Song Lyrics


by Joni Mitchell

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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
And 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
Down where the water skiers glide

Some turn to Jesus
And some turn to heroin
Some turn to rambling round
Looking for a clean sky
And a drinking stream
Some watch the paint peel off
Some watch their kids grow up
Some watch their stocks and bonds
Waiting for that big deal American Dream

I took my dream down by the sea
Yankee yachts * and lobster pots and sunshine
And logs and sails
And Shell Oil pails
Dogs and tugs and summertime
Back in the banquet line
Angry young people crying

Who let the greedy in
And who left the needy out
Who made this salty soup
Tell him we're very hungry now
For a sweeter fare
In the cookie I read
"Some get the gravy
And some get the gristle
Some get the marrow bone
And some get nothing
Though there's plenty to spare"

© October 30, 1972; Joni Mitchell Pub Corp


Javex is a brand-name of cleanser/bleach, used for sanitizing, among other things. It is a Canadian product, but apparently is also distributed in certain American areas.

Rick In Belcarra adds: Lest you think that we Canadians are in the habit of gratuitously throwing our bleach bottles into the sea: These large empty plastic bottles and others of similar shape and size are commonly attached, with long lengths of nylon rope, to crab and shrimp traps so that they can be found easily for retrieval. They occasionally break loose and can end up on beaches such as the ones near Joni's hide-away on the Sunshine Coast of B.C.

Yankee yachts: [The following thread occurred on the JMDL in May of 2001]
Wally (from Argentina): i'll be using "Banquet" for language analysis with my friday classes. what are "yankee yachts" as mentioned in the song?

Kakki (USA): What a great song to pick! I always thought that "yankee yachts" in Joni's context might have meant American leisure-class boaters (tourists) who wandered into British Columbian waters on weekends. The term "yankee" has long been a catch-all term used by people from other countries for any American regardless of regional origin. Don't the British call us "Yanks"? In Mexico they have been known to call us "Yanquis" Maybe this ties into the song - here are these affluent yachters floating by and no doubt polluting the beautiful shoreline with their discarded paper plates and Javex bottles. And then we have the Shell Oil pails. Fat bellies and hungry little ones. "Waiting for that big deal - American dream" - hmmm, she probably is thinking of "Damn Yankees" here. ;-)

Wally: so they're boats with americans on them!!!!! i thought she was talking about a special kind of boat. you're right: joni may mean americans from the west coast sailing into canadian waters.

Helen (Australia): Aren't "yankees" the "northern" americans, ie. the ones who were on Lincoln's side in the Civil War (excuse my profound ignorance of American history here)! That being the case, I've always assumed the "yankee yachts" were yachts from the US, owned by rich North-based Americans taking a little jaunt up the coast, to check out their "poor Canadian cousins" - no offence intended to my Canadian friends here, I think Joni was very tongue-in-cheek when she wrote this line.

Catherine (Canada): This is very Canadian of Joni. We tend to lump all Americans (even southerners) together under the generic term "Yankees." Kind of like Americans calling us Canucks. I rarely hear a Canadian use that term unless they're talking about that hockey team out west somewhere.

Scott (USA): While the lyric (IMO) covers a broad spectrum of U.S. watercraft, there was a sailboat manufacturing company, Yankee Yachts, based in Southern California, which took a classic plan by the renowned Sparkman & Stephens designers and turned it into a fine yacht with a near cult-like following. The Yankee 30 sailboat was an outstanding attempt to balance the needs of sailors: speed/ease of sailing and durability/safety/comfort. The company also made other, larger boats but the Yankee 30 was the flagship. On any given trip to this area's waters (Washington State/British Columbia) you may see examples of this popular boat. Yankee went out of business in the 1970s but the design was picked up by other boat builders, especially in the Northwest, and may still be produced today.

Piano Transcriptions of Banquet

Banquet has been recorded by 3 other artists


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absurd51 on

I love all these comments above..especially the Yankee yacht material...I spent a little time in the early 70's crewing on sailing yachts and helped building them on a production line...Today in 2015 after 43 yrs of listening to this song.. it strikes current times it resounds more relevant than possibly ever before, which is frankly hard to swallow... Strangers in a strange land becoming more estranged as we go...
But let me say thanks Joni Mitchell for continually staying current in your timeless view of the human condition...