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Tra le strade di Berkley o sul palco di Wembley Print-ready version

by Maria Laura Giulietti
Ciao 2001
September 29, 1974
Original article: PDF

Translated from Italian by Vincenzo Mancini

IN THE STREETS OF BERKELEY OR ON THE STAGE OF WEMBLEY Joni in the streets of Berkeley, the hills and trees of San Francisco. Joni in her twenties in a Yorkville cafe, with the bohemians of Toronto. Joni in her thirties on the huge stage of Wembley, meticulous and tireless, faultless professional, between smiles and some lines. Her new album, titled 'Miles of aisles' comes out in these days, recorded live at the Universal Amphitheatre, at L.A. Music Center and at Berkeley Community Center, always a lot of good music but only two new compositions ('Jericho' and 'Love or Money').

«Sitting in a park in Paris France, reading the news and it sure looks bad; they won't give peace a chance, that was just a dream some of us had. Still a lot of lands to see but I wouldn't want to stay here, it's too old and cold and settled in its ways here. Oh but California, California I'm coming home, I'm going to see the folks I dig, I'll even kiss a Sunset pig, California I'm coming home... my heart cried out for you... make me feel good rock 'n' roll band, I'm your biggest fan, California I'm coming home» (California, 1971).

Joni in the streets of Berkeley, the hills and trees of San Francisco, along the L.A. Sunset, with the big family of the Laurel Canyon, in some smelling Canadian forest; Joni in her twenties in a Yorkville cafe, with the bohemians of Toronto, wise and crystalline between the lines of a song, between the plies of a beloved drawing; Joni in her thirties on the huge stage of Wembley, meticulous and tireless, faultless professional, between smiles and some lines; a voice that raises mellow and sensual, some old thrill, renewing pleasure: Joni Mitchell, the fourth 'lady of the canyon' fenced in Trina's laces, Annie's sweets and babies, Estrella's songs and mirrors; Joni celebrating the Woodstock generation, all hopes and dreams: «I came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road and I asked him where are you going and this he told me: I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm, I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band, I'm going to camp out on the land, I'm going to try and get my soul free. We are stardust, we are golden and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden... By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong and everywhere there was song and celebration; and I dreamed I saw the bombers riding shotgun in the sky and they were turning into butterflies above our nation. We are stardust, we are golden and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden» (Woodstock, 1970).

When, in 1968, her first album, called «Song to a seagull», came out, many opened their eyes and ears: they called her in many ways, the queen of folk-rock, the first lady of the U.S.A., the painter of words, the frail and yet vigorous blade of grass, the sophisticated lady, the new Californian muse with her Canadian roots, and what was supposed to look like a short-lived phenomenon continues over the years: in 1969 Joni gives us «Clouds», then in 1970 the splendid «Ladies of the canyon», in 1971 «Blue», in 1972 «For the roses» and then, this year «Court and spark» till the «Miles of aisles» live album, precious gifts that arrive on time every year, as if to renew a party.

Over the years, Joni opens up to the needs of the public without ever betraying a demanding and personal past: thus a 45 rpm record comes out, containing «Free man in Paris» where, also this time, the lyrics are explanatory and one finds her again as the sensible painter of life in evolution: «I was a free man in Paris, I felt unfettered and alive. There was nobody calling me up for favors and no one's future to decide. You know I'd go back there tomorrow but for the work I've taken on stoking the star maker machinery behind the popular song».

Maybe there is nostalgia, maybe regret and yet also the love and the will to reach more hearts, more bodies, to be present and to help good music to prevail on the bad one, that is making great strides. Then it is right to enter the heartless machinery behind the popular song to stand always in the first line. After all, the analysis of the musical world, with all its contradictions and stupid prima-donna behaviors, has always been present in her songs, either explicitly or between the lines: «... I bought me a ticket, I caught a plane to Spain, went to a party down a red dirt road, there were lots of pretty people there reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue. They said 'How long can you hang around?'... California I'm coming home...» (California, 1971), or: «Come to the dinner gong, the table is laden high. Fat bellies and hungry little ones, tuck your napkins in and take your share. Some get the gravy, some get the gristle, some get the marrow bone and some get nothing though there's plenty to spare. I took my share down by the sea, paper plates and Javex bottles on the tide, seagulls come down and they squawk at me...» (Banquet, 1972).

In 'Court and spark', the accusations or, better, the evident truths, make themselves sharper, clearer; there are also the names (that everybody knows well: Grace, Jack...), but never with a stinging note yet with woebegone precision. «All the people at this party, they've got a lot of style, they've got stamps of many countries, they've got passport smiles... Photo beauty gets attention then her eye paint's running down, she's got a rose in her teeth and a lampshade crown, one minute she's so happy then she's crying on someone's knee saying laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. I told you when I met you I was crazy, cry for us all beauty, cry for Eddie in the corner thinking he's nobody and Jack behind his joker and stone-cold Grace behind her fan and me in my frightened silence thinking I don't understand...» (People's parties, 1974).

The world is all here, everybody has his own party to satisfy and everybody travels in much too a hurry to appreciate the landscape around. When we will realize that, it will be too late and yet we should not be leaving space to regret but only to a delicate sensation of sweet memory.

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