Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adjective Noun: (Big) Yellow Taxi

This week's guest post comes from Susan, host of the very excellent blog Optimistic Voices

Matt Costa: Yellow Taxi


I “met” Boyhowdy through a Falcon Ridge post on my blog this past July… and I’ve been an avid follower of his Cover Lay Down ever since – when he asked if I’d contribute something to Star Maker Machine, I was honored, intrigued and challenged… and Matt Costa’s Yellow Taxi magically appeared in my inbox to fit the theme and give me courage…

It’s a sweet little song, by a skateboarder-turned-singer/songwriter with whom I was previously unfamiliar... and showcases a pleasant voice, a catchy beat and easy-to-sing-along-with lyrics – his music is a bit too pop for my taste (what I’d like to believe is a very diverse spectrum of folk, acoustic, rock, Americana, classic and Motown), but I’m going to pass the tip on to my 20-year-old son, who I think would very much enjoy.

However, between the title, the tempo and the words (“we shared some Conversation”), I couldn’t help but be reminded of someone who’s Been There, Done That, Received the Grammy: Joni Mitchell’s *Big* Yellow Taxi! – what’s another adjective among friends, right?

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi (1970)


I’m a self-admitted Joniholic… and find it synchronistic that the title of this blog, Star Maker Machine, is from Free Man in Paris, her tune about David Geffen – the Christmas I gave my daughter the soundtrack to Practical Magic and later heard the strains of A Case of You (on repeat play) coming through the door of her bedroom was when I finally realized they had not switched babies on me in the hospital 16 years before…

Ladies of the Canyon was the first Joni Mitchell album I bought, in 1970 (also at the age of 16), at my next-door neighbor’s garage sale – I mostly absorbed the heart-based songs (For Free, Willy and Rainy Night House)…but I kept coming back to the quirky ditty about pink hotels, paved paradises and DDT, punctuated by girl-group shoo bop bop bop bops and Joni’s adorably cackling laugh at the end.

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi (1974)


Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi (2007)


Joni rediscovered her own tune on 1974’s Miles of Aisles, this time accompanied by the jazz of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express… and again on 2007’s Shine with a Caribbean sound – the tree museum charge went from “a dollar and a half” to “twenty-five bucks” (when Amy Grant asked permission to cover the song, Joni consented, as long as Amy agreed to raise the rates) to “an arm and a leg”. In these days of climate change and pesticides: the cost of birds, bees and spotted apples? – priceless!

I find it fascinating that when the Counting Crows’ (very nice, very different) version of Big Yellow Taxi came out in 2002, most of their young fans hearing it for the first time thought it was the band’s original composition – “don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got ’til it's gone” indeed…

One of the musical highlights of my life was hearing the song as the 1997 Lilith Fair’s grand finale, enthusiastically performed by Sarah McLachlan, the Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, K’s Choice, Missy Elliott and Luscious Jackson – we in the audience were of course encouraged to sing along!

In checking the Joni Undercover site (painstakingly and passionately compiled and maintained by Bob Muller), I see there are 224 covers of Big Yellow Taxi - it’s a classic, it’s an anthem… it’s Joni (enough said… )

Amy Grant: Big Yellow Taxi (YouTube)

Counting Crows: Big Yellow Taxi (YouTube)

Submitted by Susan

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