Joni Mitchell Tells Elton John the Stories Behind Her Iconic Songs: “Both Sides Now,” “Carey” & More

When Joni Mitchell heard the great cabaret artist Mabel Mer­cer in con­cert, she was so struck by the old­er woman’s ren­di­tion of “Both Sides Now,” the endur­ing bal­lad Mitchell wrote at the ten­der age of 23, that she went back­stage to show her appre­ci­a­tion:

… but I didn’t tell her that I was the author. So, I said, y’know, I’ve heard var­i­ous record­ings of that song, but you bring some­thing to it, y’know, that oth­er peo­ple haven’t been able to do. You know, it’s not a song for an ingenue. You have to bring some age to it. 

Well, she took offense. I insult­ed her. I called her an old lady, as far as she was con­cerned. So I got out of there in a hell of a hur­ry! 

But I think I final­ly became an old lady myself and could sing the song right.

This is just one of many can­did treats to be found in Mitchell’s inter­view with Elton John, for his Apple Music 1 show Rock­et Hour.

For the most part, Mitchell’s rem­i­nis­cences coa­lesce around var­i­ous icon­ic tracks from her near­ly six­ty years in the music indus­try.

“Carey,” off Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue, sparks mem­o­ries of an explod­ing stove dur­ing a hip­pie-era sojourn in Mata­la on Crete’s south coast, with an Odyssey ref­er­ence thrown in for good mea­sure.

“Amelia” was hatched, as were most of the tunes on 1976’s Heji­ra, while Mitchell was on a solo road trip in a sec­ond­hand Mer­cedes, an expe­ri­ence that caused her to dwell on the first female avi­a­tor to cross the Atlantic solo. (She scrib­bled down lyrics that had come to her at the wheel when­ev­er she pulled over for lunch.)

Regard­ing “Sex Kills” from 1994’s Tur­bu­lent Indi­go, John quotes a Rolling Stone arti­cle in which Mitchell dis­cussed the “ugli­ness” she was detect­ing in pop­u­lar music:

I think it’s on the increase. Espe­cial­ly towards women. I’ve nev­er been a fem­i­nist, but we haven’t had pop songs up until recent­ly that were so aggres­sive­ly dan­ger­ous to women.

“What did you mean by that?” John asks. “ Peo­ple say­ing rap music with ‘my hos’ and stuff like that?”

“Oh, well, y’know, yeah,” Mitchell says, “Hos and booty, y’know, haha­hah.”

She may not seem over­ly fussed about it now, but don’t get her start­ed on what young women wear to the Gram­mys!

John also invit­ed Mitchell to dis­cuss three songs that have influ­enced her.

Her picks:

Lam­bert, Hen­dricks & Ross’s “Charleston Alley” (a musi­cal epiphany as a high school­er at a col­lege par­ty)

Edith Piaf’s “Les Trois Cloches” (a musi­cal epiphany as an 8‑year-old at a birth­day  par­ty)

And Chuck Berry’s “John­ny B. Goode” (danc­ing ‘round the juke­box at Saska­toon swim­ming pool)

Cir­cling back to “Both Sides Now,” Mitchell prefers the orches­tral arrange­ment she record­ed as an alto in 2002 to the orig­i­nal’s girl­ish sopra­no, with its pos­si­bly unearned per­spec­tive. (“It’s not a song for an ingenue…”)

When I per­formed it, the orches­tra gath­ered around me and I’ve played with clas­si­cal musi­cians before and they were always read­ing the Wall Street Jour­nal behind their sheet music and they always treat you like it’s a con­de­scen­sion to be play­ing with you, but every­body, the men — Eng­lish­men! — were weep­ing!

Per­haps you too will be moved to tears, as singer-song­writer Bran­di Carlile was dur­ing a per­for­mance of “Both Sides Now” as part of the 2022 New­port Folk Festival’s Joni Jam, Mitchell’s first show in 22 years, owing to a peri­od of major dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the music busi­ness as well as a 2015 brain aneurysm.

Tune into more episodes of Elton John’s Rock­et Hour here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch the Full Set of Joni Mitchell’s Amaz­ing Come­back Per­for­mance at the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val

Songs by Joni Mitchell Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers & Vin­tage Movie Posters

Hear Demos & Out­takes of Joni Mitchell’s Blue on the 50th Anniver­sary of the Clas­sic Album

How Joni Mitchell Learned to Play Gui­tar Again After a 2015 Brain Aneurysm–and Made It Back to the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val

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

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and the soon to be released Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Steve Jobs Shares a Secret for Success: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

In 1994—the year Apple co-founder Steve Jobs filmed an inter­view with The Sil­i­con Val­ley His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion in which he encour­aged peo­ple to go for what they want by enlist­ing oth­ers’ assistance—there was no social media, no Kick­starter, no GoFundMe, no Patre­on…  email was just becom­ing a thing.

Back then, ask­ing for help meant engag­ing in a face-to-face or voice-to-voice real time inter­ac­tion, some­thing many peo­ple find intim­i­dat­ing.

Not so young Jobs, an elec­tron­ics nut who relat­ed more eas­i­ly to the adult engi­neers in his Sil­i­con Val­ley neigh­bor­hood than to kids his own age.

As he recounts above, his desire to build a fre­quen­cy counter spurred him to cold call Bill Hewlett (of Hewlett-Packard), to see if he’d give him some of the nec­es­sary parts.

(In light of the recent col­lege admis­sions scan­dal, let us rec­og­nize the 12-year-old Jobs not only had the gump­tion to make that call, he also appears to have had no parental assis­tance look­ing up Hewlett’s num­ber in the Palo Alto White Pages.)

Hewlett agreed to the young go-getter’s request for parts. Jobs’ chutz­pah also earned him a sum­mer job on a Hewlett Packard assem­bly line, putting screws into fre­quen­cy coun­ters. (“I was in heav­en,” Jobs said of this entry lev­el posi­tion.)

Per­haps the biggest les­son for those in need of help is to ask bold­ly.

Ask like it’s 1994.

No, ask like it’s 1968, and you’re a self-starter like Steve Jobs hell­bent on procur­ing those spe­cial­ty parts to build your fre­quen­cy counter.

(Let’s fur­ther pre­tend that lying around wait­ing for Mom to order you a DIY fre­quen­cy counter kit on Ama­zon is not an option…)

Need an extra push?

Psy­chol­o­gist Adam Grant’s best­selling Give and Take makes an effec­tive case for human inter­ac­tion as the path­way to suc­cess, whether you’re the kid plac­ing the call, or the big wig with the pow­er to grant the wish.

Social psy­chol­o­gist Hei­di Grant’s book, Rein­force­ments: How to Get Peo­ple to Help You, explains how to ask with­out snivel­ing, self-aggran­diz­ing, or putting the per­son on the receiv­ing end in an awk­ward posi­tion.

And that shy vio­let Aman­da Fuck­ing Palmer, author of The Art of Ask­ing and no stranger to the punk rock barter econ­o­my, details how her “nin­ja mas­ter-lev­el fan con­nec­tion” has result­ed in her every request being met—from hous­ing and meals to prac­tice pianos and a neti pot hand deliv­ered by an Aus­tralian nurse.

Just don’t for­get to say “please” and, even­tu­al­ly, “thank you.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Jobs on Life: “Stay Hun­gry, Stay Fool­ish”

A Young Steve Jobs Teach­es a Class at MIT (1992)

Steve Jobs Nar­rates the First “Think Dif­fer­ent” Ad (Nev­er Aired)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this May for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

A Young Steve Jobs Teaches a Class at MIT (1992)

Ask­ing whether there will ever be anoth­er Steve Jobs seems to me like ask­ing whether there’ll ever be anoth­er Muham­mad Ali. While there may be lit­tle com­par­i­son between their respec­tive domains, both unique indi­vid­u­als mas­tered their cho­sen pur­suits, fought like hell to keep their titles, and “thought dif­fer­ent” than every­one around them. Also Jobs, like Ali, didn’t hes­i­tate to speak his mind, as in the clip above, in which he declares Microsoft’s Win­dows “the worst devel­op­ment envi­ron­ment that’s ever been invent­ed.” It ain’t politic, but it’s maybe… kin­da true? I don’t know…

My opin­ions on the mat­ter aren’t worth much—I wouldn’t know the back­end of an oper­at­ing sys­tem from the back­end of a trac­tor-trail­er. But Jobs didn’t attain tech guru sta­tus just for the sleek­ness and sim­plic­i­ty of Apple’s designs, but for his keen insights into the refine­ment of con­sumer com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy and his abil­i­ty to con­vey them with the unpre­ten­tious direct­ness of a black turtle­neck and dad jeans. The clips here are of a young-ish Jobs teach­ing at MIT cir­ca 1992, when he was 37 and run­ning his com­pa­ny NeXT, found­ed in 1985 after he was orig­i­nal­ly forced out of Apple.

He stayed plen­ty busy dur­ing his Apple inter­reg­num, help­ing to launch a lit­tle com­put­er graph­ics divi­sion that would become Pixar and devel­op­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and designs that rev­o­lu­tion­ized Apple when it bought NeXT in 1997—and when Jobs retook his empire through pro­pri­etary ruth­less­ness.

Here, five years away from that fate­ful event, we see him explain­ing his phi­los­o­phy of inno­va­tion to stu­dents who may or may not have fore­seen the break­throughs to come. Just above, he describes how “you can use the con­cept of tech­nol­o­gy of win­dows open­ing, and then even­tu­al­ly clos­ing,” refer­ring not, this time, to Bill Gates’ hat­ed OS.

Rather, Jobs talks of a sit­u­a­tion in which “enough tech­nol­o­gy, usu­al­ly from fair­ly diverse places, comes togeth­er, and makes some­thing that’s a quan­tum leap for­ward pos­si­ble.” One of Jobs’ many leaps for­ward in con­sumer tech­nol­o­gy might rea­son­ably be summed up in one word: porta­bil­i­ty, as in, the abil­i­ty to car­ry an entire library of music or a cell phone/music player/personal com­put­er in your pock­et.  Just above, he dis­cuss­es “the ene­my of porta­bil­i­ty,” name­ly such mar­ket demands as pro­cess­ing speed, stor­age space, and high-speed net­work­ing. And in the clip below, he talks about a sub­ject near and dear to every tech exec­u­tive’s heart—poaching tal­ent from com­peti­tors such as, well, Microsoft.

The uni­form of turtle­neck tucked into jeans, the delib­er­ate pac­ing back and forth, the expres­sive hand ges­tures and gen­uine com­fort and con­fi­dence in front of a crowd: all of the man­ner­isms we remem­ber from those hot­ly antic­i­pat­ed launch events are there in a shag­gi­er form.

Through the var­i­ous appli­ca­tions of his tech­no­log­i­cal acu­men, Jobs remained always him­self. The “next Steve Jobs,” or rather those aspir­ing to his lev­el of rel­e­vance should take note—he did it by insist­ing on doing it his way.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 20 CDs Curat­ed by Steve Jobs and Placed on Pro­to­type iPods (2001)

Steve Jobs Mus­es on What’s Wrong with Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion, 1995

Steve Jobs on the Rise of the Per­son­al Com­put­er: A Rare 1990 Inter­view

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Apple’s Hypercard Software, the Innovative 1980s Precursor to Hypertext, Now Made Available by is on a bit of a roll late­ly. After recent­ly mak­ing avail­able 25,000+ dig­i­tized 78rpm records from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, they’ve turned around and put online Apple Hyper­card soft­ware. When Hyper­card was released in 1987, The New York Times pub­lished an arti­cle enti­tled “Apple to Intro­duce Unusu­al Soft­ware,” which began:

Apple Com­put­er Inc. will intro­duce an unusu­al data­base and man­age­ment infor­ma­tion pro­gram Tues­day that the com­pa­ny hopes will help it main­tain its lead in tech­nol­o­gy for mak­ing com­put­ers easy to use.

The new soft­ware, known as Hyper­card, will enable users of Apple’s Mac­in­tosh com­put­ers to orga­nize infor­ma­tion on com­put­er­ized file cards that can be linked to oth­er file cards in intri­cate ways. The pro­gram will be includ­ed for no charge with each Mac­in­tosh sold, start­ing this month.

Hyper­card made its appear­ance pre­cise­ly when Apple also released “a com­mu­ni­ca­tions device, known as a modem, that will enable the Mac­in­tosh to send doc­u­ments to and from fac­sim­i­le machines.” Some of us still use modems today. Hyper­card, not so much. At least not direct­ly.

As Hyper­card’s cre­ator Bill Atkin­son indi­cates above, Hyper­card start­ed work­ing with the hyper­text con­cept that’s now preva­lent on the web today. Think those links you find in HTML. On, you can find and play with Hyper­card soft­ware, or what they call emu­lat­ed Hyper­card stacks. (They also host a library of emu­lat­ed soft­ware for the ear­ly Mac­in­tosh com­put­er). Read more about’s Hyper­card project on their blog here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Free: You Can Now Read Clas­sic Books by MIT Press on

How Brew­ster Kahle and the Inter­net Archive Will Pre­serve the Infi­nite Infor­ma­tion on the Web

Run Vin­tage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Soft­ware in Your Web Brows­er, Thanks to

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Director Michel Gondry Makes a Charming Film on His iPhone, Proving That We Could Be Making Movies, Not Taking Selfies

What’s direc­tor Michel Gondry up to these days? Appar­ent­ly, try­ing to show that you can do smart things–like make seri­ous movies–with that smart­phone in your pock­et. The direc­tor of Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind and the Noam Chom­sky ani­mat­ed doc­u­men­tary Is the Man Who Is Tall Hap­py? has just released “Détour,” a short film shot pure­ly on his iPhone 7 Plus. Sub­ti­tled in Eng­lish, “Détour” runs about 12 min­utes and fol­lows “the adven­tures of a small tri­cy­cle as it sets off along French roads in search of its young own­er.” Watch it, then ask your­self, was this real­ly not made with a tra­di­tion­al cam­era? And then ask your­self, what’s my excuse for not get­ting out there and mak­ing movies?

Accord­ing to Europe 1, the film took about two weeks to make, dur­ing which Gondry used the video soft­ware Filmic Pro, which costs $14.99 in Apple’s app store.

“Détour” will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent

Michel Gondry’s Finest Music Videos for Björk, Radio­head & More: The Last of the Music Video Gods

Noam Chom­sky Talks About How Kids Acquire Lan­guage & Ideas in an Ani­mat­ed Video by Michel Gondry

French Film­mak­er Michel Gondry Cre­ates a Steamy New Music Video for The White Stripes

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Steve Reich is Calling: A Minimalist Ringtone for the iPhone

What if min­i­mal­ist com­pos­er Steve Reich got his hands on the iPhone’s famil­iar Marim­ba ring­tone? That’s what the web­site Steve Reich is Call­ing imag­ines. Here’s how Jason Kot­tke describes the basic con­cept:

[Reich’s] 1967 piece Piano Phase fea­tured a pair of pianists repet­i­tive­ly per­form­ing the same piece at two slight­ly dif­fer­ent tem­pos, form­ing a con­tin­u­al­ly evolv­ing musi­cal round. Seth Kran­zler took this idea and made a Reich-like piece with two iPhones ring­ing at slight­ly dif­fer­ent tem­pos.

From what I can tell, there’s not actu­al­ly an offi­cial way to down­load the ring­tone and make it your own–though it does appear that there are, indeed, ways to con­vert Youtube videos into ring­tones. (Note: we haven’t test­ed these meth­ods, so pro­ceed cau­tious­ly.)

For any­one inter­est­ed in tak­ing a deep­er dive–a much deep­er dive–into Reich’s musi­cal world, please see this post in our archive: Hear Steve Reich’s Min­i­mal­ist Com­po­si­tions in a 28-Hour Playlist: A Jour­ney Through His Influ­en­tial Record­ings.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Look­ing for free, pro­fes­­sion­al­­ly-read audio books from Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Music of Avant-Garde Com­pos­er John Cage Now Avail­able in a Free Online Archive

Björk Presents Ground­break­ing Exper­i­men­tal Musi­cians on the BBC’s Mod­ern Min­i­mal­ists (1997)

The Avant-Garde Project: An Archive of Music by 200 Cut­ting-Edge Com­posers, Includ­ing Stravin­sky, Schoen­berg, Cage & More


Stanford University Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 10

When­ev­er Apple releas­es a new ver­sion of iOS, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty even­tu­al­ly releas­es a course telling you how to devel­op apps in that envi­ron­ment. iOS 10 came out last fall, and now the iOS 10 app devel­op­ment course is get­ting rolled out this quar­ter. It’s free online, of course, on iTunes.

You can now find “Devel­op­ing iOS Apps with Swift” housed in our col­lec­tion of Free Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es, which cur­rent­ly fea­tures 117 cours­es in total, includ­ing some basic Har­vard cours­es that will teach you how to code in 12 weeks.

As always, cours­es from oth­er dis­ci­plines can be found on our larg­er list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter and Google Plus and share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox.


Watch an Epic, 4‑Hour Video Essay on the Making & Mythology of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

If you’re like me, every lit­tle bit of infor­ma­tion doled out for the upcom­ing third sea­son of Twin Peaks is like a series of clues found along a dark path through the Ghost­wood Nation­al For­est. We’ve seen brief views of some major char­ac­ters. We’ve heard Ange­lo Badala­men­ti con­firm he’s back to score the series. We picked up and speed read the Mark Frost-writ­ten Secret His­to­ry. We know that it will be 18 hours of pure David Lynch and Mark Frost, and that what­ev­er it may do, it won’t go all wonky and not-so-good like the ter­ri­ble trough in the mid­dle of Sea­son Two. And now we have a date for the pre­miere: May 21.

So it’s not time to brew cof­fee, or put a cher­ry pie in the oven, just yet. Instead, it’s time to bone up on the series itself and ask our­selves, is Twin Peaks a failed series that needs to be rec­ti­fied? Or if Lynch and Frost had nev­er agreed to revis­it their icon­ic work, would we still have a cohe­sive work?

Video essay­ist Joel Bocko says yes, and has made what is prob­a­bly the defin­i­tive and most thor­ough analy­sis of the series out there on the web.

I first stum­bled across Jour­ney Through Twin Peaks one night, and think­ing that it was only one short video essay I start­ed watch­ing. My mis­take: episode one was only the first in a 28-chap­ter series that totaled over four hours, arranged in four parts. And, yes, I sat and watched the whole damn thing.

Bocko is good, real good. This is not uncrit­i­cal fan wor­ship. This is a man, like many of us, who fell in love with the tran­scen­dent heights of the show and suf­fered through its mis­er­able lows, but, through that mis­ery, fig­ured out what made the show such a game-chang­er.

One impor­tant thing Bocko does is give Mark Frost his due. Usu­al­ly hid­den behind the art and the mythos of Lynch, Frost brought much to the show, from the detec­tive pro­ce­dur­al frame­work to themes of the occult and Theos­o­phy. Bocko shows how Lynch came out of the Twin Peaks expe­ri­ence with a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent and much more com­plex idea of char­ac­ter. Before Peaks, Lynch’s work saw good and evil exist­ing not just on oppo­site sides of the spec­trum, but as dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. (Think of Blue Vel­vet.) In the films he makes after­wards, dop­pel­gangers, fugue states, and self-nega­tion, along with the spir­i­tu­al con­fu­sion that come with it, are cen­tral to Lynch’s work.

But that’s just one of the many insights wait­ing for you in this reward­ing ana­lyt­i­cal work, which also takes in Fire Walk With Me and Mul­hol­land Dr. through to Inland Empire. Suf­fice it to say, it’s full of spoil­ers, so pro­ceed with cau­tion.

On the oth­er hand, if you don’t have time before the pre­miere, you can always watch the first sea­son in under a minute here.

via Wel­come to Twin Peaks

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Twin Peaks Tarot Cards Now Avail­able as 78-Card Deck

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Title Sequence, Recre­at­ed in an Adorable Paper Ani­ma­tion

Hear the Music of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Played by the Exper­i­men­tal Band, Xiu Xiu: A Free Stream of Their New Album

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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