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47-Year Anniversary for Joni Mitchell's Album Blue Print-ready version

Music Vibes with DC Hendrix

by DC Hendrix
June 22, 2018

Podcast transcribed by Greg Roensch

DC Hendrix: This is the latest Music Vibes podcast presented by Big 92.3 here in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I'm your host DC Hendrix, back with another edition. Make sure you guys subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, anywhere podcasts are available. We just got added to RadioPublic as well, so if you have that app, we're available. Be sure to check us out. Give us a rate and review. Let us know what you think of this podcast.

This is the final edition of my series that I began about a month ago. I began a series where I celebrate albums on the week of their anniversary, the week of, week before, or week after, and this is the final edition of the series. I've got to do Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. I got to do Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye What's Going On, and I got to do The Wailers, most recently, The Wailers, Bob Marley and the Wailers album, Exodus. I was joined by Junior Marvin, the guitarist who's still touring with The Wailers today. He will be here in Fort Wayne at the Clyde Theater, June 27th. Make sure you guys check it out. I'll be there in attendance.

We're wrapping up this series that I began about a month ago and this is the final edition, and I chose a special one. June 22nd, back in 1971, Joni Mitchell released one of my favorite albums ever, Blue. Oh man, I can't wait. I'm going to be joining by Ultimate Classic Rock's Michael Gallucci, who was the editor for Ultimate Classic Rock, had a fantastic article two years ago celebrating the 45-year anniversary talking about the singer-songwriting template that Joni Mitchell set here with this album, Blue. He's going to be joining me here to talk a little bit about this album. Both big fans of this album, and obviously, on this podcast, I'm the voice of the younger generation that just enjoys some of this classic music that we really don't have today, for the young generation to be able to talk about these from our perspective and get from an older perspective and understand exactly what these albums and/or songs mean to the people that were around in that time.

Because obviously I can listen to Blue all day today, which I have actually, all morning. But times were just so different. Music was so different. Artists and bands were different, everything was different. So it's always fun to talk to someone that was at least around in that time and talk about what this album meant then and what it means now. So Ultimate Classic Rock's Michael Gallucci, editor, will join me here in just a few minutes to celebrate this album Blue by Joni Mitchell, 47-year anniversary.

Now Blue was the fourth studio album released by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Now in this album, she explored the facets of relationships from infatuation on her song "A Case of You," to even insecurities, everybody has insecurities and she addressed that. She addressed insecurities on her song "This Flight Tonight." The songs all feature piano, guitar, obviously her beautiful voice.

It was just amazing. Stephen Stills on the guitar, James Taylor obviously playing some guitar. So overall man, this is a classic album, obviously ranked on the list for Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of all Time. As a matter of fact, Blue was chosen by NPR, which is another top music website, but it was chosen by NPR as the greatest album of all time made by a woman. So, this is a classic album we're revisiting today and celebrating Blue by Joni Mitchell. I'm excited. Now for me, I became a Joni Mitchell fan when I heard "Big Yellow Taxi." Now a lot of people don't even know, it's sad, but it's real, people my age probably don't even know that Joni Mitchell was the first to do "Big Yellow Taxi." A lot of my age group probably heard The Counting Crows redo it in the 90s or even Janet Jackson had the beautiful sample on her song "Got 'Til It's Gone."

She sampled "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell, but absolute classic song, just a beautiful song, and pretty much, that was the first song I ever heard by Joni Mitchell and that was actually on the album Ladies of the Canyon, which was released April of 1970, so a year before Blue was released, she had the big album Ladies of the Canyon, which had "Big Yellow Taxi" on it. But this album Blue has, in my opinion, a lot more songs on it that I can enjoy today. Blue was pretty much, and I'm going to ask Michael Gallucci about this when he joins me, where does it exactly rank in terms of all-time greatest albums and how much did it mean for Joni? Side one you had "All I Want," which I began this podcast with "All I Want," but there's so much in the background story approaching this album.

I know Joni was going through a lot with relationships and she was in relationship with James Taylor for some of it. We'll get into that. A tough time, man, and she poured it all, back then, artists and bands really didn't do that. There wasn't a lot of emotions. It wasn't a lot of people that addressed issues in their personal life that everyone goes through. You at least know of someone or you yourself has been through what Joni poured out on this album Blue. She was one of the first ones, at least from what I look at, to just pour it all. So let's go ahead and get into it. Let's dig a little bit deeper into the album Blue by Joni Mitchell that was released June 22nd of 1971. Let's go ahead and let's bring on Michael Gallucci who is the editor for Ultimate Classic Rock. Michael, thank you so much for joining me.

Michael Galluci: Thank you for having me.

DC Hendrix: So, you have a fantastic article at Ultimate Classic Rock that we're going to get into. Fantastic. I know you wrote it for the 45-year anniversary, just celebrating it, the template with Blue and what being a singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell setting the precedent for future singer-songwriters. So we'll get into that. But first let's start with what preceded the album Blue. Now obviously this is coming off of her big album, big successful album, Ladies of the Canyon, which feature one of my favorite songs ever that went on to be redone by The Counting Crows, a sample by one of my favorite artists, Janet Jackson in her hit "Got 'Til It's Gone." What preceded this album Blue? Let's talk about the Ladies of the Canyon, paving the way for the album Blue.

Michael Galluci: Yeah, that was the album that pretty much put Mitchell on the map. She had done something before that. But Ladies of the Canyon is the one where she started really coming into her voice and, like you said, "Big Yellow Taxi" was on there, but also "The Circle Game" and "Woodstock," which Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had a huge hit with later on. Suddenly she became this, I wouldn't say a huge star because she just barely cracked the top 30 with this album, but it really put her on the map and it was the album that paved the way for Blue, which I think is, by far, her great album.

DC Hendrix: Yeah, absolutely historic and looked at by all the music critics including Rolling Stone, anyone you ask, this is one of the greatest albums ever made, not only for a female artist, but just artists in general, one of the greatest albums ever. So I want to talk a little bit about the recording process now. She did have a couple of songs I know that she took off and ended up adding "All I Want," "Last Time I Saw Richard," "Little Green," and I know she was in a relationship with James Taylor, kind of poured that out.

Michael Galluci: Yeah, it was just shaping up with different things going on in her life back then. Not only was Graham Nash in and out of her life at this point, James Taylor was too. He was dealing with his own problems at the time, and between both of those men, and I'm not sure about this, but I think there were probably other guys, but there was another man that she met and she went to Greece with him in 1970 and some of the more joyous songs on Blue are inspired by the relationship she had with this man. So there was a lot of just shuffling as the album was being written and created what was taking place, and it was pretty much just ripped open from her diary at this point. Past albums, I think, were just collections of these songs, and suddenly it was like, Oh, this is what's been going on in my life for, say, the past six, seven months and suddenly those became the songs that anchored Blue.

DC Hendrix: Let's dig a little bit deeper. I know you had the fantastic article that I have in front of me at Ultimate Classic Rock talking about the singer-songwriter template that she set with this album. Now, your opening line pretty much says it all. You started off, "There were singer-songwriters before Joni Mitchell, but with her 1971 masterpiece Blue, she pretty much set the template for almost everything that came after it." What exactly were you trying to get across in your first line?

Michael Galluci: Certainly, yeah, Bob Dylan, I think, pretty much is the guy who just kicked off all this singer-songwriter thing, the guy with the acoustic guitar writing stuff, and he did get into some personal stuff, but it was also cryptically personal stuff. "Positively Fourth Street" is certainly about something in Dylan's life, but he's never come clean about what it is and you listen to the lyrics and it can probably be about, I don't know, 10 dozen different things in his life at the time. So, before Joni Mitchell, even Carole King's Tapestry, which was released just a few months before Blue, you had songs like "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" and "You've Got a Friend," great songs, all of that. But suddenly Joni Mitchell was the one who was just pretty much just tearing everything out. Any shell that there was in front of the singer-songwriter before. She just bared her soul here. She just revealed everything, and that really wasn't a thing with singer-songwriters before this.

They wrote about more universal subjects and suddenly it was about me, me, me in the most personal of ways, and then it opened the door for some of the great things that came in the decade and some the things that a lot of us just want to forget came from that decade.

DC Hendrix: You talked a little bit about it earlier, but she released three albums before Blue. Obviously other than, like you mentioned, pouring out a little bit more of her emotions and what she's been going through, what made Blue so much different than the albums became before it, including Ladies of the Canyon?

Michael Galluci: I would say the confessional songwriting. Even Ladies of the Canyon, which even her albums took this progressive step toward it. So obviously that one being the closest to it can be seen as the one that pretty much paved the way for it. But even a song like "Woodstock," it's a great song, but it's pretty much just about "Woodstock," it's not a personal thing. Even "Big Yellow Taxi," she's railing against big corporations tearing down trees, paving parking lots and all that. But again, there's nothing personal here, but suddenly you got a song like "River" and "Case of You" and "Casey" and the songs that showed up on Blue and they were just ... Let's put it this way, those other songs you can see other people covering, and they did, and they did it well, because anyone could connect with those, but suddenly it would be hard to see people singing these songs, which were pretty much diary readings, that were on Blue. It was so personal that kind of like, Oh, should I be treading into this territory because how much does it really apply to me?

DC Hendrix: So, in your article, you talked a little bit about how Blue was so much different from other albums around that time. Dig a little bit deeper into what you mean by that. Because I know you got into that in your article, but what made Blue, because even today it's noted ... Obviously I'm on this podcast for the younger generation, and to see these albums in the all-time greatest albums in Rolling Stone and things that, what made Blue so much different than other albums around that time?

Michael Galluci: Yeah, The big number one albums at the time were the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers and Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story, and those are just big, macho, guitar-based records and a lot of that was still leftover from the 60s. Going into the 70s, Zeppelin already had their albums and so they would just go on to dominate the next couple of years as far as those things go. All of this was just loud, turn it to 11 rock and roll music. Joni Mitchell's Blue, for the most part, it's just her and the guitar and piano for a lot of it, and when the more traditional stuff like drums and bass do come into play, they're subtle. The drums are barely brush strokes on a lot of these songs and that sounded nothing at all like anything that was really going on the radio. At least popular stuff.

Even Carole King's Tapestry, again, which came out just a few months earlier, there's probably a good point to make with this, is that it was just fuller, it was just a fuller album. In that too, is that James Taylor appears on both albums and his work on both can be seen as subtle. But when you listen to it on the Tapestry record, it is so different from the more stripped down stuff. The Joni Mitchell album makes you want to just sit and listen and figure out what she is saying, where you can put on Sticky Fingers or even Tapestry and have it playing in the background while you're doing dishes or whatever. I think that's the key difference here among all the other records that came out in 1971.

DC Hendrix: Let's dig into a couple of the songs. Let's start with side one. There's five songs. "All I Want," "My Old Man," "Little Green," "Carey," and "Blue," obviously, on side one. For the listeners that are probably my age that are listening may not have heard, what are a couple songs you'd to highlight for the listeners on side one?

Michael Galluci: Yeah, I would say the big ones are probably "Carey" and "Blue" here. They're just the closest to, I think, what "Blue" being the title track sums up the album at points. But "Carey" is one of the songs where I mentioned earlier where she just went off and just hung out with this guy, and the most joyous songs about her personal life at the time were inspired by it. I think "Carey" is probably the one that nails that most. In fact, I think the dude's name was Carey, without the E.

DC Hendrix: That's good stuff. Yeah, that would've been one I'd recommend and obviously "All I Want," that I got to start the podcast with. Those were my two that I selected. But yeah, absolutely. Great point. Let's go to side two now. As I mentioned earlier, a couple of these songs were added late in the recording process, right before the release of the album Blue. But on side two, you have track number six, "California," seven, you have "This Flight Tonight," number eight, you have "River," number nine, you have "A Case of You," and then number 10, "The Last Time I Saw Richard." What are a couple of tracks you'd highlight for someone to listen to on side two and why?

Michael Galluci: Yeah. The weird thing is so many albums, even today and was the case back then as well, it's where everything is so top heavy where side one is the one that pulls people in and everything. This is an album that gets better. There's so hard really to just even trim a song off side two, I think every single song on side two is essential to the entire album and great. But that said, if you're giving me just a couple here, it would probably be "River" and "A Case of You." "A Case of You" just pretty much goes back to that whole thing. It's this joyous love song. Just listen to the lyrics where she's just saying, "I could drink a case of you." It's just beautiful. It's poetry and you don't want to use that with rock and roll or pop music that often but here it's definitely that.

And "River," and I know earlier I said people just should not be covering songs from this album or whatever, "River" is one of the songs, I think has just held up. It has a Christmas theme to it, but it's just this gorgeous song that people have covered. It is the one song on the album I think is probably the timeless one that people can just go back to again and again and not know anything about the background of this record and enjoy.

DC Hendrix: So, about the critical reception, because I feel it almost gets more praise today than it did then, if that makes any sense. I know, as you mentioned, everyone was excited about Sticky Fingers, and you mentioned this in your article again, Rod Stewart. How do you think the critical reception has been throughout these years, 47 years later, compared to 1971 when it was released?

Michael Galluci: Well, just my frame of reference from 71 is basically reading about it. I was really, really little at the time. So I think it has ...

DC Hendrix: At least you were alive.

Michael Galluci: Okay. Yes, I was alive, but barely talking. But it's certainly it's grown and I think a lot of it is just because what we talked about earlier, that the album just sent the singer-songwriter, personal/confessional template that you're seeing. It not only suddenly over swept pretty much every ... Any person with an acoustic guitar in the 70s was inspired by this record. But you look today, Taylor Swift ... you trace a line from her to Blue and it's there. You would not have all these songs that she writes about her life, her boyfriends, and blah, blah, blah, without Blue being there first. It's that important of a record. It really is. You don't say this about too many records, but it's one of those cornerstone records that basically shifted everything that came after it.

DC Hendrix: Yeah, and that's why we're celebrating it today. 47-year anniversary of the release for Joni Mitchell's album Blue, released back on 1971, June 22nd, and we are celebrating it here today. What are some other things that people seem to overlook with this album? Everyone talks about the singer-songwriting, a couple things that people may overlook, including Steven Stills on the bass and guitar on "Carey," but what are some things that people may overlook when they listen to the album Blue but may not be able to fully take it in?

Michael Galluci: Yeah, like you said, Steven Stills was there. James Taylor's also there playing guitar. I think the one thing is just to note is how direct everything is ... listen to the songs, but it's so hushed and intimate and so much is just put across and so powerfully just by Joni Mitchell, her acoustic guitar, and her piano. It's just brilliant the way some of these songs just fall together like that.

DC Hendrix: Michael Gallucci from Ultimate Classic Rock joining me here on the latest Music Vibes podcast. All right, before I let you go, what are some stories, some upcoming stories, we get to look forward to from Ultimate Classic Rock?

Michael Galluci: We just posted a brand new thing on all the great new releases coming up in July, so there's something always to look forward to, our new release calendar, and always one of our popular things, we don't do these too often, but these complete lineup changes to different bands and we have one on the band Scorpions, not really a favorite band of mine, but these guys have been around since the 60s and they've done a lot. Most people know them from "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and that "Winds of Change" nonsense they had in the 90s, but these guys have been around since the 60s and have gone through a lot. So, we had a really cool feature coming up, and hopefully we'll get that up later today, on their entire lineup changes throughout the years. So that's something to look forward to.

DC Hendrix: Fantastic stuff as always, Michael Gallucci, the editor for Ultimate Classic Rock. Thank you so much for joining me and helping me celebrate the album Blue by Joni Mitchell today. Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing what you guys got coming up.

Michael Galluci: Cool. Well, thank you very much for having me. It's been a blast.

DC Hendrix: That'll just about do it here on the latest Music Vibes podcast presented by Big 92.3. Thank you so much to Michael Gallucci, editor for Ultimate Classic Rock, joining me to help celebrate the 47-year anniversary of the album Blue by Joni Mitchell. Classic album. So glad you could join me to help celebrate. He has a fantastic article. If you have not read it, be sure to go to Ultimate Classic Rock and search Joni Mitchell. Again, this was the 45-year anniversary that he was celebrating, so this article is two years old, but great article celebrating this album. Joni Mitchell sets the singer-songwriter template with Blue. That's what the article is entitled, so be sure to search that and check it out. Great article. So thank you so much to Michael for joining me and thank you so much to Joni Mitchell for allowing us to play her song.

Thank you so much to you, the listener, for joining us here on the podcast, checking it out. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review. Do not forget to do that. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review the podcast, iTunes, Google Play, anywhere podcasts are available. Give us your feedback. Let us know. Give me a follow on Twitter. I'm @DCHendrix. I'm very, very open to engaging with my listeners and fans. So very excited. Michael Gallucci from Ultimate Classic Rock joining me on this podcast, 47-year anniversary for the album Blue by Joni Mitchell.

So, until next week, I have a special guest next week celebrating the one-year anniversary. Just stay tuned. So next Friday is the one year anniversary of the latest Music Vibes podcasts. I cannot wait, spread the word and let you guys know who is my next guest. I can't wait, so be sure to tune in next week. We got a big show lined up for my year anniversary, big guests and more fun here on the latest Music Vibes podcast. I have been your host, DC Hendrix and until next time everybody, be sure to spread some peace and love.

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