' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Tag: Joni Mitchell

Dylan-Joni Mitchell feud – Revisited

A quick update to my previous post in which I referred to Joni Mitchell’s claim that she had had a conversation with Bob where he had said that many of his more recent songs had been written by “the box”. She then said to him “What do you mean ‘the box’?” and he replied “I write down things from movies and things I’ve heard people say and I throw them in the box.”

Did not know at the time that Larry Charles, who collaborated with Dylan on Masked and Anonymous, had actually seen ‘the box”. Here is his description of it:

“The first thing he did, and this gives an illustration of how his mind works, he had this box on the table. He opened it and dumped out the box. It was all these little scraps of paper, stationery from all around the world. And on each scrap of paper was an aphorism or a line or a name of somebody. He dumped it out and said, ‘I don’t know what to do with all this.’

“I started looking and I said, ‘This can be a line of dialog. And this could be the person’s name who says the dialog.’ He was like, ‘You can do that?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I realized that’s how he writes songs. He has all these fragments and he weaves the fragments until they become poetry. It’s kind of automatic writing or the cut-up technique William Burroughs used. That’s how we started to write that script actually. It was a very organic, very stream of consciousness process.

The full interview from which this quote comes can be found here:

Surnames and Placenames: More Songs about Cities, Towns & People – 3

1. Velvet Underground, ‘Sweet Jane”;

2. Jimmie Rogers, ‘California Blues”;

3. Norma Waterson, ‘Song for Thirza”:
Sample here – http://www.last.fm/music/Norma+Waterson/_/Song+for+Thirza

4. Joni Mitchell, ‘Amelia’:

5. Elliott Smith, ‘Amity”:

6. Mark Lanegan, ‘Hit the City”:

7. Tim Hardin, ‘Shiloh Town”;

8. Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Alberta Bound”:

9. Stan Rogers, ‘Northwest passage’:

10. Howlin’ Wolf, ‘Louise”:

11. John Lee Hooker, ‘Maudie’:

12. Blossom Dearie, ‘I’ll take Manhattan’ (one of the great Lorenz Hart’s finest lyrics):

13. Will cheat here with two fine versions of the same song:
Leo Kottke, ‘Sonora Death Row”:

Robert Earl Keen, “Sonora Death Row’:

14. Paul Robeson, “Shenandoah”:

Surnames and Placenames: More Songs about Cities, Towns & People – 2

There are so many songs on these topics have decided to add a second post.

So here goes:
1. Randy Travis, ‘What have you got planned tonight, Diana’?

2. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, “My Mary”;

3. Wilbert Harrison, ‘Kansas City”:

4. Hoagy Carmichael, ‘Georgia on my Mind”;

5. Van Morrison, ‘Cyprus Avenue”:

6. Lyle Lovett, ‘One Eyed Fiona’:

7. Bing Crosby, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’:

8. Paul Robeson, ‘Joe Hill”:

9. Phil Ochs, ‘Joe Hill”:

10. Al Green, ‘Belle”;

11. The Kinks, ‘David Watts’:

12. Lou Reed, ‘I Love you, Suzanne”:

Shadows & Light – A Theme Time 45 Minutes or thereabouts

Have decided to include colours in the definition of ’light’, so here goes…

Will start with Bob Dylan’s favourite Lightfoot song…

1. Gordon Lightfoot ‘Shadows’:

Will follow it with another ‘Canadien Errant’:

2. Joni Mitchell, ‘Shadows and Light”:

3. Rory Gallagher, ‘Shadowplay’:

4. Joy Division, ‘Shadowplay”:

5. Rowland S. Howard, ‘Autoluminescent’:

6. REM, ‘Green grow the Rushes O”

7. Orange Juice, ‘Blue boy’:

8. Bob Dylan, ‘Its all over now, Baby Blue”:

9. Roy Orbison, ‘Blue Bayou”:

10. Eric Andersen, ‘Blue River”:

11. Michael Martin Murphey, ‘Red River Valley”:

12. Joe Heaney, ‘Roisin Dubh’:

133. Christy Moore, ‘Black is the Colour”:

14. The Pogues, ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’:

15. Lal Waterson, ‘Red Wine Promises”:

16. Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze”:

Dylan-Joni Mitchell feud

Rather surprisingly, much of the commentary on Joni Mitchell’s (admittedly over the top) remarks on Dylan and plagiarism tends to skate over the fact that they were probably influenced by a statement which Dylan himself made to her. She referred to these in an interview she did with Morrissey some time ago:

” I know Dylan said to me at one point that he, you know, he couldn’t write anymore, and I said, “Oh, what about this and what about that?” And he said, “Oh, the box wrote it.” I said, “What do you mean ‘the box’?” He said, “I write down things from movies and things I’ve heard people say and I throw them in the box.” I
said, “I don’t care where you got your bits and pieces; you still put them all together.”

The important line here, I think is Dylan’s plain admission that his borrowing began at a point where ‘he couldn’t write anymore’. This admission of suffering from writer’s block is very different from his claim in the Rolling Stone interview that ‘borrowing’ is simply something songwriters do…

Unlike Woody Guthrie, for example, who often borrowed the melodies for his songs from people like the Carter family, but generally wrote his own lyrics to those tunes,in recent times Dylan has appropriated both words & music…



Bob Dylan’s Tin Angel 2

Would add that ‘Tin Angel’  also has echoes of another far superior folk ballad – that is, ‘Little Musgrave’ in its English version (a great version of which was recorded by Planxty) – this can be heard here:

and ‘Mattie Groves’) in its American. A sample of Paul Clayton’s recording of the song can be found below …