Song Lyric Sunday — Both Sides, Now

For today’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams gave us “breeze,” “cloud,” “sky,” and “wind” for the theme words. For me, it was a toss up between Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now.” I’m a fan of both artists, but I really love Joni Mitchell, so I decided to go with “Both Sides, Now.”

“Both Sides, Now” was the first hit song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. It was first recorded by Judy Collins and her version appeared on the U.S. singles chart during the fall of 1968. The next year it was included on Mitchell’s own album, Clouds, which was named after a lyric from the song, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.” In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Both Sides, Now” at number 170 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Joni Mitchell said the song came to her while she was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane. “Early in the book,” Mitchell said, “Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Joni Mitchell had been through a very difficult time when she wrote this song’s lyric. In 1965, she gave birth to a baby girl, but after the baby’s father, an old boyfriend, left her soon after she got pregnant, Mitchell struggled as a single mom. She married a musician named Chuck Mitchell that year, but shortly after the marriage, she gave up the child for adoption. Soon, her marriage was on the rocks, and in 1967 they split up.

Mitchell described the song as a meditation on reality and fantasy, “an idea that was so big it seemed like I’d just scratched the surface of it.” Like Neil Young’s song, “Sugar Mountain,” which Mitchell answered with “The Circle Game,” “Both Sides, Now” ruminates on the subject of lost youth. At first it’s a meditation on clouds, the whimsical way a child sees them, as “ice-cream castles in the air,” but there are two sides to everything, and as we mature, we stop seeing clouds for their simple beauty, but as a sign of rain or bad weather.

Here are the lyrics for “Both Sides, Now.”

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

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

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

If you’re interested, here’s the song sung by Judy Collins.

Song Lyric Sunday — A Long, Long Time Ago

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams has given us “long,” “short,” “small,” and “tall” as our themes. Just the other day in one of Rory’s Random Questions posts, he asked about something that touched me in a deep way. And the song “American Pie” from Don McLean, which is based on an event that took place a long time ago, did just that, so I included a video of the song in my response. That specific video is included later in this post.

“American Pie” was a song by American singer and songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was the number one U.S. hit for four weeks in 1972.

The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash after a concert. McClean said that he loved Buddy Holly’s music and that Holly’s death was, to McClean, a personal tragedy. He said, “When that whole crash happened, it was a real ache in my heart. So, I ended up bringing back all those memories of 1959 and the things that happened later.” McLean’s description — the day the music died — eventually became the popular name for the plane crash.

McLean said that he wanted to write a big song about America and about politics, but to do it in a different way. He was fiddling around, and started singing this thing about the Buddy Holly crash. What came out was, “A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.”

The meaning of the song’s other lyrics have long been debated, and for decades and McLean declined to explain the symbolism behind the many characters and events mentioned. He eventually released his songwriting notes in 2015, explaining many of the symbols in the lyrics. The overall theme of the song is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation as symbolized by the plane crash that claimed the lives of three of its heroes and various other events over the course of the 1960s.

When I saw this video below, which attempts to put images to the references McLean made in the song, I was deeply touched. As someone who grew up in the “American Pie” era, the song actually brought tears to my eyes as I listened and watched. And it made me sad to think of about the shape of politics in America today.

Here are the lyrics to “American Pie.”

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that’s not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lennon read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

Song Lyric Sunday — Gray Matter

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams gave us the themes of “brain,” “mind,” and “think.” It didn’t take my brain much time to think about a song that I had in mind for this prompt. Ha! Did you see what I did there? Anyway, I digress. I decided to go with James Taylor’s classic song, “Carolina In My Mind.”

“Carolina in My Mind” was written and performed by singer-songwriter James Taylor and first appeared on his 1968 self-titled debut album. When it was released as a single, the song earned critical praise but did not receive commercial success.

Taylor, who grew up in North Carolina, wrote the song while he was overseas recording for the Beatles’ label, Apple Records. The song reflects Taylor’s homesickness at the time, as he was missing his family, his dog and his state. Released as a single, the song earned critical praise but not commercial success.

There had been a great deal of speculation as to the identity of Karin, the woman he sings about in the line, “Karin, she’s a silver sun.” Until 2009, Taylor would not reveal her identity, but in a concert shown on BBC Television in March 2009, he revealed the identity of the Karin alluded to in this song. Taylor met Karin on the island of Formentera, where he had a fleeting relationship with her, but never saw her again. She was Scandinavian, about twenty-four years old, and had shoulder length blonde hair. Taylor said that her ghost was still haunting him 35 years later, and with the advent of the internet, he commissioned a police artist to draw a sketch of what she would look like after all this time. The artist e-mailed him a most unflattering sketch the next day as a joke. Though Taylor was pleased with the real sketch, he said that try as he may he couldn’t stop thinking of her now as a criminal. Sadly, he was unable to reunite Karin.

Here is an interesting interview with James Taylor about the song. It was conducted by late night talk-show host Seth Meyers last year.

Here are the lyrics to the “Carolina In My Mind.”

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Karin, she’s a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shine
Watch her watch the morning come
A silver tear appearing now
I’m cryin’, ain’t I?
Gone to Carolina in my mind

There ain’t no doubt in no ones mind
That love’s the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe, the sky’s on fire
I’m dying, ain’t I?
Gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Dark and silent, late last night
I think I might have heard the highway call
And geese in flight and dogs that bite
The signs that might be omens say
I’m goin’, I’m goin’
I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standin’ around me
Still I’m on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me, if I’m up and gone to
Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t is just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
And I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone, I’m gone, I’m gone
Say nice things about me ’cause I’m gone South now
Carry on without me, I’m gone

Song Lyric Sunday — I’ve Got the Blues

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams has given us the theme of “colors.” Actually blue is my favorite color, and yet it is associated with the feeling one gets when sad, somber, glum, or depressed. I was curious why the color blue is considered to be a sad, depressing color. Turns out that Washington Irving is credited with having first used the term “the blues” in 1807, as a synonym for sadness: “He conducted his harangue with a sigh, and I saw he was still under the influence of a whole legion of the blues.” Irving was shortening the phrase “blue devils,” which was a synonym dating back to Elizabethan time to describe a menacing presence.

But I digress. The song I chose is “Bell Bottom Blues,” reflecting a feeling as much as a color.”

“Bell Bottom Blues” was written by Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock, and performed by their band, Derek and the Dominos. The song appears on the 1970 double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Issued as a single, backed with “Keep on Growing,” the song reached number 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971.

Bell-bottoms are a style of pants that were popular at the time. According to Clapton, the song was written for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison, after she asked him to get her a pair of bell-bottom blue jeans from the United States. Clapton wrote the song for her, and it describes a lovers’ quarrel. It deals with Clapton’s unrequited love for Pattie.

However, Bobby Whitlock contradicts Clapton’s claim that Pattie Boyd was the song’s inspiration. Whitlock says the band was in France when the inspiration for this song hit. “Eric met this girl, she was like a Persian princess or something, and she wore bell bottoms. She was all hung up on him. She didn’t speak a word of English and they had to date through an interpreter. That relationship did not last but a week, and Clapton started the song over there. When we got back to England, we finished it up in his TV room in Hurtwood Edge.” Whitlock said that the song “Layla” was, indeed, about Clapton’s love for Pattie. “The entire album was about unrequited love,” Whitlock insisted, “but this song was not about Pattie.”

Hmm. Maybe that disagreement over who inspired this song is why the band, Derek and the Dominos, produced only one studio album.

Here are the lyrics to “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry
I don’t want to lose this feeling
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

It’s all wrong, but it’s all right
The way that you treat me baby
Once I was strong but I lost the fight
You won’t find a better loser

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it ’cause
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Bell bottom blues, don’t say goodbye
I’m sure we’re gonna meet again
And if we do, don’t you be surprised
If you find me with another lover

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it ’cause
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Song Lyric Sunday — Odd or Even

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams gave us “even” or “odd” for our musical theme. I figured this would be a piece of cake, but for some reason I was struggling to find a song I liked. I searched Google for songs with “even” or “odd” in the lyrics and I couldn’t find a whole lot of songs that spoke to me. But I finally did come across a song I really like that has the word “even” hidden deep in the lyrics in the lines that go: Mark my word, I’ma make my mark, even when they start their Martial Law / Even when these Martians alienate, my mental state is still at heart. That song is “Radioactive” from Imagine Dragons.

“Radioactive” was recorded by American pop rock band Imagine Dragons. It was written by the members of the Imagine Dragons band, primarily Dan Reynolds, and their producer Alex Da Kid. The song became a sleeper hit, peaking at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was the band’s first top 10 single as well as being the third best selling song in the country in 2013. It became the Imagine Dragons’ most successful single to date and is one of the best selling singles of all time.

An electronic rock and alternative rock song, “Radioactive” contains cryptic lyrics of apocalyptic and revolutionist themes. The subject of the song was about embracing change. The lyrics depict a person who was behind bars for such a long duration that he was release from prison in an unfamiliar “new age.” Some interpret the song to be describing a futurist world, and a person experiencing this mystifying world for the very first time.

Reynolds said the song is about the realization that the world is becoming different and the need to break free by doing something new. He explained in an interview that, to him, “Radioactive” is a “very masculine, powerful-sounding song.” He said that the lyrics behind it were very personal to him. “It’s a song about having an awakening; kind of waking up one day and deciding to do something new, and to see life in a fresh way. A lot of people hear it in a dark way, but, I think it’s empowering, and so we wanted to display that in a way that the listener wouldn’t see normally.”

Reynolds added, “When I wrote Radioactive, we’d been a band for two and a half, maybe three years. We were at that point so many bands get to, where we’re playing small clubs and filling them, but to break out at that level is a difficult thing. I was questioning my own career choice. I really wanted to have a family at some point and be able to support them, and still do what I love. So it was a difficult time. I’m a really up and down person and I’ve struggled with depression. I was writing in the studio with Alex da Kid, our producer, and we knew we wanted something that was heavy. I’ve always loved songs that present a beautiful and sensitive subject in a heavy way. So we came up with this heavy beat and instrumental that just felt like an awakening. It expressed a feeling that was happening with me, so I started to write the lyrics and the melody. In truth, the song is about becoming self-empowered and saying, ‘I’m happy with who I am, happy with the choices I’m making.’ It’s about sweating off all the dust and grime of self-doubt and judgment, and embracing who you are.”

Here are the lyrics to “Radioactive.”

Whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, oh, oh
Whoa

I’m waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I’m breathing in the chemicals
I’m breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse, whoa

I’m waking up,
I feel it in my bones (enough) to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh I’m radioactive, radioactive

I raise my flags, don my clothes
It’s a revolution, I suppose
We’ll paint it red to fit right in, whoa
I’m breaking in, shaping up, checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse, whoa

I’m waking up,
I feel it in my bones (enough) to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh I’m radioactive, radioactive

All systems go, sun hasn’t died
Deep in my bones, straight from inside

I’m waking up,
I feel it in my bones (enough) to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh I’m radioactive, radioactive