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by Dominic Roskrow
Auckland Sun
June 9, 1988

"He implied something might happen. That whet my curiosity"

Joni Mitchell has been associated with some odd collaborations in her time, but she drew the line when Prince came up with a song idea.

The two had been jamming as friends do when Prince hinted at a joint project.

"He implied that something would happen between our two musics. Something that he had never done before. That whet my curiosity.

"I asked him to explain it but he said he could not put it into words. The closest he came to articulating it was that it was the open harmonies I got in conjunction with funk into a hybrid that would be fairly fresh.

"I said why didn't he build me a track so he sent a song with him singing 'Emotional pump, you're my emotional pump, You make my body jump.'

"I called him back and said that I could not do the song."

Prince is a big admirer of Joni and cites Hissing of Summer Lawns, released in 1975, as his favourite record.

She explains: "Just before a musician begins to make his own music he will absorb the most music and thoroughly in the privacy of their room. Your input before your output is at its greatest.

[??? unreadable] lot in particular 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns and, I think, Hejira, and he said Hissing was his favourite record.

"I think usually your favourite record is before you start making records because once you do your favourites are your own because you get so actively involved and opinionated out of necessity."

Mitchell herself went through an intense period of listening to jazz before she began recording 20 years ago, a fact that she says influenced some of her later albums.

"Though I started as a folk singer the move into jazz was no accident because I had absorbed so much vocal jazz beforehand."

Throughout her career Mitchell has tried to be innovative and experimental. And she believe that essentially music should be created to develop an art-form.

Anything that stands still is, by her standards, worthless. And it is a charge she lays at the feet of friend Neil Young and his most recent album This Note's For You.

"If I speak honestly I sound like a creep," she says, but continues, "In all honesty the record is nowhere near as good as Neil can do. It's a blues band and by blues band standards it is not a good blues band.

"I have read rave reviews of the horn section which I think is abysmal.

"I do not know about the lyrics but the general impression is the population can absorb a lot of intricacy.

"It's my opinion that planetary and global music should gain in sophistication. You take South America and the rhythms are sophisticated and so are the harmonies.

"If you are going to do something you have to look at whether it is as good as what went before.

"Is it as good as Muddy Waters? Nowhere near.

"You have to borrow from the old and make something new so that the idiom evolves. Music in my opinion is a living thing and if it does not evolve then you have done nothing.

"Neil has made a lot of strange albums recently and people are with him because he is a wonderful person and they want very much to like his album. But to me the calibre of writing is way below what he is capable of."

Mitchell sees few people creating music in the 80s that fall into what she considers the genius category, though she does have a healthy interest in what is going on around her.

"My standards are too high for pop," she says. "But if you look back at Woodstock there are only two or three geniuses there. I think The Who look ridiculous.

"Jimi Hendrix is great. He is one of the true geniuses of his generation. He blew his instrument right open. Miles Davis on trumpet, he has a record that is unbroken. He has many imitators but they can't match his soul.

"In the 80s there has been a degeneration in lyrics. Dylan set a standard that I thought would hold and it hasn't.

"In the 80s there was a lot of good dance music but even Prince, although he's great, he's not an originator like Sly was, so even the greats of this generation aren't in the truly genius status.

"There's an added problem in this generation. Before the 80s and the coming of video everything died and had to be ferretted out. In the 80s nothing dies, everything is on video and record.

"The 80s is the era of the poseur. Even Madonna, while I think she's written some good songs, is trying to look like Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe."

"I hope the 90s will be more of a thinking generation and that dance music and thinking music will go together.

"I'm not all into mind over body.

"I like dance music."

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Added to Library on August 27, 2007. (5097)


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