Saturday, May 22, 2010

Street Names: The Streets of Joni Mitchell Edition

Joni Mitchell: Sisotowbell Lane


Here we find Joni Mitchell at the beginning of her career, contemplating a street scene from a comfortable rocker on the front porch. The sight of various friends and neighbors trigger quick fond associations. Mitchell’s gift for these quick character sketches make Sisotowbell Lane feel like a real place, but was it? Here is a footnote from

Sisotowbell: A word Joni invented in 1966/67. As she would explain on Philadelphia radio station WMMR in March 1967, she was writing a mythology, the names of its various members derived from acronyms based on descriptive phrases. There were, for instance, a race of miniature women, the Posall ("Perhaps Our Souls Are Little Ladies"), and men, the Mosalm ("Maybe Our Souls Are Little Men"). Siquomb was the queen of the mythology, her name meaning, "She Is Queen Undisputedly Of Mind Beauty." Sisotowbell stood for "Somehow, in spite of troubles, ours will be ever lasting love."

This explanation is very sixties, and Mitchell changed quickly. But she never lost her love of humanity.

Joni Mitchell: In France They Kiss on Main Street


A scant eight years later, Mitchell’s old fans were deserting her in droves as she entered her jazz period, and stopped singing in the first person. But her love of humanity still shines through. Here, she participates in the joy and exhilaration of youth as an observer, and as always, a keen one. Had she recorded this as a new artist, this song would have been received differently, I’m sure. Like Sisotowbell Lane, this Main Street is an idea, not an actual place.

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