Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Janis Joplin - 'Me and Bobby McGee'

Janis Joplin seems to embody the Counter Culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s - the clothes, beads, incense, drugs, sexual freedom ... real liberation from convention.

And 'Me and Bobby McGee' seems to catch its essence.

Wish I'd been part of it - rather than a kid wondering at it!

Anyone out there live through it?

What was it like?

Any stories would be good guys!


  1. And now we live in the bean counter culture.

    Alan down in Florida

  2. Janis Joplin gave a concert at my (southern) university and the whole experience was a real hoot. It was part of the university's official "artist series," so the folks in fraternities and sororities showed up dressed like they were going to Sunday Morning Worship at First Presbyterian Church--white shirt, tie, suit, some of the young ladies wore hats and a couple even wore white gloves. That sat (quietly) in their seats and applauded politely after numbers--like they were listening to Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians.

    "The Freaks" (i.e., people who had Joplin records, and knew what she was all about), kept trying to dance in the aisles--Joplin kept trying to loosen up the audience to dance and clap and sing along and have a good time--PARTY!--.but the security guards kept moving people out of the aisles and telling us to SIT DOWN AND BEHAVE. Jopllin was NOT pleased and finally said we were a bunch of repressed tightasses who needed to loosen up and learn how to fuck. That got big applause from some and a few boos from others.

    I'm sure it was just incredibly frustrating for her. She probably felt she wasn't getting any kind of feedback from the audience. (Politely applause from young ladies wearing white gloves just didn't cut it in the Joplin camp.)

    I think there's a lot of truth in the old cliche, "If you remember the 60s and early 70s you really weren't really there." On the other hand, it's nice to've dabbled my toes in the water metaphorically...and be able to remember it.

  3. Wow! Thanks, Nic, I know it is a classic now but I totally forgot how insanely good it is. She WAS a talent!!!

  4. hey alan

    yep, and i was wishing i'd bean there!

    good cyber 'chatting' (or whatever it is!) yesterday

  5. hey paul

    to be in touch with someone who saw-heard janis! like meeting one of those who touched Mao Zedong's hand when he paraded through Tiananmen Square in 1960 something

    what a contrast between the audience dress and Joplin's, as i understand it! and polite clapping! and LOL. like serious art students (i was one - a confession) who seriously talked about the work of gay pornographic artists.

    glad to know i was 'a (semi)freak' - dead on! my sister had 'pearl'. does this qualify as a toe nail in the water?

    and the freaks being told 'to behave' - a perfect example of the counter-point between the counter culture and the mainstream!

    thanks for sharing - very nice of you to comment at length, very!

  6. Oh, yes! I was about 15 when the hippie movement began in San Francisco. I saw Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company several times in concert and LOVED them. In November 1969, I drove my parents to SF to fly to LA and in the car behind us was Janis and Big Brother, on their way to a gig in Hawaii. I got out of the car, went over to where she stood and talked to her! She said, "Hi, Babe." I asked if she was going to play Winterland on New Year's Eve with her new band and she laughed, saying she didn't even know all the members yet (to be the Full Tilt Boogie Band). Serious error on my part because members of Big Brother were standing right there, knowing they were losing her soon to further fame and fortune. I was so psyched that Janis Joplin had talked to me! I giggled to myself all the way back to Modesto.

    A few months later, a friend of mine named Vince Lavery (VJ Productions), put on a concert in Merced at the fairgrounds and let me and my friends in early. We saw her wandering in this big empty room before the show. I wanted to go talk to her again, but was a little zonked and couldn't get it together.

    I was in Amsterdam in early October 1970 and saw her photo on a storefront window. Not able to read Dutch, I asked someone if they could tell me what it said. "She died," was the reply. I was stunned. This was just a few weeks after Jimi Hendrix died and a mere 3 months since Jim Morrison's death in Paris. I wondered if someone was out to get rock stars. Then I realized that it was just the excesses they got into.

    I had so much fun living near San Francisco in the '60's and '70's. I WAS there and DO remember it. Music made it all come alive!

    Thanks for the opportunity to take a "trip" down memory lane.


  7. hey tom

    my level of envy (which is usually under strict control) just spun out hearing of your roadside encounter ... janis is one of the few i'd LOVE to have experienced - it's not just the singing but the whole 'scene lady' thing - was that expression used in the states?

    there are few people whose early deaths really numb you and leave you with a sense of irreplaceable loss

    thanks VERY much for your comment - i really like anecdotes like yours - feel i've done some time travel with you - at least in my imagination

    take care


  8. In 1967, I was living in Virginia, but my parents sent me to California to spend some time with an uncle who lived in Frisco. He was a hippie before there were hippies, so the 60's suited him well.

    LSD wasn't illegal then, and was openly sold everywhere. I regret some of my experiences with it but I'll never regret going with him to the Monterey Festival and seeing Joplin, Hendrix, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service--one of the bands that's been mostly forgotten, but they were phenomenal. (Check out some of their stuff over at YouTube.)

    Rock stars weren't surrounded by security back then as they are now, so we pushed our way through the crowd to get near her as she left the stage. I managed to grab her hand for just a second and say something stupid and teenaged, and she just smiled at me.

    A year later, I saw her perform again at Woodstock. I didn't get near her, but I will always remember her singing "Ball and Chain," one of my favorites. She had more presence on stage than any singer I've ever seen. She made you part of her world when she sang by becoming the song and the singer at the same time. She was raw and real in her life and in her music, and I think that's why she appealed to people like me. She sang to our anger, our innocence, our youthful jadedness, our teenage hedonism, and our desperation to get out of the suffocating world of 1960's middle class America.

    40 years later, it feels odd to think of Janis if she were alive today. I'm not happy she died, of course, but by dying young, she can stay young in my memories and be forever a part of that special time in our history.

  9. hey anon

    very much enjoyed your comment!

    sometimes in life (it seems to me) that opportunities are thrown up in a rather unplanned way - like you visiting your uncle in california - at uni i did the acid thing a couple of times and i really value the experience tho it was too intense and the fall-out too strong for me to want many repeats

    but the image of a parking meter turning absolutely into a dragon's head, and going to the art gallery and a boy in a titian painting really taking to me (as it seemed at the time) ... are experiences i'll enjoy for ever

    and listening to music put me in a state of bliss quite unreachably in any real life

    you make me recall living in london as a kid when you mention the greater accessibility of performers - i saw 'a aconstant wife' with ingrid bergman and met her after at a first night party - a rather tongue tied argentinian guy stammered something to her and then embarrassed turned to leave - and she took the only thing she knew about him and said 'give my regards to rio' and the guy smiled and felt touched

    and you are right it's hard to imagine some people who died then being around today - probably sad 'imitations' of themselves - no happier about it than we'd be

    when you speak of her 'ball and chain' song i know what you mean about performers who speak directly to you - the meanings and feeling are directly and intensely communicated

    so thanks very much for your comment