Big Brother & The Holding Company

If you’re a fan of Janis Joplin (who isn’t?) or her band Big Brother & The Holding Company, I would like to bring to your attention a brand new CD of old music.

Columbia Legacy has just released Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills, a two-disc set of 30 songs from the Janis Joplin/Cheap Thrills period of Big Brother & The Holding Company. The set mainly consists of studio recordings of the songs recorded live for what became the LP known as Cheap Thrills. Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills was the original title of the album (I had always heard it was originally Sex, Drugs & Cheap Thrills). That title was rejected by the powers-that-be at Columbia for being too outrageous. CBS shortened it to just “Cheap Thrills“.

The liner notes are terrific. There are two fascinating and revealing essays by drummer Dave Getz, one on how the famous Robert Crumb cover came to be. I was surprised to find out what was intended by Robert to be the back cover ended up as the front cover. His original front cover (rejected by the band) was a cartoon drawing of the band but with photographs for the heads, hearkening back to a form of pop art practiced on a regular basis by Sixteen magazine on their covers back then.

The other liners essay is by Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane (like I have to remind you what band she was in). Grace provides a well-written and thoughtful commentary on Big Brother and that optimistic era.

The music is fantastic. I thought there might be a huge loss of energy with the band in the studio without the presence of an adoring audience. There’s not. The band blasts through these cuts with intense ferocity. There are 29 outtakes on these two CDs (25 previously unreleased) plus a bonus live recording of “Ball and Chain”.

Big Brother has always been my favorite backing band for Janis. I think their majestic rawness perfectly matched her intense vocal style. My friend and guitarist James Demeter was amused when one day I described the Big Brother guitar sound as being like hearing the screams and bellows of colossal wounded dinosaurs in a ferocious death battle. There are some spectacular examples of this on Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills.

I highly recommend this wonderful time trip into the past, a reminder of how great Big Brother & The Holding Company were in their prime. You won’t regret the purchase.

Rock on!

One Response to “Big Brother & The Holding Company”

  1. Aaron says:

    When I was in high school we skipped out of class and set up in front of the school which was down the road from the University of Maryland to protest the war in Viet Nam. Somebody had a turntable and speakers and throughout the morning they played Mercedes Benz and Volunteers. Glory days. Best wishes, Aaron

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