Janis Joplin, First Person, by Sam Andrew.

8 January 2012

I spent a lot of time with Janis Joplin. I played more nights with her than any other musician in her life. She had a colorful, picturesque way of expressing herself, and I have tried to remember everything that she said exactly the way she phrased it. Of course, she later delivered many of these things in interviews, but she used me as a crash test dummy to practice on, to hone her words till they were perfect. I was happy to perform this function, and, as friends do, I used her for the same purpose. I liked Janis a lot. We had fun. Here she is:

 

1958

We were fifteen years old, couldn’t drink in Texas.  We always used to go across the Sabine River to Louisiana where we wanted to boogie and where they didn’t care.  All those honky-tonks, down-home juke joints, mixed drinks, smoke, French kisses and alligators.  Man.  What a stew, what a brew.  If you could reach over the bar they would serve you.

We used to go crabbing over there.  The smell of crabs and crawdads on the barbecue and cold beer to drink I’ll never forget.

We would go to Big Oaks in Vinton, Louisiana, to hear Percy Sledge way back then…

…and Jimmy Reed too.

Under those mossy magic trees we would sing everything we knew and a lot of things we didn’t.

God, it was heaven.  All those old houses crumbling apart and the stillness of the bayous.

Whole families would be in those roadhouses dancing for their lives, all the bitty children and the mama and the papa.  The little girls would slide across the floor barefoot, squeal in sheer ecstasy, and chase each other into the night.

The things I could tell you about when we drove home sometimes at a hundred miles an hour along those country roads with the bumper of the car leaning over to catch the gravel if it could, and with turning out our lights so we could see if a car was coming the other way and with getting that special kiss whenever a one-eyed vehicle approached.  Why are we alive to remember this?  It was heaven, yes, and there were angels watching over us.

I remember one night when those angels were working overtime.  We were in some clip joint just over the river and we were wet behind the ears.  Might as well have swum over.  Innocents abroad, ha, ha.

There were these guys there and I was fascinated with them.  They were tough, they didn’t give a shit.  I was dancing with them, having a good time.  Then this one guy started grabbing me, man, shoving me around like he thought he was King Kong or something.  I got mad.  I hit him with a bottle.  We were lucky to get out of there alive that night.  Alive and in one piece.

1959

I read, I painted, I thought.  I’m still thinking. (laughs.)  And I can’t even talk about singing.  I’m inside of it and it is inside of me.  I can’t know what I’m doing.  If I know it, I lose it.  I sing and push that sound out and that’s the best feeling.  It hurts so good, like first time love.  It’s so strong and so right.  It’s goes beyond a sexual thing although that is certainly there.

1960

I’ve got a special friend.  Really cool, good man.  He knows about  Bessie Smith.

He’s got their records.  He knows Ma Rainey’s music, Leadbelly’s too.

This kind of music is definitely not on the radio.

Ma Rainey, Victoria Spivey, Bessie, they were like a lifeline.

And then I found some books about these people, books about the blues.  They aren’t quite what you would want but I can read between the lines and it is so good just to know that anyone else knows.

I can sing just like Bessie Smith if I want to.  Well, almost anyway.  She’s so good, kind of scary.  She has this loud,  strong voice that just reaches out and grabs you whatever you’re doing.  That voice won’t let go of you.

1961

You know it’s hard when you’re a kid to be different.  There’s no perspective.  You don’t know that there may be other people like you.  There’s a strong possibility that you’re just a loser, a freak, a dog.  The whole environment seemed weird to me when I was growing up, as if all the trees lit up and said “go home,” and I said, “Where is home?”

We just started hearing about the beat generation, the dharma bums, Kerouac, Snyder, Ginsberg.  It was exciting.  They were cool, they had something.  Hey, at least they’re trying to have something good and not common.

Port Arthur people thought I was a beatnik though they didn’t know what a beatnik was.  Neither did I but I was damn sure going to find out.

I started singing a lot of folk music and blues in coffeehouses and bars around Austin and I met a wonderful man, Ken Threadgill.

He had a little place that was all wood and felt good inside and he believed in what we were doing.  That place used to be a gas station.  Funky and earthy.

First time I played at Threadgill’s with Powell and Larry Wiggins I won two bottles of Lone Star and three dollars and thirty-three cents.  Now you know that’s going to turn a young girl’s mind.  I’ve never been the same since.

This is when I met Chet who was a beatnik from Texas just like me.  We headed for San Francisco.  I was at a very young and fucked-up stage along here.

I had a chance to be a real beatnik not a hippie.  You know the difference?  Hippies are technicolor, hopeful, naive, they believe the world can be a better place if we all hold hands and chant for peace and love.

Beatniks are all black, down, cynical, on the fringe, wise to the ways of the world.  They say the hell with it.  Stay stoned and don’t let the bastards get you down.

1962

You know how some little girls want to be flight attendants?  Well, I wanted to be an artist.  Always.

That’s what I was doing in Venice and North Beach.  I was being an artist as hard as I could, hanging out, bumming around, finding out, changing.

1963

I’m all I’ve got.  I can’t compromise that.  It’s the only unique thing that I have.  That is the real thing that I get from reading the beats, a sense that I had better develop the sincere part of myself because that is what I have to offer.  Hell, for all I know even some of the beats don’t know that.

Port Arthur is a tacky town.  I hated it.  Those square people.  Only later did I find out that everywhere is tacky.

Vancouver, Canada, for example, was not that cool and it’s a beautiful place with no excuse for being tacky.  They were not ready for Big Brother at all.  We were the first longhaired people they saw and they threw us out of a restaurant called the Jolly Roger without so much as a by your leave.  It’s funny now.  Not then.  Everywhere is tacky if you let it be.  Down On Me?  You bet.  Da-yum raght.  OK, boys, let’s go rehearse.

You just have to make your way.  I wanted those people at home to love me and they didn’t care, didn’t even know.  You have to come to terms with that.

1964

Oh, no, I don’t play like that.  Being that chickenshit is tacky.  I told ya, I told ya.  Ya gotta take a chance, know what I mean?  Well, then, get outta the way.

(singing and talking on a beach, the Gulf of Mexico)

Lay me down, lay me down by the sweet sea.  Tell me that you care bout no one but me. You’ll do that, wontcha?  Pretend this is beautiful and that you see the moon shining between us.

1965

I didn’t start out to be a singer.  I started out to be just a person on the street like everybody else.  But suddenly I got swept up into this singing thing.  And after I got involved in it, it got really important to me if I was good or not.

You know why I sing?  Why I started to sing?  It was to be with my friends, to be in the scene, to give something good and get something good, to hang out, to have a reason to be.  I sort of backed into it if you must know.  Course then if you sing you got to sing loud and I could do that.  It surprised me as much as anyone else.

I said, hey, I can sing, and then I could  sing.  Damndest thing ever.

I couldn’t make it in San Francisco anymore, least not the way I wanted to.  I had to go home, get a job, straighten out, go back to college, God, even maybe get married.  It was an insane time.  I was at the bottom.

1966

A lot of young people now look at their parents’ lives and see how they gave up and compromised and wound up with so little.  I mean, if you have to sell out at least get something for it.  I’ll sell out.  Just show me where to sign and how much I’m going to get.  Now, not later when I won’t know how to use it.

Right now is where you are.  How can you wait?  Why should I hold back and sound mediocre just so I can sound mediocre twenty years from now.

That’s what I said to Travis anyway.  I’m not sure that I meant it, but he took me at my word and practically kidnapped me, abducted me, I mean, it was, well, it was good is what it was.  He was really good that night and the next thing I knew I was next to him on the shotgun side and we were headed for San Francisco again.  Chet put him up to the whole thing.

Some story about a band out there that needed a singer because some other band had one.  You should hear their names.  Grateful Dead.  Jefferson Airplane.  Quicksilver Messenger Service.  The Flaming Groovies.  Outlandish, aren’t they?

This is a brave new world.

Welcome to the Matrix and we are proud to be here.  Usually someone else does the announcing but tonight…it’s me!  Ta da. (She sticks out one foot in an exaggerated glamor pose.)  So here’s my message to you.  Get off your butt and feel things.

Hey, I’m twenty-three.  I got time to be crazy and, guess what?.  I’m going to be crazy.  Let me worry about restraint and holding back and having taste a little later.  Now I’ve got the energy.  Let me use that and stop telling me what to do.    Just relax, give it a chance.  Y’all paid a dollar to get in here so we’re going to do this song for y’all, even you, man.  Sit down, you’re not ready to leave yet.

Hey, let’s do that song by Powell Saint John.  Bye, Bye, Baby?  Powell’s creative; he’s into a lot of things.  He something?  He always writes things like that.  He’s a beautiful man, hey, don’t you think so?  I think so.  Look at this drawing he did, so delicate, refined, you know?

(after the set)

Shit, man, that was fun.  My mama used to say, “Janis, why do you scream when you have such a pretty voice?”  I can sing like Mimi Fariña if I want to or like Joan Baez but they did it first.  Why shouldn’t I do my own thing first, make sense?  I’m all I got, honey.

(Cackles maniacally and whirls around, a spinning top gone wild, the way Thelonius Monk used to do in airports.)

You know, those first times with Big Brother, that was the best time I ever had in my life, man, cause it was so new, you know?  I’d never even seen a rock concert before and now here I was in the middle of one.  Too much.  All that throbbing beat which is the main thing.

You ever notice?  When you’re two blocks from where a band is rehearsing all you hear is the bass throbbing out a steady pulse.  Get a little closer and the drums appear.  And you have to be almost there before you hear the melody instruments.  It’s the drums and bass, yes, they are the foundation.

I got so stoned just feeling all of that in our first gigs together.  After the night was over and we would be idling at a stoplight I would hear everything throbbing again.  It would all come back again in a rush and there was a visual part of it too.  I would see patterns in the night going with the sounds that would not stop. That energy field of spiralling feelings, that vortex of emotion, whew!  Beats watching TV, I’ll tell ya.

I couldn’t stay still.  Could you?  I started moving and jumping and I couldn’t hear myself the way I could in the coffeehouses so I sang louder and louder and louder and it went somewhere else, another place beyond what words could do.  When it’s the way it’s supposed to be I feel chills up my spine, ideas made physical,  and emotions slipping all over my body like scales on a butterfly’s eye.  It’s a supreme emotional and physical experience.

Taj Mahal says to me.  Come and join our cool Los Angeles band.  We are professionals.  We know what we are doing and you can come and sing back-up for us.  You’ll get a steady paycheck and a Cadillac.  What more is there for someone like you?  This is serious business.  You know you’ll have money in the bank and tell your mama too.   Well, I mean, could I turn that down?  Sounded good to me, Jack.  These guys have been around.  You know how Taj got his name?  He was in a band in LA with Ry Cooder called The Eight Wonders of the World and they each had a name after a wonder.  I wonder who was The Hanging Gardens?  Heh, heh.

(One of Big Brother lodges a protest against her leaving the band so soon right on the eve of a Chicago tour.)

God damn it, don’t bandy words with me, motherfucker, I mean, shit.  (She slaps the side of the redwood deck with her open hand.)  They’re not asking yew.  I have to think about this.  (Her face whiter and whiter, movements more agitated, she knows it’s a moral dilemma and a moment of truth at least for this time around)  What would yew do?

Well, I know what I did.  I went to Chicago with Big Brother.  It was probably the right thing for me to do but that was a grueling trip and we signed a disastrous recording contract there really just to get enough money to get out of there which they then didn’t even give us.

They hated us in Chicago.  One reviewer said we couldn’t play, we were out of tune, and we were all ugly.  And plus we smelled bad.  I’m sure we did.  You can’t have everything together at once, you know?  Yeah, and it may have been patchouli.  You haven’t smelled patchouli before?  Well, it’s like curry or like Indian music or like eating a chapati, or like having your ashes washed away in the Ganges.

(back in San Francisco at a concert in Golden Gate Park)

Now, these are our people!  Great to be back.

1967

Why do those country club chicks in their panty girdles always have to be sitting in the front row.  They’re probably tied up so tight they couldn’t move if they wanted to.  And those gawky, geeky men they’re with, gechhhh!

You know, you can be yourself and it’s OK.  They can be really who they are, and win.  If you start thinking that  way, being that righteous with yourself, you’ve won already, babe.  No problem.  Got it made after that.

How did we get this gig anyway?  Oh, yeah, I remember.  We went on Public Television and auctioned our services to the highest bidder in a benefit for the station.  Herb Caen was at this coming out party.  I had read him for years and I thought this was my big chance to be in his column.  I talked to him all night, told him every one of my favorite stories, plied him with martinis and did he come across?  Hell, no.  There was nothing in his column the next day.  NOTHING.  I couldn’t believe it.  What was he thinking?  How could he have ignored me?  Jyanis?

Well, the Burlingame Police Department didn’t ignore us, I’ll tell you that.  They must have been watching closely.  As we were leaving town they stopped us and checked all of our identification.  Made me so mad.  Everyone else’s stuff was in order but I had a lot of parking tickets outstanding and they said pay up or go to jail.  I said I would happily go to jail if they had the nerve to arrest me and one of our equipment people did something that make me really upset with him.  He paid my tickets off!  I didn’t forgive him for a long time.  Here it was my big chance  to go to jail for three days or something trivial like that and he spoiled it for me.

Whether or not to walk through that door…

This success if it is success and not just a bunch of hype is less and less like I thought it was going to be.  It started, if it started, I mean, at the Monterey Pop Festival and it’s a gas.  I can’t believe it.  Not bad for a chick who used to hustle drinks, eh?

And how about what I’m wearing?  Gold lamé (she pronounces “lame” to rhyme with “fame.”).  You like it?  It was hard for me to buy something like this at first.  I mean, look at these shoes.  These are golden slippers, man, like in the song.

I love these golden shoes.  I went down to I. Magnin’s one day and sat in their special winners circle where only the winners go to shop.  Society women, models, the few who made it honestly in business, like me, and I bought some golden shoes.  Two pair actually and it’s a life affirming thing to do something like this.  Maybe only a woman would understand it.  It’s like shifting a gear inside.

Here’s how they would put it in a book.

(she speaks in a theatrical, Orson Welles voice.)

Aging opera star Maria Callas drags beau Aristotle Onassis backstage.  Says. (now, a Mediterranean-Dracula-like tone) You give me everything. (she rolls the ‘r’ in “everything.”)  Jewels from Tiffany.  Caviar from Maxim’s.  Well, look at this.  Dramatically with a flourish she pulls the curtain back.  There are thousands waiting for her to sing the slightest syllable.  Can you give me that, darling?

That story means something to me.  I know it’s true even if it’s not.  It sounds corny, right?  It’s true, man, believe it.  It’s true.  I know no man ever made me feel as good as an audience does.  I know  it.  I’m committed to this, this is a higher calling.  Scary, isn’t it?

(Staying in the Chelsea Hotel, waiting for the right moment to get a cab over to the Fillmore.)

What do you think I should be doing?  I mean, is there anything else to do in this town?  There’s Tubby The Tuba up in the penthouse or at least the guy who wrote the score.  There’s Salvador Dalì. There are The Ramones, for Chrissake, this little band down the hall with a lot going for them.

There are the Preludin that Marvin brought me from the West Coast.  HE was entertaining. They say you can get anything in New York so, yeah, they still bring their Left Coast things here and I take them.  That is our contract, our agreement.  They make it and I take it.

I read but don’t tell anybody.  I used to like F. Scott Fitzgerald a lot but it’s hard to separate someone from their work.  I’ve been reading a lot about Zelda Fitzgerald lately and she was fucked over by him.  I mean really.  She was as talented, did as much, wrote more, drew as much, said as much, cooked more, made up the beds more, more on top of things in general, more evolved, more this, more that, more everything, and what did she get?  Jack shit, that’s what.  Same thing they always get.  Not a goddamed nothing.  Something like that could make you mad.

I was good, right?  I mean, you know it, I was really good.  Tell me so then, don’t stand there, sit down and tell me what you thought about the set.  It sounded good, right?  Well, I think it was good.  Don’t you?  You thought it was good?  Did you?  Did you really?  It was good, I know it.

Hey, the people who make Southern Comfort ought to send me free whisky.  I’m the best advertisement they got.  I know, I’ll write them a letter saying I drink their product a lot in public.  A LOT.  And then they’ll send me a free case of booze.  Yeah, it’s a hustle, I’m still hustling free drinks, man, the way I did when I was a beatnik.  You got something better?  When I get scared and worried, I tell myself, Janis, just have a good time.

1968

You know, it’s a good thing people like me the way I am cause I damn sure wouldn’t know how to change.

I’d rather not sing than sing quiet.  Don’t ask me to do that.  Doesn’t make sense at all.  Get somebody else.  Sure, Billie Holliday could do that.  She knew how to crawl around inside a melody just like a snake  Me, I stomp on the tune like an elephant.  It’s exciting.  I’m going for it.  Billie was subtle and refined.  I’m going to shove that power right into you, right through you and you can’t refuse it.  I’m going to give it all I got and you know what?  Why don’t you do the same?  Scream, yell, howl at the moon, man, tear it up, kick the door in, pound the walls, I’ll be there doing it with you.

The kids today want real feeling, they want something real and not just the usual TV humdrum mediocre bullshit.  They want something larger than life, the hell with facing up to things, with being “realistic.”  They are my friends.  We are in this together and they know it.

It’s funny being on the road.  You know how I can tell I’m in Cleveland?  The walls at the Holiday Inn are green.  The ones in Pocatello are gray.  That’s it.  That’s what I see.  It’s a series of one-night stands.  There’s that little period on the stage.  Then we rehearse sometimes when we’re lucky.  Then there’s television flat on our backs at the motel.  Downtown nowhere.  Checking in, checking out, lots of strange dressing rooms, too early at the airport, too late at the party.  Glamorous, isn’t it?

Guys on the road at least have girls they can pick up, but who comes to see me?  These little blonde androgynous fifteen year olds, man.  They’re so cute but, I mean, what are you going to do with that?  You got any ideas?

(Newport Folk Festival, August 68)

Eighteen thousand people, whoooowhee.  This might be the largest crowd we’ve played to, eh, boys?  Too much.

Back in Texas I was always looking for someone to hitch with me to Newport.  I could never afford it and now the first time I’m here, I’m the star.

Remember when I was telling you about Southern Comfort sending me a case of whisky for publicizing their product?  Well, they went for it.  I had the chick in my manager’s office photostat every goddam clipping that ever had me mentioning Southern Comfort and I sent them to the company, and they sent me a whole lot of money.  How could anybody in their right mind want me for their image?  Oh, man, that was the best hustle that I ever pulled.  Can you believe that shit? I got paid for passing out for two years!

We worked a lot, maybe two much.  For two years now we’ve been playing almost every night and catching a lot of planes, doing the same old material.  It gets harder to feel when it isn’t fresh anymore and there’s no time to write new stuff.  Who wants to get paid ten grand for acting like you’re having a good time?  It kind of goes against everything we set out to do in the first place.  The difference between me and them is that I saw it first.

I love those guys but if I have any real sense of myself as a musician I have to move on. They weren’t helping the words.  They were fighting them or just clamming up like cold fish.  I got out there and tried and those guys weren’t even trying.  Real feeling like Otis Redding had, like all those great soul bands.   I want a band with horns and a keyboard, higher highs, lower lows, an incredible amount of that way down deep swamp bass pounding your chest kind of thing, know what I mean?

This music writer asked me if I sang from my diaphragm.  I thought that was pretty funny since I been having a lot of trouble with one this week.  The doctor showed me how to put it in but it’s weird.  If you hold it the wrong way it’ll slip out of your fingers and sail across the room.  I don’t know where the fuck I sing from.  I sing from my mouth, I guess.  Yeah, that would be my theory on the whole matter. Anything’s better than an IUD though.  Those things hurt.  It felt like I swallowed a rusty nail when I tried one of those.  Every time I would try to shake anything on stage I could feel it stabbing me.

You ever notice?  There’s about twenty-three people wherever you go.  It’s the same people.  Los Angeles, New York, London.  I mean, here’s Seideman and Mouse, there’s Annie, there’s Eric, there’s Moskowitz, there’s that sweet pitiful mother of three on the corner, begging for mercy and a fix, looking white and like she could use a break, God.  They’re the same, the same.  It’s the same damn twenty-three people it’s always been.  Hey, honey, come over here, you need a break? I’ll break you, man.  (She cackles that special Texas laugh and stomps her foot for emphasis.)

1969

I LOVE it when I give it a kick or shake my ass and the drummer hits a rim shot without any arranging or anything said beforehand and it’s intuitive and from the heart, man, that’s the way it should be.  I am so lucky to be with these guys.  They paid their dues.  This ain’t some hippy band.  These guys played their hearts out on Broadway where there’s no room for error, backing strippers and rehearsing once a week if they’re lucky.

I just want to say one thing on stage.  Let yourself go and you’ll be more than you ever thought of being.  You know?  You can be musical and go to Harvard and major in music but there is a special gear that all musicians must hit when it gets really good and goes beyond any kind of meaning you could put into words.  Feeling.  That’s what it is.  Do the audience like it?  Do they really like it?  If they do like me that liking comes into themselves and they become it.  It is a certain gear, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  God and the Universe, man.

What are you doing sitting in your seats?  This is a rock and roll concert.  I was in Ballamer, Merlin once (imitating W.C. Fields) and they told me three things and only three that I couldn’t do.  No dancing.  No getting drunk.  No taking your clothes off.  Well, we’re going to have a lot of fun tonight, honey.

I was going to be on the cover of Newsweek and maybe even Time.  Did you see that?  Everything was all set.  The photo was taken and it was good too , man.  We were ready to go with it and then President Eisenhower dies.  Fourteen goddam heart attacks and he has to die in MY week.

(at rehearsal, to the bandmembers)

Hey, hey!  Listen, I’m singing here.  For Chrissake, pay attention, you’re moving around, jacking off and talking while I’m trying to do this.  It’s distracting, goddamit.  Listen, man,  I’m the one out front.  I’m the one they’re going to blame if we don’t have a decent set and look good.

Roy, I don’t need you upstaging me just because you can.  It’s my show, you got it?  I’m the one they put on the poster, dig?  I don’t want to get heavy but what have we got?  A couple of weeks till we’ve got to sound like the Second Coming and now we sound like sick and tired of being sick and tired.  We don’t even have one song really down.  I’m scared if you really must know.  Let’s get it together.

1970

Yeah, he was a silver tongue devil, I’ll tell you that.  It was his phrase, he used it a lot, I’m talking about the phrase, and it described him perfectly, know what I mean.  He probably believed it all himself.   Kris wrote the tune but HE was the devil moonman, I mean, he was.

I try to hold back.  It’s never any fun.  It feels like cheating.  I start thinking of something else.  Even at rehearsals I still have to sing as hard as I can or it just doesn’t come through the way it should.  If you ACT like you’re having a good time, everything gets weird.  It’s such a turn-on to go for it in a real way.  It’s another level.

Everybody’s got pain and joy.  Even housewives in Podunk, Texas.  Especially housewives in Podunk, Texas.  Everybody’s got soul if they give into it.  It’s hard, it’s scary, and it ain’t all pretty when you let it out.

There was a time when I wanted to know everything.  I read Time Magazine cover to cover every week, I really did.  I guess you could say I was an intellectual.  Your head can be filled with ideas and your soul can be running on empty.  At least, that’s what I saw.  Maybe I’ll change as I grow older.  When it’s late at night and nobody else is there, then what do you do?  Sometimes ideas aren’t enough when there is all of that power and feeling inside that must be handled somehow.

You should see what Bobby did in Stockholm.  He and Sam went out, got drunk with the mayor and then wandered all over town.  They came back to the hotel and Bobby made it all right with me about that horrible Rolling Stone article.  It sucked but not enough to get me off.  Ralph Gleeson said I should go back to Big Brother if they would have me.  He hated my new band (pronounced ba-yund).  I was crushed. CRUSHED.  (She mocks herself for feeling so deeply but feels deeply anyway.) It was so mean and heartless, I mean, he could’ve given us a chance.

When Cheap Thrills came out Rolling Stone devoted eighteen pages to killing me, you know, in public.  They’ve always dealt with me very tacky for some reason.  They’ve always dealt with me and Big Brother very shabbily, I don’t know why.  They’ve never liked us.  They’ve always treated us bad.  And now they’ve done it again.  They didn’t like me with Big Brother and now they’re saying I should go back with them.  And every now and then some writer from Rolling Stone has the nerve to call me and ask for an interview.  Can you believe that?

But anyway Bobby came back, put in a call to Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone and just consoled me in a really good way.  He’s a good dude, good dude.  Crazy though.  I saw him shoot up once right through his clothes.  Unbelievable.  He had the works loaded and he just jammed it into his thigh, right through his pants and everything.  Later Andy Wahrhol told me that some of his people did that and I would have thought it was just talk if I hadn’t seen it.  I mean what is the point of that?  If you’ll pardon the expression, heh, heh.

Hey, I went to Rio.  It was a throbbing, pulsing good time, let me tell you.  We did the city thing and the in the jungle thing.  Hitchiking and riding on the back of motorcycles just like in the beatnik days.  Good for the soul, you know?

I got a couple of tatoos, see?  I drew this one myself.

The one on my heart is for the boys.  We had a party at my house in Larkspur and I invited Lyle Tuttle king of the tatoo artists to come and decorate everyone.  He tatooed eighteen people.  That was one party it would be hard for some people to forget.

Playing for the Angels is crazy, man.  On one level they’re a class act.  The money is always straight, the sound system is good and if they like you you are family.  But if something goes wrong they will express themselves physically.  I’ve had to fight them for a bottle of whisky more than once and they are touchy, whew!

We were playing in this place in San Rafael out by the freeway and it was a scene.  It was my new band on the same bill with my old band Big Brother so everyone was on edge anyway.  We were all getting stoned to beat the band you might say.  Nitrous oxide, pot, lots of smack, crank all washed down with more alcohol than was strictly sane.  It was like battle of the bands.  How is Big Brother going to look compared to my new band?  And we’re even doing some of the same songs.  There was more tension than there should have been in a love crowd.

One of those Angels up and punched me, man, can you believe that?  I hit him with a bottle and then everybody jumped in.  It was a little Altamont.  The times were turning ugly.  Onstage I was drunk and punchy and I felt like a parody of myself that day.  It was sloppy.  Oh, well, that’s over and gone now.

I don’t want to have to sing Down On Me when I’m eighty years old.  It might be fun every now and then.  People say I’m singing great.  San Francisco, which was a little miffed at me at first for breaking up their happy home, has come around now.   And anyway with Full Tilt now it’s more of a family thing than it was with the Kozmic Blues Band.

Ooooh, I was feeling so good last night with this gorgeous dude.  Now, that was a party…best one in my life, no shit.  So, we’re going to do this number we just got together and we hope you like it cause we worked really hard on this, I mean, you’ll like it, won’t you?

Don’t mess with me now.  I was once the eight-ball champion of Sixth Street and Avenue A in Manhattan and I can beat you too if it comes down to it.

I’m not losing my voice.  It’s actually better than it’s ever been.  If I don’t have to sing seven nights a week I can last forever.  Hey, nothing’s going to happen to me.  I’ve got good genes, man.  My people were pioneer stock, good, solid, strong people.  It may get other people.  It’s not going to get me.  I’ll be around.

Note from Sam:

I want to thank all of the photographers here, friends of mine for years now:

Don Aters

Richard Avedon

Jay Blakesberg

Bill Brock

Dale Burkhardt

Max Clarke

Linda Eastman

Herb Green

Lisa Law

Jim Marshall

Irving Penn

Bob Seidemann…

OK?   See you next week.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company

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One thought on “Janis Joplin, First Person, by Sam Andrew.

  1. Damn Straight…..Sam I sat with Janis in the dugout in Shea Stadium before she went on at the Peace Festival Concert in 1970. Photographer took a picture of Janis drinking out of a Southern Comfort bottle and she told him “Don’t take no pictures of me drinking out of the bottle, it ain’t lady like”

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