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 (12)
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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”

  • Climberbob says:

    Man, thanks for this post. I’ve been following James and Joni since about ’67/ 68 after my older brother turned me on to them. I was 9. First two albums I got were Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim.k I never knew anyone wrote ANY songs about James before.

    I’m not sure if I misunderstood what you were saying or not, but up in the beginning where you talk about “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—” – not sure what you meant by “after ‘For Free’, and right now I’m not recalling the exact order of the tunes, but she told that story as her intro to Circle Game, and the tune she was referring to was Neil’s ‘Sugar Mountain” (you can’t be 20, on Sugar Mountain . . .). But considering how familiar you are with the London recording from where that came, I’m sure you already knew that.

    Now what brought me here was one of my random efforts with years, if not decades in between efforts to find said suspenders from the cover of Mud Slide. The story I’d heard was Joni and James were “an item”, and Joni wanted to keep them being together under wraps. She’d given him the suspenders for Christmas, and then he wears them on his next album cover! LOL. So I’d been looking for those suspenders literally for decades. I wanted a guitar strap with the cats and crescent moon pattern. Looked everywhere, and looked into many different ways to make them, or have them made, including ink stamps (something I could do), but I knew that embroidery would be the only thing that would come out well, and I didn’t want to spend the time to do it (yes, I learned to embroider in college so I could put a mouse on my then GF’s Christmas present (she collected mice – any kind except real ones.), and I didn’t have the money if I could find someone to do it for me. But about 8 years ago I was introduced to a neighbor of a very good friend, who had a commercial embroidery company on the side with his 3 machines in his garage. I bartered a deal where he would embroider both a leather, and a nylon strap (wasn’t sure how it would come out on leather (answer – OUTSTANING!) and in return I gave him some plants (a couple staghorn ferns and a bonsai).

    And now for the laugher. 3 years or so ago, I’m watching late night TV and Cheers reruns are on. So I decide to tune in. Remember those suspenders I looked EVERYWHERE for? Remember the old guy that would be in some episodes? He didn’t say much, but it was usually a zinger. I’m looking at the typical bar scene, but the old guy is wearing James’ suspenders!!!! WTF? How could that be? The show is long stopped producing, so there’s no one I can even try to contact to see where the heck they got the suspenders, or where they are today. What are the odds of that? Well, if you were familiar with my life, I’m the guy that those things that never happen to, happen to. Fortunately some of those are good things. Unfortunately, most aren’t. Unfortunately I can’t attach the pic here.

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