I was fourteen when I first heard "Both Sides Now" on an early evening TV chat show hosted by the late Simon Dee. The song was not sung by its brilliant composer - Joni Mitchell but by a folk singer from Seattle - Judy Collins. Before that Saturday night I had never heard of her.
I was awestruck. It wasn't just Judy's intimate and plaintive delivery but the song itself. In its simplicity it spoke to me about the private frustrations of individual human beings - just like me. It suggested that we may have aspirations and a hunger for understanding but when all is said and done perhaps we might all say "I really don't know clouds at all" or "I really don't know love at all" or "I really don't know life at all".
In my journey from adolescence to adulthood that song was very special to me. The following week I went into Sydney Scarborough's record shop under Hull City Hall and I bought the single which I played over and over till I knew every word by heart. Soon I learnt to play it on my guitar and it kind of freed me up to write my own songs that are now mostly buried in the mists of my memory and of course the song led me to discover the amazing genius of Joni Mitchell.
Fifty years later, I continue to look at life from "both sides now" but confess I really don't know life at all. Judy Collins in seventy eight years old and still performing while Joni Mitchell is seventy four and lives a largely reclusive life beset by health problems. Perhaps sometimes she still looks out of her window in the Los Angeles hills and hums:-
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