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Monday, 28 September 2015
Janis Joplin: Surviving TV Clips 1967-1970
And I said woah woah woah the AAA Youtube Janis Joplin is now up and running! Considering that Janis only lived for twenty-seven years and her music was only put on film for four of those years, this is actually a much longer and more complete list than I'd been expecting. Of course it helps that Big Brother and the Holding Company were one of the more prolific San Francisco bands when it comes to taking up invites from TV networks. It helps too that Janis was the go-to girl whenever the media wanted to do a story on a female singing rock and roll. And of course helped incredibly that Janis and her band's act was so visual: it's not just the audio of the 'Monterey' pop performance that captured hearts and minds but the visuals too: can all that noise passion energy and blues really be coming out of that lone white chick standing at the front? It also helped that Janis was about as articulate a rock star as they come, with unusually for us almost as many interviews in this list as there are performances. That's especially true of her final year when she became interviewer Dick Cavett's favourite guest (and he her most favourite interviewer), being placed in the mix of panels full of such disparate characters as comedy troupe The Committee and two very different feminist film stars Gloria Swanson and Raquel Welch. Though to be honest Cavett could have thrown her on with anybody and Janis would have held her own.
Alas official Janis Joplin DVDs haven't been quite as generous and there's disappointingly few of these clips commercially available: the Monterey and Woodstock films exist in part of course and those Cavett shows are now out, though only as part of a three disc 'Rock Icons' set. The rest, sadly, remains officially unseen to date. However it does exist and can be seen in the dustier corners of the globe if you're patient or youtube if you're not and to help with that process we've put together our own series of 30 AAA youtube playlists where you can find most of what's on this list
(https://www.youtube.com/user/AlansArchives) It's free to use - so why not give us a 'follow' and come and say 'hello' while scrolling through our 'Janis' playlist? (You can also have a look at our six Alan's Album Archives videos while you're there!)
Rather than merely ignore these clips - which may after all come out in the future - we've listed everything here that's known to exist somewhere and which I have seen with my very own eyes. Now despite the length of this list it's quite possible that more may be out there that I haven't seen. In fact more Janis videos seem to keep cropping up all the time - I've had my eyes peeled for years and still get surprised by the odd new discovery just when I think I must surely have found everything she did in her short life by now. So unfortunately I doubt this is a complete list - however everything in this list is known to exist (the criteria being that I have to have seen it with my own eyes rather than reading it off a list of recordings). Please note too that while this list is as close to chronological order as I can work out, a few entries might be slightly the wrong way round (though we've got a nice lot of fat juicy dates for most of these recordings, which does make my life easier with this book than some of the others, I can tell you). Anyway, it's a good list - not the longest in our AAA books by any means, but long considering how little space there was for Janis to make her mark and high on quality as well as quantity. So without further ado here's everything Janis did that we know about in the three years and months between April 1967 and August 1970 where she made her mark.
1) Come Up The Years: KQED ('Down On Me' 'Coo Coo' 'Hall Of The Mountain King' 'Blow My Mind' 'Ball and Chain' 'Light Is Faster Than Sound' 'Harry' US TV Filmed November 1966, Screened April 1967)
San Franciscan TV station KQED must have been a lot hipper than any of my local TV stations because they're forever cropping up in this list with clips of local bands before they were household names. And that's not all - Big Brother must be unique in our pantheon of AAA stars for having a starring role in their first TV feature - a thirty-six minute starring role no less. Remember Big Brother haven't had a record out yet, Monterey is still two months away (although modern prints do add 'Ball and Chain' and the more rarely seen 'Combination Of The Two' to the end) and the ink is still drying on the first recording contract and yet we're already being treated to the most astonishing performance. To be honest it's a shock Janis wasn't a star right here and now, with a performance that knock spots off the rather tentative other 1967 performances (Monterey aside) Though Janis at times looks less than sure of the camera and Sam has an uncomfortable habit of hopping from side to side as he sings, Big Brother are already a very visual band who know just what they're doing. All the tracks purr along nicely with added power to 'Down On me', a fade in to an extended and less trippy 'Light Is Faster Than Sound' and an elongated opening to 'Coo Coo' that's already growing closer towards the superior re-make 'Oh Sweet Mary' Incidentally Janis is very much not the star here - the handsomely sideburned Sam gets at least as many leads and she even leaves the stage during 'Mountain King' - but the camera already loves her whether she's pulling faces in the background or shaking maracas fit to burst. While everything in the setlist was at the time unreleased, note the presence of two tracks that are forever doomed to stay that way: a rather over-ambitious rock attempt at the classical 'Hall Of The Mountain King' (which The Who did rather better) and the Peter Albin song 'Blow My Mind' that's more something The Animals would do than the band's usual material. Full set list: 'Down On Me' 'Coo Coo' 'Hall Of The Mountain King' 'Blow My Mind' 'Light Is Faster Than Sound' with some more modern copies adding the Monterey performances of 'Ball and Chain' and 'Combination Of The Two' and a rehearsal take of 'Piece Of My Heart'). There's a bit of a grey area over whether the DVD of this show (padded out with some entertaining extras made up of various interview clips of the band) is 'official' or not - it's official enough to appear in various legal websites (including Amazon) for purchase, but not official enough to be part of the band's online discographies.
2) Monterey Pop Festival ('Ball and Chain' 'Combination Of The Two' Live US June 1967)
Sadly the definitive Big Brother performance was never taped: at first many San Francisco acts were rarely of the Monterey festival and were cynical about just what everyone's motives were - especially the video cameras set up on stage without permission. A row with Big Brother's manager and director D A Pennebaker meant that the cameraman got booted off the stage - to be honest the director probably didn't care and never expected to hear of the unheard of band again. However when the band were the big success story of the festival the band got at their hapless manager (losing him his job at the process) and the director got mad at them for the lost opportunity; instead a compromise was made whereby Big Brother would return the following night - the last of the festival - to perform two numbers with the cameras rolling. Big Brother give a far less intense performance this time around - this 'Combination Of The Two' is awful, quite different to the storming version played the night before, which might be why only extracts of this track have ever come to light (on the KQED DVD outlined above); however 'Ball and Chain' is still great to have footage of, even if it is a less intense performance. The sheer joy on Janis' face as she hears the crowd and knows yesterday wasn't just a one-off is a joy to behold. Not quite the moment in history everyone thinks it is, but still great to have. You can see 'Ball and Chain' in the official 'Monterey Pop' film by the way, where it's amongst the stand out tracks, another film long overdue for a decent DVD re-release.
3) Wake At Generation (Martin Luther King Memorial, April 1968 'Catch Me Daddy' 'Piece Of My Heart' 'Down On Me' 'Summertime')
Clearly not holding the Monterey fiasco against them, Big Brother also played a starring role in D A Pennebaker's next much anticipated project: a now sadly forgotten recording of Martin Luther King's memorial concert at the New Generation Club. Surprisingly Big Brother were the only AAA band asked to play and apart from Joni Mitchell were the only 'white' acts who took part (Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens and Buddy Guy were the other headliners). It's a cracking show when seen complete, unfairly forgotten in the year in between Monterey and Woodstock and senselessly has yet to be made commercially available after a brief cinema screening on the year of release (youtubers might want to try the phrase 'comin' home' alongside 'big brother' and 'Martin Luther King' - that's the 'alternative' title sometimes used). Despite being a wake the mood is defiantly upbeat, all the musicians loving the fact that they're able to cross boundaries and come together to play for a great cause and Janis is on particularly great form, at one stage playing air guitar alongside the band when they play. The band are at the very end of a gruelling tour - their penultimate as it happened - which might explain the party atmosphere. 'Down On Me' is perhaps the best of Big Brother's set, played much slower and yet with an extra little adrenalin kick that makes this version quite different to all the others doing the rounds, with the middle eight 'Believe in your brother, have faith in man, help each other honey if you can' especially poignant tonight. Finally look out for some rare behind-the-scenes clips near the end of Big Brother's segment as the band sit around checking the footage back and looking ten million times more serious than when they were playing it.
4) Hollywood Palace ('Summertime' 'I Need A Man To Love' US TV October 1968)
By now a subtle change has taken place: whereas the KQED special had Janis far left and sometimes cut out of the camera altogether by now she's centre-stage and the director barely allows us to take our eyes off her. As well he might: she's on great form for this mini-gig, but then so are the band with Sam and James playing a miraculous duet on 'Summertime' whilst standing right next to each other despite never glancing at the other once (this leaves Janis looking bored at her front staring them out). It's a rare live performance of 'I Need A Man' that's the true gem, however, with a funkier Peter Albin bass line throughout and a noisier, angrier James Gurley solo at the start and middle. Janis is just mesmerising, scat singing her way through the climax in the middle eight and ad libbing a whole extra verse ('Woah there's just gotta be some kind of answer, although everywhere I look child it's nowhere'). The backdrop by the way is middle aged middle America's idea of psychedelia, with random strips of coloured felt, but at least they're trying I suppose. Excellent, even if the cracks are beginning to show. By the way this was the second show Big Brother performed on Variety Show 'Hollywood Palace' - the first came earlier in the year when they performed 'Down On me', but if this film does exist I haven't been able to track it down just yet.
5) Ed Sullivan Show ('Raise Your Hand' 'Maybe' US TV March 1969)
Although Big Brother never appeared on America's biggest music show, the Kozmik Blues Band did. Janis performs slightly ragged performances of two of her current live favourites while the Ed Sullivan director gets as closer to psychedelia as any middle-aged director on a family show can, with lots of peculiar flashing lights and phasing so that for good portions of the performance Janis appears to be duetting with an anti-matter version of herself (seriously - it's the effect from Dr Who story 'Planet Of Evil' five years early). Not that you really need it as it's not one of Janis' greatest moments but you can see both songs on the following overpriced Ed Sullivan compilations: 'A Really Big Show - Ed Sullivan's 50th' 'The Best Of Ed Sullivan' and 'Rock and Roll Classics' (the 5 DVD version will do by the way, though Janis is also on the 12 DVD version).
6) Live In Frankfurt ('Raise Your Hand' 'Try' 'Maybe' 'Me' 'Summertime' 'Ball and Chain' 'Piece Of My Heart' German Concert March 1969)
Janis is eager to get started, dispensing with the opening messages in a garbled voice before concluding that 'there's no point telling half of you to sit down so why don't you all stand up?' and frequently ordering the crowd 'let's go!' The performance is similarly blistering though a little rushed and every song seems a little too fast tonight without giving Janis as full a chance to show off her range. 'Maybe' is a pretty good version though which suits the slightly ramshackle tone of the concert while a now moustachiod Sam Andrew performs perhaps his last great guitar solo on 'Summertime' - in keeping with the style of the gig it's played somewhere near double time. Perhaps more interesting than the rather predictable and noisy concert, though, is the interview in the middle where Janis tried hard to keep a straight face through a Swedish presenter's painfully translated English. First Janis is asked how she copes with the sudden fame and a look of worry goes past her face before she talks about her need to 'be real' and nervously adds 'I'm you know...trying..to do that' and that she 'refuses to let the camera force it's game on me'. She seems less than sure though and her nervous laughter gives her real unease away while she really lets her guard down when talking about the media who she refers to as 'bloodsuckers...it kind of offends me as a human being, they're not interested in you they don't even like you' and seems particularly hart by Rolling Stone's review of 'Kozmik Blues'.
7) SVT ('Piece Of My Heart' 'Summertime' 'Raise Your Hand' 'Work Me Lord' Swedish TV March 1969)
The Kozmik Blues Band can barely fit inside the tiny Swedish TV studio on Janis' latest appearance, one of her best with a real twinkle in her performance. The band have clearly been working hard on new material and turn in the only known live performance of 'Work Me, Lord', an intense performance that has Sam playing snarling bits of guitarwork all over the song. The biggest change though is to Sam Andrew, who has now grown a beard. 'Work Me Lord' is easily the highlight but the other performances are strong, with a fiery 'Piece Of My Heart', a slightly less frenetic 'Raise Your Hand' and a 'Summertime' with an extended trumpet fanfare opening. There's also a priceless interview in which Janis discusses her early years, laughing as he recalls her mother assuming she'd grow up to be a teacher and the magical experience of hearing the blues for the first time. Best quotes: 'I went back to Port Arthur once...it's a bummer man, I won't be going back again!' and in reply to 'Do you have an explanation to why you're so popular?' 'Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!' Sadly none of these clips are yet available officially.
8) Dick Cavett Show #1 ('To Love Somebody' 'Try' US TV July 1969)
'The only way I can sing is that I shut my eyes and all these other things that don't really fit into polite conversation come out' 'Can I teach you to snorkel?' 'Later' Sadly the first Janis appearance on her favourite show is long missing believed wiped, but thankfully the other three exist. Introduced as 'the first female superstar of rock music', at last after seven rollercoaster TV appearances Janis has someone willing to listen, ask her the right questions and take her seriously - and just watch how she blossoms. Interestingly she says that the European audiences over-intellectualise her music instead of getting on down to it - we quite agree, see our other 200 odd pages analysing just why this is ho ho! Janis talks about hitting the music instead of sitting on top of it like some 'chick singers', strangely ducks the question about reading (she just laughs at the idea of reading Dickens - actually she was a huge reader) and speaks about the downside of being alone on the road. Despite laughing off the idea of joining a convent, Janis sounds wistful talking about what she might go on to do after music - which sadly was never to be. While talking with Michael Douglas Janis again lets slip her hatred for the music press (They write pages about how this guy was using the Schoenberg technique and all he was doing was going 'shooby dooby' man!') Janis also plugs Tina Turner to a studio that clearly haven't heard of her yet (Dick is clueless but still adds 'come by the studio, Tina!' She'll do exactly that in October 1972). Additionally Janis shows off her comedic side in a rather odd sketch with one of Dick's other guests The Committee (billed as 'an instant revue' - think improvisatory show 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' without the laughs). Janis is asked (eventually) to portray the emotion 'frustration'. Which is kinda frustrating - I was hoping she'd get the audience suggestion 'soul'. Both song performances are excellent too, with 'To Love Somebody' every bit as powerful as the record and 'Try' even funkier - in fact this may well be the Kozmik Blues Band's finest hour (well, ten minutes). In the ever changing face of Sam Andrew, he now has long sideburns for those keeping score. Overall an excellent little show. Along with the other two Cavett shows in this list, Janis' appearances can be found on disc two of the three DVD set 'The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons' (2005)
9) Woodstock ('Try' 'Can't Turn You Loose' 'Work Me Lord' 'Ball and Chain' US Concert August 1969)
Janis' biggest crowd didn't have quite the same impact on her career as her second biggest at Monterey and her set was considered something of a disappointment at the time (she was even cut out of the original film, although thankfully this was repaired on the 'Director's Cut' where she performs a glorious version of 'Work Me, Lord'. 'Try' and 'Ball and Chain' both appeared on 25th anniversary documentary 'Woodstock Diaries'. Sadly not all of Janis' set seems to be recorded, although 'Can't Turn You Loose' has also appeared on bootleg). The 'Director's Cut' in particular makes a big deal out of this being one of Janis' last performances and treats the performance to all sorts of sombre silhouettes and parlour tricks but while this suits the intensity of set highlight 'Work Me Lord', actually Janis is on fine and frisky form across the set. Admittedly the Kozmik Blues Band are no Big Brother and hearing the two 'Ball and Chains' back to back reveals how much more 'normal' the song gradually became - however I still think this show is an under-rated one that gets too much of a bad deal. Janis is energetic and does exactly what she needs to do in the songs and is especially good on her mid-song improvisations on 'try' and 'Work Me, Lord'. Alas though her more melancholic vibe in 1969 was just in too different a direction to the Woodstock crowd of love and flowers and they just didn't take to her. The one part of this gig that does seem to register with the fans, though, is when Janis tells them 'If you're getting more shit than you deserve then you know what to do about it man...we should all remember and that goes for promoters too hat music is just music, and music's supposed to be different from that...' (This sequence actually takes place at the beginning before 'Try' but as it was the most talked bit about Janis' show its been re-edited to appear before the performances on the two official DVDs as well).
10) The Music Scene ('Maybe' 'Try' US TV October 1969)
Janis and band play down a little walkway while the audience goes nuts as if it's 1967 all over again. Perhaps that's because it's a rare home visit after so long away touring in Europe. Sadly Janis isn't quite as big and wild as the crowd clearly want her to be - she looks tired and fed up, perhaps because right hand man Sam Andrew has given up and gone home back to Big Brother (this is almost the end of the road for the Kozmik Bluesers too). Michael Cole of Mod Squad is the guest host - and manages to get through the whole album title correctly, which is more than most of the 'professionals' of the day did! Sadly not available officially.
11) This Is Tom Jones ('Raise Your Hand' 'Little Girl Blue' UK TV December 1969)
Tom Jones' Show became legendary for excess and fakeness - not something Janis ought to fit in with. But he seems genuinely in awe of Joplin's talent and she in turn offers up one of her better performances of the troubled year of 1969, really letting loose and going as over-the-top as we ever see her post Big Brother. A rare live performance of 'Little Girl Blue' is nicely done, even if the Kozmik Bluesers are a little too busy in places, while the duet with Tom on 'Raise Your Hand' quickly becomes a fun shouting match (she wins, of course, but not by much). Both are fun clips, with 'Raise Your Hand' officially available on the 3DVD set of Tom's show 'This Is Tom Jones' (2007).
12) Festival Express ('Cry Baby' 'Tell Mama' Film Recorded 1970 Released 2004)
'I finally met someone who could throw a better party than me! Next time you throw a train invite me!' The madness of it: a party on wheels, with the Grateful Dead and the Kozmik Blues Band and various support acts all crammed together on a tiny train travelling up and down the country and sometimes doing the odd gig too if they don't get so wasted, although most of the best performances seemed to happen on board judging by the material shot. Sadly the film never did come out at the time but it makes a nice souvenir some 35 years on when so many of those who took part are long gone. It is in fact the last footage we have of Janis performing outside rather than in a TV studio. By the time we see Janis on the film she's at the end of the tour and seems to be coming apart at the seams. Janis is sweating buckets from the moment the band hit the stage and acts as if standing up is a struggler - given some of the backstage antics known to be happening at the time she probably was. The trouble is, Janis at her best has a whole range to offer but this show starts off with the hoarse scream of 'Crrrrrrrry Baby' and doesn't let up from there on. Still, Janis' rambling raps, which are now appearing mid-song, are hilarious: 'You're wondering where your life is? It's wondering like a Goddamn fool for you right here man, you're going to wake up and say 'good lord' I just looked at the empty double bed with no silk sheets and though want am I doing in Casablanca man and thought just like the Capricorn I am I'll just be waiting there man...' Perhaps the most telling part of the film is Janis' farewell presents for the stage crew and organisers: 'The model train is for remembering, man, and this box of tequila is for continuing!'
13) Dick Cavett Show #2 ('Move Over' 'Get It While You Can' US TV July 1970)
Janis was really slowing down her TV appearances across 1970 (though no doubt she'd have done more to support 'Pearl' had she lived) but still made room in her schedule for her favourite chat show host. An interesting line-up of guests puts Janis on against model/film star Raquel Welch (the pair get on quite well in an opposites kind of a way) and film actor Douglas Fairbanks Jnr (whoalso gets on surprisingly well). Janis is dressed with a purple feather boa sticking out her dyed green and red hair and tires quickly - a point Dick picks up on, with Janis admitting that it takes her a couple of songs to get going - and then she can't stop. Janis is in flirty mood, telling him 'you're clearly a swinger - just look at your shoes!' Sample dialogue: 'Janis, I hear you pulled a muscle somewhere near Maryland' 'Oh it was closer to home than that man!' Most movingly Janis sings about wanting to go back to her High School reunion and asks Dick if he wants to come too ('But I don't have that many friends in your high school class!' 'I don't either' she quips right back at him) and admits she's going to 'laugh a lot' back at her friends 'after 'they laughed m out of class, out of town, out of the state'. Alas it all goes wrong and they still laugh when she goes back In August - in many ways it's the last straw. Later with Raquel Janis discusses that 'everybody needs to be loved - how can you get tired of fans, of someone who loved you?!' Janis also plus her favourite author F Scott Fitzgerald and mentions that she identified a lot with his character Zelda. As for the music, 'I can't hear ya!' screams Janis at the start of 'Move Over' but we can hear here alright - and how! Cleverly 'Get It While You Can' shows off the other side of Janis' range and is another special performance with Janis staring straight into the camera and pouring out her heart and soul in every word. By the way note how quickly the musicians are asked to speak after singing on this show without even an ad beak in between. Like the other two Cavett shows you can find this one on 'The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons' (2005)
14) Dick Cavett Show #3 ('Half Moon' 'My Baby' Interview US TV August 1970)
'Very nice to see you my beautiful songbird!' Janis' last TV show comes a mere eight weeks before her death and features another unusual line-up that pits her up against Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson (this time the pair really don't get on, until they discuss clothes strangely enough, although Janis calling her a 'silver tongued devil' at the start probably doesn't help). Cavett's jokes - and suits - are getting worse ('I wore my hip jacket for you' 'You did? Are you sure?') but as he gets to know Janis more he gets to ask her the sort of questions nobody else does. Janis talks about a near-riot in Philadelphia where a policeman over-reacted to a fan trying to leap up on stage and kiss her (how did Janis know this was what she wanted to do by the way?), talks about her limousine (she sits in the front seat - the back is too plush for her) and, erm, admits that she's never water-skiied ('Did you get up?' 'That's what they always ask isn't it?!') After the break Janis pleads for a case of the purple sunglasses the host is trying to plug and sticks up for music festivals 'because there haven't been that many riots really' - alas the murder at Altamont is only four months away. Janis is most interesting discussing censorship with Gloria and the changing fashions of what's allowed in which era - Swanson's rather odd comment that today's hippies are a 'pale imitation' of what went on in her day is answered by the comment 'why don't the people upstairs realise that the kids are always crazy in any time?!') As for the music, 'Half Moon' is ragged and raw which actually suits the demented rocker a lot more than the 'Pearl' studio version even if the lead guitar is so hard you can't actually hear much of the famous riff and (in between the curtain not keeping up - 'I can't reach my band, man!') - a blistering 'My Baby' where Janis looks ready to drop to be honest. Another great little show, which can once again be found on 'The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons' (2005)
And, alas, that's that - all far far too soon. What other gems would we have had on this page had Janis lived, eh? Alas we'll never know what she might have gone on to do. Still, fifteen excellent clips from four years in the limelight is pretty good odds. Join us for more things Janisy next week!