Steamroller / Steamroller Blues


Song Origin

Here is JT’s explanation for “Steamroller” as transcribed from the 1970 JT/Joni Mitchell BBC radio show:

We played this eight-month long gig at a place called the Night Owl Cafe down in Greenwich Village in New York. It used to be a McDougal and Third, but it might have moved since then. I don’t know. Anyhow, at that time there were a lot of so-called blues groups in New York City, you know? And they were making a lot of noise with electric guitars and amplifiers that their parents had bought them for Christmas and birthdays and stuff. Their idea of soul was volume. They’d just crank it up, you know? And they were singing all these heavy songs like “I’m a Man” or “I’m a Jackhammer” or “I’m a Steamship” … whatever … “I’m the Queen Mary” [laughter] … “I’m a Ton of Bricks.”

And we weren’t to be left out of all this. So I wrote this next song, which is the heaviest blues tune I know, ladies and gentlemen … called “I’m a Steamroller.”

[Listen to the audio version]

Fans who hadn’t heard JT’s explanation probably couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but they loved it regardless. Now, more than four decades later, the song is a permanent fixture of JT’s perennial live shows and the only live performance on 1976’s enormous-selling “Greatest Hits.”