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”, I would be a very rich woman. Anyway my point is that poor Emma found herself in the situation where Harry had, she felt, made a fool of her and the life she had chosen. Fortunately for me Mr WIAA is self-employed, and as I have acted as his (unpaid) secretary for years, 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-life 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, 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