July-21st-2012, 04:59 PM
Big Brother and the Holding Company
I was driving around today and on weekends the college radio stations around here suck pretty badly. So I switched to John Carroll's station for their "Retro Radio" show and they were doing a broadcast of the Monterey Pop Fest from 1967 because it's the 45th anniversary of it. And the first group I heard was the thread title.
Before I go any further, I want to let it be known that I was *not* a Janis Joplin fan. In fact at that time, well slightly after that when she made it big with the robber barons at Columbia, anybody who would rave about her would become instantly suspect in my evaluations. Particularly the sterile garbage she did before she died.
But when they had "Down on Me" on the radio it sounded fresh and compelling to listen to. Some of the other songs were ok (and some were pretty bad) but I started thinking that Big Brother and the Holding Company was probably the perfect group for her work. Yes their instrumental dexterity was minimal and some of the solos were terrible. But they were really her musical peers and I don't think she ever sounded better when she played with them (except that early pre-Columbia album which was horrible).
So it got me wondering: In order to appear at Monterey, she and the group had to impress somebody because they weren't gonna invite pure trash to stink up the stage in a big venue like that. So I'm assuming they'd played around in clubs and probably the Fillmore for at least a year building a reputation. And I'm wondering if SQDCS or anybody else saw them when they were making a name for themselves.
Life is so easy if you have no integrity
July-22nd-2012, 04:01 AM
I was on the road to San Francisco during the 6 Day War, which I think was just after Monterey '67.
I saw her maybe two dozen times live. My friends did the light shows and I got into the Fillmore and Avalon free in 67 & 68. One of the two opening groups were usually local, and the regulars -- all of whom I saw many times -- were The Dead, The Airplane, Country Joe and The Fish, Big Brother, Quicksilver, The Youngbloods and The Sons of Champlin, in roughly that order of frequency. I think Moby Grape topped them all until they got busted (3/67 or so).
I know Janis doesn't get much respect around here, and she's often viewed as doing a 'black-face' routine. It may well be a legitimate criticism. But those of us who saw here live and close-up will always remember her as a jaw-droppingly great entertainer. Sometimes she was too drunk and stoned to articulate, but you never misunderstood what she was saying. (She and Charlie Musslewhite were the only two headliners I've seen many times who always seemed to have a jug of something at hand. Charlie's still going, lives about 6 miles north of here.) Down On Me, Ball and Chain, and Piece of My Heart were like theatrical pieces. She always seemed like she'd flame out early, and she talked about herself as though she would, and she did. I remember the night she died, being sad but not surprised.
The band was the absolute worst of the all the ones I mentioned early. What you hear on the record is their best. James Gurley alone did more aimless noodling than Quicksilver and The Dead combined, and that's a lot. And yet Gurley had demented fans who encouraged him, urged to go longer. Dreadful group, I thought, especially when talented groups like Lothar and The Hand People and Kaleidoscope were fighting for ballroom time.
The first time I heard about them was in a letter from one of my friends who was already out here, raving about her at a concert headlined by Alan Ginsburg and some Swami, iirc.
My favorite line of hers has always been "There's no tomorrow -- it's all the same f*cking day!"
July-22nd-2012, 04:15 AM
I think I buried my answer to your question, but that Ginsburg/ Swami concert (early 67) was probably their first big exposure, not sure what preceded that
July-22nd-2012, 06:31 AM
Thanks for the response; I figured that you might have been still in wonderful Westminster, Maryland during the time I was referring to. I think you pegging her as an outstanding entertainer gets to the point of how I regarded her.
Life is so easy if you have no integrity
July-22nd-2012, 03:45 PM
Each Day Is A Gift.
I always felt that Janis evoked a kind of primal presence. At least, she did with me.
My favorite thing about Big Brother & The Holding Company was its name.
"Timing is everything." - Peppercorn
July-22nd-2012, 04:42 PM
I'm reminded of some of the mindless late-night debates on the subject "Who really WAS Big Brother?" Almost as bad as the noodling
Originally Posted by Ron Thorne
Janis wasn't an aberration, there's a line of white blues-folk-rock-fusion belters before her (Judy Henske) and after (Tracy Nelson)
July-22nd-2012, 10:40 PM
[QUOTE=Squaredancecalling Steve;946346][FONT="Palatino Linotype"][SIZE="4"] when talented groups like Lothar and The Hand People and Kaleidoscope were fighting for ballroom time.
Thanks for mentioning Kaleidoscope, a treasure in that era. I worked at the Straight Theater on Haight Street, and their '67 (or early '68) gig was one I remember fondly.
July-23rd-2012, 12:14 PM
Hell yes! Who would ever call refer to her as doing a "black-face" routine?
Originally Posted by Squaredancecalling Steve
As you say, she was jaw-dropping. She poured her heart and soul into her
music. Nothing contrived there, as far as I can tell, at least not with Big Brother.
August-14th-2012, 06:40 PM
The production of the recorded music for Big Brother and the Holding Company was just so/so. For example, some of the guitar solos were quite garbled and uneven. The guitarist could have been playing exquisite solos, but the producers didn't seem to have their act together. Janis is still Janis after all these years.
August-14th-2012, 07:10 PM
Reevaluating @ 500k
I think John Phillips was the main mover for the festival. I'm sure he knew everybody and anybody in the biz.
August-14th-2012, 07:11 PM
Reevaluating @ 500k
She was good, but as a singer nowhere in the same league as Bonnie Bramlett, IMO.