Whenever I write a new song, it has to pass the “Car Test.” And Joni Mitchell songs, without fail, always sound better in the car.
Her songs feel transient, and she’s always on the way to something, or in the midst of a mindset or a journey. You can feel that giddy nomadic instinct with the first little drum roll in “Carey”; there’s something almost like footsteps in the sound of them. And you can hear it in the classic Joni manner of singing, that rambling almost improvisational meter, and how she sings about being in a beautiful state of exhaustion and expedition: “my fingernails are filthy/I’ve got beach tar on my feet.”
I always notice in “Carey” that it’s a song filled with expectations, not memories. “Come on down to the Mermaid Café / And I will buy you a bottle of wine / And we’ll toast to nothing.” “Maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam or maybe I’ll go to Rome,” the songwriting is electric with potentialities and possibilities.
The belting “Oh, you’re a mean old Daddy, but I like you” hits differently when you’re driving at 70 km/h with the windows down. That’s why it always sounds best on road trips, hurtling forward in some kind of ‘non-place’ that’s just a waypoint to others, in the outset of an adventure where anything can happen.