On 1975’s The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell created a strange, cynical, ambiguous album. It began, in her own words, with the journey of “moving away from the hit department, to the art department”. And, in the process, it might just have created the missing link between yacht rock and sample culture… But by this stage of Joni Mitchell’s career, anything now seemed possible.
The “hissing” of summer lawns indicates their malign intent
By the mid-70s, wide commercial success had finally arrived in Joni Mitchell’s garden. Court And Spark, released in 1974, had been hugely successful in the US, Canada and Europe. Straddling adult-oriented rock with adventures in jazz, the album was the expression of Mitchell at her most accessible: it found a tender spot between her folk past, her experimental future and the current singer-songwriter zeitgeist. Expectations, particularly from her record company, were that she would replicate the sound and the sales with her next album.
To do this, Mitchell was expected to catch at least some of the current trends and, by 1975, these were sleekness and expense. The singer-songwriter field had very much shifted from pioneering early and earthy albums, such as Carole King’s Tapestry and Mitchell’s own Blue (both 1971). Eventually, a branch of the genre would mutate into “yacht rock”, moving decisively from its roots in the 60s folk clubs to become associated with high production values, musicianship, cocaine, apolitical lyrics and a general lack of sharp edges.