Song Lyrics

Night In The City

by Joni Mitchell

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Light up light up
Light up your lazy blue eyes
Moon's up nights up
Taking the town by surprise

Night time night time
Day left an hour ago
City light time
Must you get ready so slow
There are places to come from
and places to go

Night in the city looks pretty to me
Night in the city looks fine
Music comes spilling out into the street
Colors go flashing in time

Take off take off
Take off your stay-at-home shoes
Break off shake off
Chase off those stay-at-home blues

Stairway stairway
Down to the crowds in the street
They go their way
Looking for faces to greet
But we run on laughing with no one to meet

Night in the city looks pretty to me
Night in the city looks fine
Music comes spilling out into the street
Colors go waltzing in time

© September 19, 1966; Gandalf Publishing Co.


Joni introduced the song this way on November 15, 1966 at the Wisdom Tooth:

"I was in Chicago last week and I cut a couple of songs for a single. We produced it ourselves so the next job is to take it to New York and peddle it to all the record companies. I'm saying this to clarify becasue everybody always comes up and says "what label are you on?" and I say "I don't know". And then they think that I'm just very absent minded. So we should know fairly soon.

But this is one of the songs I did. It's called Night in the City and actually it's about a place in Toronto called Yorkville Avenue that I mentioned earlier. It used to be really the place to go. They only trouble is now that so many people go there that there's no room to go there unless you get down really early and the people walking all over the road and the streets... that's in the summertime, in the winter it's not so bad.

But local Torontonians when they're at home are ashamed of Yorkville, and every week in the paper - every week - there's almost a Yorkville column on the entertainment page "Yorkville: Hippies strike again" and all this kind of thing. You know, "Dreaded beatniks walk the streets of Yorkville" and then they'll have some column where "A young girl's true confession of life on Yorkville Avenue" and every week there's something like that so it's always in the public eye and it's usually bad. "14 Yorkville hippies get busted"... all this kind of stuff.

So, as I say Torontonians are very ashamed of the village until they get away from Toronto and then say "oh you must come and see our Yorkville Avenue, it's so much better than Plum Street".

So one night I decided I was going to go down, I was going to be very broad-minded, I was going to enjoy myself, i wasn't going to pay any attention to any of the wise-cracks I got from people as I walked down the street. I was just gonna walk down and groove. And so I did and I stood in front of all of the buildings, like they have about 6 or 7 or 8 - more than that - on Yorkville Avenue proper of music spots like this that showcase everything from good folk music to bad folk music to good rock n roll to bad rock n roll to good jazz to bad jazz. You can stand out in front of the clubs in what I like to call music puddles - it's the area where the music just kind of hangs and you can walk over that far and you're out of the range of it again.

So that's what I did and I came home, climbed up the stairs to the place where I was staying and wrote this song, called Night in the City."

Joni introduced the song this way on September 16, 1967 at the White Swan in Leicester, England:

“While I’m still here, I’d like to play a little song—it’s called ‘Night in the City’—and it’s about night in any city where you wander around listening to music. I wrote it about a place in Toronto, Ontario, called Yorkville Avenue. It’s a little village there, and there are clubs all along for several blocks and you can just walk along and stand in what I think of as ‘music puddles,’ where music sort of hangs from here to here—and if you step too far over into the other direction, you’re into a new music belt, or a new music puddle. And it’s dedicated to all people who came tonight with someone who took much too long to get ready. You all know who you are.”

Transcriptions of Night In The City

Night In The City has been recorded by 39 other artists

  • Belafonte, Harry (- 1969)
  • Blechinger, Kate  (from "Under A Dancing Sky" - 2018)
  • Celeste, Marie  (from "And Then Perhaps" - 1971)
  • Coin, Reggie  (from "Joni Mitchell Cover Comp" - 2020)
  • Conklin, Mary Foster  (from "Photographs" - 2016)
  • Dee Bell & Marcos Silva (from "Silva - Bell - Elation" - 2014)
  • Fairport Convention (from "Ashley Hutchings (CD), The Guv'nor Vol. 3" - 1995)
  • Fairview H.S. Age of Guinevere & Janice Vlachos (from "ACDA National Conference 2013 New Trier H.S. Vocal Jazz Ensemble Fairview H.S. Age of Guinevere " - 2013)
  • Frecklebomb (from "Waterlily" - 2016)
  • Garlic (from "Clann" - 2004)
  • Grener, Christopher (from "Night & The City" - )
  • Hopkin, Mary (from "Puppy Days" - 1970)
  • Koloc, Bonnie (from "Beginnings" - 2010)
  • Lea & Margot Macdonald (from "Strathmore Presents - A Tribute To Joni Mitchell" - 2009)
  • Lyn & Graham McCarthy (from "45 RPM Single" - 1970)
  • Northcott, Tom (from "The Best of Tom Northcott" - )
  • P.M. Dawn (from "12" - 2000)
  • Phil Mattson & The P.M. Singers (from "Setting Standards" - 1986)
  • Restless Wind (- )
  • Shaw, Ian (from "Drawn To All Things" - 2006)
  • Simmons, Liz (from "Poets" - 2021)
  • Smith, Sara (from "A Tribute To Joni Mitchell" - 1974)
  • St. John, Bridget (from "John Peel Presents Top Gear" - 1969)
  • Sue & Sunny (from "45 Single" - 1970)
  • The Athenians (from "Au Jardin du Souvenir" - 1970)
  • The Avengers (from "Medallion" - 1969)
  • The Joni Mitchell Project (- 2014)
  • The New Seekers (from "The New Seekers" - 1970)
  • The Pipe Dream (from "Wanderers/Lovers" - 1969)
  • The Pole of Inaccessibility (from "December 2021: Joni Mitchell" - 2022)
  • The Road (from "(45 Single)" - )
  • The Staton Brothers Band (from "The Staton Brothers Band" - 1972)
  • The Steve Klink Trio (from "Places To Come From, Places To Go" - 2002)
  • The Triban (from "The Triban" - 1969)
  • Three Dog Night (from "Harmony" - 1971)
  • Tierney, Sue (- 2012)
  • Towers, Penny (from "Penny Towers Covers Popular Songs of the 20th Century, Vol. II" - 2023)
  • West Chester University Vocal Jazz The Sharp Eleven (from "ACDA Eastern Division Conference 2012" - 2012)
  • Whiteley, Jenny (from "Back To The Garden" - 1992)
  • [more information on recordings by other artists]


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freeradikal on

She describes Yorkville Village perfectly. I think she played The Riverboat Coffee house. We checked out the Village for the first time in '66 right after the Beatle concert in Aug. and went into the Riverboat and bought our dates an expensive coffee if I remember correctly.

WoodstockChild69 on

Stephen Stills plays bass on this track.

georgecobbold on

Love the simple guitar intro; then how the guitar is used to create pace. Clever song XX