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music friday: joni mitchell, “night ride home”

I was thinking about this song and decided to use it for this week’s Music Friday post, without realizing the timeliness of the lyrics. To be honest, I never paid much attention to the lyrics … there’s a very catchy part in the accompaniment that I love in an “I can’t quit scratching this itch” way. The lyrics begin:

Once in a while
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like this
Like some surrealist
Invented this 4th of July
Night ride home

Like I say, I didn’t think of this being a 4th of July song, but since the holiday weekend is upon us, all the better.

Like many people my age, I spent my high school years listening to Joni Mitchell. Whenever it seemed appropriate to turn down the volume a bit, there was Joni. I suppose we liked all of her first three albums equally … perhaps each was a bit better than the last. I graduated from high school and embarked on a better-late-than-never attempt at being a hippie, and lost track of Mitchell. Ironically, she was making her most acclaimed music in those years (early-70s). When she threw herself fully into experimental work, I barely noticed. Later, in my dotage, I discovered some of that early-70s music for the first time: “River”, “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio”, Court and Spark. Overall, though, I’m far from a Joni Mitchell expert … my favorite of her songs is “Big Yellow Taxi” because I like the way she laughs at the end of it.

I listen to her later music on occasion. It’s funny, when I say “later music” I mean songs like “Night Ride Home,” which actually came out 20 years ago. Anyway, to the reason I love this recording. In an interview, Mitchell explained the secret weapon behind “Night Ride Home.” “We got a cricket on the track … when we recorded it. He flew into the studio behind the curtain when the door opened. He flew right into the studio like a lucky thing. So we DAT'd him! Stuck him in the FAIRLIGHT and gave him the downbeat.”

That fucking cricket is impossible to ignore, and I love it. It’s like some surrealist invented it.

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