…don’t ask me how I know

There are those reading this who may remember a particular music festival in Battersea.  It was 1984 and we had the kind of summery weather that lies at the root of many a poetic inspiration… and we were fancy free and just launching into our physical (though not yet cerebral) prime, with our blankets spread out on a lush green lawn by a carriage drive that runs through one of London’s more interesting parks.

Once separated from the south side of the River Thames by a narrow causeway, the storied Battersea fields mainly consisted of marshland that helped to stock the great city’s markets with carrots, melons, asparagus and with lavender. And this was a celebrated Dueling ground, including the 1829 “settlement of a matter of honour” between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea.  Winchilsea froze and Wellington, who had “the draw” purposely aimed wide, forcing the imprudent Earl to write him a groveling letter of apology that is remembered to this day.

Lining the riverside itself were industrial wharfs, built to accommodate limekilns, pottery manufacturing, copper and chemical works and in time, that high-tech wonder-of-wonders, the railway.  To the east, where the decommissioned Battersea Power Station nows stands, was a gamey old tavern called the Red House…one of many patronized by Charles Dickens during his incessant research into the human condition.

The old Battersea Power Station as it was, at the northeast corner of the park.

This all changed in the middle of the 19th Century when the Royal Commission to Improve the Metropolis purchased around 200 acres for the development of an idyllically rural park, which was completed in 1858, at about the same time as Chelsea Bridge, to the west.  It was here at Battersea Park, that the first organized football game (“soccer” to some) was played using the rules of the newly formed Football Association in 1864.

In the ensuing years a permanent Children’s Zoo was built, shelters and memorials aplenty were erected, and ponds and various sports facilities were designed-in. There were also numerous venues established for special events that ran from major (most memorably the Festival of Britain) to not-so-major, like that music fest in 1984, held near the southwestern Sun Gate… mere paces from my girlfriend’s indescribably convenient flat, and a refrigerator stocked with great foresight for those between-act beer and cider runs.

Musically, the highlight of this particular event was a spirited set by Alan Price, the iconic keyboard player for the Animals who had gained further acclaim with his solo and film work. Price performed virtually ever song that (at least to me) he’s now remembered for, including today’s selection from the 1953 film, Lili, with a screenplay intriguingly adapted from a short story entitled “The Man Who Hated People.”

Written by Branislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, the movie version, sung by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer reached Number 30 on the pop music charts that year. Although it has since been covered by many artists including: Dinah Shore, Rickie Lee Jones, Gene Vincent, Anne Murray, Slim Whitman, the Everly Brothers and Richard Chamberlain; Alan Price’s appealing 1966 rendition of “Hi-Lilli, Hi-Lo” (which hit Number 11 on the UK Charts) is by far the best…if ever you’re looking for a perfect “song of woe” for that perfect summery day.


Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

 A song of love is a sad song, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

A song of love is a song of woe

Don’t ask me how I know

A song of love is a sad song

For I have loved and it’s so

I sit at the window and watch the rain, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

Tomorrow I’ll probably love again, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo.

 A song of love is a sad song, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

A song of love is a song of woe

Don’t ask me how I know

A song of love is a sad song

For I have loved and it’s so

I sit at the window and watch the rain, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo

Tomorrow I’ll probably love again, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo.

…we know each other very well

It was 1968 and Herb Alpert, known for his phenomenal success with his trumpet, but certainly not for his singing, asked Burt Bacharach if he had any original songs lying around that had never been recorded.  As it happened, Bacharach recalled one, dug it out and said, “Here, Herb, you might like this one.”

The song had an easy-going, Bacharach-David melody, was well within Alpert’s vocal range, and even had a spot for a signature horn solo.  Alpert sang it during a television special (“The Beat of the Brass”) and decided to record it when the network received hundreds of enthusiastic telephone calls after the broadcast.  The resulting single charted at Number 1 on the Billboard Chart and remained there for four straight weeks in 1968. Not only was it Alpert’s first Number One Single, it was also the first Number One Single for his A & M Records label.  But then again, “A & M” stands for “Alpert” & (his partner) “Moss” so perhaps that’s not such a huge surprise after all.

Born and raised in Los Angeles into a musical family with Ukrainian and Romanian roots, Herbert Alpert began his trumpet lessons at the age of eight and played at dances as a teenager. After a stint in the U.S. Army (where he regularly performed during military ceremonies) he gave acting a go (that’s him in the uncredited role of the drummer on Mt. Sinai in the 1956 film, “Ten Commandments”) but while attending the University of Southern California (where he was a member of the Trojan Marching Band) he decided that his future was in music.  This was solidified while attending a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico, where he (and the rest of the crowd) became inspired by the arousing fanfare of a Mariachi band, whenever it was time for a new event.

Having set up a recording studio in his garage, Alpert adapted the mariachi trumpet style to a tune called “Twinkle Star” and provided his own backing by overdubbing his own trumpet, slightly out of sync.  After mixing in some crowd noise for ambiance he called the song, “The Lonely Bull” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass” and spread copies around to various radio stations until it caught on.  The song reached Number 6 on the Billboard charts in 1962 and the follow-up album (also called “The Lonely Bull”) was also the first album released by “Alpert & Moss”

In light of the song’s success, Alpert needed a “real” Tijuana Brass” (TJB) and hired a team of session musicians (none of them Hispanic) initially for appearances and then for all ensuing recordings (fourteen of them platinum) with Alpert recordings outselling the Beatles (in North America) in 1966 and with an unprecedented (and never repeated) five simultaneous Top 20 albums (four of them Top 10) on the Billboard Pop Album Chart.

A number of years later, he would become the only solo recording artist ever to chart at Number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 both with an instrumental performance (1979’s “Rise”) and with a vocal performance, for this expressive 1968 recording of “This Guy’s in Love With You”.


This Guy’s in Love With You

You see this guy, this guy’s in love with you

Yes I’m in love; who looks at you the way I do?

When you smile I can tell we know each other very well

 How can I show you

I’m glad I got to know you ’cause

I’ve heard some talk, they say you think I’m fine

Yes I’m in love and what

I’d do to make you mine

Tell me now is it so, don’t let me be the last to know

My hands are shakin’

Don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause

I need your love, I want your love

Say you’re in love, in love with this guy

If not I’ll just die

 Tell me now is it so, don’t let me be the last to know

My hands are shakin’

Don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause

I need your love, I want your love

Say you’re in love, in love with this guy

If not I’ll just die.

…this old world, she’s gonna turn around, brand new bells’ll be ringing

Written by Jonathan Edwards, an Ohio University dropout from Aitkin, Minnesota, who came to the Boston area in the late 1960s, today’s selection is another one of “those songs” that somehow find their way.

With a distinctive voice and a solid repertoire of “country-folk” songs Edwards was beginning to become noticed, serving as opening act for the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and B.B. King, when he signed on with Capricorn Records to record an eponymous debut album.

“We took about a year,” he recounted, “different times, different studios, different sounds, different techniques…Recording was so new in ’69 and ’70. There was a song on the album called ‘Please Find Me’, and for some reason the engineer rolled over it. It got erased. We spent hours looking for it. It was near the end of sessions for the album, “Sunshine” was used to fill the hole.”

Although the unfortunate sound engineer lost his job for (ironically) losing “Please Find Me” Edwards ended up with a hit as the stop-gap song reached Number 4 on the Billboard Charts in 1971.  Having sold well over a million copies, it remains Jonathan Edwards’ (who now lives in Maine and continues to tour) best known song.



 Sunshine go away today

I don’t feel much like dancing

Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life

Don’t know what he’s asking

He tells me I’d better get in line

Can’t hear what he’s saying

When I grow up I’m going to make it mine

But these ain’t dues I been paying

How much does it cost, I’ll buy it

The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it

But he can’t even run his own life

I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, Sunshine

Sunshine go away today

I don’t feel much like dancing

Some man’s gone he’s tried to run my life

Don’t know what he’s asking

Working starts to make me wonder where

The fruits of what I do are going

He says in love and war all is fair

But he’s got cards he ain’t showing

How much does it cost, I’ll buy it

The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it

But he can’t even run his own life

I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, Sunshine

 Sunshine come on back another day

I promise you I’ll be singing

This old world, she’s gonna turn around

Brand new bells’ll be ringing


…they are not perished, but gone before

Formerly known as Decoration Day and observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day originated after our Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers.  In the South, various regions had their own days of commemoration, but by the early 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor All Americans who have died in all wars. By mid century Memorial Day was seen as an occasion for more general expressions of memory, whether the deceased had served in the military or not. On this day I remember all of them, but especially a man who overcame a few challenges to get into combat.


After a battlefield commission, he survived the War in the Pacific (including the New Guinea and Bismarck Archipelago Campaigns and the Invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf) and returned to his homeland as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s 594th Boat and Shore Regiment.  Upon his return he married his sweetheart and fathered six children, of which I am proudly one.

Today’s selection, written and performed by Peter Skellern (and backed up by the choral group, Libra) was actually written to commemorate Remembrance Day, observed by British Commonwealth countries since the end of The Great War (generally on the 11th of November) to remember those who died in the line of duty.  On this Memorial Day may those whom we all have loved and lost, “Rest in Peace, and Rise in Glory.”



 in Peace, and Rise in Glory

For all who need comfort for all those who mourn

All those whom we cherished will be reborn

All those whom we love but see no more

They are not perished, but gone before

And lie in the tender arms of he who died for us all to set us free

From hatred and anger and cruel tyranny

May they Rest in Peace – and Rise in Glory

All suffering and sorrow will be no more

They’ll vanish like shadows at heaven’s door

All anguish and grieving will one day be healed

When all of God’s purpose will be revealed

Though now for a season lost from sight

The innocent slain in the blindness of  “Right”

Are now in the warmth of God’s glorious light

Where they Rest in Peace – and Rise in Glory

Lord give me wisdom to comprehend why I survive and not my friend

And teach me compassion so I may live, all my enemies to forgive

For all who need comfort for all those who mourn

All those whom we cherished will be reborn

All those whom we love but see no more

They are not perished but gone before

Lord keep them safe in your embrace

And fill their souls with your good grace

For now they see you face to face

Where they Rest in Peace – and Rise in Glory

…oh, had I a golden thread

According to her mother she first heard this song while watching Pete Seeger’s public television show, “Rainbow Quest” as it was the opening and closing theme. The family owned many Pete Seeger albums and surely it was also on one of them.

Written in 1958, years later Seeger said he realized that the piece actually incorporated the “…rewritten melody of ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ … You can see how the folk process has been aided by a bad memory,” he one recounted.

”Regardless, “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread,” with its themes of love, loss, redemption and transcendence, was cited by Eva Cassidy (one of our favorites) as her favorite song, although, curiously, it was never part of her live repertoire. Unplanned, unrehearsed and tossed in at the end of a recording session, today’s selection was incongruously included on her self-released album “Live at Blues Alley” with the record’s other songs recorded live at the Blues Alley Nightclub in Georgetown.

Released only months before her death, she felt that this impromptu studio “knees up,” so fitting for a Memorial Day Weekend, was one of her finest performances.


Oh Had I a Golden Thread

Oh, had I a golden thread

And a needle so fine

I would weave a magic spell

Of a rainbow design

Of a rainbow design

In it I would weave the courage

Of women giving birth

And in it I would weave the innocence

Of the children of all the earth

Children of all the earth

I want to show my brothers and sisters

My rainbow design

Cause I would bind up this sorry world

With hand and heart and mind

Oh, hand and heart and mind

Oh, had I a golden thread

And a needle so fine

I would weave a magic spell

Of a rainbow design

Of a rainbow design

…don’t forget the robin

No stretch as to where this mind is at the beginning of another Memorial Day Weekend. Why it’s in England via Australia, of course. And it’s not the only time (eh, Rolf Harris?) that it has taken an Aussie to revive the British public’s interest in English folk music…actually British and beyond, because who amongst us doesn’t associate ENGLISH with “Country Garden”?

Born in Melbourne in1882, George Percy Aldridge Grainger was a composer, arranger and pianist who, to this day is most generally associated with his piano arrangement of the folk-dance tune “Country Gardens” (collected by Cecil Sharp and arranged by Grainger).

Landing in London in 1901, he established himself first as a society pianist and then as concert performer, composer and traditional folk music collector.  But then in 1914, at the start of the Great War, the Australian who shed light on one of the most quintessential English tunes moved to America and ended up taking his U.S. citizenship, after serving as a band member in the U.S. Army, in 1918.

Born in Washington State and not to be confused with Jimmy Rogers the Country singer, Jimmie Rodgers grew up in a musical household and served in the United States Air Force in Korea.  After being discharged he became a contestant on Arthur Godfrey’s radio talent show.  And RCA was waiting to sign him up.  You might remember his debut hit in 1957, “Honeycomb” followed by a number of other single hits on the Billboard Charts.    

But in the UK no Jimmie Rodgers song ever topped today’s selection, which reached Number 5 in the chart in June 1962.


English Country Garden

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow

In an English country garden?

I’ll tell you now of some that I know

And those I miss you’ll surely pardon

Daffodils, Heart’s Ease and Flox

Meadowsweet and Lady Smocks

Gentian, Lupine and tall Hollyhocks

Roses, Foxgloves, Snowdrops, Forget-Me-Nots

In an English country garden

(In an English country garden)

 How many insects come here and go

Through our English country garden?

I’ll tell you now of some that I know

And those I miss you’ll surely pardon

Fireflies, moths and bees

Spiders climbing in the trees

Butterflies that sway on the cool gentle breeze

There are snakes, ants that sting

And creeping things

In an English country garden

(In an English country garden)

 How many songbirds fly to and fro

Through our English country garden?

I’ll tell you now of some that I know

And those I miss you’ll surely pardon

Bobolink, Cuckoo and Quail

Tanager and Cardinal

Bluebird, Lark, Thrush and Nightingale

There is joy in the spring

When the birds begin to sing

In an English country garden

(In an English country garden)

Robin (Robin, robin)

Don’t forget the Robin (Don’t forget the robin)

Robin (Robin, robin)

Don’t forget the robin…

…green onions

It was the summer of ’62 (“where were you?”) and a seventeen-year-old keyboardist named Booker T. Jones and his three musical associates were in the Memphis studio of Stax Records.  The group, who had already provided backing music for a number of Stax artists, including Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding were now backing Rockabilly singer, Billy Lee Reilly and during some downtime were playin’ around with a little (Ray Charles-like) organ piece when the president of Stax Record happened to hear it.

Unbeknownst to the group, he hit the “record” button and liked the result enough to want to release it. The problem was that a record has two sides and he called out for another number.  Fender Telecaster guitarist, Steve Cropper remembered a little something that Booker T. had come up with a few weeks earlier and, just like that, they had their second side.

Except that the second side was even better than the first side, which was confirmed when a Memphis radio station got a pre-release (before the “band” even had a name) and played it four times in a row.  So the original song, “Behave Yourself” became the B-Side and the second song became the A-Side.

Called “Green Onions” (after a studio cat whose way of walking inspired the riff) It peaked at Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the Number 1 Single on the Soul Chart for an unprecedented four straight weeks.   Interestingly, it reached Number 7 on the UK Singes Chart in 1980.

By then, of course, the band had long been known as Booker T. & the M.G.’s, one of the most respected and prolific instrumental groups of the early 1960s. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, Booker T. & the M.G.’s was also one of the first racially integrated rock groups (Steve Cropper and later, Donald Duck Dunn were both white) in an era when soul, especially Memphis soul, was pretty much exclusive to the black cultural scene.


…blue crystal spirits and gardens in moonlight

He was the first non-British act to be signed on by Apple Records. Paul McCartney’s exact words were, “Wow, he’s great!”

As a matter of fact his debut (eponymous) album, released in 1968, was recorded at Trident Studios while the Beatles were recording the “White Album” and both McCartney and George Harrison were (uncredited) backing musicians on one of the album’s tracks. What’s more, the title of another of the album’s tracks, “Something in the Way She Moves” provided Harrison (as he himself divulged) with the starting point for his quintessential song, “Something”. 

He was born 20 years before, in 1948, at Mass. General Hospital in Boston, where his father Isaac Taylor was a resident physician.  His mother, Gertrude had studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and was an aspiring opera singer prior to getting married.  You would be correct if you have concluded that we are discussing the older brother of Livingston (and Hugh and Kate…and the younger brother of Alex), Jams Vernon Taylor.

After moving to North Carolina, where his father served as Dean of the UNC School of Medicine, Taylor learned to play the cello.  He later switched to guitar, which he took to effortlessly, and by the summer of ’63 he and his buddy, Danny Kortchmar were playing in coffeehouses around Martha’s Vineyard (where the Taylor family had a summer home), billing themselves as “Jamie & Kootch”.

While a senior at Milton Academy (in Massachusetts) Taylor fell into such a deep depression that he found the need to commit himself into nearby McClean Hospital, where he was treated with Thorazine and earned his high school diploma from the hospital’s association with Arlington High School. He has since referred to his mental health struggles as an innate part of his personality (“I have these feelings…”) and maintains that his nine-month stay at McLean saved his life. Both Livingston and Kate would also become patients/students there.

After checking himself out of McLean, Taylor joined Kortchmar and some friends in New York, where they formed a band called The Flying Machine and played a number of songs that Taylor had written while at McLean (including today’s selection). Unfortunately this was also a time when “I learned a lot about music and too much about drugs,” he later admitted about the heroin addiction that helped to break up his band and left him strung-out and broke.

After receiving a desperate call one night, his father flew to New York, rented a car, and drove through the night with his son, back to North Carolina and six months of rehab.  The following year, funded by a small inheritance, Taylor moved to London (variously living in Chelsea, Belgravia and Notting Hill) and managed to present some old demos to Peter Asher (once of Peter and Gordon fame and then A&R head of Apple Records).  Which brings us back to “Wow, he’s great!”

Although a critical success, that debut album, “James Taylor” was not initially a commercial success due to Taylor’s inability to promote it after slipping back into addiction, followed by a serious motorcycle accident that left him with two broken hands.

That James Taylor would ultimately be rated as one of the “Top 100 Artists of All Time” by “Rolling Stone Magazine” is no surprise to us today, but first came a time when the man paid his dues in demons.


Sunshine, Sunshine

Sounds of laughter here comes Sunshine

Smiling faces all around

They possess you, bless you Sunshine

Now you can never let them down

I say Sunshine

Sunshine, Sunshine

Is that a cloud across your smile

Or did you dream again last night

It’s best you rest inside a while

As blue doesn’t seem to suit you right

Things ain’t what they used to be

Pain and rain and misery

Illness in the family

And Sunshine means a lot to me

I say Sunshine

But could it be Sunshine is drifting with midnight

And lonely when everyone’s gone

Blue crystal spirits and gardens in moonlight

Leave her weak, alone and bleak

All quiet and grey by dawn

Sunshine, Sunshine

Rising too late to chase the cold

And failing to change the frost to dew

She’s trading her mood of yellow gold

For frost bitten shades of silver-blue

Friends and lovers past and gone

And no-one waiting further on

I’m running short of things to be

And Sunshine means quite a lot to me

I say Sunshine… Sunshine

Who’d have ever thought her?

That July Monday in 1998 was an especially gorgeous day to be driving the family car (a Jeep Cherokee) down the Kancamagus Highway with my three favorite people.

Part of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, “the Kanc” runs parallel to the Swift River in places, and it was getting to be a tradition to stop off for a picnic on the journey from North Conway to Lincoln.  If the weather’s hot and the water is low, a pleasant dip just above the slippy, sleepy Lower Falls is in order.  If the water is high as it was on this day, the falls are no longer sleepy and the name “Swift River” is best remembered.

So while the kids stood on the rocky shore to have a look at the water, Linda and I spread out the blanket and began to unpack the picnic basket.  Between the forest light, the rushing water and the glacier strewn boulders, Lower Falls affords many a photo op and with Giles already seven, and Mary suddenly five, I wanted to be sure (there are some who are rolling their eyes just now) to capture the moment.

But there are no photos to be found from that picnic.  Having located my camera I looked up to see Giles alone on the shore and staring – thunderstruck – downstream, where rushing river morphed into roaring falls.

I leapt to my feet and…………….there was our blond little girl, around 25 yards down-river, soaking wet and calmly climbing up the opposite shore. When I was able to breathe again I hollered at the top of my lungs and anxiously dashed to a spot across from her, where I coaxed my daughter upstream along the shoreline to a place that was – just – narrow enough for me to hop across some boulders to retrieve her.

Well, now it’s 2012 and Mary’s birthday has spun-round once again.  Fortunately with a memory like that I didn’t have to reach very far for this segue to today’s selection, which was the same song we used last year when we made a YouTube video for her Eighteenth Birthday.

“Daughter” was written by American-living-in-England singer/songwriter/cartoonist, Peter Blegvad and famously covered by Loudon Wainwright III  on “Strange Weirdos” (coincidentally) his eighteenth studio album, which served as the musical soundtrack for the 2007 Judd Apatow film, “Knocked Up”.  All of which is a bit more seque than I bargained for, and I continue to take issue with the line, “blows her tiny mind” as our Mary has a very fine mind indeed.

Somehow I remain confident that Mary will manage to eke out a Wonderful Birthday regardless, and even while frantically hollering it at the top of my lungs, I am ever-immensly proud to proclaim:

“That’s my daughter in the water!”



Everything she sees

She says she wants

Everything she wants

I see she gets

 That’s my daughter in the water

Everything she owns I bought her

Everything she owns

That’s my daughter in the water

Everything she knows I taught her

Everything she knows

 Everything I say

She takes to heart

Everything she takes

She takes apart

 That’s my daughter in the water

Every time she fell I caught her

Every time she fell

That’s my daughter in the water

I lost every time I fought her

Yea, I lost every time.

Every time she blinks

She strikes somebody blind

Everything she thinks

Blows her tiny mind

That’s my daughter in the water

Who’d have ever thought her?

Who’d have ever thought?

That’s my daughter in the water

I lost everytime I fought her

Yea, I lost every time

…it’s life’s illusions I recall

Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, my wife, Linda and I had the grand luck of doing the “Yuppie thing” in downtown Toronto, Ontario. There was a commercial slogan being splashed around about then: “Be Yonge at Bloor” referring to the city’s major intersection of Yonge (pronounced “Young”) and Bloor Streets… and that we were.

With Linda’s office down ‘round Yonge and Queen and mine up at Yonge and Bloor, the natural place to meet-up on any given evening  for cocktails and sushi, etc., etc., was Yorkville, with its diverse assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, clubs and cinemas.

These days your average commercial rent goes for $300 per square foot, making Yorkville the third most expensive retail space in North America, where well-equipped (or lucky) tenants can pull in upwards of $4,500 per square foot in sales. It’s the “now” place to go if you’ve got a steady income, and so it was when we were there.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Before the Bloor-Danforth Subway station was constructed in the ‘70s…and local retailers were displaced by Holt Renfrew and The Bay…and residential homes and smaller buildings were demolished to make way for lavish condominiums, office towers and luxury hotels, Yorkville was one of Canada’s great bohemian enclaves, dominated by beatniks – then hippies – and serving as a veritable breeding ground for world-class literary and musical figures, such as Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and folk singer, Roberta Joan (or Joni) Anderson, who would take the surname of her (short-term) husband, Chuck Mitchell.

Born in Fort Macleod, Alberta in 1943 to Bill and Myrtle Anderson, after the war (the future) Joni Mitchell’s dad, who had been an RCAF flight instructor, opted to make a run as a grocer in Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The two-block town with a single hotel was lined up along a rail line that ran past Joni’s bedroom, and each morning she’d sit up at the widow to watch the train go by. Years later her parents recounted how they’d actually met the train’s conductor at a party, who said the only thing he remembered about that town was “a house with Christmas decorations and a kid who used to wave at me.”

When, at the age of 20, that art-school drop-out kid arrived in Yorkville (on her first trip east), she had been well-accustomed to gigging on weekends as a folk singer to make ends meet.  But with no connections, and nowhere near the $200 needed to join the musician’s union, she busked on street corners and played in church basements and meeting halls.  To make matters worse, the city’s folk scene had some unwritten rules back in the day, whereby dues-paying veteran performers had exclusive “rights” to the best songs. Joni was outraged, not only was she not allowed to use her best traditional folk material, but the whole damned, deal conflicted with the ideals that the folk scene supposedly represented. And that’s when and where (the soon to be) Joni Mitchell resolved to write her own originals….

Today’s selection is a prime example of that resolution.  Written in 1967 “Both Sides Now” was first released on record by Judy Collins in 1968, reaching Number 8 on the U.S. Singles charts and winning the Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance.  It has been a Judy Collins signature song ever since.

Mitchell herself first released the song (minus the noteriety) in 1969 on her album Clouds, when she was 26.  Then, in 2000, at 57, she re-recorded an orchestral version for her album, “Both Sides Now” (later included in her compilation album, “Dreamland”) And – hands dow – that is the version we’ve chosen here.

“I was reading Saul Bellow’s ‘Henderson the Rain King’ on a plane,” she once said,  “and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea (it) would become as popular as it did.”


Both Sides Now

 Rows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere

I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone

So many things I would have done

But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels

The dizzy dancing way you feel

As ev’ry fairy tale comes real

I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show

You leave ’em laughing when you go

And if you care, don’t let them know

Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now

From give and take, and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud

To say “I love you” right out loud

Dreams and schemes and circus crowds

I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange

They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed

Well something’s lost, but something’s gained

In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all