Joni Mitchell

Chelsea Morning

Composed by Joni Mitchell

Song Review by

"Chelsea Morning" is one of Joni Mitchell's most well known songs, and certainly one of her most celebrated early compositions, with the possible exception of "Both Sides Now" and "Woodstock." "Chelsea Morning" epitomizes the most optimistic side of late 1960s rock music, conveying a time and place when the world seems bursting with sunshine and possibilities. To some, its tone might seem too overly rosy. It is no coincidence that it's one of the records that an aging flower child portrayed by Teri Garr plays in Martin Scorsese's film comedy Afterhours. Still, for a great many listeners, its beautiful melody and winsome lyrics can be heard and sung without irony. "Chelsea Morning," in the version Mitchell put on her second album Clouds, is like most of her earliest releases not exactly rock music; it's more acoustic folk music with a rock sensibility. Its bouncy irregular rhythms, though, do move along with far more of an upbeat groove than conventional folk. The chords, too, are unusual for both folk and pop music, roving unpredictably but memorably. The same could be said for Mitchell's voice, which on this song has an excellent showcase for its formidable range, particularly in its swoops into the upper register. Although the only instrumental accompaniment on Mitchell's version is acoustic guitar, she does further distinguish it from folk music by overdubbing some of her own high harmonies in back of her principal vocal. What really sold "Chelsea Morning" to listeners, though, was its evocation of a how beautiful a city could look in the morning, with traffic ringing like Christmas bells and sun pouring in the apartment like butterscotch. It's still not automatically known by many listeners that the Chelsea in "Chelsea Morning" is the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, where Mitchell lived for a while in her early career. While the song is strongly identified with Mitchell, Fairport Convention did a good version with a full folk-rock arrangement on their first album, and Neil Diamond did it on his early-'70s album Stones. To the more casual music fan, "Chelsea Morning" might ultimately be best known as the song which inspired American president Bill Clinton and his wife to name their daughter Chelsea.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Clouds 1969 Reprise 2:35
No Image 1970
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
Hits 1996 Reprise 2:35
3 for 1 Box Set 2000 Warner Music
The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons 2005
Various Artists
PIAS / Studio 65
The Studio Albums 1968-1979 2012 Rhino 2:35
Newport Folk Festival 19th July 1969 Keyhole Records 3:16
Night in the City: Radio Broadcast 1968 Laser Media / Music Video Distribution 3:23
blue highlight denotes editor's pick