Janis Joplin this weekend. I was going through the Concert files earlier and stopped when I came across this concert, recorded live at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds in San Jose in May of 1968. Fifty years ago; well, fifty years and one month ago. It’s hard to imagine, tough to wrap your head around that so much time has passed by. To me, the music still sounds fresh. Although I’m sure to a lot of people it sounds old and distant, probably in much the same way we felt when our parents put that stack of Big Band 78s and remarked “they don’t make them like that anymore”, as we strained to get an idea of just what it was they were listening to – because it was more than the notes; it was an entire state of mind that went along with it. And those of us, of the younger generation just weren’t privy to it. I guess every generation has their space and time kept in pristine condition, and that only they can appreciate the newness of it at the time, leaving us to guess and approximate and usually always get it wrong.
I would imagine it’s hard for anyone who wasn’t exposed to Janis Joplin in concert to get an accurate picture of what it was like, especially seeing her for the first time. Janis Joplin broke the mold; she really didn’t have any peers. No one was like her. And in the years since there have been many who have tried – some coming “this close”, but falling short because we heard the prototype – we felt the kinetic presence of this inescapable force as she took the stage lo, those 50 years ago.
So I would ask you to try and somehow put yourself back in 1968; the year that so much happened and was such a manic jumble of actions and emotions. Try to imagine a cavernous hall, or an open field – the heady aroma of dope, cigarettes, patchouli and incense wafting over the proceedings – and just sit and stare off into space.
You’ll start to get an idea of what it might’ve been like at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds in May of 1968 when Janis Joplin arrived on stage.
And take it from there.
Caveat: Things settle down after about a minute – but before then, the vocals are missing and not turned up – and levels fluctuate everywhere for a little while. Such is the state of mixing music on the fly. But once it gets straightened out, it’s great – just don’t turn it off during the first minute.