Tag Archives: Janis Joplin

The 27 Club Gets Another One

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.

Not exactly a surprise, considering her lifestyle. Even the Vegas books took her off the board in “Dead Pools” more than once. But it’s yet another tragic end to what could have been a dynamic career, and unlike most of her 27 Club predecessors, the culture of the times says she should have known better.

But she didn’t want to go to rehab.

(Hey, I wouldn’t want to room with Lindsay Lohan, either.)

From my perspective, as talented as she was, her legacy is too slim to rate alongside club peers like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and Jones. But she had friends, and she had family, and she had a boatload of fans. And for them it’s as difficult a day as it was for a young Stones fan when that body was found floating in Winnie The Pooh’s pool.

Who’ll be the next in line?

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #6

The words “country blues” get thrown around a lot; I do it myself when describing music from Steve Earle to the apex of the Rolling Stones catalogue (Let It Bleed, Exile on Main Street, Beggars Banquet, Sticky  Fingers). But my god, when the form gets attacked by a band featuring a singer with the pipes of Teal Collins and a guitarist with the amazing chops of Josh Zee, the phrase redefines itself. This is flat-out goosebump material. I don’t recall witnessing Janis Joplin jamming with Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, but I imagine it might have gone down something like this:

Video: “Love Me Like A Man

The Mother Truckers are an incendiary band from Austin who just keep getting better and better. Last year “Dynamite” was my favorite song of the year, and there were three or four on Van Tour that could have made my top ten this year (if I didn’t concede the whole thing to Ce Lo Green). I mean, listen to this guy shred and this girl wail!

Video: “Dynamite

Van Tour, their fourth release, is a concept album of sorts; on the surface there are surreal songs about aliens and invasions, but it’s just a framework for honky tonk cowpunk, roots rock stompers and a master class in getting your jaw to drop. The Mother Truckers ferociously blend Americana, Patsy Cline and classic fingerpicking roadhouse hoedown with the force of AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Rolling Stones. But when Collins wants to get all sweet’n’low, she can simmer a ballad or blues song as well as just about anyone (listen to “Keep It Simple” – it  made my spine sweat!) And if Zee didn’t just launch himself onto your short list of great guitar players, well…

This is first-rate chops-meets-attitude. Van Tour might be their best yet.

Listen to clips on Amazon

Video: “Alien Girl” from Van Tour

The Mother Truckers on MySpace

Zep-KISSing “Hot Legs” and making it sound legit.

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Remembering Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin died forty years ago today.

Forty years? That doesn’t seem possible. But I guess it’s been that long since the first rock’n’roll generation’s stars started dropping like flies – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis. I was but a wee lad when I lived through that carnage, but it was only ten years later a when psychotic gunned down John Lennon in the street.

Janis did everything full-bore, and while her death was tragic it was anything but unexpected. Attractive but not conventionally pretty, she channeled whatever loneliness and pain she felt through her gifted voice and exquisite phrasing and sang everything from deep in her soul. And much like her deceased brethren, she was able to pack a lot of magic into a short window of fame.

Video: “Cry Baby” (live in Toronto)

Hearing her music today is as fulfilling as it ever was, perhaps even more so given the dearth of vocalists at her level over the years. Although I’ve heard the song a thousand times, “Piece of My Heart” still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, as does her incredible version of Summertime“. And her lighter moments – “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz“, for two – still make me smile and sing along involuntarily.

Thanks to the constant flood of unearthed film footage and studio sessions, Janis’ magic isn’t limited solely to her albums and reputation. I highly recommend picking up the Monterey Pop DVD as well as the recently released Festival Express, both of which capture her in a myriad of emotions. Nine Hundred Nights is a documentary focusing on the Big Brother era and is very good, although not objective. I was even pleasantly surprised by the episode of Biography broadcast by the A&E network; it was one of their best.

And, of course, there’s the original catalogue. If you’re not able to gather the originals, either The Essential Janis Joplin or Box of Pearls is a good place to start. Live CDs from Woodstock and Winterland are also worthy purchases, and there are more on the way.

Video: Ball and Chain” (live at Monterey Pop)

Every generation argues its own timeline, but the last half of the 1960’s might have produced the greatest number of important artists simultaneously at the peak of their game. And even in that competition, Janis Joplin was a beacon.

R.I.P., Janis.

Janis Joplin dot net

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High Roads, Haiti and Grande Ballrooms

Class act, class exit.

Conan O’Brien proved last night that it is possible to walk away from an ugly situation by taking the high road. His last show was filled with fun, pranks, great music and a heartfelt message to his fans.  

Watch here.  

And in case NBC takes down the video, here’s a transcript of his comments, plus clips from his fellow talk-show hosts.  

I could write fifty pages on why people love Conan O’Brien and not touch that four minute speech.  

***  

If you’re the type of person who likes to contribute to worthwhile projects, here are a couple of opportunities on wildly different scales.  

  

I’ll Stand By You  

Hope For Haiti Now conducted a very successful telethon last night where millions of dollars were raised for the cause. I’m as skeptical as the next person about charity scams and how some organizations skim large percentages off the top for administration costs with little of the money actually going to the charity. But this project was set up with public transparency and a guarantee that one hundred percent of the donations will go to a handful of specific organizations who are on the ground in Haiti.  

Please beware of scam sites. This is the official one.  

Of course, you might be donating through work (with an employer match) or directly to an established organization you trust (i.e. The American Red Cross). Nothing wrong with that – charity comes from the heart, and whatever you do is greatly needed and surely appreciated. It could even be non-monetary, like volunteerism or prayer. But know that despite what some religious nutjobs and political wingnuts are saying, this is not reparation but a natural disaster that has flattened a helpless people.  

We take much for granted. There but for geography and fate go I.  

***  

Where rock'n'roll met its match in Detroit

On a whole different level, documentarian Tony D’Annunzio is completing a film project about the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit. The Grande was as critical to the development of the Detroit rock music scene as the Fillmore West was to San Francisco and the Fillmore East to New York. This is where every band from Detroit aspired to play, and where every band from out of town had to walk the gauntlet and prove themselves worthy.  

Check out this amazing trailer featuring several legendary musicians who fondly recall the place where magic happened.  

Here’s the official blurb from the project website:  

LOUDER THAN LOVE is the story of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit Michigan. The Grande Ballroom was the birthplace of the Detroit Rock Music Scene. Bands like MC5,Iggy & The Stooges,Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes,Alice Cooper and many more got their start here. The Grande not only influenced local Detroit musicians but inspired bands from all over the US & from Europe. Legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, BB King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and The Who graced the stage at the Grande on a regular basis. While the west coast was groovin’ to the sounds of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard driving,gritty and raw sound that was LOUDER THAN LOVE.  

Sounds like a worthy project and a great tribute to a landmark. Contact Tony D’Annunizio through that webpage if you need more information.  

Just don’t accidentally contact this guy.

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