Hear Joni Mitchell’s Earliest Recording, Rediscovered After More than 50 Years

How excit­ed would you be to lis­ten to a record­ing, made at an AM radio sta­tion in 1963, labeled “JONI ANDERSON AUDITION TAPE”? If you know much about the singer-song­writ­ers of the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, you’d be quite excit­ed indeed. For Joni Ander­son is none oth­er than Joni Mitchell, who under that mar­ried name would go on to become one of the most influ­en­tial solo per­form­ers to come out of the folk-music scene. Not that she prized the des­ig­na­tion that thus accom­pa­nied her to star­dom: “I was nev­er a folksinger,” she recent­ly remem­bered her­self insist­ing. “I would get pissed off if they put that label on me.”

She had a point. Lis­ten to that 1963 audi­tion tape, on which she sings “The House of the Ris­ing Sun” while accom­pa­ny­ing her­self on the ukulele, and on some lev­el you’ve got to call it folk music. But even at the age of 19, Mitchell — or rather Ander­son — exhib­it­ed the dis­tinc­tive­ly cap­ti­vat­ing musi­cal pres­ence that would get lis­ten­ers of more than one gen­er­a­tion play­ing her records until they wore through.

Whether the teenage DJ who record­ed her demo had any idea of what she would become at the time, he knew full well the cul­tur­al val­ue of the tape when his daugh­ter redis­cov­ered it in the base­ment more than fifty years lat­er.

In the video just above, you can see that DJ, one Bar­ry Bow­man, react to Mitchel­l’s ear­li­est-known record­ing after thread­ing it up in his home stu­dio. “Damn!” he says, mar­veling at the crisp­ness of the sound after all these decades — and the fact that he some­how man­aged to do jus­tice to both her voice and her strings with the rel­a­tive­ly mea­ger equip­ment avail­able to him at CFQC-AM. The tape even cap­tures the dis­tinc­tive sound of her alter­nate-tuned bari­tone ukulele, which she orig­i­nal­ly took up while grow­ing up in Saska­toon when her moth­er vetoed the gui­tar.

Last year Mitchel­l’s 1963 ver­sion of “The House of the Ris­ing Sun” saw offi­cial release as part of the box set Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Ear­ly Years (1963–1967). Lis­ten­ing back to the mate­r­i­al of that peri­od sur­prised even Mitchell, and made her change her mind about her ear­li­er folk-relat­ed resent­ments: “It was beau­ti­ful. It made me for­give my begin­nings. And I had this real­iza­tion… I was a folksinger!” She may have tran­scend­ed folk music — just as she left Saska­toon for Toron­to, and then Toron­to for south­ern Cal­i­for­nia — but even Joni Mitchell had to start some­where.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

See Clas­sic Per­for­mances of Joni Mitchell from the Very Ear­ly Years–Before She Was Even Named Joni Mitchell (1965/66)

Watch Joni Mitchell’s Clas­sic Per­for­mances of “Both Sides Now” & “The Cir­cle Game” (1968)

How Joni Mitchell Wrote “Wood­stock,” the Song that Defined the Leg­endary Music Fes­ti­val, Even Though She Wasn’t There (1969)

Watch Joni Mitchell Sing an Immac­u­late Ver­sion of Her Song “Coy­ote,” with Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn & Gor­don Light­foot (1975)

Stream Joni Mitchell’s Com­plete Discog­ra­phy: A 17-Hour Playlist Mov­ing from Song to a Seag­ull (1968) to Shine (2007)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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