American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/31/74: Joni Mitchell, “Free Man in Paris”

My friend Warren really hates Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” We’re talking heat-of-ten-thousand-blue-giant-suns hatred–I mean, he even had the protagonist in his novel remark on how awful it is. Warren’s not big on Seger anyway, but he has absolutely no patience for complaints about how tough it is to be a rock musician. If you don’t like it, just don’t do it, I imagine him thinking whenever the song comes on the radio within his hearing.

(As for me, I like “Turn the Page” well enough; perhaps I’m more sympathetic to articulating the sucky aspects of being on the road? Besides, one of my best friends in HS absolutely loved it, so I guess there are sufficient back-in-the-day memories so that it’s hard to get too down on it.)

Anyhow, I can’t help but wonder if Warren feels similarly about Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris.” This time, we’re treated to Mitchell relaying what she heard in David Geffen’s laments about the downsides of being a record company executive, and in his pleasures in traveling to the City of Lights. On the whole, I get it–people being nice to you solely because they want something from you is draining (I could get into spending a bunch of time in Paris, too). And as far as “if you don’t like it, just don’t do it” goes, well, Geffen kinda did that after awhile, essentially taking off the last half of the 70s from the music biz.

Court and Spark has become one of my go-to albums this decade, and “Free Man in Paris” is one of the really amazing songs on it–it’d definitely be worth trying out at karaoke. Sitting at #30 this week on its way to #22, it became the last studio recording of Mitchell’s to get played on AT40 (a live take on “Big Yellow Taxi” made it a few months after this).

4 thoughts on “American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/31/74: Joni Mitchell, “Free Man in Paris””

  1. I do in fact like “Free Man in Paris.” And I think part of the difference here is that Mitchell is singing as someone else, and from the perspective of a “business guy” — a very successful business guy, sure, but on some level, he’s talking about life in a widget business and a vacation from same. And since most of us work in some sort of widget business, we get the appeal of the vacation.

    Bob, otoh, is bitching about being a rock star — indeed, a Rock Star. People dream of being that. Griping about rock stardom is like griping about becoming the center fielder for the Yankees. “Oh, no — I achieved everybody’s dream gig.” Even uberwhiner Jackson Browne acknowledges in “The Load Out” that despite the hassles, he’s doing what he wants to do. I can respect that. But I can’t feel sorry for Seger in “Turn the Page.” And I feel even less sorry for Metallica.

    And thanks for plugging the novel!

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    1. The only quibble I have is that Seger wasn’t yet a Rock Star when he wrote/recorded “Turn the Page”–though he was very much a regional star, of course. Perhaps ironically, Live Bullet, the album containing the version of “TtP” we all know and love today, played a significant role in breaking him nationally.

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      1. OK, but he had already had a top 20 hit, and had worked with another hitmaking band in Teegarden and Van Winkle. I’ll accept, though, that I really became familiar with the song after I had endured the nightmare that was “Night Moves” and so I really only was familiar with it after he was established as a baleful influence.

        FWIW, I actually do like “Get Out of Denver,” and a song he wrote back in the 60s that was recorded by (speaking of baleful influences) Glenn Frey’s band:

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Court and Spark is a fabulous album with a place close to my heart.
    “Free Man in Paris” includes a couplet I have repeated to myself on countless busy days in the newspaper and PR businesses:
    “I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers
    Lately I wonder what I do it for
    If I had my way
    I’d just walk through those doors
    And wander…”

    As for Bob Seger, I could listen to “Beautiful Loser” seven or eight times in a row.
    I’m not a huge fan of “Turn the Page,” but I’m not sure he’s singing about being a Rock Star (which, as was pointed out, he wasn’t at the time.)
    I think he’s singing about being a touring rock musician circa 1971-2, which has all the hassles of being a Rock Star (long van rides, women who come and go, longhair-haters in diners) and none of the perks (no Bentley, no country estate, no gold records).
    I can accept that that place in the world comes with its share of legitimate blues.

    Liked by 1 person

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