James And Joni, June 2018

I’ve written before here about James Taylor’s early career, but this photo (taken a few days ago, after one of his concerts) reminded me of the time we saw Joni Mitchell introduce a young, strung-out (kicking a heroin habit) James Taylor at a basement “club” inside a parking garage that accommodated a couple hundred people, standing on a cold parking lot floor in December, off Commonwealth Avenue, near Boston University in 1970.

it was James’ first US appearance after returning from London, where he’d recorded his first album on The Beatles’ Apple label. The memory of how protective she was of his fragility that night, is why this photo moves me beyond description.


James Taylor 1970

James Taylor was one of the first artists to be recorded by The Beatles at the Abbey Road studio, for their new record label, Apple Records. James was virtually unknown in the US at the time, with a serious heroin problem, but soon after the album's release, his voice and songs were everywhere, part of the new introspective singer/songwriter renaissance led by Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne and others. His voice and his lyrics were very personal and very clear and, it seemed, exactly what the culture needed in a very dark time.

This is from his concert at BBC Studios in 1970. It is approximately thirty minutes long and, unfortunately, cuts out during the final tune. But it's as glorious and fresh as it was then, no matter how many times you've heard these songs, and no matter how done you think you are with James Taylor by now. There really hadn't been anything quite like this before, at least to those of us who were his contemporaries.