On this day in music history: August 12, 1968 – “Cheap Thrills”, the second album by Big Brother And The Holding Company is released. Produced by John Simon, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City (studio tracks) and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA (live tracks) from March – May 1968. Following the bands breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, they are approached by Clive Davis, then the head Columbia Records who is eager to sign them. At the time, Big Brother are signed to independent label Mainstream Records, who release their self titled debut album in August of 1967. It takes several months for the band to be extricated from their Mainstream contract and sign with Columbia, which takes place in early 1968. Once freed from their prior obligations, they are paired with producer John Simon (The Band), and begin work on their second album. The initial plan is to record Big Brother in concert, producing an album that captures the band’s electric live performances. When the results are lackluster due to the band’s inability to consistently play in tune and in time, they record much of the album in Columbia’s New York recording studio, with the closing track “Ball And Chain” being recorded at Winterland in San Francisco (though the original release erroneously credits it being recorded at the Fillmore East in New York). Originally titled “Sex, Dope, and Cheap Thrills”, Columbia Records refuses to release it with that title, and make the band revise it. The albums iconic cover art by underground artist Robert Crumb (Zap Comix) is first intended to appear on the back of the LP jacket with a photo of Janis Joplin on the front. Joplin is so enamored with Crumb’s artwork that it is put on the front instead. Anchored by the hit single “Piece Of My Heart” (#12 Pop), it is major success. When Columbia originally issues the LP along with the standard stereo version, the label presses a very limited amount of the mono version (an estimated 3000 – 5000 copies only), before quickly deleting it, turning it into a highly priced and sought after collector’s item. The rare mono mix of the album is reissued in November of 2012 as a limited edition 180g vinyl LP pressing for Black Friday Record Store Day. “Cheap Thrills” spends eight weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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