Song Lyrics

Paprika Plains

by Joni Mitchell

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It fell from midnight skies
It drummed on the galvanized
In the washroom women tracked the rain
Up to the make-up mirror
Liquid soap and grass
And Jungle Gardenia crash
On Pine-Sol and beer
It's stifling in here
I've got to get some air
I'm going outside to get some air

Back in my hometown
They would have cleared the floor
Just to watch the rain come down
They're such sky oriented people
Geared to changing weather
I'm floating off in time
I'm floating off
I'm floating off in time

When I was three feet tall
And wide eyed open to it all
With their tasseled teams they came
To McGee's General Store
All in their beaded leathers
I would tie on colored feathers
And I'd beat the drum like war
I would beat the drum like war
I'd beat the drum
I'd beat the drum like war

But when the church got through
They traded their beads for bottles
Smashed on Railway Avenue
And they cut off their braids
And lost some link with nature
I'm floating into dreams
I'm floating off
I'm floating into my dreams

I dream paprika plains
Vast and bleak and God forsaken
Paprika plains
And a turquoise river snaking

(Where crows gaze vigilant on wires
Where cattle graze the grasses
Far from the digits of business hours
The moon clock wanes and waxes
But here all time is stripped away
Nowhere on these plains
Is a sprout or an egg in evidence
To measure loss or gain
Only a little Indian band
Come down from some windy mesa
No women to make them food and child
No expressions on their faces
I'm low in a helicopter
And the wind from whirling blades
Flaps their woven blankets
And flags their raven braids
How came they to this emptiness?
How came they to this dream?
How came I to this view
From a flying machine
Of earth and air and water
And a band of Indian men
Without herds or flocks or crops
Or families or fires to tend?
Like a phoenix up from ashes now
A blanket figure springs
With a fist raised up to turquoise skies
Like liberty
And at the point of vanishing
Where the sky and the earth meet
A bomb blooms
Deadly mushroom
Like a phoenix up from ashes
Up from violent mysteries
And growing 'till the giant blast
Is to it like a golfer's tee
there comes a child's beach ball
And memory takes me back
to the beach to toss it up
to the garage to get it patched
A pink and yellow beach ball
Turning the blues and greens of earth
From space probe photographs
I float out of the hovercraft
Naked as infancy
And weightless
And drifting
Like a filing to a magnet
Like the long descent of rain
I am drawn
I fall against the ball
And lose paprika plains
I suckle at my mother's breast
I embrace my mother earth
I remember perforated blinds
Over the crib of my birth
And just as Eve succumbed
To reckless curiosity
I take my sharpest fingernail
And slash the globe to see
Below me
Vast Paprika plains
And the snake the river traces
And a little band of Indian men
With no expressions on their faces)

The rain retreats
Like troops to fall on other fields and streets
Meanwhile they're sweet talking and name calling
And brawling on the fringes of the floor
I spot you through the smoke
With your eyes on fire
From J&B and coke
As I'm coming through the door
I'm coming back
I'm coming back for more!
The band plugs in again
You see that mirrored ball begin to sputter lights
And spin
Dizzy on the dancers
Geared to changing rhythms
No matter what you do
I'm floating back
I'm floating back to you!

© November 21, 1977; Crazy Crow Music

Piano Transcriptions of Paprika Plains

Paprika Plains has been recorded by one other artist


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GeoffCater on

In a RS interview with Cameron Crowe in July 1979, Joni recalled the genesis of "Paprika Plains."
After recalling an earlier conversation with Bob Dylan, that indicated he had "been taking art lessons," she continued:
"The next time we had a brief conversation was when Paul McCartney had a party on the Queen Mary, and everybody left the table and Bobby and I were sitting there. After a long silence he said, "If you were gonna paint this room, what would you paint?" I said, "Well, think. I'd paint the mirrored ball spinning, I'd paint the women in the washroom, the band..." Later all the stuff came back to me as part of a dream that became the song "Paprika Plains." I said "What would you paint?" He said, "I'd paint this coffee cup." Later he wrote "One More Cup of Coffee."

bluelotus on

I was a student at Berklee and serendipitously in a Harmony class taught by a faculty member who was also the copyist for the orchestrator/then Berklee composer-in-residence Michael Gibbs. With his intimate knowledge of the scores, and permission, of course, our teacher shared the nuances of this song's musical foundational fabric related to the vocal phrasing, the poetry, and the phenomenal orchestration - I still get chills. It remains a masterpiece!  [ed.]

zumadog on

haunting reminisence, songs from the glory box , diamond needle crackle the bumpy vinyl 1977 classic that might perhaps have gone unnoticed but not for me!