EXPERIENCE ROCK HISTORY!
BIG BROTHER and the HOLDING COMPANY with JANIS JOPLIN – CHEAP THRILLS – 1968
Back in the ’60s, there were many things that qualified as “cheap thrills”. History has proven that it was the best economic times in U.S. history and it was also the high-point for all things Pop-Culture, therefore we wuz havin’ a groovy time!
In 1968, the cost of everything from 33 cents a gallon gas to 18 cent McDonald’s hamburgers matched the average wages so that even us teenagers could own a car; I bought a ’51 Buick for $33.00 and had the transmission re-sealed for $66.00, and since it was one of the first automatic transmissions, a straight eight, it needed “grape juice” constantly – so for $100.00 I had cool transportation! And while still in high school with a part-time job; I could date, buy weed, food and gas and purchase concert tickets that were usually $3.50 to $7.50!
We could get away with all kinds of shenanigans that would get us arrested today AND there was no politically correct “laws” in effect. So, it seemed as though nearly all of our “thrills” were relatively “cheap”. However, we weren’t rich, it was just that the cost of living was such that our minimum wage jobs could afford us to live nicely within our means – plus we were way under the radar – the law had no idea yet as to what we were up to – see or read Hunter S. Thompson’s, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”; the part on the D.A.’s Convention on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
While enjoying our freedom the landmark album “Cheap Thrills” was released; one listen to this album let all of us Hippies know immediately what generations would come to know; the force of nature that was Janis.
This album has always been a huge favorite of mine but for more reasons than the obvious. At the time of its release we were absolutely soaking in the Counter Culture and all it had to offer; our attitudes and views had changed from the way we had been raised, our clothes were colorful, our hair was long, we were exploring sex freely, we were aware politically and we were becoming aware spiritually. Mind-expanding drugs certainly opened the door to a new world of thought and beliefs, but what was really spurning us on to higher levels of expanded consciousness was the music. Through the lyrics and songs we were becoming individuals and at the same time united like no generation in history. Cheap Thrills showed us the joy of music and the deep feelings that touched us from a voice that we had never heard before – but that we knew intuitively represented us.
Janis was the real deal, she was open, honest, brave, opinionated, and represented all that our culture held true. Her voice was raw with emotion and she was unafraid to bare her vulnerabilities. And that was her legacy.
Almost all singers are just that, singers, and the few that do touch us seem as though they perfected their style through years of practice, which is true – but Janis was born to sing the blues and born to Rock and her voice was unrehearsed, untrained – she was a natural gift for a generation who was “getting back to nature” and needed to see and hear the truth of what we stood for – honest passionate emotion.
People and critics have given Big Brother and the Holding Company a bad rap for being a “raw” band and not refined – uh, that’s called a garage band – and think of all the garage bands that started out that way! Hell, the whole ’90’s “Grunge”-era was based on Big Brother’s sound! The fact that they could deliver such a powerful and very, very cool sound was fine by all of us – and as far as I’m concerned Janis never sounded better than with Big Brother – all her other later bands were refined and I didn’t care much for them at all.
With Cheap Thrills we get just that, Janis at her best with a band at its rawest best which is why this is considered the classic it is – it represents exactly the way we all felt; new, adventurous and unafraid to be who we were and to explore life uninhibited, spontaneous and unrefined.
The excitement of this album begins immediately with the live sounds of movement on the stage and Bill Graham’s announcement, “Four gentlemen and one great, great broad, Big Brother and the Holding Company” which then explodes into “Combination of the Two” – and the rest is history.
I was very fortunate to see JANIS and BIG BROTHER at the HOLLYWOOD BOWL on 9-6-68
for a review of that concert with Iron Butterfly; click on the LP’s back cover below.