I mentioned that I’d been to Devil’s Bridge the other day. This is a place where they charge you to see a waterfall! Paying for nature. Shocking. It made me want to go there and sing Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi in front of the ticket booth. That reminded me of a rant I’ve been meaning to have for a while, it’s about The Counting Crows’ cover of the abovementioned song. In this cover, they are doing exactly what the original song (IMHO) is protesting against – commercialising something beautiful. Essentially, The Counting Crows are paving Mitchell’s beautifully crafted musical paradise and charging all the people a dollar and a half just to see it. Big Yellow Taxi is a folk song, organic, unplugged – she could play it in your front room and it would sound the same, but the medium which best fits The Crows’ version is an illegal, low bitrate file on an a cheap site like Bee MP3.
Kate Rusby has done the same in her version of The Village Green Preservation Society. She flies in the face of the manifesto that the song is propagating. The Kinks are making fun of conservatism, they laugh at people who preserve, people who refuse to change, and Kate has gone and made a song which is all those things – she sounds contrived and phony.
The problem is – there is no denying – both songs are nice to listen to. My ears like them. But they’re not right. They’re good for the same reason that that Carrie Ray Jetson [LOL- misspelling] single is so infectious, they are bastardising beautiful music. I hear she has also murdered (I assume it’s bad, I haven’t bothered listening) another beautiful Joni track: Both Sides Now.
Incidentally The Counting Crows are present in a personal list of mine: bands I love to hate. Joining them are The Pet Shop Boys and Barenaked Ladies. Of course each of these bands have anomalies, Counting Crows have that brilliant song from Shrek 2 and The Pet Shop Boys wrote Girls Aloud’s stunning The Loving Kind; and Barenaked Ladies have… errm… there must be… errm… anyone?