geology makes me so happy

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Malka Marom: Was it his strange silent treatment that inspired the song you told me about, the one in which you called Dylan “Romeo” and me “Martha”?

J.M: Oh, Talk to Me,

"We could talk about Martha / We could talk about Jesus and Hitler and Howard Hughes/ Or Charlie Chaplin’s movies / Or Bergman’s nordic blues."

..It’s like, “Are we not an artistic community? Can’t we talk about art, painting, philosophy, history…” Do we have to talk about (mimicking Dylan) “Are you still with that drummer? Does he get you off?”, “Say something about sex Joni..”

[So It’s a little cryptic and not really touched on again in the conversation but Malka brings up the subject matter of the song “Talk to Me” and how Dylan played a role in it.

I read a story once about Joni talking to Dylan on the Queen Mary at a ’70s L.A. party hosted by Paul & Linda McCartney. Dylan and Mitchell were seated at the same table and he leaned over and asked if she had to paint anything in the room, what would it be? She said she’d paint the girls in the bathroom looking in the mirror which later became part of the song “Paprika Plains” -

In the washroom women tracked the rain
Up to the make-up mirror
Liquid soap and grass
And Jungle Gardenia crash
On Pine-Sol and beer…

She asked him what he would paint and he said the cup of coffee in front of him. Which he later went on to write the song “One More Cup of Coffee”. 

But an interesting line in the song is a Shakespeare quote: 

"Even though it’s covered with keyloids
From the “slings and arrows of outrageous romance”
I stole that from Willy the Shake
You know - "Neither a borrower nor a lender be"

A couple years ago fans of these two know that Mitchell talked about Dylan plagiarizing and borrowing a lot of stuff in his music and image. Which is true, but Dylan doesn’t hide it really. There’s so many lines in his work from the past 20 years that were lifted directly from old blues songs. Like Dylan’s song “If You Ever Go to Houston” is a song birthed from a line in “The Midnight Special” …”if you ever go to Houston, Boy you better walk right”. And Dylan made a whole new song from that line.

Mark Twain said “all creativity is second hand.” Joni Mitchell does this herself, borrow lines here and there from others like Nietzsche (“Trouble Child”, “Dog Eat Dog”), Camus (“Come In from the Cold”) and Shakespeare (“A Case of You”, “Talk to Me”). She also takes inspiration spurred on by popular poems and puts those works in her own words like the song “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” adapted from the Yeats poem, or “If” by Kipling and more recently the spoken word performance of J.M’s “poem” adapted or constructed from the writings of Emily Carr. She even takes the bible into her own hands with songs like “Love (1 Corinthians 13)”, “Passion Play”, “the Sire of Sorrow” etc. The difference being that Mitchell mostly cites where she borrowed from and Dylan usually let’s it go untold. 

When it comes to the musicality vs lyrics aspect of their separate works. There’s a lot of discussion. I saw a lot of Dylan’s fans angered by Joni Mitchell’s comments and lashed back by saying that she doesn’t hold a candle to the man but she definitely does. She might not be able to write something like “It’s Alright Ma” or “Like a Rolling Stone” (borrowed from Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway”) but Dylan could never match Joni as a composer or musician. Joni is a musical innovator while Dylan compositionally borrows a lot and doesn’t create as much as Joni. His arrangement’s are much more simple, which he’s admitted to doing it on purpose bc that’s the approach he chooses to make. While Mitchell dives down deep and her arrangement’s are much more complex, planned, intricate, and musically sophisticated. So where Dylan’s surreal, often vague lyrics might sometimes trump or go toe-to-toe with Mitchell, her musical sense is far superior. Joni is a special artist where all the pieces are at play, she has beautiful poetic lyrics of the same caliber as Dylan and Cohen and her arrangements and production is on the same level as someone like Stevie Wonder.]

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