Rock & Roll Rewind: Janis Joplin 1970
c d kaplan is a lifelong rock & roller. He’s got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.
Of course, there was Janis.
A member of the First Name Only club, Joplin is frankly superfluous.
She’s also firmly entrenched in another grouping of Classic Rock icons.
Arguably leader of that pack.
Those who bared their entire being on stage. What she sang was her entire
soul laid bare.
I’ve seen a few others similar. Rickie Lee Jones played the Palace back
before she cleaned up her act. About 2/3ds of the way through her set, she
was so in her cups she sat forlornly on a stool, decrying her woes as if to a
barkeep over her beer in the corner tavern.
Greg Allman, whose father was killed by a hitchhiker and who lost his brother in
a motorcycle accident, never moved on from that incredible mourning that rose
from within. The first lyrics he sang on the debut Allman Brothers album were
“I have not come to testify/ Yeah/ About our bad misfortune”. Then proceeded to
share that very hurt until the end.
And Janis, oh dear Janis, never ever held back.
She played Freedom Hall in early June, 1970 with her new group of mostly
Canadian musicians, Full Tilt Boogie Band.
The counter culture and its music were still new in the heartland. The place
was way less than full.
The gig, if memory serves, was the first on that Janis tour with her new group.
Also, I have a vague recollection of it being so good it was mentioned in one
of her Rolling Stone obits.
Always mired with low self-esteem, Janis was intent on proving herself yet
again, after her stints with Big Brother and Kozmic Blues Band.
She worked to make it work.
The crowd was into it. At some point, many of us on the floor were standing
on our seats. To the joy of Janis and the chagrin of the ushers, who implored
people to get down.
The singer stopped the proceedings, yelling at the ushers to let everybody be,
that she’d personally, pay for any seats that were broken.
I recall she sang “Summertime”, and “Ball and Chain”. Yet the tune that really
resonated was her searing cover of Garnet Mims “Cry Baby”; written by
Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy.
Included here is a video of her doing that song in Toronto a month later,
when she headlined the Festival Express Tour that played three dates in Canada.
It is perhaps the rawest, most from the depths of the soul version of a tune
I’ve ever heard. It is Janis exposing the raw nerve ends of her primal hurt.
Revealing the wounds that eventually took the ultimate toll.