4 February 2018

Influence

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

19 comments:

  1. I love this song, as I do almost everything Joni Mitchell produced until about 1977. My main complaint with the Judy Collins version is that it's too cheerful sounding, and a little too fast-paced. It should be a meditative song. Joni recorded it again in 2000, and it's interesting to hear that version -- when she was in her fifties, her voice had deepened, and she carried the patina of experience.

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    1. Thanks for that lead Steve. I will seek out that version and I do see what you mean about the slightly fast-paced and cheerful nature of Judy Collins's 1967 version.

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  2. Life has me dumbfounded, at 72 years old I often wonder what it's all about. I've decided that I love nature, animals, Tom and my computer. Oh, forgot the kids. lol. and the rest I'll let others worry about.
    Briony
    x

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    1. At 72 you should be like a guru - at peace with the world and knowing everything. By the way, you missed out Rupert!

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  3. A very poignant post. Perfect for a ruminating Sunday. Thank you.

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    1. Happy to have shared that song with you Christina.

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  4. Judy Collins' version is the one I heard as a young girl, but I have to say I prefer Joni Mitchell's original recording of it. Some songs imprint themselves on our very psyches, don't they? The who, what, when and where remain fresh in memory despite the years that have passed.

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    1. Perhaps it is not the song that is key but our readiness to be touched. A particular moment in time.

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  5. Ahhh....memories of the days when music, singers, songwriters were great. I love both ladies, and have their LPs, cassettes and discs (well....actually, they are mine because I purchased them).

    If this makes me sound old, too bad....I can not, and will not deny my years...but, in my ancient opinion, today's music won't have the longevity that the music of my era and the music that came before has.

    We had it all...we had the best...

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  6. P.S. Yorkie....the Joni Mitchel album featuring the 2000 version of "Both Sides Now" to which Steve refers is....

    https://www.discogs.com/Joni-Mitchell-Both-Sides-Now/master/47822

    https://www.amazon.com/Both-Sides-Now-JONI-MITCHELL/dp/B000040OVH

    It is a great album...I have it and I think it is now wafer-thin, too, from so much playing! Enjoy! :)

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    1. Thanks for the links Lee. To tell you the truth, it doesn't surprise me that you also admire Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. After all you are a woman with impeccable taste!

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  7. I haven't heard of Judy Collins for years. as for the song I've always liked it. Now for your songs get them out. Don't throw anything away.

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    1. "Oh! I knew a fellow called Red
      He wore a crown upon his head
      He was a king or so he said
      But he smelt of garlic bread..."

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    2. Red asked me to tell you it's okay to get rid of this one :) *


      *no he didn't

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    3. That was just the first verse of my song "Oh! Canada!". The second verse is about a bossy and giggly book-keeping woman who lives in an anonymous town in Nova Scotia.

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  8. How do you do it, YP? Just skewer me with a heart-felt and lovely post when I'm not ready for it! I'm very glad to hear that Judy Collins is still performing.
    A few years ago, my daughter and I went to a concert at a winery where Janice Ian ("At Seventeen"?) was the opener for some forgettable youngster. We sat on a blanket very near the stage, and my lovely daughter quietly sang along to every song Janice sang. Yes, we had played her album to threads when my daughter was quite young. After the show, we stopped to buy a CD from the wonderful Ms Ian, and she started laughing and said to my daughter, "You knew every single word of my songs!" What a sweet moment.
    Said daughter just looked over my shoulder and reminded me we also had that Judy Collins album, which contains "City of New Orleans," a great song.

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    1. So happy to have stirred those great memories Kate and wow - what a magical meeting with Janice Ian!

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