The Typewriter Tape
November 13, 2008 11:53 AM   Subscribe

On June 25, 1964, Janis Joplin visited Jorma Kaukonen at his home in San Francisco. Accompanied by Jorma's wife on typewriter, they recorded six songs. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
posted by Knappster (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Typewriter Tapes! What a classic.

I dig the "singing lesson" Jorma gives Janis at the end of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out."
posted by Afroblanco at 12:06 PM on November 13, 2008

Jorma lives here in Athens, Ohio, and I've met him a few times, most recently at a chinese restaurant! I'm ashamed to say I don't know as much about his musical history, though, other than his Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna connection.
posted by newfers at 12:14 PM on November 13, 2008

I read a biography of Joplin and one of the most surprising things she always considered herself a Beat, black turtleneck and jeans her uniform. The whole "Pearl" hippie image with the boa feather shtick came late and wasn't really her roots, it was a stage act. In fact she was never fully accepted as a hippie among the core SF scene because she was so violent and into biker gangs and H and other non peace and love stuff. She first left Texas and went to SF in 1963 to the North Beach beat scene and was doing copious amounts of H and small coffee house gigs singing folksy stuff. The older beats were calling her and other younger kids showing up at the time "junior hipsters", the origin of "hippie" = small hipster. She lived one the most crazy lives I've read about when it came to drugs and sex, although I haven't read many other rock star bios, she's got to be up there in the top burn bright and fast category.
posted by stbalbach at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine went into teaching specifically so he could have his summers free to sneak up to "Fur Peace Ranch" for guitar seminars with Jorma.
posted by RavinDave at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2008

Jorma, in addition to touring, runs a guitar camp in Ohio I think called the Peace Fur Ranch. As newfers pointed out, he is very accessible. I have spoken to him after a few shows at the Turning Point in the NY area. He is one great musician and a good man too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2008

Excited to hear these. My very first concert, when I was in sixth grade, was Janis' second to last performance. But I have to say, stbalbach, that a couple of the statements you just made do not ring true to me, and I've lived in the Haight-Ashbury for almost 30 years. For one thing, the Hells Angels -- for better and worse -- were part of the "core SF scene" here in the Haight, as witness the mass funeral for Chocolate George and the many affectionate ties (again, for better and worse) between the Angels and the archetypal Haight band, the Grateful Dead. Plus, Janis had a brief affair with Pigpen, the Dead's lead singer, who was a beloved Angels icon. Also, hard drugs like heroin and cocaine were sweeping through the original hippies by '68 or so... even Crosby, Stills, and Nash were snorting coke while they recorded their sunny first album in LA, which obviously created tons of problems [self-link] for them later. If anything was a dividing line between hippies and post-Beats like Janis and Pigpen, it was probably their preference for Southern Comfort over weed, which was seen as déclassé by the original hippies.
posted by digaman at 1:07 PM on November 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

These were great - thanks
posted by caddis at 1:24 PM on November 13, 2008

God she was a godess I swear.
posted by wheelieman at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2008

Sublime! Thanks Knappster! Great listening to those. Ahh, I love her voice. Suhweet guitar. Charming percussive use of the typewriter. Surprised that hasn't been used before in other pop music (except for that 40's silly thing). The typewriter has a rustle edge to it that is very likable. I miss Janis. I don't think she would have aged very well. If she lived, she'd be 65 now. She would have hated the 80's, I think, and it seems unlikely she would have had the patience to learn the computer. But maybe she would have. Other rocker-blues stars went to the edge and, often quite incredibly, came back from the brink.

Must be something in the water in tiny Port Arthur, east Texas, where she came from: Port Arthur produced singing legend Janis Joplin, artist Robert Rauschenberg and Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. In the last two decades, Port Arthur's profile has risen on the hip-hop scene with the emergence of the legendary rap duo UGK. Both members, Bun B and the late Pimp C, are from Port Arthur and often refer to their hometown in their songs.

stbalbach, thanks for that fascinating tidbit about Janis. Never knew about her beat connection at all. In that part of the world being beat then would be as outrageous as goth is there still now, times ten. Was there any information about Janis' past that could have indicated she suffered so much as a young adult?

She seems in many ways to have had Borderline Personality disorder traits but maybe that was the influence/chaos of the booze/drugs addiction. Maybe she was self medicating for depression? The town she came from seemed to have done such a number on her, so that when she returned for a 10th high school reunion, at the top of her career no less, she seemed to have felt so inadequate she od'ed right after. Utterly sad that. She wasn't a Barbie is all. I loved her unadorned beauty. She rocketed to fame in 4 short years, crashed stunningly at 27.

Her marvelous a capella "Mercedes-Benz", was written by Joplin, Bob Neuwirth and beat poet Michael McClure.

The last recordings she completed were Mercedes-Benz and a birthday greeting for John Lennon on 1 October; Lennon later told Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his New York home after her death.

Apparently there's a movie coming up about her, a bio pic: "Gospel According to Janis is currently in pre-production and scheduled for a 2008 release." (release will be 2010)

Life would have been so different for Janis, I imagine, had she been born later. These days talent goes onto YouTube and people have a different success trajectory than they did in the past. This little 11 year old girl, for example, Bianca Ryan, has a voice quite similar to the big, raw one Janis had. Who even looks a bit like Janis did, when she was a young girl. Like Janis but with loving, supportive family and friends.
posted by nickyskye at 2:28 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great find, knappster, thanks!

It was Jorma who named the band. "I had this friend up in Berkeley, Steve Talbot, and he came up with funny names for people," explains Jorma. "His name for me was Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane (for blues pioneer Blind Lemon Jefferson). When the guys were looking for band names and nobody could come up with something, I remember saying, 'You want a silly band name? I got a silly band name for you!'"

From the mind bending psychedelia of the mid 60's Airplane to the stark blues and country of Hot Tuna and later projects, Jorma Kaukonen's work has always been distinctly American. From dizzying electric guitar gymnastics to breathtaking solo acoustic work, the music of this consummate artist has remained both of and ahead of his time. With over 40 albums spanning his solo and band career, he has forged his own legacy in American Music. source

Check out the impressive roster of instructors at the Fur Peace Ranch - I first learned about Jorma's ranch when Rory Block referred to it at one of her concerts. Better sign up now for the 2009 sessions.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

stbalbach, thanks for that fascinating tidbit about Janis. Never knew about her beat connection at all.

Nicky, many of the original hippies in the Haight thought of themselves as Beats or post-Beats, including Jerry Garcia and his lyricist Robert Hunter and uber-Digger Emmett Grogan. Certainly at least until the Summer of Love, I bet most of the original hippies thought of themselves as latter-day Beats. That would have been the rule, rather than the exception.
posted by digaman at 2:48 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Both self-links here, sorry, but I've been long fascinated by the Beat/Hippie nexus:

Jerry and I and the guys all considered ourselves Beatniks back in the old days, I mean, Christ, we were eighteen or nineteen--we couldn't have been real Beatniks. There weren't any hippies yet. We were in that in-between state. We had little beards. We were doing what we could.

--Robert Hunter


SS: Had you been exposed to the Beats before Dylan?

David Crosby: Sure - that stuff shaped us. And some of those guys were around when the Byrds started -- Allen Ginsberg used to come and dance every night with Peter Orlovsky. I was unquestionably affected by all of those guys' writing.

SS: What did you get from it?

DC: A lot of my iconoclastic, outside-the-mainstream, don't-take-the-establishment-point-of-view-for-being-what it-says-it-is-at-face-value attitude. A lot of my go-find-out-for-myself-what's-on-the-other-side-of-that-hill. To say it another way: one thing we're sure we don't know is, we don't know. A sense of adventure. I wanted nothing more than to go around the country by myself with a guitar and a bag, bop into town, find the coffeehouse, and say "Hi! Hire me, I'm cheap."

SS: Their writing infused social criticism with real spirituality that didn't depend on religious structures and hierarchies, but on personal experience.

DC: I felt that. I felt from them a mission. There was a story I used to tell. People would ask me what I'm doing. I would say, "I'm an egg thief." And they'd say, "Do you have a fever, David?" And I'd say, "No, it goes like this. Once upon a time, the whole planet was ruled by dinosaurs. There were these little tiny furry guys that lived there too. The dinosaurs didn't even notice 'em. They would step on one - squish! - wouldn't even notice. But the little furry guys were determined to have their way about things, so they went around and found where the dinosaurs' eggs were, and kept stealing the eggs. Until one day, there weren't any more dinosaurs. What I'm doing is, trying to tempt the young away from the dinosaurs with a set of alternative values, because I don't believe in what the dinosaurs are saying. I don't think John Wayne's right, I don't think war's glorious, I don't think racism is right, and I don't see why people can't live in peace with each other."

The civil rights thing was just starting. It was pretty heavy. I had the full hippie ethic going. My image of myself was this lil' furry sneaky guy out there, stealing eggs. Luring the young away from their parents.

posted by digaman at 3:00 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I recently watched the 1996 documentary, The Life and Times of the Red Dog Saloon [IMDB], and was reminded of just how fragile and vulnerable Janis was. Her body language and demeanor were the exact opposite of that room-filling voice -- this was a woman who had known much pain and had suffered greatly, and no amount of commercial or artistic success was going to change that. You can see even more clearly in Festival Express -- she had such tremendous talent, but without a solid support structure and some friends to watch over her, she was very much at the mercy of her own demons.

Of course, it didn't help that she was managed by a vulture like Albert Grossman. From the Wiki:
When Grossman signed Janis Joplin and her four bandmates from Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1967, he told them he would not tolerate any intravenous drug use, and all five agreed to abide by the rule. When he discovered, in the spring of 1969, that Joplin was injecting drugs anyway, he didn't confront her but instead took out an insurance policy guaranteeing him $100,000 in the event she died in an accident. (Emphasis mine.)
Her passing was a monumental loss.
posted by mosk at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a cute and sort of heartbreaking moment at about 4:20 in this video when Garcia tells Janis amidst a blisteringly drunken and high crowd of musicians on the Festival Express, "Janis, I've loved you ever since the day I saw you. So now you know."
posted by digaman at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Garcia and Hunter would later memorialize her in Bird Song.
posted by Knappster at 3:32 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

what a great clip that last one is digaman - Rick Danko, Bob Weir and John Dawson, too. Thanks. I will have to see that documentary, can't believe I haven't.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2008

nickyskye: Apparently there's a movie coming up about her ...

There's ALWAYS a movie coming out about Janice Joplin, starring everyone from Madonna to Melissa Ethelridge. It's been in development hell longer than "The Fatty Arbuckle Story" and Stallone's biopic of Edger Allen Poe.
posted by RavinDave at 3:54 PM on November 13, 2008

... or "Edgar", as it were. ;)
posted by RavinDave at 3:56 PM on November 13, 2008

I've been to the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.

My favorite exhibit in the Janis Joplin section was her high school slide rule.
posted by Tube at 4:36 PM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, yes, great find! Thanks Knappster.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:05 PM on November 13, 2008

I had the opportunity to work with Jorma on some of his instructional materials. He's by far the most laid-back, friendly and funny "rock star" I've met.
posted by ryaninoakland at 6:39 PM on November 13, 2008

Here's a link to "Nine Hundred Nights" (part 1 of 12, find the rest yourself on youtube) about her time with Big Brother and the Holding Company
posted by 445supermag at 6:41 PM on November 13, 2008

Was there any information about Janis' past that could have indicated she suffered so much as a young adult?- nickyskye

Not that I could tell, her bro and sister were pretty normal. It almost seemed like she was just born weird, or at least, when she hit puberty. She looked different and acted it. Obviously she was really self destructive which sort of compounds. She tried to be normal a few times, returning home to be a secretary (!). but the addictions kicked her.

She seems in many ways to have had Borderline Personality disorder traits

Yep. Pretty sure she was that or schizophrenic. No one knows, but I had a close friend who was, and she seemed to match. She'd probably be on meds if around today.

how fragile and vulnerable Janis was- mosk

Yeah that was her contradiction. She also was a sex hound who screwed thousands of guys and 100s of women, not uncommonly a different person every night. She picked fights with bikers. She could have a mean nasty demeanor and alienated a lot of people. She died alone in a motel of an OD while waiting for 2 friends to show up for a 3-way (who ended up doing it without her elsewhere). Not to sensationalize or put her down because she could also be vulnerable and fragile as you say, but there was a reason she lacked real friends, it wasn't because people didn't try.
posted by stbalbach at 8:28 PM on November 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

A psychedelic flower for Janis in remembrance.
posted by nickyskye at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2008

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