Collected from various interviews throughout the years
#1 Chelsea Morning
"I wrote that in Philadelphia after some girls who worked in this club where I was playing found all this coloured slag glass in an alley. We collected a lot of it and built these glass mobiles with copper wire and coat hangers. I took mine back to New York and put them in my window on West 16th Street in the Chelsea District. The sun would hit the mobile and send these moving colours all around the room. As a young girl, I found that to be a thing of beauty. There's even a reference to the mobile in the song. It was a very young and lovely time...before I had a record deal. I think it's a very sweet song, but I don't think of it as part of my best work. To me, most of those early songs seem like the work of an ingénue."
#2 Big Yellow Taxi
(Ladies of the Canyon, 1970)
"I wrote Big Yellow Taxi on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart...this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song. When it first came out, it was a regional hit in Hawaii because people there realised their paradise was being chewed up. It took 20 years for that song to sink in to people most other places. That is a powerful little song because there have been cases in a couple of cities of parking lots being torn up and turned into parks because of it."
#3 All I Want
"I like the song. It's got more tooth than most of the other [early] songs. But I don't know what to say about it. It's funny how people keep looking between the lines of songs to see what is hidden there. Well, I'm not an evasive writer. You don't have to dig under the words for the meaning. The meaning is all there. It's very plain-speak. When someone asks what a song like Sex Kills is about, I want to say, 'Well, did you listen to the words?'"
#4 For The Roses
(For The Roses, 1972)
"That was my first farewell to show business. I was in Canada, and I had decided to quit show business and get away from all the pressures I felt. I put my thoughts into that song: 'Remember the days when you used to sit/And make up your tunes for love.../And now you're seen/On giant screens/And at parties for the press/And for people who have slices of you/From the company.' To me, this was an unfair, crooked business and it has nothing to do with real talent...I was up in Canada for about a year and I guess it strengthened my nervous system a little, so I finally came back."
#5 Free Man In Paris
(Court And Spark, 1974)
"I wrote that in Paris for David Geffen [president of Asylum Records], taking a lot of it from the things he said...Another song about show business and the pressures. He didn't like it at the time. He begged me to take it off the record. I think he felt uncomfortable being shown in that light."
#6 The Same Situation
(Court And Spark, 1973)
"I don't want to name names or kiss and tell, but basically it is a portrait of a Hollywood bachelor and the parade of women through his life...how he toys with yet another one. So many women have been in this position...being vulnerable at a time when you need affection or are searching for love, and you fall into the company of a Don Juan."
"To me, the whole Hejira album was really inspired. I feel a lot of people could have written Chelsea Morning, but I don't think anyone else could have written the songs on Hejira. I wrote the album while travelling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it...The sweet loneliness of solitary travel. What happened was I had driven across the country with a couple of friends, starting in California when they showed up at my door. One was an old boyfriend from Australia who had a 20-day visa and wanted to go to Maine to kidnap his daughter from this grandmother. You could have made a whole movie about that trip. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another...sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do."
#8 Two Grey Rooms
(Night Ride Home, 1991)
"I had that music back around the time of [1982's] Wild Things Run Fast, but it took seven years to find the story to fit the music. It's a story of obsession...about this German aristocrat who had a lover in his youth that he never got over. He later finds this man working on a dock and notices the path that the man takes every day to and from work. So the aristocrat gives up his fancy digs and moves to these two shabby grey rooms overlooking this street, just to watch this man walk to and from work. That's a song that shows my songs aren't all self-portraits."
#9 Night Ride Home
(Night Ride Home, 1991)
"That's a sweet song that was written in Hawaii when Larry and I were driving along on the fourth of July to this house we had rented. There was this big moon and the clouds moving across the island so quickly. Everything looked so magical...even the white line on the highway. It was as if someone had sprinkled fairy dust all around...It's interesting how people hear your sad songs and think you must be miserable or whatever. They don't think William Shakespeare was miserable just because he wrote about tragedy. I see myself as a singing playwright and an actress and I try to make plays that are pertinent to our times...I fully experience my anxiety and my grief, but that doesn't mean I don't also have a lot of fun."
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