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.
Tina Turner and Janis Joplin at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 1969.
Ike and Tina were supporting acts on The Rolling Stones American Tour.
In a 2000 Canadian radio interview, Tina however didn’t seem to recall their duet. When asked if she ever performed with Janis, she answered:
“No, but Janis came and spent the last week with me before she passed. She came to the Hungry I and sat there every night and watched the performance and the week after that she passed. She was a real fan. I can’t say we got to know each other, but her last moments, may we say her last times was spent at the Hungry I in San Francisco watching Ike and Tina Turner.”
On this day in music history: March 20, 1971 – “Me And Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, it is the biggest hit for the rock vocal icon. While working as a songwriter on Nashville’s Music Row, Kristofferson pens “Me And Bobby McGee with Monument Records founder Fred Foster. After it’s written, it is initially promised to The Staler Brothers, but before they have the chance, it is recorded by country music star Roger Miller. The song is also covered by Gordon Lightfoot and by Kris Kristofferson himself on his first album "Kristofferson” released in 1970. In Miller, Lightfoot, and Kristofferson’s versions, the character “Bobby McGee” is actually female. In mid 1970, Kris meets Janis Joplin and the two have a brief affair before parting ways. Joplin likes “Bobby McGee” so much that she records it for her next album, altering some of the lyrics to make the protagonist male in her version. Tragically, Janis dies of an accidental drug overdose just three days after recording her lead vocal on the song. Released as the first single from her final album “Pearl” on January 11, 1971, it is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on January 30, 1971, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. “Bobby McGee” becomes only the second posthumous number one single of the rock era after Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”, three years and one week later. The success of “Me And Bobby McGee” propels the album “Pearl” to number one, spending nine weeks at the top, and selling over four million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: February 27, 1971 – “Pearl”, the fourth album by Janis Joplin hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 9 weeks. Produced by Paul A. Rothchild, it is recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA from September 5 – October 1, 1970. Working with Doors producer Paul Rothchild, Janis records her new album with The Full Tilt Boogie Band, who have backed her on a tour of Canada in the Summer of 1970, and performed with her on the Dick Cavett Show. Joplin enters the sessions energized and focused, having successfully kicked her heroin habit months before. Alone and depressed when her then boyfriend fails to come and visit her the previous night, she relapses and dies of an accidental overdose on the morning of October 4, 1970. Ironically, later that day that she is due at the studio to record her final vocals for the album, on the song “Buried Alive In The Blues”. That final track is included as an instrumental on the released album. A major critical and commercial success upon its release, the album also spins off her biggest hit “Me And Bobby McGee” hitting number one on the Hot 100 on March 20, 1971. “Pearl” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: January 11, 1971 – “Pearl”, the fourth album by Janis Joplin is released. Produced by Paul A. Rothchild, it is recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA from September 5 – October 1, 1970. Following the dissolution of her first post Big Brother band, The Kosmic Blues Band, Joplin regroups with a new band of musicians called Full Tilt Boogie for her fourth release. Working with Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild, the production is more polished than her previous efforts. Recording Rothchild’s favored studio Sunset Sound, it is also the first time that a CBS Records artist is permitted to record at a studio, other than one owned the record label. Tragically, Joplin dies of a heroin overdose the day before sessions are to conclude on October 4, 1970. Most ironically, the song she is to record that day is titled “Buried Alive In The Blues”. The instrumental track is included on the finished album. “Pearl” (titled after her nickname) yields several songs that become part of her legend including “Move Over”, “Mercedes Benz”, “Get It While You Can” and “Me And Bobby McGee” (#1 Pop), co-written by Joplin’s former boyfriend Kris Kristofferson, posthumously becomes her biggest hit. First remastered and reissued on CD in 1999 with four live bonus tracks. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Sony Music in 2011. A double CD boxed edition titled “The Pearl Sessions” containing addition and previously unreleased outtakes from the recording sessions is released on Record Store Day in April of 2012. Audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab had planned the release of a half-speed mastered LP release in 1984, but is abruptly cancelled, though test pressings do exist. Over thirty years later, MFSL announces that the title is to be released as a 45 RPM mastered double 180 gram vinyl LP set. It is finally released on March 2, 2016, and is also issued as a hybrid SACD. “Pearl” is released ten weeks after Joplin’s death, spending nine weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.