Music from Love Actually, Part 2 – Joni Mitchell and “Both Sides Now”

Well, what I hadn’t realised earlier this year when I decided to have a nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years”, was that when we got to Christmas it would all get a bit emotional. Emotional partly because it has, I think we all agree, been one of those years; emotional because I am reminded of all the people who are no longer with us especially my darling dad who crops up on these pages often; emotional because this is the first year my daughter won’t be with us (I hadn’t considered that at some point we would have to share her with her boyfriend’s parents) and finally; emotional because of all the seasonal music my fellow-bloggers are posting.

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But this is only Tuesday so still time to pull myself together, once I get this effort done and dusted. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that last time, the title of my post was “Music from Love Actually, Part 1”. This then, is to be Part 2.

Since watching the film Love Actually last week I have since re-watched it (overkill maybe), just to remind myself of how significant a role today’s featured song plays in the storyline. Those of you who know the film well will also know that Emma Thompson‘s character, who is married to Harry (played by Alan Rickman RIP), has inadvertently found a beautiful gold necklace she fully expects to be given as a present for Christmas. Upon opening the square shaped box with expectant glee, she discovers that it is instead a Joni Mitchell CD, a great present as she is a big fan, but in that split second she realises that the gold necklace was for someone else, and she has to quickly extricate herself from the room. An emotional (that word again) scene then takes place where she has to pull herself together before re-emerging to join the family.

 

Throughout this scene in the bedroom, we hear the plaintive sounds of a more mature Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now from the album of the same name, released in the year 2000. Maybe it’s just because I’m a lady of a certain age, but it gets me every time. Like Emma’s character in the film, my life for many years was one of putting family first. I ran the school board, organised fund-raisers, took my daughter (and all the kids whose parents worked full-time) to after-school activities, completed courses with the OU and was chief cook and bottle-washer. If I had a pound for every time someone told me I was lucky that I “didn’t work” and was a lady of leisure, I would be a very rich woman! Anyway my point is that poor Emma found herself in the situation where Harry had made, she felt, a fool of her, and the life she had chosen. Fortunately for me, Mr WIAA is self-employed and I have been his (unpaid) secretary for years, so if anyone was going to get a gold necklace it was going to be me (but I didn’t, because I perhaps stupidly keep a tight control on the finances).

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell:

But of course most people will know the song Both Sides Now from the 1967 Judy Collins version (there it is again, my favourite year). Joni had written the song earlier that year inspired by a passage from a novel by Saul Bellow. A quote from her goes as follows:

“I was reading Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Judy Collins won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1969 and it has become one of her signature songs. What I find remarkable is that I wrote very recently about how Judy Collins recorded Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne in 1966 and that it was she who persuaded the reluctant poet Cohen, to get out on stage to perform his own songs. Here we are again with Judy being the catalyst who perhaps made a couple of Canadian songwriters, international artists of great renown in their own right.

Very few of my real-live friends know about this “place” but one who does told me that she liked it, because it wasn’t one of those depressing blogs – Oh dear, I think I may have just disappointed! Hopefully got it all out of my system now but oh my, listening to the mature Joni Mitchell again, really tugs at the heartstrings.

I have decided that on Christmas Day, as darling daughter will not be with us, we will have a festive lunch and then take food out for the homeless. Mr WIAA is not convinced we will find them, as they will probably already be well catered for, but I have my doubts – Even up here in The Highlands, last weekend we had girls my daughter’s age sleeping in doorways, and in 2016, that just can’t be right.

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Tomorrow is the winter solstice however, where the day is the shortest of the year and the night the longest – We are at the cusp of something astronomical, looking at both sides now, one side has been getting darker and one will be getting lighter. Very apt song therefore for this post.

I will return in a cheerier mood before the big day. Merry Christmas!

Both Sides Now Lyrics
(Song by Joni Mitchell)

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way.

But now they only block the sun,
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real,
I’ve looked at love that way.

But now it’s just another show,
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know,
Don’t give yourself away.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I’ve looked at life that way.

Oh but now old friends they’re acting strange,
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life
I really don’t know life at all

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

6 thoughts on “Music from Love Actually, Part 2 – Joni Mitchell and “Both Sides Now””

  1. This is a lovely heartfelt post Alyson and not depressing at all because, I think, most people in our age group will relate to it – it’s real life. Talking openly about it is refreshing, as it helps to offset that contrived expectation all around us that every Christmastime should be some perfect thing filled entirely with jollity and merriment, when for many it is a much more poignant, bittersweet event. I’m so sorry to hear about your friends and your dad – but I think it’s ok that blogs too can have both shadow and light.
    This year, as well as a lovely elderly uncle, I lost two dear close current-life friends, I mean people I’d been seeing regularly at the time they died, both were only 57, one was a completely unexpected shock, and the other was someone whose distressing deterioration due to a brain tumour I witnessed first hand as it was quite long drawn-out. I wrote about them both on my blog at the time but subsequently deleted a couple of posts as later on I didn’t know how I felt about all my words being ‘out there’. I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether to write something more by way of a kind of tribute – or maybe simply just an expression of feeling – this Christmas/New Year or not. Haven’t yet decided but I must say that reading your post here has been comforting, as a reminder that there are many of us who may be feeling those mixed emotions at this time of year, so thanks. Hope to see you again here before Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi C – Glad you approve. I seem to be particuarly open in my writing but I do change the names usually and not many of my real-life friends know about this place so unlikely to ever stumble upon it – The stories are fairly generic anyway and could resonate with most people. Believe it or not I was up until 2am last night writing, then went to bed (but couldn’t sleep) and got up at 7am for work this morning! The great thing however is that I’ve now got it all out of my system and have just been to get supplies for a wee soiree we’re having tonight – Hope to return for another post before the big day but we’ll see how the time goes. As for your friends, I am so sorry to hear that two of them died this year (so young) – Might be a nice idea to write about them but only you can decide I suppose if it’s the right thing to do. My dad was a very quiet, private man but I’m coming round to thinking I might write about him sometime as the blogosphere sometimes feels like the most private place in the world (it certainly did earlier on this year when I started blogging!) – With only a tiny proportion of a potential 7 billion views per day, I think it’s all fairly anonymous.

      Have a great Christmas Day if we’re not in touch again before then. x

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  2. A lovely post
    There is something about this time of the year that gets the emotions going
    I’n not a fan of Love Actually – something I suspect will not come as a surprise.
    But I did get two Joni Mitchell CDs from a charity shop in Newton Stewart bought by a lady who enjoyed the above song in the film but obviously didn’t take to the rest of Joni’s offerings!
    Every cloud!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – Yes you are right but I seem to have snapped out of it today and am suddenly all perky about the festive season and ready for The Chain virtual Xmas party (which now looks as if it will be tomorrow – hope Jez isn’t buckling under the strain of too many suggestions).

      No didn’t really think you would be a Richard Curtis movie kinda guy but as you say, meant you got a couple of pretty good CDs off the back of it! My introduction to Joni was The Hissing of Summer Lawns album back in the late ’70s and bought it myself much later on as it reminded me of that time. Still like her a lot.

      Merry Christmas to you and Mrs CC – Have a good one.

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    1. Thanks – Yes a tough listen indeed and I had hoped I would have time to move onto to more upbeat tunes before the big day but drowning in wrapping paper and “to-do lists” here!

      Merry Christmas to you and Mrs S.

      Like

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