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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