Joni Mitchell’s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” Demos

I’m working on a couple larger projects at the moment which I should be able to announce soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a very rare recording I found on Big O Magazine’s always-excellent ROIO of the Week (Recordings of Indeterminate Origin).

These are the unreleased demos from Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, one of my favorite albums ever. Unlike the lush arrangements found on the album, these early versions are stripped down to only piano, and acoustic guitar. It’s like Hissing of Summer Lawns in the style of Blue or For the Roses. At the time of its 1975 release, The Hissing of Summer Lawns was panned by critics unhappy with her shift towards jazz/folk/rock fusion. I doubt they would’ve complained if these demos were the final cuts.

The Seeding of Summer Lawns

01. Harry’s House/Centerpiece
02. Edith and the Kingpin
03. In France They Kiss on Main Street
04. Sweet Bird
05. Shade of Scarlett Conquering
06. Shadows and Light
07. Dreamland (later released on Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter)
08. The Boho Dance
09. Hunter (unreleased demo from Blue sessions)

As I mentioned, I found these on Big O Zine. That site is an odd cookie, the web presence of a long-running music magazine in Singapore with no less than four active domain names that redirect to each other in strange ways. The navigation is obscure and each page on the massive site is created manually in Dreamweaver, so it feels like a throwback to online zines from the mid-1990s. There’s no homepage for the ROIO of the Week, so your best bet is finding the most recent ROIO of the Week on the homepage and skimming the hand-edited list of archives from there.

But man, what a resource. Not confining themselves to just live bootlegs, Big O posts demos, alternate studio sessions, and other extreme rarities from classic and current artists. (For example, Steely Dan’s Royal Scam Outtakes, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball outtakes, Barry Gibb’s unreleased 1970 album, Jeff Buckley’s Grace outtakes, and Janis Joplin’s 1964 audition tapes.) But you need to be quick: they’re usually removed within a week or two. The Joni bootleg was removed from their site, but this is so great, I’m giving it a permanent home so it can be heard by a wider audience.

Update: I’ve updated the links to point to this playlist of fan-remastered versions on YouTube.


    Wow. The most beautiful, moving Joni stuff I’ve heard in a long time. Thank you. You made my night.

    Thanks! I was wondering if you also have a permanent home for Jeff Buckley’s Grace outtakes? I see that I can email bigO if I want to download them, so I might do that if there is a way-of-less-hassle such as you having them.

    Thanks for posting. I enjoy seeing a “1” next to your name almost every day. Sometimes learning opportunities just fall in my lap.

    Let me repeat the most often word posted here: Wow. I’ve been waiting to hear “Hunter” from the Blue sessions for a long, long time. After listening, I can see that it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the intensely personal songs from that album, so I could see why they cut it … but that doesn’t mean I’m not really grateful to hear that song I’ve been curious about for so long. Thanks so much for posting it.

    Thank You for this Joni bootleg. I missed it on Big O and then messed up the Rapidshare.De Download on ‘Time Has Told Me’. So I am delighted to find you hosting it.


    Dr Debaser

    Thanks so much for these – I also missed them on Big O and have been trying to track them down for a while without much luck. Cheers!


    I love these! HISSING was my FIRST ever Joni album.

    It was original, amazing and classic then–and way ahead of it’s time–IT STILL IS!!


    First of all BIG THANKS for this. It’s a really wonderful gift from the TCPIP sea. “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” has a very special meaning for me. First time I listened it (during the seventies) I was quite young, going to secondary school and listening one of the first private radio here in Italy. The started their transmissions and soon were airing “In France They Kiss on Main Street”. So I discovered Joni from that album and started moving from the disco I liked so much (still now, BTW…) to some other genres, like the jazz (listen the italian group Perigeo, it has been the key, for me).

    After having listened many amnd many times “the hissing” plus many other works of Joni, it is really a surprise and a privilege to have the possibility to hear such a stellar artist on such stellar work from a different perspective.

    What else I can say? Thanks to you and all the people who made possible this.

    funny that you mentionned Jeff Buckley, Steely dan and Joni Mitchell, I got those from big o zine as well, and since i am looking from other stuff like this.

    I asked several time for their “lost gaucho” tracks from steely dan but they don’t release it anymore, do you have it ?




    Thanks for this great piece of the past. A good friend sent it and I am grateful to her…I need people like you to share magic like this with people like me. 🙂 Joni rules in my book whereever the heart is involved.

    Thanks so much – a lovely treat. Without the instrumentation these songs have a feel of Hejira.

    I ignored Joni for most of my life – I’m fourty-f***ing-five and only heard “Blue” properly about two years for “…Summer Lawns”,I heard the original album for the first time two weeks ago – pretty steep learning curve,huh?

    So anyway,I’m sure I’ll enjoy this very much..cheers,and thanks for pointing me in the direction of “Big O”.That and,of course,your blog,are two of my favourite new destinations this year 😉

    I love that album but much of it is on the live album Shadows And Light, with Jaco Pastorius and Pat Methene.

    The songs are so much better with Pastorius on bass.

    Thank you for finding and sharing this. I wish there were more of Joni’s demos available. Nice to see the process of a genius at work.

    You can thank me for these little gems. I got them as a cassette and transformed them unto a CD format. Yep, shared them with the world so you are most welcomed!

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