Cover Versions

Big Yellow Taxi

Big Yellow Taxi

Song: Big Yellow Taxi
Artists: Counting Crows ft Vanessa Carlton
Original artist: Joni Mitchell


Big Yellow Taxi is one of many songs that have enjoyed a revival thanks to being
featured in a movie soundtrack.
A couple of others I can think of off the top of my head are: Elton John’s 1972 single
Tiny Dancer which was played on the bus in Almost Famous (2000) and Hold on for
One More Day by Wilson Phillips in Bridesmaids (2011). WP’s 1990 track had earlier
featured in two films I’m not familiar with – Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)
and Whip It (2009).
Big Yellow Taxi was included in the 2002 film Two Weeks’ Notice which starred Hugh
Grant and Sandra Bullock.
The 1970 Mitchell song contains the oft repeated line “don’t it always seem to go that
you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. It was a neat fit with the film’s plot as
Bullock plays a lawyer trying to stop a Coney Island community centre from her
childhood being knocked down to make way for Grant’s property development.

Mitchell wrote the song during a trip to Hawaii in which she looked out of her hotel
window to admire the mountains in the distance only to be greeted with a giant tarmac
carpark spoiling the landscape immediately outside.
The song reached No 67 in the US and No 11 in the UK. It also featured on the critically
lauded Ladies of the Canyon album.
The Counting Crows’ cover fared slightly better in the US at No 42 and almost matched
the UK ranking, hitting No 13. It was the only time they charted in the UK.
The Crows’ video features the Coney Island boardwalk referred to in the movie.
Vanessa Carlton doesn’t get much of a look-in.
Sadly, not everyone appreciated the Crows’ version. One publication, The Village Voice,
for example, rated it the worst song of the 2000s. Stealing directly from the lyrics, it said
the Crows’ cover had paved paradise (i.e. Mitchell’s version) and put up a parking lot.
NME also panned it as did Ultimate Classic Rock which included it in its Terrible Classic
Rock Covers series. Bit harsh, but each to his or her own! Judge for yourself…

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