Car On A Hill

I do my best
And I do good business
There’s a lot of people asking for my time
They’re trying to get ahead
They’re trying to be a good friend of mine

I had a guy get pissed at me today because I wouldn’t let him send me his CD.
He railed that I was a victim of what I complained about.  He’d made a
complete album and I wouldn’t listen to it.

Have enough psychotherapy and you learn how to blast an asshole like this.  I
took time out of my day to listen to his fucking not much better than average
music on his website and respond to him, and for this I get SHIT?  If he was
such a big fan, wouldn’t he know I only listen to files? His response?  He
didn’t have all the songs streaming on his site, so he HAD to send me his album.

Where the FUCK do these people get off?  Do they really think it’s my job to
be a railroad train?  To pick them up in the middle of nowhere and drop them
off at the fame and fortune station?  Like my time is worth nothing and I must
dedicate it all to them, whom I don’t even KNOW?

‘The way I see it,’ he said
‘You just can’t win it…
Everybody’s in it for their own gain
You can’t please ’em all
There’s always somebody calling you down

I guess it takes a guy who specializes in playing by his own rules and
winning for himself to delineate the truth.  In case you don’t know, those are the
words of David Geffen.  And, this brilliant man got it right.  The only way you
can escape is to not play at all.  And the more success you have, the more
people are gunning for you, the more they want from you.

When I heard "Free Man In Paris" in my dorm room in Middlebury, Vermont in
the winter of ’74, these lines resonated not a whit.  I didn’t have enough LIFE
EXPERIENCE!  But I knew them, I sang them along with the record.  So much that
they were indelibly burned into my brain.  To the point where when I gained
enough life experience they were there to EDIFY ME!  To comfort me.  To play
alongside me as I walked through this bizarre life.

The great records pay continuing dividends.  Like Shakespeare, they contain
wisdom that unfolds over time.

Not that "Court and Spark" was the first time Joni Mitchell imparted wisdom. 
It’s just that it was the first time anybody but hard core fans was
listening.  Oh, she garnered a few more listeners the year before
with "You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio", but the problem with that track was it was a little too CLOSE to what else was on the radio.  Rumor has it that Geffen told her to record it.  It doesn’t contain her essence.  But I used to quote one of its lines all
the time.  Until about a year ago when I realized it was the kiss of death.  I
used to tell all the girls at the end of my e-mails "the lines are open". 
Which is how "You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio" ends.  And so did my
connections/relationships.  Unless it’s the absolute right person,
making yourself available makes you undesirable.

"Court and Spark" had a completely different sound from what came before.  It
was slick.  Polished.  Not as intimate as what preceded it.  It was a bit of
a shock.  But the songwriting was so good.

But, unfortunately, every teenage girl glommed onto Joni as the answer to her
questions and AM radio banged her constantly and it was disillusioning.  She
went from being OURS to THEIRS!  She didn’t exactly sell out, but one couldn’t
quite feel the same way about her anymore.  At least until 1976’s "Hejira". 
A masterpiece that the casual fan couldn’t understand.

But all these years later, it’s not only "Free Man In Paris" that resonates. 
There’s the duo of "People’s Parties" and "Same Situation".

All the people at this party
They’ve got a lot of style
They’ve got stamps of many countries
They’ve got passport smiles
Some are friendly
Some are cutting
Some are watching it from the wings
Some are standing in the center
Giving to get something

I don’t know if parties are only like this in Hollywood.  Where affairs
aren’t for fun but to get ahead.  What you do is more important than who you are. 
And unless you’re somebody, you feel out of place.

Still, it’s the second verse that contains the most resonant lines…  I’ll
set it up.  I’ll quote the verse in its entirety.

Photo Beauty gets attention
Then her eye paint’s running down
She’s got a rose in her teeth
And a lampshade crown
One minute she’s so happy
Then she’s crying on someone’s knee
Saying laughing and crying
You know it’s the same release

Now that’s something I think is particular to L.A.  The woman who makes it
solely on her looks.  Putting up the image of being together yet feeling
unworthy inside.  Still, it’s the last two lines that I quote on a regular basis. 
There really doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference between laughing and
crying.  I didn’t realize it until I listened to this song.

Then the choir cuts off and the piano starts to play and we’re in "The Same
Situation".

God, every line of this song counts.  But it’s the end that is representative
of every sensitive soul conflicted with what’s inside and who their parents
told them to be.

Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering who was there to hear
I said ‘Send me somebody
Who’s strong, and somewhat sincere’
With the millions of the lost and lonely ones
I called out to be released
Caught in my struggle for higher achievements
And my search for love
That don’t seem to cease

Can they coexist?  Careers and love?  I’m not sure they can.

And I always thought "Down To You" was my favorite song on the less
fulfilling second side.  This is closer to classic Joni.  Just her and her piano. 
Disillusionment and disappointment.  The elation of "Free Man In Paris" was
disconcerting.  Sure, the lyrics were not optimistic, but the sound…

But last night I heard "Car On A Hill" on XM.  And its truth resonated.

Some people are the life of the party.  Everybody seems to love them. 
They’re truly the people who get the party started.

I’ve occasionally been one of those people.  For brief moments in situations
outside my regular life.  Months at summer camp.  That month at Mammoth.  But
really, I’m an outsider.

I used to just let my personality out.

But people were not prepared for it.  They believe in tact, in games.  While
with me what you see is what you get.  So I became inhibited.  But sometimes,
when I thought nobody was watching, when I believed they weren’t paying
attention, I let my real self out and it resonated.

It’s scary to be accepted for yourself.  You don’t feel you deserve it. 
Suddenly, all your jokes are funny.  All your stories have everybody on the edge
of his seat.  It’s like catching an endless wave.  Well, not endless. 
Eventually the evening ends.  And then what?

Maybe you’re one of those girls I had a great conversation with…who
suddenly never seemed to run into me again.  Or, when you did, I was tongue-tied.  If I have a real good time with you, I’m gonna avoid you.  I’m afraid of living
up to my rep, I’m fearful I’m gonna disappoint you.  But it gets worse.  When
we do bump into each other my mind is going to be racing.  In between the
silences I’m going to say something stupid.  I’m going to die inside.

So, it’s not that easy to make friends.  You’ve got to reach into me.  You’ve
got to gain my trust.  You’ve got to let me know you’re not in it for what I
can do for you, but that you truly appreciate the real me.  The crazy me.  The
one who CAN be the life of the party but can bristle and be obstinate at
others.  Not able to calm down inside enough to integrate.

Oh, I got too isolated.  My ex-wife moved out, I ran out of money, I became
disconnected.  And it’s been a long road back.  I dialed my personality down
completely to fit in.  I’m trying to amp it back up.  Still, it’s difficult to
tell my own story in a phone conversation, and hard to hang up first.  You see
I don’t want anything to fuck up the connection.

In "Car On A Hill" Joni is waiting for her "sugar to show".  Waiting to hear
his tires squealing on the road outside her house.  She’s ruminating on the
connection.  And she sings:

He makes friends easy
He’s not like me
I watch for judgment anxiously
Now where in the city can that boy be

I hear these lines and I identify.  You’re giving your heart and soul.  It
was so hard to get this far.  To get the fire started.  Do they need you as
much, or the way they toss their hair, the way they chat up the opposite sex…
are you dispensable?

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.