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Boomer Blues: Janis Joplin Debuts “Ball and Chain” at Monterey Pop

“I’d rather have 10 years of super-hyper-most than live to be 70 by sitting in some goddam chair watching TV” — Janis Joplin

Me too, Janis, me too. But here we are again with you 52 years gone and me with my impossible TV playlists. Vaya con Dios,  Pearl. See you a little further down the road.

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970), nicknamed “Pearl” Janis Joplin becomes the reigning goddess of the new hippie love generation at the Monterey Pop Festival, belting the blues epic “Ball and Chain” with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. A Texas girl relocated to San Francisco, Joplin is a nobody before she comes to Monterey, but she steals the show. In the Monterey Pop movie, you can see Mama Cass in the audience shake her head and say, ” Wooow ” – and that says it all.

Sitting down by my window
Honey, looking out at the rain
Lord, Lord, Lord, sitting down by my window
Baby, looking out at the rain
Something came along, grabbed a hold of me
And it felt just like a ball and chain

Long ago — in another lifetime — in another country — in another world — I knew Janis briefly. Very briefly. In person, she came across as a very small, very slight, very damaged soul who was, in the absence of alcohol, somewhat shy and painfully aware of her bad skin.

But when she stopped being Janis in her real life and became Pearl on stage, her pipes could and did cure the blues for millions. And then give them another dose.

Mad teenage Texas drove Janis down into the darkness. She never really climbed out.

Once the needle goes in, it never comes out.

I don’t understand,how come you’re gone, man. I don’t understand why half the world is still crying, man, when the other half the world is still crying too, man. I just can’t get it together. I mean, if you gotta’ care for one day, man.

I don’t mean, if you, say maybe you wanna’ care for 365 days, right? You ain’t got 365 days. You got it for one day, man.

Well I tell you that one day man, better be your life man, because you know you could say oh man you could cry about the other 364 man, but you’re gonna loose that one day man, and That’s all you got.

You gotta’ call that love, man. That’s what it is, man. If you got it today you don’t wear it tomorrow, man. ‘Cause you don’t need it. ‘Cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fucking day, man.

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  • Dan Patterson October 19, 2018, 11:08 AM

    One thing I noticed as a kid is some jazz and blues musicians, no matter their race, lose themselves to the song and perform without the limits I would impose on myself. Maybe because of a bashful and conservative nature, or fear of ridicule or failure, but I am impressed by those who bare their interpretive artistic souls whether anyone approves or cares. I saw in genuine folk musicians the same pattern; the Carter Family, Roscoe Holcomb, etc. all just did what they did. Joplin had the same trait – just listen to her a Capella with “Me and Bobby McGee” – she damn sure left it all out there.

  • ghostsniper October 19, 2018, 11:46 AM

    Just listened to BnC last night.
    No, not my wife.
    Hear that guitar being tortured in that thing?
    Nah, it’s not tortured, it was made to do that.
    And that Marshall amp.
    good gaw, does it get any better?

    I have played that very guitar.
    It’s a Gibson ES345. Varitone.
    With the chicken head.
    Go price one out right now.
    I dare ya.

    My cousin bought it in 1973 and a few months later he showed me the workings for Stairway to Heaven on it. Sweet. Smooth. Beckoning. Urging. All that. I played it a few more times over the next year or so. Then I didn’t see it again til about 2005 when I dropped by his Florida house. I had a lot more experience this time and I showed the cuz a few things, on that guitar. And some of his other guitars. My cuz is wealthy, worked as a nuclear engineer at Three Mile Island for 30 years. No, not during THAT period. Right after. He was also on a nuclear sub in the navy. The Dace. Thats a fish. Like all other subs of that era.

    He’s a guitar collector. Very high quality. Remember the Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul Peter Frampton played in “Do You Feel Like We do”? He doesn’t own that guitar but the back up version that is identical. I played it. That middle pickup throws you off. But scream? On full gain that thing will wail for decades, or until you let off’n it. My Ibanez JS100 Joe Satriani’s like that, unbelievable sustain. I’ll keep it til I die. He has one of Carlos Santana’s early SG’s and I played that one too. Amazing harmonics all over the neck. I played Gimme Three Steps on that thing just using harmonics!!! It’s beat to death but fits like a glove. It just does. That can only happen through years of playing and constant tweaking. Like almost parallel lines, eventually they meet, and when they do it is natural music.

    I never played BnC on that infamous 345 because I don’t know how and it didn’t even occur to me at the time to try. I have a lot of stuff in my quiver. The hollow body’s are light and a pleasure to strap on. For hours. And I did. Rather than whole songs I play a medley of hundreds of songs, anywhere from 10 seconds worth to several minutes depending. I get overwhelmingly bored very fast and most songs are boring. So I change over a lot. Medley’s as my wife calls them. Always different, different order. Always something new. That 345 was warm when I set it down an hour or so later. Released from my ball and chain.

    • Terry October 4, 2022, 7:34 PM

      Guitar—How about this for some guitar mastery.


      Best being in the audience at an acoustically clean venue. Superb group. I lived in the SF Peninsula at the time.

      • ghostsniper October 5, 2022, 4:11 AM

        Carlos was one of my primary staples back in the early 70’s.

  • pbird October 19, 2018, 11:54 AM

    I did not like her work when she was current. Still don’t. I think she was a poor miserable person.

    • Terry October 4, 2022, 7:53 PM

      When Janis was in San Fran she and Grace Slick were close friends. Possibly not the best “friend” to be hanging with. Gracie was into some strong stuff and the whole Airplane group were a bit hooked, so to say.

      I had a crush on Grace but knew she a dangerous woman indeed. She used to attend parties that a close friend of mine threw up in the Sunset District of The City. All night insanity. I think that association is what led to Janis Joplin’s OD and death. I believed then and still do now that it was suicide. Probably Hendricks as well. So very sad what drugs do.

      • Terry October 4, 2022, 8:06 PM

        Hendrix — sorry for the mistake above.

      • pbird October 6, 2022, 12:44 PM

        Appreciate your response.

  • jwm October 19, 2018, 11:57 AM

    Ball and Chain is one of my all time favorites. Big Brother and the Holding Company were hot as hell. With this one song Janis absolutely pwn3d the Blues.


  • Anderson October 19, 2018, 12:02 PM

    I remember an interview with Kris Kristopherson (with whom she was romantically linked) in which he admitted that he had no idea that she had recorded his song Me and Bobby McGee just before her death. He summed it up thusly: “She sang the hell out of it”. She did that on a lot of songs.

  • AmericusMagnus October 19, 2018, 1:01 PM

    I picked up a left-handed guitar 34 years ago, taught myself to play and never looked back.
    When you plug in, start playing and reach that point where you lose yourself – and leave the room – it’s pure magic…

  • Casey Klahn October 19, 2018, 1:28 PM

    I love it. I was always impressed with the way she looked like she was gonna eat that mic. She had this way of playing balls out.

    Which is fine for music, but don’t try it with the visual arts. Around here we like it Mitch Miller-like.

    OK. I had to say that. There’s a thread to everything expressive in art. Gerard, you met her, huh? That is very cool and I’d call it a brush with fame.

  • Dr. Jay October 19, 2018, 2:06 PM

    I like sitting in a chair watching TV. On a side note: I don’t believe said chair is damned. We have the Pearl album ON VINYL!

  • Vanderleun October 19, 2018, 3:40 PM

    Oh, I brushed.

  • Sam L. October 19, 2018, 4:10 PM

    Didn’t like Janis when I first heard her. Took me a while.

  • steve walsh October 19, 2018, 5:49 PM

    Was barely a teen when Janis, Jimi, and Jim died. I really only knew and appreciated them and their work posthumously. Love Janis, that song is great but I think Summertime is better. I was a Boy Scout then abouts. On long hikes it was not unusual for someone to start singing ‘Mercedes Benz’; we knew all the words and even attempted the same inflection.

  • Mary Ann October 19, 2018, 8:49 PM

    So…one of the hardest things I ever had to do was let ALL my vinyls go after my husband died and I had to sell the house and downsize b.i.g.t.i.m.e. But, there is Spotify and Prime Music and my music goes on though I’d prefer it coming from 4 EV speakers. When I was sad and young I’d listen to “Little Girl Blue” and now that I’m not young….I still do.


  • Anon October 19, 2018, 8:49 PM

    She was bi-polar. It is probable that moast “artists” are bi-polar. What you saw/heard was her manic self. This is not to take anything away from her and what she did but more to explain her personality and why she isn’t here and died young.

  • Mary Ann October 19, 2018, 8:52 PM

    And then to feel better, I’d listen to this.

  • ghostsniper October 20, 2018, 4:26 AM

    Mary Ann – You could have purchased a system that would have converted your vinyl to MP3.
    I purchased the one below for my wife last year at Christmas.
    She played flute in her high school band and they cut an album in her senior year, 1972.
    She wanted to hear that album on her computer.
    This one did the conversion painlessly.


  • Jeff Brokaw October 20, 2018, 5:45 AM

    Pretty revolutionary, for that audience at that time especially. Amazing vocal ability ie using her voice like a musical instrument to convey emotion. Truly one of a kind.

  • Fuel Filter October 20, 2018, 6:17 AM

    Saw BB twice at the Fillmore West in ’67. Insane shows. She always knocked it out of the park.

  • Rob De Witt October 20, 2018, 10:36 AM

    Amazing vocal ability ie using her voice like a musical instrument to convey emotion. Truly one of a kind/em>

    You never heard of Billie Holiday?

  • Jeff Brokaw October 20, 2018, 12:36 PM

    Rob – point taken. Two of a kind?

    Ten of a kind, maybe. Still pretty special.

  • Eskyman October 21, 2018, 1:48 PM

    Had a chance to see her in Frankfurt, Germany back in ’69. My buddy went & invited me along, but I was more into Judy Collins so I didn’t go.

    Oh, I have some regrets in life, I do. What a show I missed, what a talent I never got to see in person!

  • Skorpion October 22, 2018, 4:15 PM

    Always noticed she was especially popular with women. I think it’s because her music was deeply suffused with *distinctly female experiences* of power and pain, and she communicated them both brilliantly.

  • Suburbanbanshee October 23, 2018, 5:16 PM

    You don’t have to have that kind of pain to be a great artist. As Spider Robinson pointed out in a story. However, just as the great saints tend to attract some very harsh attention from the insecure, so do people who are brilliant, charismatic, and tell the truth about the world. So a lot of great artists end up very broken, either before they achieve mastery of their art, or during their achievement.

    The problem is that such people have a particularly hard time dealing with the contradiction between the beauty and the pain in the world, or the fact that they aren’t loved in a good way by the people who should be protecting them and helping them grow. So the Muse that should turn outward tends to turn inward.

    The other side of it is that most performing arts include a certain amount of enjoyment for the performer, but a lot more work and throwing your gifts to others. So people can do a really great job, and feel empty afterwards. People try to use drugs or sex to fill the emptiness, whereas really it’s a matter of just being patient.

    (Again, similar things happen with prayer lives — early on, there are lots of “consolations,” but experienced people don’t expect that stuff most of the time. Feeling temporarily empty, sometimes for a long time, is part of the life cycle of having gifts pour through you that are meant for others. Kinda stinks, but it makes you stronger and wiser when you can get through it.)

  • brinster October 27, 2018, 10:11 AM

    Saw her twice. Once at a music festival in Palm Beach County FL in late ’68, then in mid-69 in Jacksonville FL. Both gigs were post-Big Brother. At the festival, she told her sax player, who was black, “you look like a Campbell’s soup can.” His response? “Eat me!”
    The Jacksonville gig was a small venue, a high school perhaps. The crowd was cued up outside, and she came out to talk to somebody. Everybody was so freaked, noone said a word to her! I was amazed at how small she was. She put every bit of her being into her performances.

  • jwm October 4, 2022, 12:07 PM

    … “When all ever really wanted to do
    was to love you.”
    Tears my heart out to this day.


  • That Time Janis Converted to Islam October 4, 2022, 2:38 PM

    I’d like to sing something of great import to the Dar Al Salaam

    Allah, woncha buy me a Mercedez Benz
    My friend all ride camels
    I must make “Ay-mends”
    State chaste all my lifetime
    No help from my clan
    So ALLAH, woncha buy me a Mercedez Benz

    Allah, woncha buy me a brand new chador
    My old one shows forearm
    I look like ..”A” whore
    I wait to restore my honor
    Each day after four
    So Allah, woncha buy me a branch new chador

    Allah, woncha give me a night at Bazaar
    Im counting on you ‘lah
    Show me you’re Akbar
    Prove you’re Al Qawi and blow up that Jew car
    Allah, woncha give me a night at Bazaar

    Allah, woncha buy me a Mercedes Benz
    My friends all ride camels
    I must make ‘ay-mends
    Prayed hard all my lifetime
    No help from the imam
    Wallah, woncha buy me a Mer-SAY-des Benz

    Alaf Ashkur! … Ulla-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

  • Ancient Mason October 4, 2022, 4:30 PM

    I am a contemporary with Janis and liked her the first time I heard her. A couple of years ago a young person told me she sounds like Marge Simpson (or Marge sounds like her). Listened to Janis after that and, damn, he was right!

  • Mel October 4, 2022, 5:09 PM

    That poor girl (Baez reference)

  • TrangBang68 October 4, 2022, 6:04 PM

    ” Turtle Blues” summed up what it felt like to be a broken soul on a meteoric flight into the sun” Her version of “Little Girl Blue” also was epic. She was a legend.

  • Mike Austin October 4, 2022, 8:24 PM

    Alcoholism, wild drug use and indiscriminate sexual practices take their toll in the end. For Joplin that came when she was but 27. Had she lived she would be 78 today. One can imagine what music she would have made had she lived. Likewise for Hendrix. Think of the guitar he would have played had he lived. He died 16 days before Joplin, and of the same causes.

    • Tom Hyland October 5, 2022, 6:56 AM

      An excellent read is “Room Full of Mirrors” by Charles R. Cross. Hendrix was murdered… likely held down by two dudes while a third shoved a bottle of red wine down this throat, thus drowning him. Jimi’s manager, Micheal Jeffrey, was a very spooky character, possibly connected with the CIA. Hendrix was run ragged by Jeffrey’s schedule of booking him at opposite ends of the planet incessantly plus pilfering his wealth, too. The management contract was nearing an end, with Jimi seeking no renewal, when Jeffrey finagled a high dollar life insurance policy which he collected on. Jimi’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham successfully sued Monika Dannemann to stop with the bullshit story that Jimi choked on his own vomit while strapped in a gurney in the back of an ambulance. The two medics testified in trial that Jimi was dead when they arrived at his flat and they don’t drive around London allowing patients to suffocate unattended. Not their M.O. ya know? Monika was so humiliated by her defeat in court, thus ending her career of profiting from the vomit story, that she inserted the exhaust into her car and experienced suffocation herself.

      • Mike Austin October 5, 2022, 9:08 AM

        Damn Tom. I never heard any of that before. I will get that book. Just so you know, every book you have recommended here at American Digest I got and read. Great stuff, and thank you.

        • Tom Hyland October 5, 2022, 10:16 AM

          Here’s a copy offered by a GoodWill in Indiana… only $4.54 ! Hendrix was jamming with Miles Davis and looked to be heading into a jazz episode in his career. I never met Janis. She was hanging out in Taos for a spell and I know folks who knew her. I met Grace Slick, at her art show here about 15 years ago. She’s been painting white rabbits flying over rainbows while holding hands with Jimi & Jerry. Corny stuff, but she’s a blast to talk to. She asked me if anyone ever told me I look just like Micky Hart. I said “no, not that I recall” but she insisted I really do, told me he’s damn good looking, and winked at me suggestively. If Grace didn’t resemble Benjamin Franklin these days I might have taken her up on it. Of course, I kept that observation to myself. She mailed me a Christmas card shortly after. I checked out Micky Hart online, and sure enough, he IS damn good looking.

          • Mike Austin October 5, 2022, 4:15 PM

            Now that is pretty cool! As a boy I had a crush on both Michelle Phillips and Grace Slick. Time has taken its toll on both of them, but not on my memories.

    • TrangBang68 October 5, 2022, 2:54 PM

      Another songbird who died from general trampiness and left a world of unsung gems was Amy Winehouse

      • Mike Austin October 6, 2022, 3:07 AM

        Everyone around Winehouse knew that she was headed for an early grave. Perhaps she knew as well. Her end, like those of so many like her, was sordid.

  • Roadie October 4, 2022, 8:55 PM

    She was a meteorite. Her lower register was golden. Sometimes I’d hang in through a lot of screeching, just to hear those jagged honey tones. Never learned to like the screeching.

  • james wilson October 5, 2022, 1:31 AM

    I never saw Carson so amazed by a performer. He was dazzled and amused at the same time.

  • Mike Austin October 5, 2022, 9:09 AM

    Пишите на английском языке.

  • nunnya bidnez, jr October 5, 2022, 9:31 AM

    you’ve got to suffer
    if you want to sing the blues

  • Teresa Pittman October 5, 2022, 12:01 PM

    she rehearsed what she did and could replicate her performance. And friends got frustrated with her when she continued to complain that she couldn’t get laid when she was famous. She was intelligent but couldn’t let go of what happened back in high school. It’s a shame and a waste.

  • Fuel Filter October 9, 2022, 5:37 AM

    I saw Big Brother and the Holding Company thrice at the Fillmore in San Francisco in the mid 60’s. I was only 15 and flew up north to see my best friend who had moved there.

    What a show! She was more than amazing! I have always counted myself as extremely lucky that my friend introduced me to all sorts of music I had never heard before. SF was ground zero for wonderful music and I didn’t even know it.

    That trip was a turning point for me.