James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, Live and Together (1970)

"I'm ready when you are, James."

"… I know."

Something extremely sweet was going on between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell when they played together at London's Paris Theatre in 1970. You can hear it in these recordings, taped by the BBC and broadcast as one of John Peel's Sunday Shows.

Mm, just listen to Sweet Baby James' "magic fingers boogie up and down those golden frets." Is it any wonder he became the subject of so many songs, two of them Joni's?

(For the record, here are critic David B. Wilson's Top 5 Songs About James Taylor:

  1. Joni Mitchell, "See You Sometime"
  2. Carly Simon, "We Have No Secrets"
  3. Joni Mitchell, "Just Like This Train"
  4. Carly Simon, "Jesse"
  5. James Taylor, "That's Why I'm Here")

According to Joni's own website, James' "You Can Close Your Eyes," above, is about her. (That would explain the little giggle at the top.)

He performed it solo on his 1971 release, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon Joni contributed backing vocals elsewhere on the album. In return, he played guitar on her Blue.

The general public had to wait another year to hear  "See You Sometime," David Wilson's pick for the number one song about James Taylor, but Joni must've made sure that James got a preview.

As she  later told  Bill Flanagan of Musician Magazine, "I wrote a song for James Taylor that mentioned his suspenders. And then on his next album he went and wore his bloody suspenders on the cover! Well, then the cat was completely out of the bag!"

Oh, Joni, I'm not so sure the suspenders were the giveaway.

As for the young man she talks about after "For Free"---the guy who felt he was over the hill at the ripe old age of 21---it's not James. It's Neil Young, and the song his gloomy mood inspired was "Circle Game."  (Good luck finding that cut. Once a ubiquitous bootleg, with the exception of the songs posted here, the concert has all but disappeared, though those who still listen to cds can put it in their baskets on Amazon's UK site.)

Related Content:

James Taylor Performs Live in 1970, Thanks to a Little Help from His Friends, The Beatles

James Taylor Teaches You to Play “Carolina in My Mind,” “Fire and Rain” & Other Classics on the Guitar

Watch Joni Mitchell Perform “Both Sides Now” on the First Episode of The Johnny Cash Show (1969)

Ayun Halliday was introduced to this concert as a WBEZ Unconcert in the early 80's and worries that her homemade cassette may one day cease to exist. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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Comments (11)
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  • Drew Kristofik says:

    Perfect antidote to a cold Wednesday morning. Great blast from the past – my thanks to Ayun Halliday for another spot on piece of interneterature.

  • Nick Carangi says:

    yes a blast from the past. I was just listening to their album the other day. Time flies, time flies. They were on tour in Philadelphia, Mississippi when I first saw them. Wow.

  • Dionne says:

    I had this on fluorescent blue vinyl many years ago. Thank you for sharing!

  • Melody Love says:

    I wish I could see the original video taping of this performance. These two were made to be together, personally and professionally. Joni and James your music is the soundtrack of my life and will play forever in my heart and soul.

  • Ron says:

    This “For Free” is an edited version of the original version broadcast by the BBC. I still have a recording of most of this session on cassette (I missed the beginning).

    Teh reason for James’ delay is that he was unhappy with the piano. After saying “I know”, James continued to press one of the piano keys progressively harder, and a ditict Buzz could be heard. There is the sound of someone opening the piano lid, and the cause was found to be an old chocolate wrapper resting on the strings. This was removed, the lid closed, and the concert then continued.

  • Peter Ford says:

    Thanks for bringing this warming and hauntingly tender music into my world this morning. Its a cold morning here in Scotland but Joni and James have warmed my old heart.

  • Elizabeth Hornbaker says:

    just for the record, “Jesse” was written by Janis Ian so . . .not about James Taylor!

  • Edgardo Buscaglia says:

    Terrific social artistic value…. Thank you.

  • Deb Wartell says:

    Is this available for download?

  • Onefoot says:

    As James has said, “we were each other’s bitches”

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