Joni Mitchell: “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” (1972)

The first single from Roses is a ready-made radio hit and then some.

Kronomyth 5.01: Dominance, submission, radios appear.

Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were the two greatest singer-songwriters of their generation. Both were a bit mercurial, a trait common to genius, but where Dylan was intentionally opaque Mitchell was refreshingly transparent. You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio invites immediate comparison to Dylan in the opening harmonica line from Graham Nash (yes, I realize the man didn’t own the trademark to the harmonica), but the sentiment is pure Joni. The song is breezy, smart, with clever wordplay that borrows the idea of the radio as a way for the musical artist to broadcast their feelings and takes it one step further.

In the song, Mitchell is making her availability known to her object of affection, who appears to need his space. The closing line, “If your head says forget it but your heart’s still smoking / Call me at the station, the lines are open,” is perfect. Joni knew she wouldn’t write a better one for this song, and it fades right there.

Normally, Joni’s labels just picked another track from the same album and stuck it on the B side, but not so this time. Urge For Going is a song that Mitchell wrote years earlier. It was performed by country musician George Hamilton IV and became a Top 10 hit on the country music charts in early 1967. (She performed a version herself on the television program Let’s Sing Out in 1966.) Tom Rush also covered the song on his 1968 album, The Circle Game (which featured several Mitchell covers). Joni later recorded another version during the Blue sessions, but decided to leave it off the album. This is the version that appears here, for the first time, as a nonalbum B side.

“Urge For Going” is poetry set to music. Hamilton does a good enough job with it, but it would have been something to hear this song done by a harmony group. Or, you know, Johnny Cash, because nobody sings sad country songs better than Johnny. “Urge For Going” eventually turned up on Joni Mitchell’s Hits, of all things, so it’s no longer a rare collectible.

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Original 7-inch single version

A1. You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio (Joni Mitchell) (2:40)
B1. Urge For Going (Joni Mitchell) (5:05)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single in October 1972* in the US and Canada (Asylum, AS-11010) and on November 10, 1972 in the UK (Asylum, AYM-511); reached #25 on the US charts (charted on November 11, 1972 for 16 weeks). Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1972 in the US (Asylum, AS-11010) feat. A stereo and mono versions. (*First appeared in 10/28/72 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-packaged with “Raised on Robbery” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1975 in the US (Asylum Spun Gold, E-45074).
  2. Re-packaged with “Free Man in Paris” on B2B hits 7-inch single in July 1976 in the UK (Asylum, K-13048).

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