Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A "Conversation" appreciation



Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" was the big hit from her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. "Woodstock" and "The Circle Game" are also faves for many people, but for my money the best song is "Conversation."

It's about the singer's love for a man who is involved with someone else. As so often happens, the singer then criticizes the man's lover for not caring enough about him:

She removes him like a ring
To wash her hands
She only brings him out to show her friends


And also:

But I know she keeps him down
She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances
I don't believe her

It's very reminiscent of the attitude of Nice Guys. Although unlike them Joni Mitchell doesn't suggest the singer believes she is being rejected because she is "too nice." But then, few women feel that they are owed sex merely for being "nice" - it's pounded into our heads from the time we can understand words that what really matters about women is what we look like. Not our personalities, our talents, our intelligence, our good deeds. Nothing matters even one-hundredth of a percent as much as what we look like.

Men of course get a much different message, growing up.

But I digress.

Here are the full lyrics.

He comes for conversation
I comfort him sometimes
Comfort and consultation
He knows that's what he'll find

I bring him apples and cheeses
He brings me songs to play
He sees me when he pleases
I see him in cafes

And I only say hello
And turn away before his lady knows
How much I want to see him
She removes him like a ring
To wash her hands
She only brings him out to show her friends
I want to free him.

Secrets and sharing soda
That's how our time began
Love is a story told to a friend
It's second hand.

But I'll listen to his questions
I'll give my answers when they're found
He says she keeps him guessing
But I know she keeps him down
She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances
I don't believe her
Tomorrow he will come to me
And he'll speak his sorrow endlessly and ask me why
Why can't I leave her?

He comes for conversation
I comfort him sometimes
Comfort and consultation
He knows that's what he'll find.


The jangly guitar is wonderful and the lyrics are great, but what keeps me listening to this song again and again without getting tired of it is - and this is no joke, the chorus at the end that goes: deet-dah-deet-dee-dee-dee-dah-dee-dah-deet-dee-deet - etc. Along with the saxophone and the trilling flute.

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