Heading into her 80s Jazz-tinged period.

Heading into her 80s Jazz-tinged period.
Heading into her 80s Techno-tinged period.

– Joni Mitchell – Live In London – June 16, 1983 – BBC Radio 1 –

What a week it’s been. One of those week’s where tuning out is not only a necessity, it’s practically a requirement.

I ran across this concert from Joni Mitchell, recorded by the venerable BBC during the British leg of her world tour of 1983 and thought it might fit the bill for a Friday Night.

This is Joni Mitchell during her 80s/pop/electronica phase and around the time of Wild Things Run Fast, her first release for the newly-formed Geffen Records, and just prior to her meeting with Thomas Dolby, who would produce her next album.

For a year and a half, Mitchell worked on the tracks for her next album.

While the album was being readied for release, her friend David Geffen, founder of Asylum Records, decided to start a new label, Geffen Records. Still distributed by Warner Bros. (who controlled Asylum Records), Geffen negated the remaining contractual obligations Mitchell had with Asylum and signed her to his new label. Wild Things Run Fast (1982) marked a return to pop songwriting, including “Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody”, which incorporated the chorus and parts of the melody of the famous The Righteous Brothers hit, and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care”, a remake of the Elvis chestnut, which charted higher than any Mitchell single since her 1970s sales peak when it climbed to No. 47 on the charts. The album peaked on the Billboard charts in its fifth week at No. 25.

During this period she recorded with bassist and sound engineer Larry Klein, whom she married in 1982.

In early 1983, Mitchell began a world tour, visiting Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia and then going back to the United States. A performance from the tour was videotaped and later released on home video (and later DVD) as Refuge of the Roads. As 1984 ended, Mitchell was writing new songs when she received a suggestion from Geffen that perhaps an outside producer with experience in the modern technical arenas that they wanted to explore might be a worthy addition. British synthpop performer and producer Thomas Dolby was brought on board. Of Dolby’s role, Mitchell later commented: “I was reluctant when Thomas was suggested because he had been asked to produce the record [by Geffen], and would he consider coming in as just a programmer and a player? So on that level we did have some problems … He may be able to do it faster. He may be able to do it better, but the fact is that it then wouldn’t really be my music.”

The album that resulted, Dog Eat Dog, released in October 1985, turned out to be only a moderate seller, peaking at No. 63 on Billboard’s Top Albums Chart, Mitchell’s lowest chart position since her first album peaked at No. 189 almost eighteen years before. One of the songs on the album, “Tax Free”, created controversy by lambasting “televangelists” and what she saw as a drift to the religious right in American politics. “The churches came after me”, she wrote, “they attacked me, though the Episcopalian Church, which I’ve seen described as the only church in America which actually uses its head, wrote me a letter of congratulation.”

In case you missed her 80s phase, here’s a chance to get acquainted.

Relax and take a deep breath ahead of the week tomorrow.’

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