Sunday, March 24, 2013

For the Roses

Well I have to confess I find much of For the Roses irritating, although I blame Jackson Browne for that, in part. Because when I paid attention to him he used to go on and on about the awful great burdens of being a famous rock star and life on the road and blah blah blah poor you, rich beautiful man.

One of the things that is clear about Joni Mitchell's life at this time is that not only is she experiencing the hassle of being famous, but the hassle of having boyfriends who are also famous and have groupies throwing themselves at them.

And you can understand how that would be pretty annoying. But it's not exactly relatable. Although I do like that fact that she throws the F bomb in the middle of "Woman of Heart and Mind" - the first time she uses the word in a recording, as far as I can tell.

And two of the songs are absolute masterpieces.

The first is Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire. I had listened to the song several times without paying too much attention to the lyrics and then got a shock when I realized that she's talking about a junkie who is considering suicide:
Looking for Sweet Fire, shadow of Lady Release.
Come with me, I know the way she says,
It's down, down, down the dark ladder.
Do you want to contact somebody first?
Leave someone a letter?
You can come now or
You can come later.
This isn't just some lah dee dah roses and clouds and ladies of the canyon. This gets into Steely Dan territory for its lyrical melody versus grim subject matter contrast.

I tried to get a discussion of this song into my play JULIA & BUDDY but after hearing it in a reading I was forced to conclude it wasn't working. Alas.


And as if that isn't enough, there's You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio. One of her most perfect up-beat pop-rock tunes, right up there with Chelsea Morning and Conversation and Big Yellow Taxi. And you just cannot beat the extended radio metaphor, it's pure poetry.

Here's the Miles of Aisles version - no video though, just a pan out of the cover.

And last but not least, for those who enjoy rock star nudity - and who doesn't? - you can see Joni's bare ass on the inside of the album: