In an interview given from her home in Los Angeles at the age of 71, Joni recalls the story of how she ended up in Matala following a painful break-up from her then-boyfriend, British singer-songwriter Graham Nash:
In Greece, Penelope and I spent the first few days in Athens. I didn’t think I looked like a hippie, but I definitely didn’t look Greek. My fair hair made me stand out … my hair seemed to offend people, mostly men, who called out with a big grin on their faces, ‘Sheepy, sheepy, Matala, Matala.’ I asked around about the phrase and was told it meant, ‘Hippie, hippie, go to Matala in Crete. That’s where your kind are.’
A few days later, Penelope and I were on a ferry to see what Matala was all about … Most of the hippies who had traveled there slept in small caves carved into the cliff on one side of the beach.
After we arrived, Penelope and I rented a cinder-block hut in a nearby poppy field and walked down to the beach. As we stood staring out, an explosion went off behind us. I turned around just in time to see this guy with a red beard blowing through the door of a cafe. He was wearing a white turban, white Nehru shirt and white cotton pants. I said to Penelope, ‘What an entrance—I have to meet this guy.’ … He was American and a cook at one of the cafes. Apparently, when he had lit the stove, it blew him out the door. That’s how Cary [Raditz] entered my life—ka-boom.
Cary, of course is the man behind the well-known song, “Carey”[sic] that appeared on one of Joni’s most critically acclaimed albums, “Blue” in 1971. Have a listen to it here:
The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn’t sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it’s really not my home
My fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne
Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe and I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down
Let’s have another round for the bright red devil
Who keeps me in this tourist town
The night is a starry dome.
And they’re playin’ that scratchy rock and roll
Beneath the Matala Moon…
Many more images of Matala here: The Hippie Caves of Matala that housed Joni Mitchell
Messy Nessy Chic, the blog from whence the above story was acquired, is a wonderful and fascinating rabbit hole that will make time disappear as you follow Nessy’s explorations of the world. Here is a start you might enjoy.