That Song About The Midway

Album: Clouds (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • Some people break up over the phone, others by text or email. Joni Mitchell did it with a song, dumping David Crosby with "That Song About The Midway."

    Crosby and Mitchell dated in 1967; he produced her debut album, Song To A Seagull, released the following year. According to Crosby, one night they were at a party at the abode of Peter Tork of The Monkees when Mitchell pulled out her guitar and played "That Song About The Midway" for the first time. When she finished, she was staring right at him. Then she played it again.

    There was no doubt the song was directed at Crosby. She did indeed break up with him and later took up with his friend Graham Nash, with whom Crosby formed Crosby, Stills & Nash.
  • The song is set in a carnival midway, a metaphor for their strange environment in and around Los Angeles. She compares him to a devil wearing wings, asking if he puts them on just to sing. When she accuses him of cheating, she's very clear:

    You were betting on some lover, you were shaking up the dice
    And I thought I saw you cheating once or twice, once or twice


    Mitchell used the carnival metaphor again in her 1970 song "The Circle Game," where she evokes the painted ponies of a carousel.
  • Crosby said it wasn't easy dating Mitchell because she was a much better songwriter, making him fell inadequate. "Imagine if you wrote a really good song, you sang it to her when she came home, and then she sang you three better songs she wrote last night," he told Howard Stern.
  • "That Song About The Midway" is part of Joni Mitchell's second album, Clouds. She produced the track, and most others on the album, herself. At this point the most popular versions of her songs were recorded by more established singers, like Judy Collins with "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning."

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