Never assume everything that’s ever been discovered, played, listened to or released by an artist has been done already. There are always things lurking around in warehouses, basements, libraries, private collections, garage sales. It’s all out there.
Sometimes it’s overlooked – sometimes it’s gone missing, either absent-mindedly or in a clandestine sort of way. Sometimes it’s weathered the years badly and all the layers of dust, mildew, water damage and neglect render it unrecognizable. Sometimes it’s been kept and preserved, only to suffer fate of a dumpster when falling into the wrong hands – it’s a million things. And that’s why discovering those lost treasures can be more a case of miraculous coincidence rather than dedicated digging.
For example, tonight’s post. It’s a performance, long forgotten, by Janis Joplin in 1963. A few years before the advent of Big Brother & The Holding Company and a whole other chapter in the history of rock music.
This is Janis Joplin as Blues Historian; turning a small audience on to some obscure and forgotten performers, whose music would serve as the foundation for an entire genre yet to come. It’s straight acoustic; no drums, no crowds. Just Janis and a small group of people gathered to hear some samples of Rural Blues, done by an enthusiast from Texas.
If it wasn’t her it wouldn’t get too much better than that. But because it is her, and we know now what was to come, it makes listening to this all that much more a historic snap-shot of a moment and place in history. Whoever had the presence of mind to record it, either to preserve something they inherently knew would be significant or just as a routine policy of the establishment, their endeavors have been met with infinite gratitude.
You get to decide.
Here is that performance, recorded at The Coffee Gallery in North Beach in 1963.