So all those years ago when Joni Mitchell was singing about clouds that got in the way and rained and snowed on everyone, many people got her very poetic lyrics about cloud formations absolutely wrong. How many of us have been singing along to these lyrics: Bows and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air?
To me, the first line of lyrics to that song always seemed non-sensical, but the rest of the lyrics were very good and the melody is lovely so I just sang along like everyone else and didn’t worry too much about it. Occasionally I’d think, “I wonder what she means by bows and flows of angel hair? Oh well, there’s simply no accounting for what was going through the heads of songwriters (or anyone) in the 1960’s!”
That was until recently when this song was proposed as one to do for my ukulele group and I needed to make up a music chart so I went seeking definitive sheet music to help me get everything right. Well much of the sheet music you can buy out there for this song also begins with the “Bows and flows” line BUT on Joni Mitchell’s personal website she generously offers transcriptions of many of her songs and this happens to be one. When I read the first line of music I found on her site and it said “Rows and floes of angel hair,” I suddenly could envision the exact cloud formations she was singing about and I bet she was looking at some Altocumulous Stratiformis clouds when the idea for the song came to her while sitting on that airplane and looking at clouds from above. Thus, Both Sides Now!
I like looking at those formations too, at sunset (above), at midday (below), and after a storm (further below). They tend to stack up in rows and look rather like floes of ice! Or angel hair if you have a good imagination. Aha! But if you really want to appreciate the timeless appeal of this song, watch Joni singing it at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival
She brings the crowd to tears with her poignant rendition of this song she wrote in her early 20’s. Here she is at nearly 80, convincing you that after all that life has thrown at her (and it’s been a LOT), it’s still the illusions she recalls and furthermore, she still really doesn’t know clouds or love or life at all and you get the sense that that’s how it’s meant to be and it’s okay. It’s okay. Just keep on looking and loving and living.
The 2 watercolor cloud studies here are from a journal project I did some time back when I had a wide view of the sky available to me at all times. The framed painting is from further back, but again from the Sexton Road days. Now I am mostly focused up close on botanical subjects, but some days I do miss the joy of splashing about with abandon on wet watercolor paper.
And So It Goes…but that’s another song from another artist for another day.