Duet for Two Insane Altos

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt


Dawn and I were fast friends in our little redneck high school, and music was our common ground. I suppose we needed some, given our differences. Dawn was of a volatile blend of Italian and Irish stock, which made for riotous dinners amid a constant familial roar—and my first meal of homemade pasta and red sauce served with raucous nonchalance, while Dawn hid behind her discomfort. I came from Southern pabulum laced with eccentricity—social introductions were made in hierarchical order and there were no elbows on our table at which we dined with oh-so interesting foreigners on cheap caviar and raw steak.

As Dawn’s house was sweet succor to me, so mine was to her, but neither of us could stand her own tribe, leaving us no mutual escape, at least not inside.

Instead, we spent much of our time together riding the back roads of Morris County, windows rolled down, wind in our hair, crooning to Joni Mitchell a cappella. Her Court and Spark album had been released my junior year, Dawn’s senior, and Joni’s lyrics carried us into the jazzily ethereal world of free men in Paris, the Empire Hotel lounge, ladies in lacey sleeves, men who made friends easily, dancing up rivers in the dark, feeling unfettered and alive.

But it was singing Twisted that drew our essential blood, binding us in sisterhood forever.

Because we were twisted, the two of us, oh yeah, twisted, we were. Or so we wished. Hoped. Yearned to be.

Unlike Joni’s other songs, in which she deigned to wait for a man, feared she was falling too fast, knew she was in trouble, hoped to be sparked, distrusted them yet still acted kind, Dawn and I, we wanted to be ruthless, wild bitches, and Twisted allowed us that. Twisted allowed us to flaunt parents and band practice, analysts and preachers.  We didn’t have to listen to anyone’s jive. We could create our own. And we did.

While our parents intoned our many failures to perform as young ladies, with all our crazy ideas about college — or not — about virginity — or not — about being nuts — or not — we knew we were crazy. Our own kind of crazy, and Twisted was our anthem. The national anthem of Dawn and Kit-Bacon. A duet for two insane altos.

But it was our kind of insanity, stoked by pot and screeching wheels that left manure spraying in our wake. The kind of crazy that drew us to the farmer’s son, the one with orgasmic eyes, slung like a bull and just a little bit alcoholic; that drew us to the pockmarked thug, the one with tears in his eyes and fear in his heart; that drove us careening around them to the train station in wild search of art in Manhattan.

And we found it. There. And in each other. Because, as Joni sang, we knew we were geniuses, knew there were much worse things than drivers missing from the top of double-decker buses. There were things that could hurt us, crush us, ruin us. But we could drive faster and sing louder, and we would survive them.

Sure, they could laugh at us, they could lock up the liquor, they could take away our keys, but they couldn’t make us cross our legs at the ankles. Because we were, indeed, Twisted.

Love, K-B


By Annie Ross and Wardell Grey, recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1974

My analyst told me That I was right out of my head The way he described it He said I'd be better dead than live I didn't listen to his jive I knew all along That he was all wrong And I knew that he thought I was crazy but I'm not Oh no

My analyst told me That I was right out of my head He said I'd need treatment But I'm not that easily led He said I was the type That was most inclined When out of his sight To be out of my mind And he thought I was nuts No more ifs or ands or buts

They say as a child I appeared a little bit wild With all my crazy ideas But I knew what was happening I knew I was a genius... What's so strange when you know That you're a wizard at three I knew that this was meant to be

Now I heard little children Were supposed to sleep tight That's why I got into the vodka one night My parents got frantic Didn't know what to do But I saw some crazy scenes Before I came to Now do you think I was crazy I may have been only three But I was swinging

They all laugh at angry young men They all laugh at Edison And also at Einstein So why should I feel sorry If they just couldn't understand The idiomatic logic That went on in my head I had a brain It was insane Oh they used to laugh at me When I refused to ride On all those double-decker buses All because there was no driver on the top

My analyst told me That I was right out of my head But I said dear doctor I think that it's you instead Because I have got a thing That's unique and new To prove it I'll have The last laugh on you 'Cause instead of one head I got two And you know two heads are better than one

© 1965 Prestige Music