Bill Manson 10 a.m., Jan. 22
44 years ago this week: Janis Joplin in San Diego
9-28-68: Big Brother and the Holding Company were scheduled to play a sold-out show at downtown's Community Concourse. The afternoon before the show, Janis Joplin announced to the press her intention to quit the band.
"I told you, you remember, that I was going to do a thing of my own," she wrote in a letter to her family dated the same day (and published by her sister in the book Love, Janis). "There'll be a whole lot of pressure because of the 'vibes' created by my leaving Big Brother and also how big I am now."
The band's album, Cheap Thrills, was number one on the Billboard charts, where it remained for eight weeks.
Joplin explained in the letter that "It's to be set up [so] I'm a corporation called Fantality, which will hire all the musicians and pay all the bills. Much more responsibility, but also much more chance of making money for me as my price goes up...Albert [Grossman, manager] told me -- are you ready? -- that I should make a half million next year, counting record royalties."
Her final gig with Big Brother took place in San Francisco two months later.
MORE JANIS IN SAN DIEGO
3-29-69: Janis Joplin appeared at the Sports Arena for one of the first West Coast concerts with her new group, the Kozmic Blues Band. "Janis was flirting with a lethal combination of drugs, alcohol, and heroin," wrote Joplin's sister Laura of that period in her book Love, Janis.
"Linda Gravenites found Janis purple on the floor one day in March. At least she knew how to revive Janis from a heroin overdose...the media pressure might have been one reason she gave herself for increasing her use of heroin."
Also in March '69, the New York Times ran an article quoting Joplin: "Yeah, I know I might be going too fast. That's what a doctor said...I don't go back to him anymore. Man, I'd rather have ten years of superhypermost [sic] than live to be seventy by sitting in some [expletive] chair watching TV."
Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band appeared in San Diego one other time (October 4, 1969), exactly one year before her death.
7-11-70 – Janis Joplin made her final San Diego appearance at the Sports Arena on this night, backed by her new group the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Ticket prices were $3.75 to $5.50.
Also on the bill were her old band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, whose guitarist Sam Andrew had quit Big Brother for awhile to join Janis’s shortlived Kozmic Blues Band. "I remember flying home with Janis, Nick Gravenites, Mike Bloomfield et alia from this one," recalls Andrew at samsblog.com.
"Bloomers was on a roll. He was ranting in that special Bloomfieldian style about taping two balloons full of lukewarm water to a bathroom mirror and masturbating into the sink. You know, typical inflight conversation. It was something else to have Big Brother and Full Tilt in that same small tight space. Good thing we all loved each other. Of course, in those days you could smoke and the flight attendants wore miniskirts. If I remember correctly, there was even a piano bar upstairs. Seat belts were only for taking off and landing, and sometimes not even then."
According to Joplin’s sister Laura in her book Love, Janis, “Sam [Andrew] said the drinking was beginning to show in Janis’s body and she was gaining weight again...Sam also recalled the puffy red skin that she had, a clear sign of excessive alcohol consumption. The emotional roller coaster was still going fast for Janis. High and then low, she struggled to maintain an equilibrium.”
Joining Joplin at the Sports Arena was longtime Doors producer Paul Rothchild, who was being considered to work on her next album. “In San Diego,” says Laura, “Janis gave him a stopwatch, saying ‘Look, I’ve got thirty-five good minutes in me. You stand behind the amps and I’ll look you over, you flash me how much time I have left.’ Paul thought it was a good sign that she was pacing herself like a runner.”
Rothchild later said of watching Joplin in San Diego, “She was singing and I was enraptured, because I was listening to one of the most brilliant vocalists I ever heard, in classical, pop, or jazz music. What a voice…all of the woman was revealed. The vessel of Janis vanished. For somebody like me, who was always talking about the inner beauty and all that stuff, it got me big. So I was totally hooked from that moment on, on every single possible level.”
Rothchild would work on Joplin’s final album Pearl, including her only number one single, “Me and Bobby McGee.”
“The presence of old friends in San Diego had energized her for the airplane journey back to San Francisco,” according to Laura Joplin. “She bought drinks for everyone. [Big Brother guitarist] James Gurley found her too exuberant, as though desperately trying to be the life of the party.”
One month later, on August 12, the Full Tilt Boogie Band’s equipment was stolen in Boston, and the group performed at Harvard Stadium with borrowed gear.
It was Joplin’s last public appearance with the group; she died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles October 4.
According to San Diego Comic-Con co-founder Mike Towry, "Michael Dorf, younger brother of Comic-Con's [co-founder] Shel Dorf, used to do freelance interviews with rock musicians and singers in the L.A. area for CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] back in the sixties and early seventies. He would record them on tape and send them to CBC for broadcast but as a freelancer he kept the rights. Anyway, Michael recorded one of the last interviews with Janis Joplin but it's never been heard."
"Michael told me that, during the interview, Janis was speaking enthusiastically about doing drugs. Then, when she overdosed before he had a chance to send the tape-recording off to CBC, he felt like it wouldn't be right to air that interview considering what happened to her so he just put the recording in storage where it remains to this day: untouched and unheard."
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