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Interview with Gene Shay   Print

March 19, 1967

Note: This is the March 19, 1967 interview with Gene Shay broadcast as a portion of the WMMR retrospective on January 29, 1974. (Transcribed by Lindsay Moon)

This next recording was made in 1967 on March 19th, and seated across from Joni was Gordon Lightfoot. Both of them hailed from Canada, knew each other, worked together. In fact, they did a couple of shows at the -- what turned out to be Expo. It was actually a centennial or bicentennial celebration for the Canadian government. So two old friends getting together in Philadelphia. Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot. Here it is:


(Joni sings "Just Like Me.")

GENE SHAY: That's Joni Mitchell with the first -- were you going down -- you just happened to be in that tuning.

JM: "Just Like Me."

GS: I know that. I know. I know the song, but I mean it just happened to be the top of our request list.

JM: Right.

GS: I guess it was the first one called in around 9:30 or so. Have you ever heard Joni sing with a cookie in her mouth? (Laughs.)

GORDON LIGHTFOOT: No, how does it go?

GENE SHAY: It's called "The Bagel Game."

JM: (Laughs.) Oh, wow.

GL: Now I don't feel bad.

GS: You were telling me about writing a new verse to a song. I just heard a tape that was recorded at the Second Fret and Joni was talking about some songs. You know the one you wrote a little bit about a gambler?

JM: "What's the Story Mr. Blue"? Yeah.

GS: And you wrote a line in there that you said that you didn't want to use because your mother and some other people told you not to use that line --

JM: Well, the whole --

GS: -- and they say to you put all these little fragments together into one --

JM: The song --

GL: Thank you. I don't mind if I do.

JM: This isn't really true. I say a lot of things on stage that aren't really true. But the way I introduce the song is that I decided that since Bob Dylan could put songs together from leftover lines, then I should be able to too. So I threw this whole song together and one of the -- to give them an example of how the line sounded, you know, in the original form before they were transcribed into the new song, you know, as I borrowed one from unfinished things all over the place. I wrote one song about a gambler which went (sings) "in a day or two / I'll be laying you / odds." (Laughs).

GL: Uh-oh.

JM: Uh-oh.

GS: Joan, could you sing "Blue on Blue"? I've never heard "Blue on Blue" I don't believe.

JM: Haven't you?

GS: Well, maybe I did. I don't think you sang it last week but you --

JM: What else is on that list?

GS: On that list. Let me see.

JM: There must be something that I haven't done on the show. I could do my new song that isn't finished yet, "Eastern Rain."

GS: Okay. Whatever you want to do.

JM: Let me do that one. That wasn't even requested, but --

GS: What's that?

JM: "Eastern Rain."

GS: All right.

(Joni re-tunes her guitar.)

GS: Are you ever in a straight tuning? I mean, how often are you?

JM: Only one song, "Urge for Going." That's the only one that's in standard. This is my one Eastern-flavored song.

(Joni performs "Eastern Rain.")

GL: You're just makin' notes there, huh?

GS: Yeah, how did you -- you just worked out those chords?

JM: That's with a full bar (strums).

GL: Yeah.

JM: But also I like treble drone strings a lot. There's really funny versions and things.

GL: That's very interesting. There's a lot of things you can do with a guitar.

GS: We have time for about one more song. Joni?

JM: I'm tempted to play that new thing.

GL: That certainly is a beautiful guitar.

JM: It's not really ready. It needs another verse, but I really -- I get so excited when I write something.

GS: We could work out a verse here maybe.

JM: Get Gordon to write the other one? Well, we decided that my dress is made of mithral.

GS: Mithral. I don't know what mithral is.

GL: Mithral is a chain-like material that the dwarves make armor out of. (Inaudible.)

GS: Is that from "Lord of the Rings"?

GL: Right. Dwarves were excellent at making armor. They used to make these coats out of mithral --

JM: It's very lightweight --

GL: Right.

JM: -- and very serviceable and very sturdy.

GL: Right. And they used to wear it under their shirts all the time so nobody would know that they wore -- so they used to be able to stick out arrows and things.

JM: So this is sort of a lavender and light green and dark green and orange and pink and white mithral in an art nouveau paisley (laughs). Almost ready.

GS: What are you going to do?

JM: Well, we've got another request for "Blue on Blue" so I guess that has the most checks, does it?

GS: I would think so.

JM: I think so.

GS: Have you heard "Blue on Blue"?

GL: No. Maybe I did.

JM: I think you've heard this one.

GL: I probably have.

JM: I think so.

(Joni performs "Blue on Blue".)

GL: Very nice.


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