Monday, 12 October 2015

Janis Joplin: Non-Album Songs 1962-1970

You can read  more in 'Little Girl Blue - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Janis Joplin' available to buy in ebook form now by clicking here!

Non-Album Recordings Part #1:1962
'This is a song called [1] 'What Good Can Drinkin' Do?' which I wrote last night after drinking myself into a stupor...' And that's how the Janis Joplin legacy starts, with a song that while in many ways odd (Janis strums along solo to a celeste and still sings very much like a blues singer) is in many ways a pretty neat throw-forward to what's about to happen across these pages. The singer has been drinking, is annoyed that no one can keep up with her (as she 'started drinkin' Friday night before wakin' up a' Sunday and findin' nothin' right') but secretly wants something more out of life than to just knock it on the head with a bottle each weekend. This song, recorded at a party at a friend named John Riley's house, is pretty revolutionary now never mind what it must have sounded like in traditional Port Arthur, Texas, in 1962. It was an unusual girl who drank alcohol at the time never mind admitted to binge drinking and then listed the names of all the hard liquors as if trying to make her mind up - a long way from the ladylike neighbourhoods of the time (which was no doubt the whole point - there's often a delightful element of 'showing off' about Janis' early performances and that's very true of this early tour de force!) You have to say, though, Janis has much to show off already: her voice isn't quite there yet but it's already broken most of the rules of singing circa 1962 and the song is remarkably good for a singer whose all of nineteen years old, already with an authentic touch that makes it sound like a long lost blues classic. This Janis sounds like one to watch - once the hangover's come to an end anyway.  Find it on 'Janis' (box set 1993) and  'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Equally early and equally prescient is [ ] 'So Sad To Be Alone', another early recording from when Janis was nineteen and which features Janis accompanying herself on a celeste. It's about the most 'traditional' of all her recordings and she could easily pass for a 'proper' singer of the inter-war generation as she sings with a purr in her voice and far less power. However Janis is already a gifted interpreter, performing this oh so sad song with real pain and soul. You can tell that Janis isn't just singing this because she likes it - she's lived this song and only the desire to 'sing in darkened rooms' can bring any comfort. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
The first of five tracks recorded at Threadgrills' coffee house in Austin Texas and thus about as close to home to Port Arthur as Janis dared go. Is there an AAA band who didn't play [13] 'See See Rider' in their act at one time or another? This American standard from the 1920s has had everything done to it down the years - given a Merseybackbeat, a psychedelic makeover or an early 70s country lament and will indeed be popular enough to be lampooned in the chorus of Big Brother's own 'Easy Rider' a couple of years on down the line (this was one of the few songs both Big Brother and Janis had performed before they both met, though they never did perform it together). Janis' bluesy version is perhaps the closest to the original and suits her burgeoning voice and personality nicely as it purrs along drunkenly to this tale of debauchery and an 'easy ride' (ie a woman whose been around the block a few times). Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[14] 'San Francisco Bay Blues' features Janis and Steve Mann unconvincingly performing a duet as Janis tries to adopt a folk standard by Jesse Fuller to her louder blues style that really doesn't work. At least this version is short though and one up from the same writer's awful 'Monkey and the Engineer' - and the crowd seem to like it more than anything else played that day to be fair. Jorma, who plays some accompanying harmonica on this version, will later perform this song in a rather better arrangement with his Airplane off-shoot Hot Tuna. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[15] 'Winnin' Boy' is pronounced 'Whinin' Boy' and despite the masculine title features Janis singing the highest she ever did in her career. Not that she's feminine at all - this is pure unbridled blues aggression and Janis is right on the money on this performance, without the 'laidback' style so many singers erroneously think belongs in the blues. Janis must have liked this Jelly Roll Morton song because it appears on two of her demo tapes - the very high pitched version from local shows in Texas in 1962 and a slightly deeper but still rather shrill performance with Steve Mann and Jorma Kaukanen in 1964. This latter version especially is rather good, with Janis showing off just how authentically she was steeped in this music.   Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
A rare case of Janis actually singing one of her beloved idol Bessie Smiths' songs, it won't surprise you to learnt that [16] 'Careless Love' is about as authentically old-style blues as Janis ever comes.  In the song Janis becomes a serial killer, complaining about all the stress in her family's life that's caused her father to 'lose his mind' and killed her mother outright and reckoning that if everyone's doomed to die an undignified death she might as well shoot everyone she sees anyway. Polite applause suggests the concertgoers in this little Texas coffee house don't quite understand the song or Janis' passion about it, but it's a strong performance once again. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[17] 'I'll Drown In My Own Tears' doesn't sound much like Janis - I'm not sure whether it's the pitch or her original singing but she's several semitones higher than 'natural' on this recording - but this is very much the sort of song you can imagine the older Janis performing. A sweet Henry Glover it has much of the emotional impact and isolation that many of the Kozmik Blues era songs will have and its a shame in fact that Janis didn't revive it during this period as it would have sounded pretty good at the right pitch with horns. In fact this another of those Joplin performances that now sound downright eerie after her death: 'I know it's true that in this life a little rain is bound to fall, but it just keeps right on rainin' more and more'Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
The first of a run of two songs performed at San Jose Coffesshop in 1962 during a brief attempt to become a Peter Paul and Mary style folk trio (with old friend Jorma Kaukanen and Steve Mann plus Janis in an unlikely 'Mary' role), [ ] 'Honky Tonk Angel' is a humdrum blues most noticeable for the chat which reveals a nervier side to Janis' performing than expected from her later years. 'This is a sort of a blues but mainly it's hillbilly' Janis tells the crowd before discussing with her band what key the song its in ('I don't care...well how did we do it back there?...Well are we going to do it in 'D' or 'E'...What are we doing?!') The song itself doesn't really suit Janis, without much of a melody to go with she simply skewers the song with a vocal that's far too piercing and rather too high-pitched. Cliff Richard had the biggest hit with this song, before denouncing the track when he discovered that the title was local slang for a prostitute - that was the part that no doubt appealed about the song to Janis! Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Another song that sounds 'wrong' musically for Janis (its a retro understated country tune from yesteryear rather than loud and proud and now) yet thematically right (the wronged strong female wondering where her abusive partner has gone and seeking her revenge) [ ] 'Empty Pillow' is another step on the way to creating Janis' goodtime persona Pearl. Some nice mandolin playing from Jorma Kaukanen just about keeps the anonymous song moving along but the pure country angle isn't one that suits any of the trio that well. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
A Ruby Vass song dating back to the Victorian days, [ ] 'Gospel Ship' is a rare Janis interpretation of a Christian number, although she doesn't get that much to do here being mainly used as an occasional high harmony. Despite the title this is more folk than gospel with sturdy banjo picking that almpost makes up for the fact that the three vocalists seem to be singing three different songs.  Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Gus Cannon's [5] 'Stealin' was a popular early 60s blues song that isn't actually about thievery but about getting back on the booze again after a time of abstinence. No wonder the narrator needs a crutch of some sort - he's not having a happy life what with an unhappy marriage and an expensive habit to keep up. It's unusual to hear this song from a female perspective, not that Janis bothers to change it at all, and it's strangely the only blues song that she and her one time boyfriend Pigpen (of the Grateful Dead) have in common. The Dead performed it somewhat better but Janis still gives the song her all - it's her backing band that sound rooted to the spot. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Ma Rainer's [ ] 'Leavin' This Mornin' is perhaps a little obvious choice for the younger Janis to sing: it's a foot-stomper blues that features an unusually aggressive and assertive female role for the day. Over in the Grateful Dead camp it so screams of Pigpen (gambling, liquor and affairs)  it's a wonder he didn't sing it. Had Janis done this song later it might well have suited her voice - but alas she's still using the higher pitched shrill squeal that makes it rather hard for fans of her later work to listen to.  Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Another of the Texas coffeehouse tracks, [12] 'Daddy Daddy Daddy' is more authentic blues with Janis' piercing vocals adding much more life to the song than it had probably had in some time. Nobody seems to know who wrote this track, a simple tale of a girl so pleased to be going out with her 'daddy' (an older admirer) that she can't help saying his name, so it's probably an old traditional blues one the origins lost in the mists of time. Hard to believe the later Joplin would have identified with the song, though, in  which the girl is very much an accessory.   Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Class was a big part of the 1960s 'revolution', especially amongst hippie bands calling for peace and equality. Janis was in a tricky position though: she was middle bordering on upper class - it was her defection from the comfortable life mapped out from her that makes her story in particular so fascinating (even Big Brother weren't that poor by 1960s rock standards either - Dave had even to a prestigious art college, though all were low on funds by the time they met). It's odd, then, to hear a pre-fame Janis complain about 'being turned down in some bourgeoisie town' on Ledbelly's perennial favourite [ ] 'Bourgeois Blues' - especially given that the opposite was more true (coffee houses wondering why a girl with an accent that posh was hanging around singing the blues). To be honest Janis probably chose it for its 'ironic' racism verses anyway, the African-American Ledbelly adding that at least he's being turned down for his poverty rather than his race this time around, a verse usually cut from most readings of the song. Janis sounds a little bit more herself here than she has recently, perhaps because she's singing the blues, but she hasn't quite mastered the art of dymanics yet and sings the song at the same level more or less throughout.  Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
'You've probably heard me sing it because every time I sing I sing it'. Astonishingly [7] 'Black Mountain Blues' is the only time we ever get to hear Janis covering a song by her big idol Bessie Smith - although that said her opening speech is true, as at least five recordings of her singing this haunting piece exist. The narrator lives in an awful part of town where the men mess her around endlessly, the children 'will smack your face' and best of all even the birds are butch and 'sing bass'. Although written and performed half tongue-in-cheek you can hear a lot of the future Janis in this song and she gets better and more 'her' every time she plays it (in a Texas coffeehouse in 1962,  in an unknown San Francisco venue the same year, in a folk style for KPFA Radio in 1963, for an unknown jazz band in 1965, again for the Dick Oxtrot Jazz Band in 1965 and best of all for the 1965 Typewriter Tape).   Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[ ] 'Red Mountain Burgundy' is one of the obscurer of Janis' earliest recordings. It's so obscure, in fact, that even Janis don't know who wrote it - but as I can't find any outside reference to the song anyway and it has the same 'folk-blues' standard stylings as some of her other songs I'll join with them in saying that its 'probably' a Joplin original. Another 12 bar blues about how life so bad that only drinking works, it's interesting that the still very much upper class Janis had chosen to sing about Burgundy ('the only kinda wine that makes a fool out o' me'!) rather than Southern Comfort, the drink forever associated with her. It's good for a teenager but not as original as most of her later songs. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Only Janis would put a Christian anthem together in a medley with a rock and roll classic. [ ?] 'Medley: Amazing Grace-Hi Heeled Sneakers' is definitely one of the weirder covers in this book, a flat footed a capella rendition of the former making way for a stomping version of the Tommy Tucker classic. Janis isn't really built for either version, lacking the reverence of 'Grace' and the wit of 'Sneakers' and she sings both songs surprisingly 'straight' without the wit we know she was capable of (surely whoever first suggested doing these songs together was doing it for a laugh?) Find it on: 'Farewell Song' (1982) and 'The Ultimate Collection (1998)

Non-Album Recordings Part #2:1963
[3] 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' is more worthy but woeful stuff for a vocalist who has already found her path in the blues and will find an even more natural home in rock and roll but can't make a living so is trying to make ado as a folk singer instead. The result is like a tidal wave in a sleepy lagoon, as some wistful accordion and lazy laidback guitar is accompanied by Janis 'worrying' at every line. This Jack Rhodes/Dick Reynolds song does at least fit thematically with Janis' later songbook however, being a tale of no matter how broke or desperate she gets she'll never marry for money, just love. Other acts did this song better though - including the Grateful Dead.  Find it on 'Janis' (box set 1993) and  'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Big Bill Broonzy's [4] 'Mississippi River' is more like it, a laidback lazy blues where the river signified either a homecoming or death - either way a better path than the narrator is now travelling. Janis is joined by an unknown harmonica player on this one who all but steals the show. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Janis herself is credited for writing [6] 'No Reason For Livin', another original that could easily pass for a centuries-old blue song. It's one of her most overlooked songs, full of some truly poignant lyrics in light of what will happen ('I ain't got no reason for livin' but I can't find me no cause to die') or in light of what has happened with Janis off making her own way in the world despite her family's interests ('Well I ain't got no mama to love me - ain't got no father to care'). The melody might not be much (it's an early try out for 'Turtle Blues') but Janis has already got the world-weary sigh down pat. What a shame Big Brother never got their hands on this song as with their turbo boost it might have sounded brilliant instead of merely promising as it is here. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
This is radio station KPFA. We've got a bunch of folkies in funny clothes here in the studio - you don't know any of them yet and they barely know each other but they're a gonna busk their blues away for you. Not sure about that chick they've brought in with them though  - she just doesn't have a voice for this sort of thing and sounds like a witch about to cackle at any minute. I reckon she'd be much better with that blues troupe we had in a couple of days ago. The band played [ ] 'Columbus Stockade' and the guitarists were finger-pickin' good and it filled in five minutes while the DJ and his cat too a bathroom break and all y'all, but something just doesn't sound right somehow. How did Janis end up here singing bad Woody Gurthrie? Find it on: 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #3:1964
 [2] 'Trouble In Mind' too sounds much like the Janis we come to know and love - much more so than a lot of the other early songs. This one was recorded in 1964 as a 'demo' reel in the parental home of Jorma Kaukanen - later the guitarist in Jefferson Airplane and already a leading figure on the local music scene. The first of half a dozen blues songs recorded at this session, the tape has since become known as the 'Typrewriter Tape' due to the fact that Jorma commandeered his sister's bedroom to record in (the room with the best acoustics) but only if she could stay in the room typing out a letter to a pen-friend (which unfortunately has a tendency to be louder than even Jorma and Janis). The pair's friendship is a natural one, borne out of a feeling of being an 'outsider' in conservative Texan life (though born in the area Jorma has an unusual mixed Finnish and Russian background that labelled him as 'different') and a real love for the blues; I've always wondered how much greater the early Jefferson Airplane might have been with Janis in the band - or how more stable Big Brother would have been with Jorma's discipline. Sadly the pair lost touch early on but not before giving each other the encouragement to find their own style and just perform from the heart - of all the early tapes Janis makes this early on with Jorma is by far the best and the one where she's most 'herself'. That's particularly true of 'Trouble In Mind', written by jazz connoisseur Richard Jones but perfect for two hungry blues singers ready to make their mark, with Jorma having already got the 12 bar blues strut down pat and Janis learning how to blend and blur her notes and sing at full throttle without losing emotion. It is perhaps the best of the pre-professional Janis Joplin recordings out there. Find it on 'Janis' (box set 1993) and  'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
I'm willing to bet my collection of Dick Cavett shows that [18] 'Hesitation Blues' was Jorma's choice to record. The guitarist was obsessed by the Rev Gary Davis, who has much more of a sense of humour than Janis' favourites Bessie Smith and Big Bill Broonzy, and will go on to re-record this song for the first eponymous Hot Tuna album. It suits Jorma's languid tones a bit more than Janis, who struggles to contain her inner fire for the full recording, but this is another likeable song with the pair of blues fanatics clearly bonding. Even Jorma's sister seems to slow down her typing so she can listen! Find it on 'Janis' (box set 1993) and  'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Jimmy Cox's [ ] 'Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out'  must have struck a chord with Janis though - the tale of a millionaire born into a rich lifestyle who wanted for nothing, who squandered it all away and now would settle for just a bit of attention. It's a song about relative worth that must have appealed to the burgeoning hippie in Janis - and no doubt horrified her traditionalist parents. John Lennon loved the song too but felt it didn't go far enough, re-writing it as the scathing 'Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out' for his 1974 LP 'Walls and Bridges'.  Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[11] 'Kansas City Blues' might well be Janis finding that even though she's escaped the restriction of Texas she's no better off just two states up the road (you need to pass through Oklahoma to go from one to the other). Once again it's a song about being wronged by a man and plotting revenge, hoping for more luck over the border. Jim Jackson wrote the song in the 1920s and is name-checked in the song - perhaps Janis Joplin identified with the song because they shared the initials?! Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
The last of the 'Typewriter Tapes', [ ] 'Long Black Train Blues' doesn't give Janis as much of a role, instead handing a lengthy solo over to Jorma's capable hands. However this train song is eerily fitting too, a tale of death being a train that stalks the narrator after the death of two of her friends who went before their time - and cursing the fact that she's not allowed to take the same path just yet ('I watch the headlights shinin' far as my eyes could see, wonderin' why that someone never sent for me'). Sadly one other song from this 'Typewriter Tape' that's appeared on bootleg - 'Kansas City Blues' - hasn't appeared on any official release to date. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #4:1965 Part One
Easily of the weirdest of Janis' early tapes is the one she made in 1965 with the Dick Oxtrot Jazz Band. With folk fading and the blues not yet 'in' Janis seems to have done whatever she had to do to make ends meet. Janis sounds oddly good as a roaring twenties flapper on many of these recordings, particularly Gus Cannon's [8] 'Walk Right In', but you can tell her heart isn't in this rather weird exercise and that she's cutting her vocal power down for the band. I'd love to know what her Port Arthur crowd would have made of these recordings - arguably the closest Janis ever came to sounding 'respectable', but sadly she doesn't seem to mention this era in her book of letters ('Love, Janis'). Big Brother unexpectedly revived the song for funkier, heavier treatment for a one-off show in April 1968 that sounds much more Janisy. Both versions can be heard on 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Yikes! Janis has never sounded less like herself - or given more reason why her sort of music was so necessary to a teenagership starved of music that reflected them - than [9] 'River Jordan', an old spiritual again played with the Dick Oxtet Jazz Band. Janis probably only agreed to this song at all because it has a touch of the blues about it, an old spiritual that dates back so far no one is truly sure who wrote it (it's almost definitely a 'slave' song though, with the River Jordan a key trading post back in the day). Janis sings, basically, about Heaven and a better place than here, imagining herself 'sitting at the welcome table' 'finding that blessed salvation' and 'holding hands with my master one of these days'. She sounds rather good too, impressively serious and fully in control of a song that needs to be as hard as nails  - its just a shame that the jazz quartet seem to have misunderstood the song and treated it as an opportunity for some uptempo oompah jazz. Good practice for the future when Janis and her many bands are all but singing different songs perhaps, but a bit of a lost opportunity, it would have been great to have heard a Big Brother version of this tune. Both versions can be heard on 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[10] 'Mary Jane' is so convincing a blues song that I always assumed it was another cover until I looked it up and found out its another Joplin original (some bootleggers still persist in calling it a Bessie Smith tune - it sure does sound a lot like hers but it isn't part of any discography I can find). Another of the jazz band tracks, it might have sounded better as a straight blues song but does at least give Janis an early chance to be cheeky - no doubt she's the only person in the room hip enough to realise it but 'Mary Jane' was sixties slang for Marijuana and despite Janis' attempts to portray Mary as a rather homely straight-laced person its clearly what she's thinking with lines like 'When I bring home my hard-earned pay I spend all my money on...Mary Jane!' and 'There ain't nothing that can make a man feel Mary Jane!' The tune, meanwhile, is that old friend 'Turtle Blues' which Janis will come to re-write several times down the years; arguably this set of lyrics is better even if the conservative performance isn't. Both versions can be heard on 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #5:1965 Part Two
The first of half a dozen songs recorded exclusively for an 'audition tape' which played its role in making Big Brother guitarist James Gurley interested in Janis as the band's lead singer (plus an early version of the original 'Turtle Blues'), [19] 'Apple Of My Eye' reveals how far Janis' vocals have come since her last recordings in 1964. Whilst the sound we have here is misleading (James oversaw overdubbing of electric instruments to enhance the original style), Janis is clearly working in much more of a 'rock' mould just from her vocal and guitar alone. 'Apple Of My Eye', one of the better songs on the tape, is a sped-up 12 bar blues that has a real boogie-ing rhythm to it and Janis is well suited to a song that on the one hand is so passionately sad and mad she threatens to hang herself at one point and on the other is happy go lucky in the extreme, a lion in pussycat's clothing. Janis' character knows she has a lot to keep her occupied, books that need readin' and guitars 'both big and small' but she don't care unless the apple of her eye returns. Big Brother should have added this song to their setlists as it's right up their street. Find it on: 'This Is Janis Joplin' (1996) and 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)
[ ] '219 Train' is a sleepy blues, a sort of early prototype of 'Turtle Blues' 12 bar howling but with Janis much more effeminate and laidback and with rather better lyrics. You know just where this song is going - she thinks her man is leaving her, she follows him to the station, spots in the window of a train carriage and weeps bitter tears. However while the song is a little on the ordinary said the performance is a good one, Janis showing off her more restrained 'Summertime' style voice for this one. There's an interesting chorus too about the differences between the sexes: 'When a man gets the blues, Lord, he grabs a train and rides - when a woman gets the blues, honey, she hangs down her head and she cries'. Find it on: 'This Is Janis Joplin' (1996) and 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)
 [21] 'Codeine' aka 'Codine' (both spellings have been used down the years) is introduced by Janis on the demo tape as 'a song by Buffy St Marie that I've added my own lyrics to'. The audacity of it - a unknown wannabe trying to adapt another's work and yet it's easy to see why Janis did it and why she comes so alive on this recording particularly out of all the ones on the demo tape. The facts of the original tape's complaints are all 'wrong' for Janis - she's a Capricorn not a Gemini and she was the oldest in her family with all the responsibilities that went with it rather than the ignored youngest. However the 'vibe' is right: Janis' narrator is unlucky, trodden down by a world she never wanted to be a part of anyway and with an eerie chorus that sees Janis reaching out for comfort from the mysterious 'Codine', which could either be the drug or a dog the way Janis sings it here. However it's clearly about a troubled character with an addictive personality, Janis screaming that while she loves Codine at the same time she hates it and starts with a lyric that seems to already foretell trouble: 'On the day I was born the Grim Reaper smiled, he said I'll get you yet you Gemini child...' Admittedly Janis died of heroin not cocaine and as said her horoscope is a whole seven out (or five depending which way round the 'wheel' you look at it), but her sighing conclusion that 'it'll get me in the end - that's the contract we agreed' is scarily close to the real story (Janis, remember, has sworn off all drugs in this period so this is a bad memory of her 'lapse' in 1962/63 she's determined not to repeat at the point in time when this recording was made). Of all the James Gurley overdubs on this demo tape this is the one that works the best, adding a relentless rhythm and a swampy wah-wah part that suits this track, although it would be nice to hear Janis; solo acoustic original to compare it with one day. Find it on: 'This Is Janis Joplin' (1996) and 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)
Hoyt Axton did indeed write the folky [23] 'I Ain't Got A Worry' as Janis suggets at the start of this tape, although she gets the name of it wrong - if you want to look up the original (and it's well worth seeking out) it's called 'Goin' Down To 'Frisco'. Though the song dates a lot earlier it sounds more like early 70s California Rock - lazy and hazy but very purty. Or perhaps that's just the overdubs James Gurley has insisted on adding which are at their most irritating and obtrusive here. They don't get in the way of Janis' performance which shows real control. I'm very impressed with her versatility on this demo tape, which runs the whole gamut from barely-above-a-whisper songs like this to full throttle screams. No wonder Big Brother hired her.  Find it on: 'This Is Janis Joplin' (1996) and 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)
[24] 'Brownsville' is a last song from that audition tape and it's probably the closest to Big Brother's style, built around a funky guitar riff by Ry Cooder and lyrics about a city not that far removed from Janis' own Port Arthur neighbourhood. Janis adopts the original lyric slightly, partly to change the gender of the lyrics around but partly for revenge on what's clearly an unhappy memory for her ('Just throw your jellyroll out the window and check out that garbage shack dump!' she snaps near the end). She very much sounds the part of a rock and roll hippie chic - this song probably had a lot to do with her getting her job, although sadly she never did get to perform it with Big Brother. Find it on: 'This Is Janis Joplin' (1996) and 'Blow All Your Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #6:1966
Sam Cooke's [ ] 'Let The Good Times Roll' seems an odd choice for Big Brother. A popular cover choice, usually bands tend to go for laidback jovial swing although there are a few rockers of it out there. The Big Brother version is quite different to any other version - its almost jaunty, treating the song about looking forward to the future to an almost comedy strut. I'm not altogether sure it works either, with Dave Getz particularly tripping over the song's odd time signature. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
A late burst of folk in Big Brother's set-list, 'I Know You Rider' was the sort of song that every band seemed to do in the 1960s and which everyone did slightly differently. This song starts out calm and quiet but it doesn't take long until Gurley's monster guitar is unleashed to cause havoc and which pushed Janis on to a particularly emotional performance. The song sounds rather good in Big Brother's hands actually - it's a shame 'Rider' didn't travel in the band's set more often. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
Howlin' Wolf's 'Moanin' At Midnight' is another curios from Big Brother's earliest live days. It's way more bluesy than anything the band would do by their own volition before Janis came along - and yet she gets nothing to do on it, with Peter finding his inner pain for a change. Big Brother's attempts to turn this curio song into an uptempo psychedelic rocker doesn't really work either. A shame the band didn't give this one to janis, though, as it's the sort of repetitive howl of pain she does do well. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
Another of those slightly drunken sounding Big Brother originals, 'Hey Baby' is credited to the whole band but quite what any of them threw into the pot is unclear - not much I'll bet. A noisy thrash that sounds like a prototype for punk, this song has a chorus that goes 'hey baby hey baby hey child' and goes downhill from there, courtesy of a sudden inexplicable double time march that takes even the early power of the song away. Janis ends the songs by pretending she's being sweet by letting a boy help her out - 'you can buy me a house, or anything you want' she coos as if doing him a favour. The poor boy's going to be eaten for breakfast. Like many an early Big Brother original it was only ever played on stage and never made it to album. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
[ ] 'Whisperman' is an early Big Brother song - one of the first credited to the whole group - that sounds like lots of their songs to come all being played over the top of each other. Even by Big Brother standards its a little unhinged this track, with guitar solos suddenly darting out in the middle of the simple chorus and everyone apparently playing in a different time signature to each other (this could of course just be the usual Big Brother rawness, but it sounds a bit more deliberate than that). The lyrics are, ironically for such a noisy song, all about Sam's narrator being the fountain of all wisdom because he rarely says anything and when he does it's in a whisper. The lyric is the most interesting thing about the song actually, the narrator telling us that 'I can read the back of your hand - and I can read your mind' and then switching this metaphysics into a hoary chat up line: 'What you need is body heat -and you can ask for it any ole' time!' This song might have become another winner once it calmed down a bit but even for Big Brother in 1967 it's a scarily out of control song. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
Jimmy McCracklin's noisy power-chord frenzy 'Blow My Mind' could have been made for Big Brother, especially Peter's deep rumble of a voice. It's all sweaty riffs and see-sawing with lyrics that are either profound or silly, with some random cosmic messages ('Like the sun in the morning, I'm a gonna turn you on!') The chorus of 'you blow my mind!' must have been daring for the day, but it's a shame this song doesn't a have a little more room for what Big Brother do best - those stretched out psychedelic solos and those soaring harmonies, whioch sound pretty silly just singing 'you blow my mind!' over and over again. Still, this is one of the better songs exclusive to the band's 1966 live catalogue. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
Little Richard's 'Oh My Soul' is, despite the title, a straightforward rock and roll number - though perhaps it's never been played quite as straightforwardly rock and roll as this clumsy but intense version. All the band thrash around wildly not quite sure of the chords while Sam sings dementedly what he can remember of the lyric (once again Janis seems to be out for this part of the set). It's not clever and it's not pretty but it is all rather good fun. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
A fascinating band composition, 'Gutra's Garden' may be the single most original thing the band did until 'Combination Of The Two'. A psychedelic master-class that's tightly played and patient enough to wander down all sorts of musical avenues Grateful Dead style instead of played as fast as everyone can, it deserved to last in the band's set for much longer. Lyrically this is an appeal to Gutra to end a relationship and set the narrator free - the name suggests an Indian marriage, perhaps an arranged one, which would have been pretty groundbreaking for the times although no details are given (the narrator come from Memphis, so perhaps this is only half an arranged marriage?) and this is just another Big Brother tale of love gone wrong. There's no mention of a 'garden' anywhere in the lyric by the way. Find it on: 'Cheaper Thrills' (1984), 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002) and 'The Lost Tapes' (2008)
While Big Brother were generally right in their pursuit of as eclectic a mix of styles as possible, a rocking version of Edvard Grieg's [ ] 'Hall Of The Mountain King' is arguably a step too far. To be fair you can have good rock versions of this distinctive riff - The Who recorded it for 'Who Sell Out' in 1967 (perhaps they heard Big Brother in 1966?) but sadly never released it, whilst even The Wombles do a great version of it in the late 1970s. However the problem with this cover version is that Big Brother are too reverent: this  arrangement sounds like a 'straight' translation of it from one set of instruments to another (although I don't seriously expect for a minute Big Brother sat down and notated it on proper manuscript paper with posh quills, both Sam and Dave did have classical training and had the knowledge to do such a thing had they wanted to) instead of re-imagining the piece completely for the new sounds. It's simply too slow, with a funny comic waddle in the middle that manages to end up being actually less 'rock' than the Victorian era original. To be fair though, only two live recordings of the song exists (one in concert in 1966, one for TV in 1967) and this band were notorious for their 'off-nights'; I'd hate to have to judge, say, 'Summertime' or 'Piece Of My Heart' from their two duffest performances. Find it on: 'Live In San Francisco 1966' (2002)
A jam session while Peter Albin makes up some nonsense words, 'Great White Guru' is not one of Big Brother's most distinguished moments. That's a shame because the driving riff behind all this nonsense is actually rather good, sounding a little like the middle riff of 'Roadblock' in places. Find it on: 'The Lost Tapes' (2010)
Credited to everyone except poor Dave for some reason (even though his inventive drumming is one of the highlights of this scatterbrained song), 'It's A Deal' is another of those early Big Brother 'nearly' songs. All the ingredients are there including the snarling attacking riff, the gonzo guitar solos and the screaming vocals (that uniquely use Janis as the more 'calming' influence), but somehow this track never quite gels and was probably rightly never recorded in the studio (though the song had a full three year shelf-life on the road). The lyrics don't quite make sense - there's something about how the girl always knew what she was in for so shouldn't be crying when the bell tolls, or summat, but the lyrics are subsidiary to that driving riff. Find it on: 'The Lost Tapes' (2010) and 'Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968' (2012)
A pretty and often overlooked little song, 'Easy Once You Know How' is credited to the whole band and would have fitted in nicely on the debut album. It's part psychedelic wig-out but also partly traditional folk, with a hummable chorus and an opening you could easily imagine played on top 40 radio, until things get loud and weird in the middle. Once again Big Brother prove how good they are at nailing disparate parts into the same song, with Janis coo-ing the verses, hammering the chorus and then settling down to a painful bluesy 'ooh wah ooh' while the guitars go from pretty to pretty desperate with each throw of the musical dice. An important stepping stone to the more complex songs to come, the band really get behind this one and turn in perhaps the best performance of their early years. Find it on: 'The Lost Tapes' (2010)
The Russ Meyer film [ ] 'Faster Faster Pussycat Kill Kill' came out in 1965 and shocked many for its 'gratuitous violence, sexuality, provocative gender roles and dialogue' featuring three go-go dancers who kidnap a group of car drivers and their girlfriends. The film was notoriously low budget, made for less than $500,000 which even at the time wasn't that much, and is controversial and forgotten. Naturally Big Brother were the perfect band to write the soundtrack song for it although it doesn't appear to have ever been used - in fact the only recording we have of the band playing it (from a show in San Francisco in 1966) features Peter telling the audience that the film 'will probably never see the light of day'; in actual fact it did come out in August 1965 though few saw it at the time. The song itself is short and weird, very short and very weird in fact, clocking in at a mere 90 seconds long and featuring what sounds like 'Land Of 1000 dances' played very slowly by the two guitarists before speeding up into a whirlwind crescendo in the dying minutes. It sounds like you've accidentally sat on your CD player's 'fast forward' button by accident and is perhaps an experiment too many, a rare early Big Brother song that deserved to die (as for Janis her lone contribution is the yell of 'yeah!' right near the end). Find it on: 'The Lost Tapes' (2010)
As well as the 12 tracks released on the debut album, Big Brother submitted two additional tracks. These were like the rest of the material left in the vaults until after the band's success at Monterey but were kept until after the record to go 'head to head' with the band's first Columbia single 'Piece Of My Heart'. That better known song clearly 'wins' for what the battle's worth (the band have learnt one hell of a lot in the 18 months of so since they recoded this) but A-side [26] 'The Last Time' is a pretty good tune too. Janis wrote it and the track contains much of her usual emotional honesty and desperation as she pleads with her soulmate not to mess around again - he's on his last warning and he's ready to leave if he drops the ball again. However this song is far from the straightforward blues of Janis' other early songs. Like many songs from that first album this song switches gears midway through from blues-rock hybrid to music hall novelty, with a delicate Big Brother performance at odds with Janis' full-on vocal and a 'doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo-DUM!' riff that sounds as if they're 'laughing' at her. Yep those mean boys, who promise to be listening and caring but are just going to do the same thing all over again... Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Big Brother and the Holding Company' and the 'Janis' box set (1993)
[25a] 'Coo-Coo' is the B-side of the above, Big Brother's only 'exclusive' non-album single, and out of all the dozen songs recorded at the first album sessions is the one that points most towards the 'Cheap Thrills' sound to come. An Albin song about a 'pretty bird' who 'warbles when she flies', this one could easily have been some old folk tune with its metaphors for relationships in the animal kingdom and a verse about a card game thrown in there too, but it's the instrumental backing that's a huge step forward. The whole song is based around a tricky guitar riff that sounds hell to play and it's a great excuse for Big Brother to do what they do best: fall in behind with relentless playing that builds and builds into a mesmerising hypnotic trance. You can't listen to much of the first album and immediately think 'psychedelia' but with its slightly over-worldly feel and communing with nature this is very much the sound of 1967. Only a typically 'folk' last verse (where the 'coo coo' becomes a 'cruel bird' and the love is dashed at the last minute) ruins the illusion. Great as this version is it will be recycled in staggeringly superior form on 'Cheap Thrills' as the new song 'Oh Sweet Mary' (which uses the same riff, though sounding heavier than ever, but with a whole new set of words). Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Big Brother and the Holding Company' and the 'Janis' box set (1993) with an additional live performance released on 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1968
Perhaps the most famous Big Brother outtakes is [43] 'Roadblock', a noisy collaboration between Peter and Janis that was most notable for being performed at the Monterey show that made the band stars. It's a song about frustration: that the narrator cannot get as far as they want in their relationship because they're forever being blocked and prevented at every turn. Comparing the pair's natural journey together as a long and unwinding road (this is before The Beatles did the same by the way), the narrator adds that he's done everything 'right' : he's carried heavy loads, emotional baggage by the bootful and 'offered everything I own'. It's just right for Peter and Janis to duet on, each one stubbornly complaining about the other. A live favourite and a key contender for 'Cheap Thrills', this might have been another case like 'Ball and Chain' where the band should have substituted a live version. The studio version just doesn't 'fly' - this is after all a tricky song with several disruptive stop-start passages and some gonzo left-turns from slowly stomping around in its own miserable cage and daring bursts of guitar solos that suddenly make everything right. Big Brother just can't nail this tricky song down right under the glaring lights of the Columbia studios (sadly not actually in Columbia but in New York). However on some of their magic nights - most notably Monterey - this song really comes alive, celebrating the freedom of everything coming together rather than the misery of the problems and with Janis coming up with some great improvisations at the end. Find it on: the studio take is on the CD re-issue of 'Cheap Thrills' and additionally 'Blow Al My Blues Away', with live performances on most of Big Brother's live albums, notably 'Monterey Pop Festival'
Sam's [44] 'Flower In The Sun' is another song that should have made the 'Cheap Thrills' album. An unusual mix of the tough, with a rattling guitar riff and a solo that could slash it's way through stone, and the poetic, with lyrics about an unequal partnership. Sam complains that what used to burn with a passion has now grown 'cold and distant' and compares the love affair to a flower falling in love with a sun - the blooms look amazing for an hour but then shrivel up and die away as the glare becomes too much. While related in romantic terms it's all too easy to twist these lyrics slightly and see them from the point of view of a band breaking up, although which of the two halves is the 'sun' and which the 'flower' is open to conjecture. Note too the lines about the 'other' half of the equation 'looking up at the sky and wondering how high it is', that could well be about Janis' desires for stardom away from the band that made her famous. If Janis worked all this out though (and she was more than bright enough to) it doesn't show in her performance which is as excellent as ever, aggressive but with great use of contrasts again - actually it's Sam's rather one-note solo that doesn't quite come off. Once again, curse the fact that 'Ball and Chain' isn't an even better nine or even eleven-track album than the glorious seven track album it is already. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Cheap Thrills' and 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

 'Catch Me Daddy' is another live favourite that surprisingly never made it to record in Janis' lifetime. To be honest this group written song isn't much of a one (it's another one note song about 'sitting round in the evenin' wonderin' why did I ever leave?) but oh that performance. There are loads of live versions out there, all with their own ticks and traits (a bare knuckles rollercoaster ride on the 'Cheap Thrills' CD, a slower meandering version on the 'Janis' box set and an almost jazz rendition in rather muddy sound on 'Blow All My Blues Away'. All are fabulous, with the Big Brother mentality coming into its own and there's almost a competition to see whether the band or Janis can make the most noise, with some truly jaw-dropping guitar solos in all three. Had there been more of a song to go with Janis' passionate improvised raps and the classic see-sawing guitar riffs this might have been the best song in the book; even so it's pretty darn good. Find one version on both the 'Cheap Thrills' CD re-issue and 'Farewell Song' (1982), with a further version on 'Janis' (1993) and 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012) and a third solely on 'Blow All My Blues Away'
Another of the Big Brother highlights that got away, the band performed some terrific versions of Mark Warren Spoelestra's [46] 'The Magic Of Love' down the years but oddly never tried it on record (it would have been another fine addition to 'Cheap Thrills', although it is perhaps a little bit similar to 'Piece Of My Heart' with a similar cat and mouse feel between the verses and choruses). Unusually Janis is the 'passive' character in this love story, pleading with her man that she's changed and things are going to be different now, honest. In fact things are going to be so good they'll be 'part of a new magic race'. However the anguished guitar solo suggests otherwise, angrily screaming out the sense of betrayal and desperation only hinted at in the words. Big Brother are immense on this track, one of many you should go straight to when someone ill-informed tells you this band 'couldn't play' - the looseness  is the whole point, with this song so outrageously raw it hurts, even whilst Janis is trying to sing a classic power pop chorus. Magic indeed. Find one live version from Detroit 1968  on: the CD re-issue of 'Cheap Thrills', 'Farewell Song' (1982) and 'The Ultimate Collection' (1998), plus a second on 'Live At The Winterland 1968', a third on 'Move Over!' (2011) and a fourth on 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
A popular live Big Brother number that also sounded pretty hot in the studio, [ ] 'Misery'n' is a slow and slinky blues number with a beat that would have been another strong addition to 'Cheap Thrills'. A collaboration between the whole band, this song is an interesting combination of the 'tah-dah!' novelty of the first album in the chorus and the more authentic blues of the second. It would be nothing in most other singer's hands and relies a lot on janis working like a soul singer, huffing and puffing her way through a repetitive song about how miserable she is (sample lyric: 'Woah there's rooms are so like, you know, empty empty empty empty, filled up with sadness yeah'). However it's the peculiar vibrato on Sam's guitar that you remember most, as he disconsolately keeps shutting the passionate Janis lead back in its box, refusing to listen to her despite her pleas. Find it on: 'Farewell Song' (1982), 'The Ultimate Collection' (1998) and 'Blows All My Blues Away' (2012)
Another 'Cheap Thrills' outtake often played live, [ ] 'Farewell Song' is a strange old song. Most Big Brother songs tend to start at loud and work their way up from their (except the occasional ballads), but this one doesn't roar so much as stomp and hop from foot to foot. Another of Sam's songs which might possibly be about Janis leaving the band (though hidden in more general terms) it features Janis getting ever more emotional as she tries everything to make her former lover drop the cold shoulder act he's been giving her. However while the song is an especially good one for the twin guitarists (who slash away at the riff throughout) the stop-start arrangement doesn't give Janis as much room for manoeuvre as usual and the song falls a little flat as performed in the studio. The live versions of the period are a bit better though and point towards how good this song might have been, especially Janis' extended last verse. The title came in very handy when Columbia compiled their own outtakes in 1982 too, although the irony is that this narrator is leaving because she doesn't want to 'die a little bit more each day'. Find it on: 'Farewell Song' (1982), 'The Ultimate Collection (1998) and 'Blow My Blues Away' (2012)
Only at the Monterey Festival could you see such a sight: a girl and four guys making squeaking 'duh duh duh duh duh duh' noises like they're on TV programme 'Playschool' (or superior sequel 'Let's Pretend') being robots before Janis suddenly yells [ ] 'Harry' with a piercing shriek and the whole thing descends into feedback and chaos. The crowd go nuts - even for the summer of love this is daring and the crowd seem taken aback by just how much applause their 60 seconds of monkeynutsdom is getting. Zoom on a year though and this self-indulgent joke suddenly doesn't feel right: its 1968, the vibe is 'heavy' not experimental and Big Brother songs are becoming long not short (even if they do slow things down for this studio version). As a result this 'Cheap Thrills' outtake sounds like no one's heart is in it anymore but they'd better go through with it because they want to re-create their Monterey successes as closely as possible. They should have made it a B-side for Monterey fans perhaps, but it was never going to work like this despite Janis' ad libbed pleas of 'Harry please come home' which weren't on the original version. For the record I can find no mention of a 'Harry' in any connection with the band, so my best guess is that they did some time trravelling and based it on Crazy Harry from the Muppet Show in 1979 who liked blowing things up (they had a 'Janice' too remember and Jim Henson did once say he was a fan). Well a song this weird has to have some explanation other than 'they made it up' doesn't it?! Find it on: 'Farewell Song' (1982) and 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
One of the quirkiest Big Brother songs, [ ] 'Mr Natural' is a downright peculiar Sam Andrew song that starts with all the band pretending to be a ringing phone (with Janis the early morning call - now that would wake you up!) and seems to sum up the hippie existence: 'I don't care, my needs are few - now what am I gonna do?' Mr Natural wakes up determined to 'go out for a run' but soon feels lazy, gets stoned and ends up back in bed. However its the drugs that put the narrator in the state he needs to work as a creative artists: in Sam's words 'My brain gets loose, my stove gets hot, the music hits my ears - Lord it sounds so sweet!' One of the few 1967 songs to actually come right out and say 'taking drugs is good for you', this peculiar novelty was quite a live favourite and would have been a natural for the next Big Brother album with Janis (whose having a lot of fun with it here). Instead the band re-recorded it with Kathi McDonald for the first post-Janis album in 1970 'Be A Brother' where it isn't half as much fun as the Janis era version. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #9:1969
Bob Dylan's [55] 'Dear Landlord', a track from his 1967 album 'John Wesley Harding', has been performed by a few different people but never quite like this. Turning Bob's wordy epic into a full tilt power rocker with horns, Janis had intended this track for her 'Kozmik Blues' album before sensibly abandoning it - while fine for what it is it's very much at odds with the rest of that album, an emotional heartbreaking epic whereas this song is intellectual and wordy. While Janis does well to sing Bob's song as if it makes sense and 'tidies up' Dylan's notoriously wayward time metres and crossed lines better than most, it's not a natural fit for her style: there's simply too many words per line to sing and nothing worth getting worked up for. Janis probably picked up on the album's 'Texas outlaw' vibes and tales of ordinary people being ripped off by corporations and greed, but if so it's a shame she didn't consider recording the title track instead, a track much more her style. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'I Got Dem Ol' Kozmik Blues Again Mama!' (1969), the box set 'Janis' (1993) and the 'other' box set 'Blow My Blues Away' (2012)
Jerry Ragavoy scored his second big hit with Janis' cover of 'Piece Of My Heart'. Always fond of his material, for a time Janis sang his first big hit too, [ ] 'Stay With Me (Baby)', a co-write with George Weiss that was a big hit for Lorraine Ellison in 1966 and has been covered many times (fellow AAA star Steve Marriott does a particularly good version). Blocked from using many of Janis' famous tracks, 'The Rose' biopic originally very much based around Janis' life but then 'altered' in pre-production makes good use of this song (where Bette Midler sings it) - about the only song in the soundtrack score we know for definite that Janis performed (although its slower and sweeter than this version). This time round the Kozmik Blues sound rather good and Sam gets a rare period guitar solo that's bang on the money, but it's Janis who doesn't sound right for this track. 'Piece Of My Heart' worked because of the sudden twist of the knife between happiness and anger that Janis does so well, but this is more of a 'coasting' song that's meant to build little bit by little bit and Janis is simply too darn impatient to get the most out of the song. To be fair, though she seems to realise the fact, turning the song into one of her fast-paced improvisations that works nicely and the Kozmik Blues Band don't seem to have ever returned to this song which survives only thanks to a rare live appearance. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
Well here's an interesting one. For years [ ] 'Let's Don't Quit' has been turning on Janis Joplin bootlegs and for years we've been saying 'naaaah that isn't her' - not least because the singer is using the screechy full-on mode that Janis stopped using the minute she tries to sound like the guitarists in Big Brother in 1968. It's not uncommon for bootleggers to get carried away or hoodwinked - to this day there are some fans who think that's Janis singing on a demo of 'Leaving On A Jet Plane' even though it sounds nothing like her (my guess is it's Chantal Kreviazu from the soundtrack of the film 'Armageddon' by the way) and 'Let's Don't Quit' is the sort of thing she'd have sung in 1965 when her voice was smokier and rougher. Since it's release on a sort of 'official bootleg' however we've had to take this recording more seriously - not least because most of the tapes are meant to have comes from James Gurley's collection and he'd know a Joplin fake if anyone could. So there are a few options for this rather undistinguished rocker: either it really is Janis and 1) she had a bad cold that day 2) fancied singing in her old style 3) the dating is wrong and this is much earlier (it sounds more like 1965/66 Janis) or it really isn't Janis and we really have all been fooled. Again. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
One of Janis' closest musical friendships was with Paul Butterfield, whose Blues Band had been a fellow act at Monterey and who shared many of the same 'black soul in a white person's body' as Janis' own. Paul Rothchild, who worked with Janis on her last album 'Pearl', came to fame working with the Butterfield Band and saw a great deal of similarities between the pair and encouraged them to collaborate. Sadly [ ] 'One Night Stand' was the only song that was ever finished - ironically, really, given the lyrical pleas that this romance is so deep it must mean more than the other one night stands in the narrator's life. Written by Barry Flast and Samuel Gordon, the song is an interesting mix of the two artists' styles, with some typical Butterfield harmonica and a slightly 'tamer' vocal part set against the oh so Janis swirly organ and Kozmik horns. It's a pretty song that stretched Janis vocally and points towards the gentler style of 'Pearl' to come, if not quite living up to its 'lost classic collaboration between two blues giants' as it was considered before release in 1982. The 'Blow All My Blues Away' set includes a couple of outtakes alongside the finished product, although apart from a slower tempo and a slightly less together lead vocal there aren't any real differences.  Find it on: 'Farewell Song' (1982), 'The Ultimate Collection' (1998) and 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #10:1970
 [ ] 'Full Tilt' is an unremarkable 'theme song' for Janis' new band that they can play whenever Janis has walked off stage or - if she's running late - before she walks. In one way it's rather a clever open-ended jam section that can be tailored to whatever the circumstances dictate - but one that's all too clearly modelled on 'Green Onions', the theme tune of Otis Redding's band Booker T and the MGs but without the same distinctive riff. It's also a poor sequel to 'Kozmik Blues', the theme tune of Janis' last band, having far less depth and 'soul', although you could argue that it's full tilt boogie-blues does sum up the ramshackle band rather well. Unreleased in Janis' lifetime, this instrumental has been released since on a handful of posthumous releases such as 'Wicked Woman - The Last Concert'  (1970/1976)
Janis could have done with fellow Texan blues singer Johnny Winter back in her early days when she felt alone with what she was doing and it's perhaps surprising the two bedfellows never met until the very end of Janis' life. However better late than never - recorded in  Madison Square Gardens in December 1969,  [ ] 'Ego Rock' is a sly put-down of outdated Texas values from two musicians who learnt that the hard way and features both on fine form, using the same tough 12 bar outline of 'Turtle Blues' once again. The song is one Janis co-wrote with Nick Gravenites and may have been an 'outside contender' for 'Pearl' (which is a such a short album something else must have been intended for it that wasn't finished besides the part-done 'Buried Alive In Blues'. The song is a highly revealing one that while no doubt intended as a comedy reveals quite a lot of bile even all these years on for Janis' un-beloved birthplace: 'I been all around this world but Port Arthur is the very worst I've ever found!' Janis screams, before adding 'I guess they just didn't understand me - do you know they used to laugh me off the streets?' Presumably the 'LBJ' with whom Winter plays 'scrabble' is president Lyndon B Johnson, born in Stonewall Texas.
[ ] 'Help Me Baby' is the second and lesser known of the two songs performed live with Johnny Winter. It's less interesting than the first, a noisy cacophonous jam with saxophones that sounds like 'Raise Your Hand' would if it had been drinking way too much caffeine. Janis doesn't sing for the first minute and when she does the quality of the tape is hard to hear with Janis barely getting beyond a plea for help. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
[ ] 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' ('Well of course I'm just calling it a Sunday but all days seem the same when you're on the streets') is the last great cover song addition to the Joplin canon and played frequently on that last Full Tilt tour, although it perhaps came along a little late for inclusion on 'Pearl'. Another Kris Kristoffersen song with a similar feel about it to 'Bobby McGee', this song was a number one hit in the country charts for Johnny Cash the year before and suits Janis' quieter, more reflective voice very well. It's a sad tale of how the narrator feels the loneliness of their life the most on a Sunday when everyone else is in church congregations or playing with their families in the park as the narrator trudges alone to their cold and lonely flat. Paul Rothchild may well have picked the song out for her in fact, as it fits with his idea of offering Janis a 'future' for her voice built on subtlety rather than power. It also makes for a neat bookend to Janis' career being ever so nearly the same song as 'What Good Can Drinkin' Do?' from eight years, the narrator suffering a hangover much bigger than just the alcohol still coursing through their system. A real shame Janis never lived long enough to give us a proper studio take of the song, although even in muddy sound on a glorified bootleg released to cover copyright problems it still sounds awfully good. Find it on: 'Blow All My Blues Away' (2012)
'Pearl' itself is a funny little curio,m like 'Buried Alive In The Blues' a seemingly unfinished song. But was it intended from the first as an instrumental (though unusual Janis did like giving her new bands a chance to strut their stuff without her from time to time)? Or is it another unfinished song Janis was meant to be singing on? And was this always intended as the title track of the album (Janis had decided on 'Pearl' early as she joked about with the band that it was her 'alter ego') or simply named that because that was the album it was meant to be on? A sleepy full orchestral weepie on similar lines to 'Little Girl Blue' and 'A Woman Left Lonely'  but with added jazz drum brushes, 'Blues' points even more towards a gospel flavour than the rest of the album and it certainly doesn't sound like her usual style. However Janis had surprised us before with what genres she was able to add to her locker so perhaps this too might have proved us wrong. Find it on: 'The Pearl Sessions' (2012)
On October 9th 1970 something unprecedented happened: one of the biggest rock stars in the world turned thirty, Unthinkable! John Lennon was one of the eldest rock and roller around (though Grace Slick and Billy Wyman were older by a year they kept that a secret as best they could) and Yoko Ono wanted an unusual gift for her husband's big day. She asked as many musicians as she could get in contact with for a 'special' message - the only officially released one is George Harrison's rather raucous 'It's Johnny's Birthday' as featured on the Apple Jam disc of his 1970 album 'All Things Must Pass', though other exist on bootleg (including a jam featuring Ringo, Stephen Stills and Klaus Voormann).  [56] 'Happy Birthday John' was Janis' contribution, a spoof Vera Lynn style croon based around the song 'Happy Trails' which actually reveals what a really lovely voice Janis had in that style had she preferred that kind of music. If I know Lennon like I think I do he'd have been spluttering in laughter at being serenaded in the musical style the pair detested (it's a shame a full collection of these songs hasn't been released actually - there are some good ones). It's a shame the Full Tilt Boogie Band haven't rehearsed a bit more though as their backing is a bit of a mess. Recorded on October 1st to be ready in the post in time, few there in the studio would have guessed that Janis herself would never reach the big 3-0 and that in fact this will be taped at her very last studio recording sessions, either before or after the similarly party-spirited 'Mercedes Benz'. Naturally Dick Cavett asked Lennon during his appearance on his show after ten months if he'd ever met Janis, one of his favourite guest stars. John says that the studio had already put the tape in the post for him before Janis' death on the fourth of October and that he was deeply moved to hear it on his birthday just five days after her death (funnily enough the song Lennon records that very day for his first solo LP is titled 'Remember', on an album all about death and the loss of people closest to him). A spooky postscript to the 'Pearl' sessions. Find it on: 'Janis' (1993) and  'The Pearl Sessions' (2012)
'Buried Alive In The Blues' was officially the only backing track recorded for Pearl that Janis never got round to finishing, with Janis hearing the finished backing track the day before her death in preparation for recording the day after (it seems odd actually that she wasn't around when the Full Tilt Boogie Band recorded it given how hands-on she was for 'Pearl' after three albums where she'd felt she'd had to 'compromise' with other musicians). While Janis wasn't averse to having instrumentals on an album this one 'sounds' as if it has all the right spaces for Janis' vocal delivery on top and it was written by Nick Gravenites, Janis' favourite writer of the period, who'd have known just what she needed. You can hear him sing it in fact as part of a low-key re-recording tribute for Janis on Big Brother and the Holding Company's 1971 album 'How Hard It Is' where its one of the highlights of the album and while the singers' styles are very different you can hear how good Janis would have sounded (seeing as both acts were on Columbia it would be nice some day if they'd add this version to one of the interminable 'Pearl' re-issues). Perhaps the one that got away, although it's still hard to tell in unfinished form and oh my goodness the irony of that title, which sums up the way that Janis lived her life for twenty-seven years. You couldn't ask for a better epitaph, even if the song itself is more about finding a way out than giving in to the 'blues' hitting the narrator from all sides. Find it on: The Pearl Sessions' (2012)


'Big Brother And The Holding Company' (1967)

'Cheap Thrills' (1968)

'I Got Dem Ol' Kozmik Blues Again Mama!' (1969)

'Pearl' (1970)
Non-Album Songs 1963-1970
Surviving TV Clips 1967-1970
Live/Compilation/Outtakes Sets 1965-1970

Essay: Little Pearl Blue – Who Was The Real Janis?

No comments:

Post a Comment