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An eye opener for Joni Print-ready version

Go Magazine
November 15, 1968
Original article: PDF

"When I saw those Czech kids fighting in the streets," said song-writer/singer Joni Mitchell, "it was an eye opener for me. They're the same as we are.

"Youth is hungry for truth. It's the same all over the world. We've had so much leisure time--I guess because we were all spoiled children -- that we've had had more time to think; perhaps more than any other generation in centuries. It's the thinking more than the drugs that is responsible for what's happening now. I think it's incredible.

Joni is originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but now makes her home in Los Angeles. She began singing four and a half years ago and has been writing songs for about three years and recently rocketed to national prominence via her debut Reprise album, "Song For A Seagull."

She notes: "Aside from Chuck Mitchell, Tom Rush was the first person to sing any of my songs. I was living in Detroit at the time and Tom urged to play a folk club there. He heard "Urge For Going" and included it in his repertoire. I couldn't get work at that time, not even as a second act. Folk music had become such a professional thing by then, that I didn't have a chance without a big reputation or a record.

"When Tom started singing my songs, he would talk about me a little bit and, after a while, I found that I could get work as a second act at the clubs he was playing. Sometimes I got put on as the first act but that was only on slow weekends in small clubs.

"I was managing myself for a long time and I never could turn down a job. I was so happy to be working, I accepted every job I was offered. As a result, my health suffered a bit. Now that I have a manager (Elliot Roberts), I'm still very busy -- but it's a little easier for me."

Joni was in New York to play the Bitter End. From there she went to the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and then set out on a concert tour that includes the University of Massachusetts, the University of Chicago, the University of Windsor, Ontario, and a show in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She'll return to New York later this year for a concert at Hunter College. In February, Joni will give her first solo concert in Carnegie Hall.

She is planning to record another album. About it, she says: "I have studio time set aside in L.A. for December. I may do a double album, but I don't know yet. Whatever it turns out to be, "Circle Game" and "Little Green" will be on it for sure. It's difficult to choose which songs will go into the album, I've got 80 songs now.

"There is a certain chronology to the songs I've set for the album. Like, what we had on the first album. By changing the order of the songs, they tell a different story. I haven't decided on a story line yet. When I get them all recorded, I'll know. "Both Sides Now", which Dave Van Ronk calls 'Clouds', is a sort of culmination of everything I've written. That will probably be the theme for the album. "I'm not writing as much as I used to; I used to be much more prolific but, not that many of them have stood up to what I now feel a song should be. It's hard for me to explain - it's like knowing when a painting is done or if it says anything at all.

"You've got to write about things that happen to you because they've happened. You can't just run out and write songs of hope because you think there's a need for songs of hope. My songs used to be about 'Oh, it's over now and I've been left behind.' There was an immediacy to them.

"I'm less prolific now, because I wait. Sometimes I write about things that happened months ago. I've gained perspective by then. I've learned that effect the thing has had on my life - the truth that I've found in any given situation. What's true for me is sometimes true for others too.

"If you get too fired up on a mission and run around saying "I've got to change this - or that," it limits you. I'd have to go out and ask everyone about each of my songs to find out if I'm really getting through to them. As long as they get something out of it, it's all right with me."

Concerning her plans to the future, Joni said: "There are several things I'd like to develop. I want to develop my lyrics, my music, and my painting. I want to put all of it together - maybe in films. I want to put the poetry and the music together visually but I want to retain some say as to how it's being done. I like to do things myself: I'd like to do this whole visual thing myself.

"I've started playing the piano again, I wrote a song on the piano the other day. I don't know what I'll call it yet; maybe "The Ballad of The Blue Boy" or maybe "The Lady and the Blue Boy". I'm not sure - anyway, it's subject to change.

"I'm developing the piano and I'm painting a lot. The next thing may be photography but, right now, it would just be another distraction. I already carry around a big box of paint and canvas along with guitar and clothes whenever I travel. All I need right now is to add all kinds of cameras and equipment to that. I haven't time for more distractions now. I never had a car, I never wanted a car, couldn't be bothered with driving. Now somebody's gotten me an English taxi and I'm going to drive it all over."

Joni loves to perform most of the time, but she has mixed feelings about the right situations. On this, she reflects: "I find that since I've been doing more concerts, I feel much more informal and relaxed in a club. I talk more and fool around more in clubs. In a concert you can't really mumble under your breath into the microphone. If you do that, the people in the back can't hear and they whisper "What did she say?". When a lot of people are whispering like that, it makes a lot of noise.

"That makes it hard for me. There are a lot of words in my songs. When I'm performing, my mind must be completely into the songs so I can sort of regenerate - remember exactly what I wrote about and how I felt at the time. If a lot of people are whispering, I get distracted. It doesn't work to try to be real intimate in concerts. That whispering stuff has made me forget the words sometimes.

"My music would be more together in a concert because of my concert attitude, whereas, in a club, you could sort of get to know me better."

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