Song to a Seagull

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Song to a Seagull
Studio album by Joni Mitchell
Released March 1968
Recorded Late 1967
Genre Folk
Length 38:00
Label Reprise
Producer David Crosby
Joni Mitchell chronology
Song to a Seagull
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars [1]
Pitchfork Media (6.7/10)[2]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[3]
Martin C. Strong 7/10[4]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[4]

Song to a Seagull (also known as Joni Mitchell) is Joni Mitchell's 1968 debut album. Mitchell would later note that the album is more a result of her love of classical music than of folk.[citation needed] This album was originally released as Joni Mitchell because the LP album covers were printed incorrectly, cutting off part of the "Song to a Seagull" title (spelled out by birds in flight). The cut-off, as well as the publishers at Reprise Records not noticing the birds spelled out the album name, caused the eponymous album title.

Song to a Seagull is a concept album divided into two halves: "I Came to the City" and "Out of the City and Down to the Seaside". (The two halves correspond to the two sides of the LP, which are identified as "Part 1" and "Part 2" rather than the conventional "Side 1" and "Side 2"). The first track refers to her failed marriage to Chuck Mitchell in Detroit, and a similar theme is explored with "Michael from Mountains", which questions whether one can truly love someone without knowing him. "Night in the City" is a celebration of nightlife; "Marcie" is a profile of a lonely woman, presumably a friend of Mitchell's; and "Nathan La Franeer" ends side one with the account of a bitter city-dwelling taxi driver Mitchell once encountered.[5]

Side two takes on more natural, organic themes: "Sisotowbell Lane" describes domestic bliss (Mitchell has said that "Sisotowbell" stands for "Somehow, in spite of trouble, ours will be ever lasting love"),[6] and "The Dawntreader" (which takes its title from the story by C. S. Lewis) and "Pirate of Penance" concern sea themes - first of a mystical sea captain calling her away, and then to a murderous pirate with whom a dancer is infatuated. Though some[who?] speculate that "The Dawntreader" is written for David Crosby, Mitchell has stated that this is not the case.[citation needed] The final two tracks concern freedom: "Song to a Seagull" and "Cactus Tree".

Mitchell had written songs that were hits for other artists (e.g., "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning" by Judy Collins and Dave Van Ronk, "Eastern Rain" by Fairport Convention, "Urge for Going" and "The Circle Game" by Tom Rush), but chose to record none of these for her debut. The album is dedicated to her Grade 7 English teacher, "Mr. Kratzmann, who taught me to love words."

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Joni Mitchell. 

I Came to the City
No. Title Length
1. "I Had a King"   3:37
2. "Michael from Mountains"   3:41
3. "Night in the City"   2:30
4. "Marcie"   4:35
5. "Nathan La Franeer"   3:18
Out of the City and Down to the Seaside
No. Title Length
6. "Sisotowbell Lane"   4:05
7. "The Dawntreader"   5:04
8. "The Pirate of Penance"   2:44
9. "Song to a Seagull"   3:51
10. "Cactus Tree"   4:35



  1. ^ Cleary, D. (2011). "Song to a Seagull - Joni Mitchell | AllMusic". Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968-1979 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  3. ^ Black, Les (July 5, 1968). "Joni Mitchell". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Joni Mitchell/Song to a Seagull". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  5. ^ JMDL Library: Joni Mitchell: ZigZag, September 2, 1970
  6. ^ Library: Joni Mitchell - A Portrait of the Artist: Billboard, December 9, 1995