Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For a Song: Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire

Joni Mitchell: Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire


You can call me innocent, or naïve if you like, but I always loved this song without knowing what it was about. Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire presents a fairly ugly reality, and a figure appears who offers release into an alternate reality. I always got that. The music has a sensual feel, making the offer appealing, but there is also a sense of danger. I could not have articulated this at age 16, when I first heard the song, but the “lady of release” seemed to me to be a supernatural being who was enticing the listener to embark on a journey to the underworld. The victim, or recipient of this gift, depending on how you look at it, might emerge better or worse from the journey, but would certainly be irrevocably changed.

Now, I can see that the song is about heroin addiction. Much of the language that I thought was figurative is meant literally. Both the allure and the danger are very real. And the journey is one the traveler may well not survive. But come to think of it, was I really that far off?

I should note that I have never so much as tried heroin, or even many other drugs. I do not mean to judge anyone else or the choices they have made when I say this. I got a bad scare when I was too young to have gotten into drugs, and it wound up keeping me safe. Otherwise, I cannot say that I would have done better than anyone else.


nan said...

Gotta say, I was with you on this. I listened at an age much before I understood what was really being sung about. I had interpreted the lyrics much in the same way - temptation - figurative. Fever in the scum brown bowl - now there is a line I won't ever forget.