011: Joni Mitchell - Blue (1971)
“After nearly 50 years, Blue remains the clearest and most animated musical map to the new world that women traced, sometimes invisibly within their daily lives in the aftermath of the utopian, dream-crushing 1960s.”
Joni Mitchell's fourth album, Blue, is host Ben Marlin’s favorite Joni album and one of his favorite albums of all time. But it's also the Canadian singer-songwriter’s most accessible album, direct and hooky in a way she would rarely allow her music to be, before or since. For that reason, it's probably the best gateway to Joni Mitchell for listeners who aren't familiar with her.
Aside from the catchy melodies, Joni’s lyrics pushed the “confessional singer-songwriter” style further than it had ever gone before. Her songs here are deeply personal, but in a way that is still beautifully universal. Dive into Blue with us and revel in Joni’s unique genius.
Graham Nash wrote a breakup album too; it’s called Songs for Beginners (Amazon affiliate link) and it’s very good — in fact, it’s one of Ben’s all-time favorites.
A bit more on Graham and Joni's relationship: Joni came from a few generations of women who had given up their artistic dreams when they got married. Graham insisted that he never wanted that from her — her art was one of the things he loved about her — and we’re sure he was sincere, but it’s probably fair to say that neither one of them really knew what that type of relationship would look like, and it’s understandable that she decided not to risk it. Her method really wasn’t great, though.
Joni contracted polio in the same Canadian epidemic that got Neil Young.
This is what a Masters jacket looks like.
It is perhaps worth noting that all of the songs on Blue that talk about sex are the ones that are allegedly about James Taylor.
Joni’s Canadian accent shows in “Little Green.” Listen to how she says “sorrow.”
So, about “Free Man in Paris”: It seems like a straightforward pop song on the surface, but when you look a little closer, it’s full of strange timing and odd intervals, and that melody is surprisingly tricky to sing. Joni likes to surprise us.
There is actually a film called A Case of You, though it's not the classic noir suggested by Rich. Rather, it's a 2013 rom-com starring Justin Long. We recommend sticking with the song.
As noted by Amanda, the title of Joni's album Hejira can be translated as “Journey.” So if you see that on the cover of an album, you probably can't go wrong buying it.
“Joni Mitchell: Fear of a Female Genius” (The Ringer)
“James Taylor: ‘A Big Part of My Story is Recovery From Addiction’” (with pictures of him as a young, brooding hottie) (The Guardian)
Joni Mitchell’s guitar tunings (jonimitchell.com)
“River” (‘77 Music Club)
The Beach Boys review page that got Ben in trouble with Wilson & Alroy
Amanda live-tweeted Blue one time (Twitter)
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller (Amazon affiliate link)
White Bicycles: Making Music in the ‘60s by Joe Boyd (Amazon affiliate link)
Discord & Rhyme Roll Call
Benjamin Marlin (host)
Amanda Rodgers (moderator)
Chris Willie Williams
Mike DeFabio (special appearance)
All I Want
My Old Man
This Flight Tonight
A Case of You
The Last Time I Saw Richard
Other clips used
Both Sides Now
Big Yellow Taxi
Night in the City
Free Man in Paris
Ween - Doctor Rock (live)
Eiffel 65 - Blue (Da Ba Dee)
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Our House
Mountain Goats - Woke Up New
Goldie Hawn - Carey
Avalanches - Flight Tonight
Nazareth - This Flight Tonight
LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge
Songs we mentioned but didn’t clip
Judy Collins - Both Sides Now
Judy Collins - Chelsea Morning
The Rolling Stones - Street Fighting Man
Auli’i Cravalho - How Far I’ll Go
Madness - Our House
James Taylor - Your Smiling Face
James Taylor - Mexico
James Taylor - How Sweet it Is
James Taylor - River
Robert Palmer - Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)
Joni Mitchell – Appalachian dulcimer, guitar, piano, vocals
Stephen Stills – bass and guitar on "Carey"
James Taylor – guitar on "California," "All I Want," and "A Case of You"
Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar on "California" and "This Flight Tonight"
Russ Kunkel – drums on "California," "Carey," and "A Case of You"
“Discord & Rhyme (theme),” composed by the Other Leading Brand, contains elements of:
Amon Düül II - Dehypnotized Toothpaste
The Dukes of Stratosphear - What in the World?? ...
Faith No More - Midlife Crisis
Herbie Hancock - Hornets
Kraftwerk - Autobahn
Talking Heads - Seen and Not Seen
Joni Mitchell - This Flight Tonight (this episode only)
You can buy or stream Blue and other albums by Joni Mitchell at the usual suspects such as Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon. Follow Discord & Rhyme on Twitter @DiscordPod for news, updates, and other random stuff. Follow Rich @zonetrope, Amanda @MagneticInk67, and Ben @BenjaminM1019. Special thanks to our own Mike DeFabio, the Other Leading Brand, for production, editing, and telling us what dulcimers are. See you next album, and be ever wonderful.