Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, and the Torch Song Tradition

By Larry David Smith | Go to book overview

PART I
Joni Mitchell

INTRODUCTION

The December 16, 1974, issue of Time features as its cover story an article on the “women of rock” with an emphasis on “Rock ’n’ Roll’s Leading Lady”—Joni Mitchell. The article concentrates on Mitchell, but also contains interviews with Maria Muldaur, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda Ronstadt as well as commentary on the careers of female artists Carole King, Carly Simon, and Wendy Waldman. David DeVoss paints a grim picture of the Rock Women: “Caught in the wink of a photographer’s lens, they stand together smiling, rock-’n’-roll women in sequined chiffon and funky jeans. But they pay dearly for success. The rock business is a road business. Once the euphoria of the first room-service sirloin evaporates, they inherit a numbing chronology of concrete tunnels, cold buffets and limousine-driving dopers.” DeVoss’s cynicism is just warming up: “It is a life where one is seldom alone but usually lonely. There are plenty of men, but they are mostly grinning sycophants or lecherous disc jockeys. Yet it is almost impossible to retire; the thrill of recognition quickly becomes an opiate.” Among talk of Simon’s and King’s disdain for the “rock life,” Raitt’s commitment to a modest lifestyle that stresses her music, and Ronstadt’s commercial success, DeVoss shares an account of “dinner at Joni’s” in which rock’s leading lady prepared “three meticulously cooked courses” that were eagerly consumed while the “spiced apple dumplings cool on the sideboard.” Not only does Mitchell cook a mighty fine meal, but her boyfriend leaves the table to grab a beer and watch a football game while our hostess cleans her kitchen.

This was the leading lady of rock.

In December 1974 Bob Dylan was hard at work in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recasting much of what was to become Blood on the Tracks. Dylan was,

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Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, and the Torch Song Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - Joni Mitchell 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Artist 5
  • Chapter 2 - The Impulse 25
  • Chapter 3 - The Oeuvre 37
  • Chapter 4 - The Exemplars 101
  • Part II - Elvis Costello 123
  • Chapter 5 - The Artist 127
  • Chapter 6 - The Impulse 151
  • Chapter 7 - The Oeuvre 165
  • Chapter 8 - The Exemplars 233
  • Part III - Conclusion 251
  • Chapter 9 - The Auteurs 253
  • References 289
  • Index 309
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