Joni Mitchell’s ex talks heartache as ‘Blue’ turns 50

With the confessional honesty that Joni Mitchell displayed on her basic “Blue” album — which was launched 50 years in the past on June 22, 1971 — maybe a extra apt title would have been “True.”

(*50*) stated Lori Majewski, co-host of “Feedback” on SiriusXM’s Volume channel. “The confessional nature of ‘Blue’ is such that I think Joni Mitchell herself actually likened it to Dylan plugging in, to Dylan going electric. It was such a groundbreaking thing to be this confessional.”

Indeed, Mitchell’s fourth studio LP — which Rolling Stone ranked at No. 3 on final 12 months’s record of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time — upped the gut-spilling ante for each feminine and male singer-songwriters. “It made a lot of singer-songwriters — especially male singer-songwriters — very nervous that they were going to have to lay it all out on the table the way Joni had,” stated Majewski. “I think that the men, they were singing about the times, they were singing about the moment, but they were looking outward. When you go inward, there’s a bravery — and Joni did that with a magnifying glass.”

And that “Blue” bravery has impressed everybody from Prince — who, after as soon as writing Mitchell a fan letter earlier than he grew to become “Purple Rain” royalty, would go on to cowl “A Case of You” — to at this time’s artists together with Brandi Carlile, Lana Del Rey and, after all, Taylor Swift. In reality, on “Blue,” Mitchell was getting intimate about her relationships with the likes of Graham Nash and James Taylor lengthy earlier than Swift was dishing about John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Drummer Russ Kunkel (here in 1979) recalls "listening to greatness" when Mitchell was recording "Blue."
Drummer Russ Kunkel (right here in 1979) remembers “listening to greatness” when Mitchell was recording “Blue.”
Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

“It was such a hugely influential record and remains a real touchstone for everybody,” stated Patrick Mulligan, producer of the Joni Mitchell “Archives” sequence, whose upcoming second quantity (due in October) will embody materials from her “Blue” interval. The assortment is previewed by an EP, “Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes),” which was launched on Monday.

“I think because it is so honest, it’s so timeless,” stated Mulligan. “People keep going back to it.”


For Nash, listening to “Blue” for the primary time made him really feel simply that. “When I first heard the album, I realized that our love affair had come to an end, and that’s a very sad feeling for anyone who’s in love with anybody, but particularly ’cause it’s Joni and me,” Nash advised The Post.

“People said that we literally lit up the room when we both were in it. Our love was very warm, very tender and very deep, and it’s one of the reasons why listening to ‘Blue’ still tugs at my heartstrings.” (Mitchell, who hardly ever does interviews, declined a request.)

While Nash and Mitchell had been dwelling collectively in Los Angeles, he noticed her genius at work writing a number of the songs, together with “A Case of You.”

“I distinctly picture in my head her writing at her piano in our house in Laurel Canyon that we shared for a couple of years there,” he stated. 

Graham Nash (with Joni Mitchell at the Big Sur Folk Festival in Sept. 1969) inspired the songs "My Old Man" and "River" on "Blue."
Graham Nash (with Joni Mitchell on the Big Sur Folk Festival in Sept. 1969) impressed the songs “My Old Man” and “River” on “Blue.”
Getty Images

The “Blue” tracks which can be particularly about Nash — “My Old Man” and “River” — cowl their relationship from reverse ends of the spectrum: On the previous, Mitchell sings a few home bliss that doesn’t “need no piece of paper,” whereas the latter is a breakup lament about shedding “the best baby that I ever had”.”

Nash insists that he by no means felt as if she bared an excessive amount of about him and their relationship. “No, I never did,” he stated. “It was only admiration for her ability to do that.”

In reality, he added, it was “tremendously courageous” for her to disclose a lot of herself — and sure, her love life — on the time. “She was not feeling particularly strong,” he stated. “She had a lot of questions about her life and how it should have gone maybe.”

Now, Nash nonetheless has combined emotions when listening to “Blue.” “I still feel a couple of emotions that shouldn’t go together: One of them is sadness, and the other one is incredulity of how brilliant she is.”  

Our love was very heat, very tender and really deep, and it’s one of many explanation why listening to ‘Blue’ nonetheless tugs at my heartstrings.

Graham Nash

Nash stays flattered that Mitchell as soon as wrote about him making her “weak in the knees” on “River.” And the 2 stay shut: “I’ve sent flowers for her birthday every year for the last 50 years.”

In a method, their love affair continues at this time, with “Blue” having immortalized it. “All these years later there’s a part of my heart that still loves Joni Mitchell,” he stated. “Once you’re in love with Joni Mitchell . . . you’re in love with her forever.”


Drummer Russ Kunkel — who performed on “Carey,” “California” and “A Case of You” — related with Mitchell by means of the colourful Laurel Canyon music scene. “I had moved to Los Angeles with a band that I was in called Things To Come . . . and I became friends with David Crosby, I became friends with Graham Nash, and so I was around the scene,” he stated.

“My wife at that time was Cass Elliot’s sister [Leah], and we were living in kind of a studio suite above her garage in Laurel Canyon. Cass’ house was kind of a melting pot of everybody that came through Los Angeles, so on any given day in Cass’ backyard would be Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Sebastian, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, you name it.”

In reality, Kunkel had heard a number of the “Blue” songs at Mama Cass’ home earlier than he ended up taking part in on the report. And he’ll always remember listening to a sure “A Case of You” line for the very first time: “As soon as I heard that lyric, ‘I could drink a case of you…And I would still be on my feet,’ it was one of those moments where in your brain you go, ‘The person that wrote this is, like, of the highest degree.’ ”

Joni Mitchell's then-boyfriend James Taylor (here together recording vocals for Carole King's album "Tapestry" in 1971) contributed to "Blue."
Joni Mitchell’s then-boyfriend James Taylor (right here collectively recording vocals for Carole King’s album “Tapestry” in 1971) contributed to “Blue.”
Redferns

But he didn’t initially dig deep into the lyrics of “Carey” or “California,” each of which had been impressed when Mitchell took a break from performing and went on an prolonged trip to Europe in 1970. “What I did know for sure is what I was going to be playing was going to be very simple, just supporting what she was doing,” stated Kunkel of the recording classes in Studio C at A&M Studios in Hollywood.  

He joined an inventory of supporting gamers that included Mitchell’s then-boyfriend Taylor on guitar, and Stills on guitar and bass. “Most of her parts were already laid down when we played those things,” stated Kunkel, who had beforehand performed drums on Taylor’s 1970 album, “Sweet Baby James.” “But she was always there . . . Joan produced that record.”

And for Kunkel, it was all about not messing with the magic that was occurring: “My focus when I was in the studio was just concentrating on first doing no harm, playing the appropriate part for the song, because I was listening to greatness.”


For photographer Tim Considine, capturing the enduring blue-hued album cowl of Mitchell’s masterpiece all started due to one other feminine singer-songwriter. “The whole thing was started . . . at a Judy Collins concert,” he stated. “She sang ‘Both Sides Now,’ and I was really impressed. Then she said, ‘If you like that song, wait till you hear the young Canadian who wrote it: Joni Mitchell.’ I thought, ‘I’ve got to look for this artist.’ ”  

Then, armed with movie usually used for dental functions to higher shoot at the hours of darkness, Considine went to {photograph} Mitchell throughout a 1968 live performance on the famed Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Blue by Joni Mitchell

“I went home, and I developed the pictures, and . . . I loved the images,” he stated. “So I went back the next night and went up the stairs [to Mitchell’s dressing room], knocked on the door and introduced myself. I’d made 11-by-14 prints, and she seemed to like them. And I felt 9 feet tall that this brilliant singer-songwriter, poet and painter liked my images. And then David Crosby came in, and she handed them to him. And he took one look at them and said, ‘Needs more contrast.’ ”

Considine then “immediately refined” the picture that will grow to be the “Blue” album cowl. He was thrilled when later, in 1971, he was requested by artwork director Gary Burden if they might use the shot. “She had never had an album cover that was a photograph — she had painted all her album covers,” he stated. “So I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

But Considine wasn’t a fan of the blue-tinted remedy of his {photograph}, which was initially a black-and-white shot. “I hated it when I saw it,” he stated. “It makes her look hard. It took all of the softness out of the image. It was awful.”

Still, Considine stated, “I was honored — and still am — to be the first to photograph an album cover for this genius.”

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