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Music

How Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan inspired a Joni Mitchell song

@josephtaysom

Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan have a chequered history. While they’ve toured and even shared the stage together, as the decades have progressed, their relationship has frozen over.

The first time that they caught eyes with one another was when they were both guests on the inaugural episode of The Johnny Cash Show in 1969. Following the recording, the pair attended a party held by the host, where their tumultuous friendship began.

Over the years, they then started seeing each other more frequently at various showbiz rendezvous. After they grew closer, Mitchell was invited to participate in his infamous Rolling Thunder Revue tour, where they duetted on several occasions. Although that time on the road was frustrating for Mitchell, she persevered. Mitchel’s annoyance derived from the fact she didn’t appreciate how the headliner treated her, and the lack of interaction from Dylan during the jaunt prompted her to write ‘Talk To Me’.

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Additionally, Dylan had previously gotten on her wrong side when he accidentally fell asleep while she played him a sneak preview of Court and Spark. It all started to add up in favour of their falling out for good.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1979, Mitchell, however, opened up about one extremely beneficial encounter between them that spawned her track, ‘Paprika Plains’. She also made the bold claim that it encouraged Dylan to write his imperious effort, ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’.

She remembered: “The next time we had a brief conversation was when Paul McCartney had a party on the Queen Mary, and everybody left the table and Bobby, and I were sitting there. After a long silence, he said, ‘If you were gonna paint this room, what would you paint?’ I said, ‘Well, let me think. I’d paint the mirrored ball spinning, I’d paint the women in the washroom, the band.’

Mitchell continued: “Later all the stuff came back to me as part of a dream that became the song ‘Paprika Plains.’ I said, ‘What would you paint?’ He said, ‘I’d paint this coffee cup.’ Later, he wrote ‘One More Cup of Coffee’.” While Dylan has never claimed ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ was inspired by that conversation, it does seem spookily coincidental if the two events aren’t directly linked.

He instead claimed that he wrote the song after an incident at a gypsy celebration in France that he once visited. “They said, ‘What do you want Bob, as you’re leaving us?’ I just asked for a cup of coffee for the road,” he later wrote. “They put it in a bag and they gave it to me. And I was standing there looking out the ocean, and it was like [I was] looking at the valley below where I was standing.”

If it weren’t for McCartney bringing their minds together on the Queen Mary, we’d certainly be without the meditative, 16-minute extravaganza, ‘Paprika Plains’. Perhaps we’d also be bereft of Dylan’s most cherished moments if the singer’s more romantic version of events isn’t to be believed.