changes.

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Sunday, 29 September 2019 07:03 (nine months ago) link

It's not as hip as some of the more beloved songs discussed above, but "Little Green" is my pick for the best song on this album. It manages to be both hopeful and heartbreaking (but mainly the latter) - particularly:

So you sign all the papers in the family name
You're sad and you're sorry but you're not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending

I heard it before I knew it was autobiographical, and upon learning the story it became even more affecting.

lingereffect (Kent Burt), Thursday, 3 October 2019 03:14 (nine months ago) link

Was just remembering the lyric in Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down The Line" (1978):

[Verse 2]
I know how much I lean on you
Only you can see
The changes that I've been through
Have left a mark on me
You've been as constant as a Northern Star
The brightest light that shines
It's been you woman right down the line

... (Eazy), Saturday, 5 October 2019 01:48 (nine months ago) link

"All I really, really want our love to do / is to bring out the best in me and in you too"


i could chug a keg of you (flamboyant goon tie included), Thursday, 17 October 2019 14:18 (eight months ago) link

Oh god this will be impossible and there's probably a bunch of good choices that aren't on the list.

"Map of Canada" is really good. "You're sad and you're sorry but you're not ashamed" is heartbreaking and perfect.

Agree with those who have said her willingness to be just fuckin goofy is part of the charm of this record.

But I also agree that there are some clunkers. Maybe the clunkers are themselves clunkily charming? Note that she doesn't really sing percolator, it's more like perculator. And "he cooked good om-A-LETTES" is pretty forced. "Folks I dig" is dippy. "MERmaid CAfé" has the stresses wrong. "Arms/charms" is the second worst rhyme ever (after love/above).

But I can't imagine hearing the whole record and not considering it a monumental human achievement, up there with Renaissance masterpieces and Jane Austen and Mozart n shit.

Sayonara, capybara (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 17 October 2019 14:36 (eight months ago) link

Had to go with "strung out on another man" for the way she sings it. That said, "You're sad and you're sorry but you're not ashamed" is HoF, as is "I’m selfish and I’m sad."

Woulda liked to see "rent me a grand piano" or "toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down" too, but I don't know whether I would have voted differently had the choices been different. I could drink a case of this album

Sayonara, capybara (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 17 October 2019 14:40 (eight months ago) link

"Richard got married to a figure skater / and he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator"

This is the one for me, picked it before even seeing the list. But it's missing the most devastating part:

And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 15:12 (eight months ago) link

Honestly I think no image struck more terror into my 20-something heart about married adulthood than drinking at home most nights with the tv on and all the house lights left up bright

and I'm embarrassed that I never noticed this until today, but "house lights" has a double meaning, as in theater house lights.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 15:15 (eight months ago) link

River > A Case Of You > Richard is pretty much the most devastating trifecta ending. Three phases of a relationship ending-- the immediate sadness of the breakup, a nostalgic remembering, a moment of transformative loss when one realizes their lover has moved on without them.

i could chug a keg of you (flamboyant goon tie included), Thursday, 17 October 2019 15:28 (eight months ago) link

Except that drinking at home and watching television can actually be quite pleasant.

Sayonara, capybara (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 17 October 2019 15:29 (eight months ago) link

But it's the "all the house lights left up bright" part that makes it awful -- he is so deep into given up on life that he doesn't even turn the lights down and let himself escape into the tv magic.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 15:44 (eight months ago) link

It’s also the idea, I think that there is no magic or mystery left to his life, everything that is there can be seen immediately.

And of course in classic Joni style she flips it with the next line “I’m gonna blow this damn candle out”: Joni, in her dark cafe, has enough mystery to make her sick, namely: when will I find someone who understands me? Will I ever find live and happiness?

Tim F, Thursday, 17 October 2019 16:28 (eight months ago) link

Otm, like he’s become too jaded to even allow any romance or fantasy into his life, while she has let it overwhelm her to the point that she is a victim of it.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 16:33 (eight months ago) link

I bang on about it a bit too much upthread but I think that juxtaposition is why this song feels like a really big moment in her oeuvre - no going back from here.

Tim F, Thursday, 17 October 2019 16:36 (eight months ago) link

It's interesting to juxtapose it with Boho Dance (another one of my favorites) where she lyrically emerges from a dark "cellar in the Boho Zone"

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 16:45 (eight months ago) link

her character in Richard assures herself that it's "only a phase these dark cafe days" which of course is played with tragic irony (it seems to be too late for her), yet for the character in the Boho Dance it really was only a phase and there's this odd combination of cynicism and hopefulness to the emergence, like a synthesis of Richard and the speaker in Richard who finds some redemption in honesty.

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Thursday, 17 October 2019 16:49 (eight months ago) link

Yeah “Boho Dance” and “Song for Sharon” really build on what she does here.

Tim F, Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:19 (eight months ago) link

boring answer but the refrain of a case of you

flappy bird, Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:19 (eight months ago) link

"if you want me i'll be at bar"

marcos, Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:41 (eight months ago) link

it's too old and cold and settled in its ways here / oh but california

marcos, Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:42 (eight months ago) link

The lyric that inspired me to make this poll was "will you take me as I am? Strung out on another man?" WHAT A LINE. Any time Joni infuses a lyric with a sly and sad acknowledgement that she's a problem girl, I just die.

<3 <3

A line I omitted is "he loved me so naughty / it made me weak in the knees". Why? It's a great line but I can't describe it, I feel like putting the sexy lines in a poll is a bad idea.

― fgti (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, September 28, 2019 12:57 PM (two weeks ago) bookmarkflaglink

no it is a good idea i love her sexy lines

marcos, Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:44 (eight months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 31 October 2019 00:01 (eight months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 1 November 2019 00:01 (eight months ago) link

Damn nice spread

that said, I’d prefer a single serving of you (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 1 November 2019 00:22 (eight months ago) link

Jesus fucking christ, this might actually be the best record ever

Yes. And how the fuck did I miss this poll?

nathom, Friday, 1 November 2019 07:06 (eight months ago) link

Like, really? You had an argument with your lover and he said "I am as constant as the Northern Star"? And you said, "constantly in darkness?" You're having a fight about similes? This is the worst fucking fight I've ever heard.

Her lover at this time was apparently Leonard Cohen, so not entirely out of character.

dinnerboat, Friday, 1 November 2019 14:42 (eight months ago) link

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