Well after a couple of hours or so of thinking (which resulted in half an hour of lying down with a cold compress to the forehead) I had narrowed it down to several bands and which albums would I take.
A three way death match for Pink Floyd! A 42-man 'Royal Rumble'-style battle for Frank Zappa's work! A 'Valhalla! I am coming' all out Scandinavian 'rape-pillage-burnthechurches', a a-furore-Normannorum-libera-nos-Domine Viking melee to sort out the Black/Death/Viking/Folk metal portion of the show and a quite civilised 'after you, no after you, no no I insist after you' discussion on the merits of the Rush back catalogue.
Admist all the too-ing and fro-ing and fro-ing and too-ing and a little more fro-ing for good measure (you can't have enough fro-ing in my opinion) one spot had already been taken and would never, ever be relinquished: Joni Mitchell and her 1975 album 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns'.
For me, this album is important to in 3 ways.
Her first full album I heard was 'Court and Spark' one afternoon whilst at the house of Tania Foulkes. a tall. long blonde-haired lass who was a year older than me (17), looked a little bit like Joni Mitchell (except for the time Joni had that tight curly hair look in the late 70's-ugh!) and is the second reason why this album is important to me. It reminds me of my first case of unrequited love. I fell so long and hard for Tania (no snickering at the back!) that when I landed I had reached the bottom of a Sarlacc pit! (Oh look! Star Wars reference! No wonder I was a virgin for so long!) and it took a loooooooong while to climb back out. This album helped me out of that hole (now, really! No snickering at the back!) and was the first album I truly fell in love with.
Now, with love it's very hard (........) to be objective and my love for this album is no exception. This album cuddled me, nursed me and cradled me to its busom and soothed my aching heart and told me everything was going to be ok. Look, I was 16 and sensitive, what can I say? After that experience, this album has followed me on my travels and in all it's glorious formats (except 8-track, but if did have an 8-track you know I'd have bought it).
And that's the third reason- it's the only album I've bought in all formats. First it was a single sleeve 2nd-hand record. No lyrics sheet, no paper cover cover to protect the record, just a thin plastic sheet. The next time was I saw it on cassette in a second hand store in Birkenhead (Skeleton Records; don't look for it, it's not there anymore but it did have an awesome painting of a skeleton on the side of the wall of the building it was in and always had these fantastic 60's/70's prog-rock, hippie, psychedelic 2nd- hand records. It was the place where I bought my first........focus Steve, focus). I had a walkman and wanted a better sounding copy than the cheap home copy I had made and for £2.00 it was a bloody bargain! Cheap as bloody chips!.Then, a few years later, whilst perusing said record store looking for Zappa records (a Tolkien-inspired saga in itself which I'll bore you with another day) I discovered a gatefold-sleeve copy (2nd hand, natch) of 'Hissing..' in the racks! I opened it up and there was Joni, lounging in the pool ( in my mind,THE pool! Not a pool, THE pool) she sings about in the title track; looking so lithe , so slim, so damned * deep sigh* I had to have her...I mean it! I had to have the record! £3.50 later and album was in my grubby mitts and I was away home to play...........(Oh I give up!).
Aside from adding material for my teenage libido, the inside cover also had the credits of who played on the record and, more importantly the lyrics. This was a huge bonus for me for, although I could understand most of the lyrics to the songs, it's always nice to have the singer's words in black and white (or whatever font colour the singer desires) in front of you.
You may have noticed that I've not described the songs, the words or offered any critique of the album as a record review may do. The thing is this is not a review, it's more a love letter to an album that has been with me (almost) from the "forceps to the stone", that has made it's way across the beaches of Europe and now resides with me in the land, the state, the city (or one of them at least) that Joni wrote and lived in. To hear 'Don't Interrupt The Sorrow' or the title track in a 2 up 2 down in Leasowe is one thing, it's another to fly into L.A or drive along Malibu Beach and hear those same songs and actually see the inspirations for those songs and the album.
As I've got older, wiser (hmmm), no matter what my tastes in music has been, is or will be, one thing is certain: 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns' is an album I will continually return to and discover something new but also to be received and welcomed by Harry, Edith, the Kingpin, Liquid Melvin et al as old friends do, to hear the troubles of Scarlett and to feel the reassuring warmth of it's embrace and it's soothing voice telling me everything is going to be ok.
The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
For the record, Tania didn't do anything bad or nasty to me. She just liked me as a friend and looking back I don't blame her for not wanting to date a shy, spotty kid with a very introverted personality, but one thing I will always be grateful for is that she introduced me to the music of Joni Mitchell and that my friends is a many, splendid thing.