In “Blue” Joni Mitchell captured with unusual candor the cul-de-sac that life had caught her in. She would describe this period herself as an emotional descent into depression where everything in her life was questioned.
Carey. In “All I Want” Mitchell sang incessantly about traveling. Here is one of her destinations. On the Greek island of Crete in the cave-dwelling village of Matala she met a chef with bright red hair by the name of Cary Raditz. His restaurant, Kytama/Waves, is the Mermaid Café referred to in the second verse. When Mitchell and a girlfriend met him he was working at a restaurant named Delphini and for an introduction the Indian-turbaned Raditz promptly lit a gas stove, which exploded, singeing half of the hair off of his beard and legs, melting his earring and scorching his turban. Guys, don’t try this at home.
Joni actually moved into Cary’s cave, staying for five weeks and gaining weight because of his cooking. And, yes, he really did use a cane to walk. The best that can be said for him is that he brightened her mood. The worst is that he really was a “mean old daddy” who later recalled that he wouldn’t have wanted to be with someone like himself. (Sample lyric: “My fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet, and I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne”)
Blue: Mitchell had broken up with Graham Nash and started a close relationship with James Taylor. She was convinced she had found her soul-mate; Taylor eventually left her heartbroken. Though she never names him the song makes multiple allusions to him, such as “needles” and “underneath the skin”. (Sample lyric: “Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go. Well I don’t think so but I’m gonna take a look around it though. Blue, I love you”)
California: She missed the Golden State so she wrote this song. If you listened to “Carey” carefully you’ll recognize Cary Raditz in the second verse as the redneck rogue on the Greek Isle who could cook omelets and stews, gave her back her smile, and took her camera and sold it. But it’s a song that’s also filled with disillusionment where even in the idyllic Paris the news about the war (i.e. Vietnam) is bad. She also can’t get away from her fame, even in the most out-of-the-way corners of Spain. (Sample lyric: They won’t give peace a chance. That was just a dream some of us had.”)