Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Song Stuck In My Head This Week - 5th April '11 - Janis Joplin - Me & Bobby McGee

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943, Janis Joplin was the eldest of three children but always, according to her mother, demanded more attention than the others. As a teen she was often seen as a misfit at school and was bullied for her appearance and different personality - "I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I didn't hate niggers." She ended up befriending a group of similar outcasts and one of her friends introduced her to blues artists such as Bessie Smith and Leadbelly. This inspired her to become a singer and she joined the local choir while also expanding on her knowledge of blues artists.

After graduating high school in 1960 Janis spent time at both Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas and the University of Texas in Austin before dropping out and heading to San Francisco in 1963. During this first stint in San Francisco she made some of her earliest musical recordings, as well as acquiring a taste for psychedelics, amphetamines, heroin and heavy drinking and by early 1965 friends were so concerned about her emaciated state that they collected the money to send her back to Port Arthur for her own sake. Back home in Texas Janis didn't touch either drink or drugs, adopted a more modest appearance (even sporting a beehive hairdo) and enrolled in sociology major at Lamar State College. She did, however, continue her music aspirations and regularly commuted to Austin to perform solo shows.

In 1966 Texan promoter Chet Helms brought Janis back to San Francisco to join the band he was managing at the time, Big Brother & The Holding Company. For the first couple of months Janis managed to stay drug free but shortly after the band were signed to Mainstream Records and they moved into a house in Lagunitas, California with the Grateful Dead and she relapsed back into hard drug use.

In August '67 the band's debut album was released on Columbia shortly after the band made their breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival where Janis's singing had blown people away, including Cass Elliot from The Mama's & The Papa's who can be seen mouthing "Wow! That's really heavy!" during the bands performance in D.A. Pennebaker's documentary 'Monterey Pop'. This rise in popularity, however, saw them end their management contract with Chet Helms and sign up with renowned manager Albert Grossman.

This deal, and the increase in popularity, seemed to be the beginning of the end for Janis's time with Big Brother & The Holding Company. They started to tour beyond the confines of California and also made three appearances on the Dick Cavett Show where they were billed as 'Janis Joplin & Big Brother & The Holding Company' which lead to resentment from the other members of the band and also for people to start to mention to Janis that maybe she didn't really need the band after all.

Their second album, 'Cheap Thrills', was release in August of '68 and gave the band their breakthrough hit single 'Piece Of My Heart'. However, within four months of the album being release Janis left the band.

In early '69 Janis recorded the album 'I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!' with her new backing band, The Kozmic Blues Band. During this time her heroin use had seriously escalated and she was allegedly doing $200 a day of heroin. Despite that and the slightly less favourable reviews than those for the 'Cheap Thrills' album it was still certified gold in the US and Janis and the band toured North America and Europe as well as appearing at the legendary Woodstock Festival, though it was only in the 25th Anniversary Directors Cut that any footage of her performing was included such was her drugged out and drunken state by the time she took to the stage. By the end of '69 The Kozmic Blues Band called it a day.

In '70 Janis formed the Full Tilt Boogie band and stated to her friends at the time that she finally had a band she felt totally comfortable with and that was hers. They spent the summer touring before returning to the studio in September to record what would be her biggest album, 'Pearl'.

Produced by Paul Rothchild, who also recorded many of the great albums by The Doors, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to name but a few of the legends he worked with, not all of the tracks on the album were fully completed but were felt sufficient enough to warrant release after Janis's death on 3rd October. 'Buried Alive In The Blues', for example, was left as an instrumental as the vocals were due to be recorded on the day her body was found.

'Me & Bobby McGee' was written by Janis's friend and sometime lover Kris Kristofferson and had originally been recorded by country singer Roger Miller in 1969. The first time Kristofferson discovered Janis had recorded it during the sessions for 'Pearl' was the day after her death and, as well as the posthumous success of 'Pearl', Janis's recording of 'Me & Bobby McGee' went on to be her only number one single and became the second song to posthumously reach number 1 in the US (the first being '(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding).

Though it wasn't her song originally and she was not the only one to record it, Janis's version is seen to be the ultimate recording. The song has so much feistiness, passion, guts and emotion in it and I couldn't imagine it being any other way.

This week, for some reason, I've just really wanted to listen to it a lot and now I'm sharing it with you. I hope you all love it as much as I do & I'll catch you all next week!!

Janis Joplin - Me & Bobby McGee

Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin' for a train
And I's feeling near as faded as my jeans.
Bobby thumbed a diesel down just before it rained
And rode us all the way into New Orleans.

I pulled my harp on out of my dirty red bandanna
I's playing soft while Bobby sang the blues.
Windshield wipers slapping time, I was holding Bobby's hand in mine
We sang every song that driver knew.

Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose
Nothin', don't mean nothin' honey if it ain't free.
And feeling good was easy Lord, when he sang the blues
You know feeling good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

From the Ken-tucky coal mines to the California sun
Hey Bobby shared the secrets of my soul.
Through all kinds of weather, through everything that we done
Yeah Bobby baby kept me from the cold world.

One day up near Salinas, Lord I let him slip away
He's looking for that home and I hope he finds it.
But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday
To be holding Bobby's body next to mine.

Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose
Nothin', that's all that Bobby left me, yeah.
But feeling good was easy Lord, when he sang the blues
Hey, feeling good was good enough for me, hmm hmm
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

La da da - la da da da - la da da - la la la da
La la la - la la da la da, Bobby McGee.

La - da la - da la da - la da da da da
La da la da la da, Bobby McGee

La da da - la da la - la da la - la da la
la da da la - la la la - la, hey now Bobby - lo na - Bobby McGee yeah.

Lo na lo na na lo na na - lo na na lo na na lo na na lo na na lo na na
Hey now Bobby, now my Bobby McGee, yeah.

Lord, Icalled him my lover, called him my man
I said I called him my lover just as fast's I can
C'mon, Where is Bobby now ? Where is Bobby McGee ? - yeah
Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGee, Lord!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!


Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGee, yeah.

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