Friday, July 27, 2007

Mischievous Girls: A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time there was a Mischievous Girl named Joni. 1

Joni did all the things Mischievous Girls do.

She wrote songs (at the very least!) about using heroin. 2 She posed naked for the cover of one of her albums. 3 She stole away the famous boyfriend of a pop star who had a better voice, greater fame and more beauty than she did. 4

What happened to Mischievous Girl Joni?

Did she die in a tragic car accident? Did she pass out on her back and drown in her own vomit? Did her musician boyfriend stab her to death to silence her plaintive cries begging him to put her out of her misery?

No, no and, ummm, no—that last one was the romanticized [!] death of a different Mischievous Girl named Nancy. 5

What happened to Mischievous Girl Joni?

She lived happily ever after. Her new album comes out next month ... on the Starbucks label. 6

America drinks and goes home” — FZ 7

* * * * * * *

Notes on this tragic tale of woe:

1) Joni Mitchell is probably my favorite woman performer. To be honest, however, I’m a folk-jazz guy. After she became too hip for the folk part and became just a jazz performer, she left me behind.

2) “Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” is one of my favorite songs. It’s on “For The Roses.”

Cold blue steel out of money
One eye for the beat police
Sweet fire calling,
“You can’t deny me
Now you know what you need”

Underneath the jungle gym
Looking for sweet fire
Shadow of lady release

“Come with me
I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder.
Do you want to contact somebody first
Leave someone a letter
You can come now
Or you can come later...”

A wristwatch, a ring, a downstairs screamer
Edgy-black cracked sulphur sky
Fix this poor bad dreamer!
“Money,” cold shadows reply

Pawnshops criss-crossed and padlocked
Corridors spit on prayers and pleas
Sparks fly up from sweet fire
Black soot of lady release

“Come with me
I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder
Do you want to contact somebody first
Does it really matter
If you come now
Or if you come on later?”
Red water in the bathroom sink
Fever in the scum brown bowl
Blue steel still begging
But it’s indistinct
Someone’s hi-fi drumming Jelly Roll

Concrete concentration camp
Bashing in veins for peace
Cold blue steel and sweet fire
Fall into lady release

“Come with me
I know the way,” she says
“It’s down, down, down the dark ladder
Do you want to contact somebody first
I mean what does it really matter
You’re going to come now
Or you’re going to come later...”

3) “For The Roses,” one of my favorite albums of all time. The naked pic is on the inside cover. It’s still there on the CD version, but everything is so small there’s nothing to be shocked about.

4) Joni got James Taylor away from Carly Simon. Carly has Joni beat hands down in almost every category, except the one that really counts: Joni writes great songs, and Carly goes the Tin Pan Alley route and buys great songs. Just about every women I’ve talked to about this says, in public, “Oh, poor Carly...” and then, in private, laughs maliciously and says, “Ha, ha, ha, beautiful Carly Simon lost her boyfriend to a horse-faced girl like Joni!” Apparently in the tradition of Harrison and Clapton, however, Joni and Carly remained friends, because when Carly had her infamous ‘fight’ with Chrissie Hynde it happened at a Joni Mitchell concert.

5) “Sid & Nancy” is a great movie, but apparently bad history.

6) Nobody, of course, wants Joni Mitchell to go back in time and arrange to die young so that she never becomes pathetic in her old age. However, nobody wants her to release albums on the Starbucks label, either...

7) from “Absolutely Free.” “America Drinks” and “America drinks and goes home” were Zappa sound collages, tributes to the vacuous ‘socializing’ America used to do in neighborhood bars and lounges. In those days, however, at least there was live music and the coffee didn’t cost ten bucks! It’s amazing and bizarre that a comment from more than a quarter century ago would be just as fitting (or more so!) today as back then.

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