Remembering Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ live from the BBC in 1970
We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to bring you some extra special footage of Joni Mitchell performing her iconic song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ live at the BBC studios fifty years ago in 1970.
The BBC’s In Concert series saw some of the world’s most interesting artists make their way to London’s television centre for an intimate performance. The show would welcome the likes of Neil Young shortly after the release of Harvest Moon as well as Joni Mitchell, who would delight the handful of audience members with her third album Ladies Of The Canyon.
Mitchell’s star had risen considerably in the month’s following the release of the seminal record which featured songs like ‘For Free’, ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Her previous two albums had not charted at all in the UK but her third release had made it all the way to number eight in the chart and it seemed Britain had finally woken up to her immense talent.
The songstress would treat the audience to a six-song set largely drawing from her latest release, with the setlist consisting of ‘Chelsea Morning’, ‘Cactus Tree’, ‘My Old Man’, ‘For Free’, ‘Intro To Dulcimer/California’ before finishing with ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. It’s one of the greatest sets from this era of Mitchell playing. Her performance is utterly joyous to watch due to the high quality it was recorded in coupled with Mitchell’s singing being on immaculate form.
The whole set was near faultless with the last song, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ finishing the set in perfect fashion. It seems fitting now that the song which would end up becoming the track most synonymous with Mitchell throughout her career. This performance captures it’s blissful nature flawlessly.
Joni would tell the Los Angeles Times in 1996 about how the song originated from a holiday. It inspired her to write the environmental anthem: “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance.”
“Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.”
The classic track has been covered on a number of occasions throughout the decades with artists most famously by Bob Dylan, Green Day would then perform it live on a number of occasions in the late 90s and more recently by Harry Styles.
Nothing quite compares to Mitchell’s original with this 1970 recording at the BBC being the definitive version of the track. Watch the gorgeous performance of the track from September 3rd, 1970, below.